|Alas, Big Curtis Tate wasn't on the card|
Last Saturday saw professional boxing return to Chicago, well to Cicero that is. Located west of Downtown, take a Pink Line El train as far as it goes, and you will find venerable Cicero Stadium. The aging complex hosted 8 Count Productions Solo Boxeo, presented by Tecate, a night of boxing featuring Edner Cherry and Adrian Granados.
Inside, there was a much more intimate feel than the spacious UIC Pavaillian. The ring was set up in the middle of the basketball court with only 4 or 5 rows of chairs surrounding the squared circle. Two sections of bleachers that ran the length of the building held most of the fans and provided them with an up-close view of the action in the ring..
As a few of the fights were being broadcast by Telafutra (with analysis by legendary Israel Vazquez) an impressive lighting rig hovered a few feet above the ring while cameramen and techs scurried about the arena all night. While the presence of the TV crew added a festive atmosphere to the night, it also slowed things down a bit as some fights were held to make sure the broadcast crews were ready.
The delays didn’t take away from the action in the ring as 8 Count put together a fairly competitive card for the night. A raucous cheering section supported local fighters Dimar Ortuz, Adan Ortiz and Granados all night long while Marlon Smith learned that the easiest way to get heat from the crowd is to wear a St. Louis Cardinals hat into the ring.
Dimar Ortuz (3-0-0, 3 KOs) vs. Rayshan Myers (4-12-0, 3 KOs)
The first match of the night featured the undefeated Ortuz matching up against his most experienced opponent to date. Myers, whose white trunks trimmed in black and penchant for shuffling his feet in the ring had the hecklers ringside calling him “Ali”, confounded the aggressive Ortuz early in the fight.
Myers’ southpaw stance had Ortuz stumped for the first round. His attempts at landing big punches were in vain as his slick opponent was able to duck out of the way for most of them. In the second, Dimar “The Strongman” adjusted and started to find his range. A big right from the Chicago-based fighter seemed to sap some of Myers confidence. That punch altered the dynamic of the match as for the next three rounds Myers was content to hold and run from the more aggressive Ortuz. He would offer little offense the rest of the fight while Ortuz landed a few shots here and there.
The fight ended up going to the scorecards after the bell sounded at the end of the fourth and final round. The judges awarded Ortuz the unanimous decision which had to ring a little empty for the hometown fighter as he wasn’t able to secure the knockout for his local supporters.
Adan Ortiz (1-0-0, 1 KO) vs. Joseph Santos (0-1-0)
Adan Ortiz wouldn’t have that problem. His fan base had barely settled into their seats after the introductions before he had them standing again in appreciation of an overwhelming performance. Both fighters were game as the opening bell sounded as they came out throwing punches.
Unfortunately for Santos is was quickly apparent that his handspeed wasn’t in the same league as the impressive Ortiz. Mere seconds into the fight, a solid left hook to the body hurt Santos and Ortiz was quick to press his advantage as he followed up with a left to the jaw and then a flurry of punches from both hands.
Santos was on his knees after a straight right/left hook combo dropped him. His trainer leaped to the apron waiving the towel before referee Celestino Ruiz finished his count and Ortiz had his TKO victory at just the 1:13 mark of the first round.
Adrian Granados (9-2-1, 5 KO’s) vs. Ramon Guevara (9-21-2, 6 KOs)
Granados played up his ties to Cicero as he sported what appeared to be his American Legion baseball jersey into the ring for his matchup against his Dominican opponent (who sported the always classic look of shiny brown trunks with black tassels running down the legs).
The first round started a little tentative as both fighters were cautious in feeling out each other. Granados gained a little momentum when he found success by doubling up his straight lefts while Guevara was able to land several solid shots to the body.
“Che” decided to up the pressure in the second round as he came out quickly and snuck a few punches in on the hometown fighter. His advantage wouldn’t last. “El Tigre” showed why his fan base is growing in The Windy City as a right/left combo dropped his opponent. Seconds later another big left would earn him the knock out a Referee Ruiz reached the 10 count at the 58 second mark of the round.
In picking up his second win of the year, the 22-year-old fighter looks to have recovered from his 2011 loss to Frankie Gomez and could be on his way to headlining some more exciting bouts in the near future.
Lamar Russ (9-0-0, 5 KO’s) vs. Jose Alonza (13-0-0, 7 KO’s)
Jose Alonza brought an interesting story into this match-up of two undefeated boxers. At 35, Alonza seemed a little old for only having 13 pro fights under his belt. The skimpy fight record was a result of the 8 years he took off after “losing his desire to fight” despite having won his first 11 fights and earning the WBA Fedcentro super middleweight belt.
