March 17th, 2017 – The Theater at Madison Square Garden
The Boxing Tribune was at the Theater at Madison Square Garden for an action-packed night of boxing with an Olympic debut as the cherry on top.
Gabriel Solorio vs Larry Fryers – Welterweights
Both men came out throwing heavy leather, trying to set the tone for the night to come. Solorio went down on an overhand right in the opening round and afterward seemed to be loading up on one shot. This didn’t seem to faze the Irishman Fryers, who circled his opponent, gave him sharp jabs coming in, and generally outclassed him, despite taking a solid left hook in the third round. After four, it was a shutout UD victory for Fryers, and there was jubilation among the Irish in attendance.
Daniel Bastien vs Teofimo Lopez Jr. – Lightweights
Bastien pressured throughout the first round and threw wide hooks when he thought Lopez Jr. was in range, but his opponent beat his wide punches with straight counters to take the first round. At the start of the second, Lopez Jr. jumped on him, landing a flurry and sending him down in the neutral corner. Bastien appeared to try to time the count, but missed it by a hair, giving Lopez Jr. a KO2 win.
Ben Garcia vs Alexander Picot – Junior Welterweights
From a styles perspective this was one of the more interesting fights of the night. Garcia, a long, lanky junior welterweight, had a proud contingent of fans from his native Bronx in the upper section. Picot spent the first round trying to get inside the lengthy jab of Garcia, while Garcia seemed content to paw with his jab, throw overhead rights in the style of Roy Jones Jr., and bring lead uppercuts from “way downtown.” Picot stole the first round with 20 second of work along the ropes. In the second, Garcia left himself open with a wide punch and Picot nailed him, sending him to the canvas. For the rest of the fight Garcia was on spaghetti legs, and I think he should have been saved by the referee in the before the end of the second round. He lost a closer decision than expected.
Jhovany Collado vs Jose Gonzalez – Featherweights
This began as a largely technical fight with both men displaying high guards. Not many shots penetrated in the first two rounds. In the third, Collado left himself open a split-second too long and ate a crisp one-two from the southpaw Gonzalez that crumpled him to the canvas. Gonzalez then turned stalker, cutting the ring smaller and smaller and throwing a lead uppercut, left hand combination whenever he trapped Collado along the ropes. At the end of six, the judges gave Gonzalez a wide decision victory.
Robson Conceicao (2-0, 1 KO) vs Aaron Hollis (4-3, 2 KOs) – Junior Lightweights
Conceicao, a 2016 Olympic gold medalist, was very slappy with his punches, but he sent his opponent down in the first and caught him along the ropes in the second, snapping his head back with and prompting the referee to step in. A quick stoppage, I thought, but somewhat of a makeup for allowing
Johnny Garcia (19-4-1, 11 KOs) vs Alex Saucedo (23-0, 14 KOs) – Jr Welterweights
We have come to expect that Abel Sanchez-trained fighters are going to be fun to watch, and Saucedo did not disappoint. He applies constant pressure, works primarily with his left, and sits down on his jab when he almost has his opponent cornered, just like Golovkin. In the second round Saucedo landed left hooks to the body, and with each blow Garcia’s right elbow crept a little lower to protect his liver. It wasn’t long before Saucedo took advantage of the opening, landing a big left hook to the jaw and following it with a straight right hand that prompted the ref to stop the beating. Murat Gassiev, IBF Cruiserweight titlist, was sitting nearby and looked content with his stable mate’s work.
Michael Conlan (debut) vs Tim Ibarra (4-4, 1 KO) – Featherweights
By the time this fight loomed, the 5,500-seat venue was packed and the aisles were filled with rubberneckers. Conlan walked to the ring sporting a green stovepipe hat and was escorted by Conor McGregor, the MMA star attempting to make a fight with Floyd Mayweather in order to – I can only assume – buy his own island and live out his days in serenity.
The lead-up to the fight was much, much longer than the fight itself. From the opening bell Conlan was the aggressor, leaping in to throw combinations to the body and head. Ibarra, a Denver native, was game throughout but simply overmatched. Through the first two rounds each time Conlan stunned him Ibarra always seemed to slip out of harms way, or come back with combination that made the Irishman reset. In the second round Conlan switched southpaw – and immediately took a flush right hand to the face. Conlan never dropped his workrate, but winged his right hand too wide and had trouble landing cleanly.
In the third round Conlan badly hurt Ibarra with a flurry, and when his quarry fell back to the ropes the Olympic bronze medalist finished him off with several unanswered punches. It was an exciting affair and he will continue to be a good draw in the right scenario, but expectations must be tempered. He will continue to develop and adapt to the pros, and in two or three years could build himself into a contender at 122 or 126.
His bold statement after the bout, that, “We will take over (boxing),” was actually believable, given the atmosphere. As Irish flags floated about, and joyous chants shook the rafters, I struck up a conversation with some Irish youths who sat behind me. “You know,” one said. “Nearly everyone I’ve spoken with in America connects Ireland with Conor McGregor. He’s a massive star here. Mick Conlan could do the same for boxing.”