What a difference six weeks makes. Six weeks ago, Willie Monroe Jr. squeaked by Donatas Bondas in the 1st round of ESPN’s middleweight Boxcino tournament. He looked tentative and unsure of himself. On the same card, Ukrainian Vitaliy Kopylenko established himself as the favorite to win the tournament by blitzing Ceresso Fort in just two rounds.
When the two met in the ring at the Turning Stone Casino in Verorn, N.Y., Friday night, the fight didn’t go as expected. Monroe (17-1, 6 KO) started fast and never let up, befuddling Kopylenko with his speed and combinations. Kopylenko (23-1, 13 KO) had no answers, as Monroe consistently beat him to the punch and got out of range before he could mount any kind of offense. With the exception of a couple of hard punches that sent Monroe’s mouthpiece flying across the ring, there wasn’t much offense coming from Kopylenko. By the time he was able to get set to throw, Monroe had either fired his own combination or moved halfway across the ring. It was a truly surprising, and very impressive, performance by Monroe. He was aggressive throughout, but never reckless. The judges recognized this and Monroe got the unanimous decision by scores of 78-74 and 79-73 twice. TQBR had Monroe winning 80-72.
Joining Monroe in the final will be Los Angeles native Brandon Adams, who earned a split decision over Ray Gatica in the other semifinal bout. Adams (14-0, 9 KO), was able to counterpunch effectively throughout the eight round fight, often using Gatica’s aggression against him by walking him into right hand counters. Gatica (14-3, 9 KO) pressured Adams from start to finish, but often didn’t throw punches, which allowed Adams to dictate the pace of the fight. Gatica’s looping shots often caught only air or glove and Adams was able to land terrific body punches and right hands straight down the pipe. What impressed most about Adams, though, was his poise. He had a very limited amateur career and was in only his 14th professional bout, but he never looked anything but perfectly calm. Somehow, one of the judges managed to score it 77-75 for Gatica, the other two saw it 78-74 for Adams. TQBR scored the bout 79-73 for Adams. ESPN’s Teddy Atlas suggested that the judge who scored it for Gatica is in need of a CAT scan. No arguments from me on that one. Adams was the obvious winner.
The televised opener was an excellent reminder of why we like heavyweights. When they hit each other, they do damage. Nate Heaven (9-0, 7 KO) took the fight with Donovan Dennis on five days notice, and took advantage of the opportunity by knocking Dennis out at the very end of the 1st round. The official time was 3:00 of round 1. Dennis (11-2, 9 KO) had seemingly been getting the better of the exchanges in what was a largely sloppy round, but with just a few seconds remaining, Dennis made a mistake. He got off balance attempting to load up on a right hook, and before he could throw the punch, a chopping right cross from Heaven sent him onto the canvas crumpled in a heap. It was certainly the punch of the night.
Rabies Watch: Another subdued performance from Atlas, tragically.