Having regained interest in the sport in 2011 he was fighting outside of his native Florida for the first time in more than a decade. His opponent, Lamar Russ sporting the odd nickname “The Boxing Que”, was more than ready to give him a challenge.
The early rounds were a muddled affair as Russ used his reach to keep Alonza at distance. Alonza, tried to close the distance by launching lunging right-handed attacks that were only marginally effective. He did land enough punches to have blood streaming from Russ’ nose by the third round, but wasn’t able to sustain enough offensive to truly hurt his opponent.
Russ, who I had winning the first three rounds, would dominate the fourth. A tired Alonza had begun holding on at the close of the previous round and would last only a minute into the fourth. A right hook to the top of his head would be the punch responsible for ending the fight, but it followed a straight right to the head and a left to the body that set up the climatic blow. Alonza was able to beat the count, but the referee decided he had enough and stopped the fight at the 1:08 mark of the round.
Highlights here (Sorry about the commercials) (highlights are in Spanish, but that high school Spanish I to work!)
Edner Cherry (29-6-2, 16 KOs) vs. Juan Carlos Martinez (19-13-1, 7 KOs)
The headline bout of the night featured former title-challenger Cherry matching up against the experienced Martinez. The 29-year-old Cherry was looking to build on his February victory over Guillermo Sanchez at the UIC Pavilion as he continues to rebuild his title chances after his 2008 loss to Timothy Bradley.
The first four rounds would see-saw between the two fighters. Neither was able to dominate as Martinez was content to work the body, while Cherry worked his left jab trying to set up his big “Cherry Bomb” right. However, Martinez didn’t give him a chance to land it early.
As the fight progressed, it became apparent that Cherry was the better fighter. He was able to repeatedly tag Martinez with both straight rights and lefts to the head. By the fifth, Martinez was bleeding freely from the nose and Cherry managed to land 5 power rights in the round. “El Pez” displayed a granite chin as the big shots never came close to knocking him down.
Martinez would find some success in the 8th when Cherry relaxed a bit. It appeared that the fighter from Wauchula, Florida was trying to bait Martinez into opening himself up to a knockout blow, but the Mexican fighter was cagey enough not to fall for the trap, instead landing a round-winning haymaker that staggered but didn’t drop Cherry.
The ninth and tenth round featured more big punches from Cherry and by the end of the fight Martinez was doing his best just to survive the fight. He would make it to the final bell, but lose when the judges awarded a majority decision to Cherry by scores of 95-95 (odd), 99-91 (almost as odd) and 97-93 (more in line).Highlites here
Luis Santiago (4-0-0, 1 KO) vs. Marlon Smith (2-1-0, 1 KO)
The final fight of the night had the feeling of a wrestling “dark match”. With the TV cameras turned off and about half of the crowd having left after the Cherry/Martinez bout it felt a bit anti-climatic. This was a shame because the fans that left missed one of the best fights of the night.
Santiago put his undefeated record on the line against a very competitive Smith. “Sito” wanted to keep the fight at a distance where he could effectively land his punches, but Smith wasn’t going to let him. He kept bulling his way in close to the larger fighter and was able to do damage by working the body with short left hooks.
The crowd was on its feet in an exciting second round when “Sito” landed a huge right cross that stunned Smith. Santiago pounced, landing lefts and rights to the head and body of his staggering opponent. Despite his corner’s pleas to wrap up, Smith chose to weather the storm of punches and eventually began to land some of his own. It was soon apparent that Santiago had punched himself out and quickly found his back on the ropes as Smith came on late in the round.
Smith would keep working the body in close throughout the fight to set up some punishing shots to the head. By the third round Santiago was sporting a bad cut next to his left eye courtesy of short right hooks from Smith.
Despite displaying some tired legs, Santiago rallied in the fifth round, coming out strong and rocking the determined Smith. The last two rounds would be as close as the rest of the fight and when the final bell rang the decision would be in the hands of the judges.
Judge John Epperson would rule it a 57-57 draw while judges Jerry Jacubco and William Lerch would score it 58-56 for Santiago. A decision that met with cheers from the crowd, but disagreement from press row (I had it 58-56 for Smith). In our eyes it was a questionable decision for an extremely close fight as Smith had been more active and done more damage throughout the fight.
That final decision didn’t detract from a good night of boxing. The intimate setting of Cicero Stadium makes for a great boxing crowd as it feels like they are right on top of the action. It was another solid card of action from 8 Count that featured knockouts, hometown heroes and a just a dash of controversy.