Fights at the Fitz Results!
By Tracy Morin/MemphisBoxing.com at ringside
The first 2014 edition of Fights at the Fitz in Tunica, Mississippi, drew an enthusiastic crowd to support local fan favorites pitted against time-tested veterans, plus adopted son Tony Mack facing a young undefeated in the card’s main event.
Mack (8-1, 4 KOs) started out tentatively versus the durable Gerardo Quintana (4-0-1, 3 KOs) in a scheduled eight-round middleweight bout, and Quintana seized the opportunity by landing hooks and hard jabs. Though Quintana’s sustained body attack may have slowed Mack a bit, it also seemed to spur him on: In the third round, it was Mack’s own body shot that put Quintana down. Mack pressed the action, and Quintana fought back bravely, but it began to look like only a matter of time as Mack’s shots landed with increasing accuracy. In the fourth, Mack remained on the offensive, eventually backing Quintana into a corner and letting loose a barrage of right-hand power shots to the head, prompting ref Randy Phillips to step in and wave off the fight. “My goal in training camp was to be consistent; I had great sparring. My team told me to just work behind the jab, and that will open up everything else,” said Mack. “He hit me with a good body shot, but I had to regain my composure and keep on. I want to fight up to eight times this year–because the more I stay busy, the more consistent I’ll be.”
The night of fights kicked off with a scheduled four-rounder between cruiserweights Jonathan Abrams (1-1, 1 KO) and John Shipman (2-1, 1 KO). Abrams was aggressive from the get-go, trying to brawl and smother Shipman, who sought to weather the storm by boxing. His patience would pay off, as a doubled-over Abrams was unable to come out for the third round due to illness, giving Shipman the TKO victory. “I was trying to come out boxing, and he came out rushing me,” said Shipman. “I thought he was going to box me at first, and for the third round, I was going to bring it to him, too, but he couldn’t continue. I threw a few body shots that hurt him, but I think my most effective punch tonight was the jab.”
Aaron Anderson (2-27, 1 KO), fresh off an upset victory over Malcolm Terry just the weekend before (though later changed to a no decision), looked to pull off another against the still-developing Rogelio Casarez (5-1, 3 KOs). Casarez’s never-waning aggression and pressure may have overwhelmed a less-experienced fighter, but Anderson (never truly hurt) kept his composure and tried to score with his own combinations in spurts, even as he was frequently pressed against the ropes in a quintessential bull-and-matador matchup. The judges ultimately favored Casarez’s unrelenting aggression and impressive punch output, handing him the unanimous decision with scores of 55-59 (Gerald Deming and Reccia Mullins) and 54-60 (Mack Thornton). “I was ready tonight; I’ve been working out and training hard, and I relaxed a little as the fight went on,” said Casarez. “I want to stay busy this year and keep working hard in the gym.”
The only female bout of the evening, between middleweights Saretha Bonner (0-2) and Beverly Darby (0-2), offered up the card’s most devastating KO. In the opening seconds, Bonner flashed a quick jab, but Darby immediately pressed her opponent against the ropes and scored several clean punches to the head, leaving Bonner face-planted into the canvas. Though the aftermath was somewhat frightening as medics attended to the out-cold boxer, she eventually came to and was able to leave the ring on her own. “I have a reputation as a brawler, but I’ve been working with my trainer to box more and not stay stationary,” said Darby. “I was so shocked she went down, at first I celebrated, but I want to apologize for that, because actually she is my friend, and I hope she’s okay.”
With a large local fan base supporting him, Memphian Mike Cook (5-0, 4 KOs) faced an important test against going-for-broke veteran Anthony Bowman (10-48-2), who immediately tried to rush his less-experienced opponent and make the fight ugly from the opening bell. Though the action featured more clinches and wrestling than clean punches, Cook tried to use his jab to keep Bowman, with his leaping and looping attack, at bay. Cook survived with a unanimous decision, but many in the crowd thought Bowman had done enough to control the pace and win, generating a chorus of boos upon announcement of the decision (39-37 from all three judges). “I would have liked to jab more, but I think I broke my thumb in the first round,” said Cook. “I give myself a 1 out of 10 for this performance; I should’ve stopped him. He was headbutting me the whole fight, but you have to find a way to win, and I toughed it out.”
The final fight before the main event pitted Codie Williams (4-0, 2 KOs) against Billy Cunningham (6-22-1, 5 KOs). Williams’ game plan was clearly to use his significant height and reach advantage to stick and move, using the perimeter of the ring to outwork his oft-lunging opponent. Though Cunningham had his moments, especially in the fairly competitive fourth and final round, Williams was able to keep his undefeated record intact, as judges scored the bout 40-36 (Mullins) and 39-37 (Thornton and Deming). “My plan was to keep it on the outside, stay safe and don’t do anything risky,” said Williams. “I should’ve been more busy; I didn’t throw enough jabs, and I got hit a few times I shouldn’t have. But I’d like to get in six more fights this year and move up to six rounds–I hope this is my last four-round fight.”