Fights at the Fitz Results!
By Tracy Morin, Memphisboxing.com, Photos by Wesley Ortiz
On January 26, 2013, at the Fitz Casino & Hotel in Tunica, Mississippi, Fights at the Fitz kicked off the new year with an exciting and diverse card that featured undefeated prospects, local favorites and unexpected upsets.
The main event pitted junior welterweight Keandre Gibson (7-0-1, 3 KOs) against Boyd Henley (10-1-1, 9 KOs). Henley, with few answers for Gibson’s impressive hand speed and clear power advantage, worked to smother Gibson’s punches by clinching, but though Henley remained game and swinging throughout, Gibson’s sustained body attack and stiff hooks took an exacting toll (including a trio of hooks in Round 5 that caused ref Randy Phillips to give Henley a standing eight count). The judges awarded the unanimous decision to the undefeated prospect from St. Louis: Reccia Mullins and Gerald Deming turned in cards of 79-72, and Mack Thornton scored a shutout at 80-71.
Postfight interview with Keandre Gibson:
What’s your boxing background?
I started boxing when I was eight years old and had an amateur record of 94-2. Last year, I had an off-track year—I wasn’t as busy as I wanted to be, but hopefully I’ll be able to be more active. I had a lot of ring rust today.
You kept up a great body attack. Was that part of your fight plan?
He was the taller fighter, so I just really wanted to go to his body a lot.
Were you going for the knockout?
When I hurt him, I was like, “Oh, man, I can get him out early,” so I started to go for it, but I think I rushed it too much. But I ended up getting the “W,” so that’s all that matters.
He was smothering your punches a lot. What do you want to work on next in the gym?
Yeah, definitely controlling the distance and boxing more, staying on the outside, because I don’t think that’s the fight to fight, on the inside. He hit me with a ton of punches that I saw coming, but I couldn’t protect myself like I wanted to because I was smothering myself so much inside. So when I go back to the gym, I’m going to work on boxing more.
The opening bout of the card provided plenty of action for the raucous, enthusiastic crowd that packed in for the evening’s fights. Southpaw welterweight Rogelio Casarez (1-0, 1 KO) frequently battered Phillip Soriano (1-1) around the ring with a barrage of punches, especially solid left hands that Soriano often seemed to walk right into. Soriano, sucking wind by the second round and swinging wide and wildly by the four-rounder’s conclusion, proved his toughness by going the distance, but each judge gave the fight to Casarez with a score of 39-37.
Postfight interview with Rogelio Casarez:
What was your fight plan tonight?
We felt great. He was a really good fighter, but it went fine.
How did you feel about your performance tonight, and what will you work on now?
He was tough. But I’ll go back to the gym and work on jabbing more.
Next up, super middleweight rising prospect Tony Mack (3-0, 2 KOs) faced his toughest test yet in undefeated southpaw Demetrius Walker (6-0-1, 4 KOs). After a first round that flaunted his peekaboo defense, Mack opened up with more aggression and mounted an unrelenting offense that displayed a solid mix of both head and body shots. Walker was wobbled in each of the remaining rounds and suffered from a bloody nose and a knockdown in the fourth—but though Mack hit him with his full arsenal, Walker refused to give up and continued to fire back, providing the cheering attendees with an action-packed show. All judges scored the six-round bout 59-53 at its conclusion.
Postfight interview with Tony Mack:
That was a fight, Tony!
That was fun—that was real fun.
You were 3-0 coming in tonight, and it’s unusual for someone just starting out to take on an undefeated fighter with more experience. Why’d you take a step up like this so soon?
I’m not going to lie—I was a little bit nervous. But the fighter in me, and the way I train and prepare, and the confidence my coach and my team have in me, gave me all the confidence in the world to compete on a world-class level. So I was prepared.
You started out defensively in the first round. Were you just feeling him out?
No. The game plan was to discourage him with just my defense, let him know that his punches are not going to faze me or hurt me. The second and third round, the game plan was to pick it up. Once I saw he had a little discouragement in his eyes, I let ’em go.
One thing a young fighter learns is that sometimes you hit a guy with everything and he won’t stay down. That happened tonight. What were you thinking?
I thought he was going down! I dropped him once and I thought it was over. The kid was tough. I studied him—I went on his Facebook and he said, “Win, lose or draw, I’m going to make him feel me.” Once he put that, I knew he already had in his mind that he was going to lose. And I knew this kid is 6-0 and he was going to come with all he has—he doesn’t want to lose his undefeated record, and I don’t want to mess up my undefeated record. He was going to come to fight. But I knew I was better prepared and better trained, I had top-of-the-line sparring, so I knew in my heart I was the better prospect and the better undefeated fighter. I have the pedigree and the amateur background—I’ve fought the best in the world in my boxing career. So I knew this kid wasn’t nothing for me.
Did you get tired throwing so many punches?
I got upset ‘cause I didn’t get him out. He punched me in the back of the head like crazy and headbutted the crap out of my tooth—I thought my tooth was going to come out! I got upset a couple times because he was fighting a little dirty; he realized he couldn’t win regular, so he stared headbutting and hitting behind the head, and I got upset and started trying to knock him out. I got a little winded, but my team told me, “Tony, calm down! Don’t get hit with any stupid shots.” He hit me with one stupid shot, but other that that, it was perfect.
What’s next for you?
