by Fox Doucette
The quarterfinal round of the Boxcino junior middleweight tournament is in the books. Four men advanced; four men went home. The biggest punch of the night was the last, as pre-event favorite Brandon Adams (16-1, 11 KOs) fired off a right hook that matched his nickname of “The Cannon” to blast Alex Perez (18-2, 10 KOs) out in the fifth round. The other big KO came from Stanyslav Skorokhod (9-0, 7 KOs), who smashed Michael Moore (13-1, 6 KOs) in the opener. In between, Vito Gasparyan (15-3-5, 8 KOs) grabbed an easy decision over Simeon Hardy (13-1, 10 KOs) while John Thompson IV (15-1, 5 KOs), on one day’s notice and after not having fought in a year, welcomed himself back to the fight game in style with a big unanimous decision over a listless Ricardo Pinell (10-2-1, 6 KOs). Four fights, four six-rounders, and a great night of action marked the evening’s entertainment.
There were some interesting themes in play tonight. For starters, there’s the theme of “never let a guy shake off the ring rust—pounce on him right away.” Vito Gasparyan hadn’t fought in over two years. Simeon Hardy’s a big puncher, a knockout artist, exactly the kind of guy who should have come out high-pressure, as in riot hose high pressure, and tried to blast the Armenian out in one or two rounds.
Gasparyan spent (depending on your perspective) one or two rounds getting going. I say “depending on your perspective” because while Teddy Atlas, your columnist, and one of the ringside judges gave the first two rounds to Hardy, the consensus of most watching was a 5-1 fight rounds-wise. Point is, Hardy never got going. On the weekend of Valentine’s Day, all he was throwing were love taps; Gasparyan decided to go with less Cupid’s arrow and more Battle of Crecy from the third round onward, and those arrows impaled the defense of Hardy like a club sandwich skewered on a toothpick.
As the fight wore on, Gasparyan first drew even and then pulled comfortably ahead, winning each of the last four rounds in “only an idiot could screw this up” decisive style for the judges. The final scores had the fight even wider than that: 58-56 (your columnist and Teddy Atlas both scored it this way), 59-55, 60-54.
Along the same lines, we had the other fight that went the distance. Hard to tell just what the hell happened to Ricardo Pinell in there. Was he flummoxed by preparing for a short southpaw and getting a tall, lean orthodox fighter? Was it just not his night? Is he coming down with something? Did he go to Disneyland and get the measles?
Whatever’s wrong with Pinell, he committed the same mortal sin that did in Simeon Hardy. Against a guy who hadn’t fought since last January, who was coming in on one day’s notice (literally; he got the call when Cleotis Pendarvis failed to make weight), instead of taking the fight to the enemy, trying to work that long, lean body, and generally making a mess of the confidence of a guy who wasn’t expecting to be thrown into the fire, Pinell let John Thompson get his confidence going from the opening bell.
There’s not much to tell about the actual action. Thompson was able to fight on the outside, use his jab, take advantage of a guy who wasn’t throwing back, and flat-out have fun in there. It was a sparring session masquerading as a win-or-go-home boxing tournament. A judge could’ve spent the entire fight staring at the ring card girls (and they were especially lovely tonight; the girl in the red outfit might just be the cutest girl your columnist’s ever seen at one of these events, a total babe) and still figured out enough to write some tens and nines down for the right fighters. Stevie Wonder, Ralph Wiggum, your columnist’s dead grandmother, the judges at ringside, possibly the cute ring card girl, and everyone except Teddy Atlas (who inexplicably gave the first round to Pinell for reasons only he knows) scored this one a shutout, 60-54.
Now then—we’re going to take the other two fights and compare them side-by-side. Both involved big punchers who scored big-time knockouts with dynamite in their fists. Both involved pre-tournament favorites—Teddy Atlas talked up Stanyslav Skorokhod before the night’s action began, while your columnist picked Brandon Adams in the preview—and both showed some foreshadowing for the most likely tournament grand final.
Here’s the difference. Brandon Adams delivered a boxing masterpiece on his way to the eventual and inevitable stoppage. Against Alex Perez, Adams did something that few fighters truly get right—he used the ropes the way a good basketball team uses the sideline as an extra defender when forcing the ball handler to the perimeter. When Adams backed Perez down—and he did so at will—he was able to set his feet, use side-to-side movement, and put the full force of his legs behind every body punch, every hook, every uppercut he threw on the inside. Meanwhile, Adams didn’t have to dedicate himself to switching to a defensive posture after he threw. He shifted his weight so that when Perez threw back, it was with arm punches; every effort to put more power into the shots was absorbed by the stored energy in the ropes rather than moving efficiently into the traveling fist.
The best defense is often a good offense, and Brandon Adams, who is the more compact and yet the bigger fighter (fighting most of his career at junior middle and middleweight while his opponent is a natural welterweight), used his aggression to take all the starch out of the shots of the guy throwing back at him. Sure, it looked like Adams was easy to hit. But what’s the point of trying to stop a shot with no chance at all of doing damage if instead you can be setting yourself to catch your opponent out of position after one of those fluffy little arm punches?
Finally, in the fifth round, Adams stepped into a centimetre-perfect hook that crashed right on to the chin of Alex Perez. Game, set, match, see you next week.
Contrast this with Skorokhod’s fight. The Ukrainian with the awesome nickname (“Nuclear Ghost”, since he’s from 30 miles away from Chernobyl) threw one punch at a time. Sure, the punches were weapons-grade and brought to mind the tendency of radiation to turn ordinary people into superheroes in the comic books, but hulking out on one shot at a time and not putting his punches together is why Skorokhod let his opponent Michael Moore hang around as long as he did. This fight should have been over in two rounds, with one big shot setting the table and another big shot behind it in a combination serving the dinner, but Skorokhod never fought that way. Give all due credit to Moore—he knows how to clutch, slip punches, create space, and survive when he’s hurt—but a better finisher wouldn’t have relied on a raw strength differential like this.
This becomes relevant when you consider that the two guys just mentioned in victory are favorites to reach the final. Brandon Adams delivered a polished, tactical performance. Stanyslav Skorokhod fought a toughman-contest type of fight. So far, the stage appears to be set, but will the players stick to the script? We find out in the semifinal on April 3.
Boxcino goes up the scale to the heavyweight division, as the Next Big Thing might very well be found to replace the inevitably-departing Wladimir Klitschko when he trades the ring in Germany for a parade in Canastota. We’ll see eight guys trying to make names for themselves; we’ll have a full preview and recap of that action as we get closer to fight time, as always.
And hey, speaking of heavyweights in tournaments, the grand final of What If’s Excellent Heavyweight Adventure is next Tuesday. Joe Louis and Ezzard Charles, what’s not to love? You want to whet your appetite for a heavyweight tournament, click that link to get caught up on all the action.
As mentioned, look for our full preview of Boxcino’s big-man show right here on The Boxing Tribune. Stay tuned—we’re the worldwide leader in covering the Worldwide Leader.
Fox Doucette covers Friday Night Fights for The Boxing Tribune and writes the weekly What If alternate-history series for this publication. His opinion column, The Southpaw, appears on Thursdays. Seriously, that ring card girl—wow. Just…wow. Fan mail, hate mail, and a date with the girl in question out here in Seattle can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.