By Ricardo Ibarra
Photos: Mike Blair
In a tactical boxing match, Hayward, California’s Aaron Coley (14-1-1, 6 KOs) defeated Dashon Johnson (22-21-3, 7 KOs) on Saturday night at the Emerald Queen Casino in Tacoma, Washington, out-working the more experienced journeyman over ten rounds in the middleweight main event of Brian Halquist Productions’ Battle at the Boat 110.
Coley, a southpaw, employed a cautious approach early, working behind his right jab and feinting with his left, seemingly trying to bait his opponent into opening himself up for a counter. Coley slowly started to pick up his output in the second round, finding his comfort level and letting his hand go a bit more often. Coley took clear control of the range and pace of the fight in the third and maintained it through the fourth, working at a distance with a steady stream of jabs, keeping Johnson on the outside and on the end of his punches, unable to get in close enough to do any real damage.
In the fifth, Johnson stepped up his aggression and found success landing hard over-hand rights as he closed the distance. The move forced Coley to stay in the pocket longer, which favored Johnson in the fifth, but in the sixth the northern Californian began to adjust, countering with right hooks and left uppercuts as Johnson leaned in.
Coley took the fight back to the center of the ring in the seventh and dominated the next three rounds, landing one-twos and occasional right hooks. In the ninth, after a slow start to the round, Coley stepped into the pocket and unleashed a surprising volley of uppercuts, repeatedly snapping back the head of Johnson, pushing him back to the ropes where he continued his onslaught. Johnson weathered the assault and moved back to the center of the ring, but Coley kept up his aggressive pace, continuing to find his mark with hard uppercuts. Towards the end of the round Johnson rallied back, making for some intense exchanges to close out the best round of the fight.
In the final round Coley slowed his output, which allowed Johnson to come on a bit, but at that point it was too late to gain any real traction. The official judges all favored Coley with scores of 97-93, 97-93, and 96-94.
Coley, who had been off for a year, adds his fifth consecutive win since his only defeat; a decision loss to Ievgen Khytrov in 2015.
“I give myself a C,” said Coley after the fight. “You know I’ve been off about a year, in fact I think this made a year today. Just shaking off the rust. He was a solid opponent. He’d been in there forty something times. Good solid opponent. I felt a little rusty. I just wasn’t as loose as I usually am. I’ve been getting a lot of good sparring, but it isn’t anything like being under them lights.”
“I’m looking to keep busy,” Coley continued. “It’s been rough. A lot of guys have been ducking me, but I’m definitely looking to make a comeback.”
Johnson, meanwhile, adds his twenty-first career loss.
The five fight undercard featured fighters from around the region in some crowd-pleasing, action packed match-ups.
In the semi-main event of the night, Yakima, Washington’s Andre Reyes (6-2-1, 1 KO) stopped Jacob Szilasi (4-4, 4 KOs), of Spokane, Washington, in the second round, adding his first win inside the distance. The first round was an active one with both fighters angling to find openings and capitalizing on them when they did. Reyes was the more effective fighter, though, moving in and out of the pocket with crisp combinations, out-landing his often off balance opponent. Towards the end of the round Reyes began to land flush left hooks, snapping his opponent’s head back repeatedly as Szilasi pushed his way into the pocket. Reyes exploited that opening early in the second round, slamming Szilasi with two hard left hooks and a right hand, sending him to the canvas. After the mandatory eight count, Reyes quickly went at his stunned foe, unloading with a relentless attack and trapping him along the ropes. Seeing the Spokane fighter unable to defend himself, referee Bobby Howard made the call to step in and stop it, giving Reyes the TKO win at :59 of the second round. The bout was fought in the Jr. welterweight division.
Tacoma’s Cameron Sevilla-Rivera (7-4-2, 5 KOs) and Kian Heidari (0-0-1), of Vancouver, B.C., fought to a four round split draw in a grueling back and forth light heavyweight match-up. Heidari, who was making his pro debut, surprised Sevilla-Rivera early, blitzing the local favorite with over-hand right bombs, tagging him repeatedly. The local began to stifle the Canadian’s early aggression with crisp jabs mid-way through the round, though, following up with his own rights. The pace intensified in the second round with Heidari unloading overhand rights from an upright stance and Sevilla-Rivera trying to work his way into the pocket with one-twos. Round three was another close one, but Sevilla-Rivera appeared to have an edge with the more precise punches and consistent body work. In the fourth, an uppercut appeared to hurt Heidari early, leading to Sevilla-Rivera moving into the pocket, looking to follow up. Heidari stood his ground, though, engaging with his opponent and giving the crowd a fierce end to a solid scrap. In the end, all three judges differed in opinion, turning in scores of 39-37 Heidari, 39-37 Sevilla-Rivera, and 38-38 for the draw.
Unbeaten Giovanni Cabrera-Mioletti (6-0, 1 KO) pitched a shut-out over four rounds, out-boxing Portland, Oregon’s Niko McFarland (0-3) for the second time in four months in their lightweight rematch. Cabrera-Mioletti found his rhythm early, working behind his jab from range and stepping in with quick combinations when the opening presented itself. The Seattle native, who now fights out of Chicago, set the tempo from the start and kept control of it for a majority of the fight, using his superior hand-speed and lateral movement to pepper his opponent from range and evade any oncoming retaliations. McFarland was a game fighter and made the effort to get in close and land throughout, but Cabrera-Mioletti worked well in the pocket too, finding the angles to land and avoid getting tagged before moving out. All three judges scored the fight 40-36, giving Cabrera-Mioletti his sixth straight win.
Fairbanks, Alaska’s Jon Jackson (3-0, 1 KO) made a successful return to the ring after sitting on the shelf for two and half years, stopping Seattle’s Kevin Roberson (0-1) in the first round of a cruiserweight match-up. After a slow start to the round, Jackson caught Roberson with an overhand right as he stepped in, buckling his knees and sending him crashing to the canvas. Jackson stepped in after the mandatory count and again deposited Roberson on the mat, this time courtesy of a left hook- right hand combo. Referee Bob Howard waved it off after the second knockdown, awarding Jackson the win at 2:21 of the first.
An all-action welterweight slugfest opened the show as Olympia, Washington’s Zach Skinner (1-0, 1 KO) came back from an early deficit to stop Tacoma’s Jesse Birch in the third round. Barich stepped on the gas early, storming right at Skinner with a battery of right and left hooks. For two and half minutes Barich dominated the round, but as the final bell neared Skinner rallied back with several attention getting hooks, closing out the round strong. In the second, Skinner picked up where he left off, stepping right into the pocket and trading hard with Barich. The pace intensified as the two combatants let their hands go, lobbing wild hooks at each other, giving the crowd some great spurts of action. Skinner opened a cut with a right hand mid-way through the round, which bled enough as the round wore on to merit the referee calling the doctor in to examine it. Early in the third Skinner came on and hurt Barich with a jarring left hook to the chin. Seeing his opponent wobble, Skinner opened up with a determined attack, cornering Barich, who was no longer defending himself. Referee Joel Scobie wisely stepped in and called it at :35 of the third round, giving Skinner the win in highly entertaining fight. Both fighters were making their pro debuts.
Brian Halquist Productions returns to the Emerald Queen for Battle at the Boat 111 June 3rd. Tickets can be purchased the EQC box office or at all Ticketmaster outlets.