I believe we fight back here in March. I fought back to back—this week and last week—so now I’ll take a break, a week off at least to let my body recoup. Then get back to training and prepare for this fight I got coming up. I think I deserve a break, a week off. Then I’ll prepare for whoever they put in front of me. I have the best team to help me prepare, so it’s going to be a beautiful situation. I’ve got a team that’s going to take me to the top, so with them, I’m unstoppable.
In the third fight, undefeated lightweight Jonathan Maicelo (18-0, 10 KOs) made quick work of Tyler Ziolkowsky (14-17, 8 KOs), bloodying his nose in the opening stanza and scoring a devastating knockdown in the second courtesy of a jolting right hook. Though he eventually got up to beat the count, his wobbly legs and glazed eyes forced Phillips to wave it off at 1:05 of Round 2.
Postfight interview with Nelson Fernandez, trainer of Maicelo:
What was your fight plan coming in tonight?
Our plan was to come in and establish the jab. Everybody thought the opponent would come out and try to get him out in the first round; he was a little anxious to get in there. But by the second round we established our game plan, which was a good jab.
Your fighter is undefeated so far. What’s the journey been like, and what’s next?
He has a tentative date in April to fight for the world title, so we’re getting all the numbers in line, working with the WBA, and we want to bring the fight to his country, Peru. He’s an idol there—if we bring the fight to his country, we’re going to use an arena that seats 68,000 people. He’s an undefeated MMA fighter, an undefeated professional boxer, he’s won Dancing With the Stars there, and he’s got his own clothing line called Noucaut sold all over in his country. So he’s got a lot of irons in the fire, but boxing is what he loves. He sleeps, drinks, everything boxing.
How will you prepare for the title fight?
When we go to fight for a world title, of course it’s a big thing. I think because we didn’t fight since August of last year, we needed this fight. If you saw him in August, you would think what we know—that he was ready back then. So he needed this fight to get his feet wet, and then we’ll come right back in April. He has a lot to work on, but he’s always the first guy in the gym and the last guy out.
Jamie Houston, an undefeated MMA fighter from nearby Olive Branch, Mississippi, was unsuccessful in scoring a win in his pro boxing debut in the cruiserweight division. A right hand from Michael Ward (3-3, 2 KOs) put him down in the first round—and probably would have ended the fight if Ward hadn’t landed a glancing blow to the top of his head when he was down, prompting Phillips to give Houston a couple of minutes to recover and take a point from Ward. However, points wouldn’t be an issue, as Houston went down after two straight rights in the second round and sagged into the ropes when rising to beat the count. Phillips called an end to the fight at 0:45 of Round 2.
Postfight interview with Michael Ward and trainer Bernie Schultz:
How’d you feel coming in tonight?
Ward: I felt confident, strong and ready to bring it to him. They call me the Native American Pitbull, and there’s a reason why. I have a new coach, motivation, my heritage—everything. Last year was kind of hard, but now’s my time.
Schultz: I told him, “When you hit him, he’s yours. The first round is all he’s got. Don’t forget—when you’re tired, so are they.” I knew how hard I pushed him in cardio and knew he was going to have more boxing cardio. I knew he had it.
Did the fact that he was an MMA fighter dictate your approach at all?
Ward: We knew he was coming to fight, and I’m always down to fight—I will fight hard.
Schultz: We went over three or four strategies—I know about all the clinching and holding and what he’d do on the ropes. I kept telling him about fatigue—that he was going to have to fight like he never fought before because it’s going to come down to who wants it the most. Push through and see the other side, and you’re going to win. And we went over techniques to do when in the clinch. He did great—you might not have realized, but you were hurting him to the body…and he hurt you to the body once, too! But all the stuff we drilled, he went out there and executed it. The overhand right wasn’t landing like we thought it would, but he did great.
Where will you go from here?
Ward: Back to work harder than ever. This is my last cruiserweight fight. Now it’s time for super middleweight or middleweight. I’ve been fighting big guys, monster guys, for a while now, and I’m tired of it, so it’s time to drop to a lower weight class. Going right to the top, I’m representing River Valley and my Native American culture—Choctaws and Navajos, baby! The tomahawks are gonna keep on flyin’!
Popular local fighter Marketa Mamiaro (2-0) lost her winning record after meeting fellow junior welterweight Kim Colbert, thanks to Colbert’s wide hooks that rarely missed their target during the six rounder and put Mamiaro down in the first round. With no power behind her shots and a defeated disposition, Mamiaro suffered her first defeat when judges handed the unanimous decision to Colbert, with scores of 54-59 (Mullins), 53-60 (Deming) and 55-60 (Thornton).
Postfight interview with Kim Colbert:
What did you want to accomplish tonight?
This is my first fight in six years. I came prepared, and I thank God. I worked so hard. I’ve been waiting on this for six years. I’ve been betrayed, I’ve been cheated, I’ve been abused. I worked so hard and I just thank God. I feel wonderful. I didn’t really want to embarrass her by knocking her out. I had plenty of chances. But I wanted it to go the distance. I didn’t want to take advantage of her. I felt very strong, and she just couldn’t take it—she couldn’t take the body punches, head shots. She couldn’t take it.
What’s next for you?
I’m 140 to 145. Whoever wants it can come get some. ’Cause I’m ready, I’m prepared, and I ain’t goin’ nowhere! Let ’em know the Chicago kid is back!