By Jake Donovan
Ivan Redkach may never punch his way back to contention, but at least avoided a major upset loss in battling Puerto Rico's Luis Cruz to a split decision draw over 10 hard-fought rounds Tuesday evening at Sands Bethlehem Events Center in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania.
Scores were 94-93 Redkach, 94-93 Cruz and 94-94 even.
The night was designed to allow Redkach to slide back in place as a lightweight on the rise. It never came close to happening, as he was seemingly without a game plan for much of the night, while Cruz showed flashes of brilliance that was evident during his early years as a hot prospect.
Potential for an upset in the headlining act first surfaced in round two, when Cruz connected with a flush right hand to put Redkach on the canvas. The 30-year old Ukrainian - who is now based out of Los Angeles - immediately rose to his feet, but never truly figured out how to cut off the ring and slow down the stick and move tactic employed by his opponent.
Round after round, Cruz was made to look like an expert technician, while Redkach played the role of crude brawler. The beauty of boxing is that one punch can erase any deficit at any given time - but that logic normally applies in knockout endings.
For Redkach, it was an overhand left late in round eight that forever changed the trajectory of the fight. No longer was the outcome a foregone conclusion, but rather whether Cruz - who was quick to recover but never able to reclaim momentum - could avoid disaster in the final six minutes of the lightweight clash.
The sequence was met with an earful by his head trainer, including Freddy Trinidad - whose cousin is the all-time great Hall of Fame boxer, Felix Trinidad. The urgency in the corner didn't quite take, as Cruz still fought in reverse and with his hands down for much of round nine. Redkach caught a major break on the scorecards when referee Gary Rosato ruled Cruz down by contact, although the instance came more from a pulldown than a flush punch.
Despite the ruled knockdown, the round was scored 10-9 on the card of Lindsey Page, the lone judge who had the bout even (with which BoxingScene.com agreed while scoring from home). As a result, the ruling didn't dramatically impact the outcome of the fight - the only difference that Redkach would not have won on the scorecard of Ron McNair, who had it 94-93 in his favor in scoring rounds eight and nine 10-8 each in his favor.
The bout wound up as a split decision draw, but in reality would have been a majority draw even without the 9th round knockdown call. Redkach had a chance to take it out of the judges' hands, but showed little sense of urgency in the 10th and final round - either that, or an inability to close the show.
He avoids defeat, but not necessarily embarrassment. The once smoking hot lightweight has now managed just one win in his last three starts, with his record now at 19-1-1 (!5KOs). Cruz breathes new life into his career despite a 3-4-1 mark in his last eight fights, with the 30-year old Boricua now at 22-4-1 (!6KOs)
Immanuwel Aleem remains perfect in the pro ranks, doing so the hard way in outslugging Dominican knockout artist Jonathan Cepeda in their eight-round co-feature.
Scores were 79-73 across the board in favor of Aleem (16-0, 9KOs) in the chief support.
Cepeda (17-2, 15KOs) came in as the more celebrated puncher, but it was Aleem who forced a savage pace from the opening bell. The Long Island-born, Virginia-based prospect never took his foot off the gas. His sharp punching caused a cut just outside the right eye of Cepeda, who mustered up everything he had to make it a slugfest for much of the night, though one where he managed to remain a step behind.
Junior Castillo was forced to go the distance for the first time in his career, but remains unbeaten after outpointing Kyrone Davis over eight rounds in the televised opener.
Scores were 78-73, 77-74 and 76-75 in favor of Castillo (10-0, 9KOs), who dropped Davis in round four and was the far busier boxer throughout the contest. Davis suffers his first career defeat, falling to 10-1 (4KOs).
All three bouts aired live on FS1 as part of the network's Premier Boxing Champions (PBC) on FS1: Toe to Toe series. The next installment airs May 17, with cruiserweights Murat Gassiev and Jordan Shimmell colliding in a title eliminator.
Jake Donovan is the managing editor of BoxingScene.com. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox