By Craig Wick at ringside
A helluva Friday night broke out in the Chicago suburb of Elk Grove Village, as Hitz Boxing, in association with Natex Boxing Promotions, delivered a solid, six-bout card at the Belvedere Event Center. In short, fans saw two highly regarded European amateur stars impress in their professional debuts, a previously unbeaten local fighter pole-axed, an impressive young fighter to keep an eye on, and two Chicago fighters eking out wins on the backs of what some felt was generous judging. Throw in the return of the sassiest ring card girl the area has to offer and most folks were in a pretty good mood upon filing out into the late-night, Chicago cold.
In the evening’s main event, bonafide Windy City attraction, Tommy Hughes (5-0, 3 KOs), stepped up in class by taking on tough Emmanuel Sanchez (7-7, 1 KO) Laredo, Texas, in a super middleweight pairing scheduled for six. At the conclusion, Hughes took a hotly debated split-decision, providing a huge sigh of relief to his many supporters but which left many others, including the Sanchez corner, shaking their heads.
The fight itself nearly ended towards the close of round one when the southpaw Sanchez caught Hughes coming in with a beauty of a left uppercut. The shot landed squarely on the chin of Hughes and collapsed the undefeated Chicagoan in a neutral corner. Hughes barely beat the count, but make no mistake about it, he was seriously hurt and ready to go. When action resumed Sanchez pounced, trapping Hughes in a corner, attempting to land anything he could to force the stoppage. Miraculously, Hughes did enough holding and throwing back to hear the bell. From that point on, the affair was mainly uneventful with Hughes stalking and occasionally landing a punch or two but nothing that ever had Sanchez in trouble. Sanchez spent a vast majority of the final rounds moving around, however other then the 5th round in which he smacked the lunging Chicago fighter with a nifty left hand, the action by both men was few and far between. The scoring of the fight, two judges seeing it 57-56 for Hughes and the other 57-56 for Sanchez (same tally as Fight News), was within reason and not nearly as egregious as the two cards turned in earlier at the conclusion of the Abbruzzese – Prescott fight. Still, Sanchez felt he was the victim of a hometown heist and showed his displeasure to the judges with extended middle fingers (channeling Michael Conlan at the Rio Olympics) upon leaving the ring.
In a blow-out shocker, Brian Howard (13-1, 10 KOs) Atlanta, GA, entered the lion’s den with nary a concern and absolutely destroyed Chicago’s Shawndell Winters by 2nd round TKO. The cruiserweight matchup had no chance to see the full eight after Howard dropped a huge right hand on the chin of Winters early in round two. The shot froze the Chicago fighter along the ropes and a brutal follow-up flurry, all on target, left Winters in a heap along the ropes. Winters got to his feet after what appeared to be an extremely generous count, however his legs betrayed him and after stumbling backwards the fight was thankfully called off. Official time was 1:02. Great win by Howard and perhaps a good time for Winters (8-1, 7 KOs), who turns 37 in a week, to have a candid conversation, difficult to be sure, from those who care for him most.
Highly decorated Ukrainian amateur, Dmytro Mytrofanov, impressed in his middleweight pro debut, stopping Detroit’s previously undefeated prospect, Brandon Maddox (7-1, 5 KOs) in round four of a scheduled six. This was a textbook mugging, with Mytrofanov coming out of the gate applying heavy pressure and walking Maddox down. Mytrofanov dropped a visibly wilting Maddox late in the 3rd with a left hook to the body followed by a zinger of a right hand to the head. While the Detroit fighter made it to the bell, his body language between rounds suggested the end was near. And it was, as less than a minute into the 4th a fusillade of right hands by Mytrofanov dropped Maddox again, mercifully ending matters at 1:13.
In a super welterweight contest, Chicago’s Anthony Abbruzzese (6-6, 4 KOs) defeated Anthony Prescott (7-8-2, 2 KOs) Cherry Hills, NJ, after six hard-fought rounds. Prescott, who defeated Abbruzzese in 2014, seemed to have the edge in this one as well, outworking Abbruzzese for large stretches of the bout, however two of the judges didn’t see it that way, scoring it 58-56 and an indefensible 59-55 for the Chicago fighter. Judge Patrick Morley’s card, 57-57, was the only credible one here. Shortly after the scores were read, one of Prescott’s cornermen, with good reason, verbally assailed the judge who gave his charge only one round.
Uzbekistan’s Rustam Tulaganov, who took bronze in the heavyweight division at the 2016 Rio Olympic Games, dropped down to light heavyweight for his debut in the paid ranks and dominated late replacement Robert Guerra (2-6, 1 KO) Holland, MI over four one-sided rounds. No quit in Guerra, who took a frightful shellacking yet never once considered a soft spot on the canvas. Identical 40-36 scorecards turned in by the judges for Tulaganov (1-0).
In the four-round middleweight opener, Osvaldo Vera (2-0, 2 KO’s) Oswego, IL, made short work of Ira Frank (2-2, 2 KO’s) Blackwell, WI, dropping Frank twice with crunching body shots (“letting the air out of the tires” as Teddy Atlas would’ve said) and then having his way upstairs until referee Lou Hall waved the one-sided contest off at 2:48 of round one..
Fight Night Finales: Rumor has it that Hitz Boxing is close to reeling in the WBA Heavyweight Championship fight between Fres Oquendo and Kubrat Pulev, with the nearby Allstate Arena eyed as the venue. You’d have to go way back to October of 1981 to recall the last time the WBA pulled into town for a heavyweight title fight (Mike Weaver UD 15 over Chicago’s James “Quick” Tillis at the former Rosemont Horizon, since renamed the Allstate Arena in 1999). An Oquendo-Pulev matchup would be a tough sell for any promoter, but if you figure in Chicago’s large Bulgarian population and the fact that Bobby Hitz could fill a building to watch an ant race, well, it would be unwise to count Hitz out is all I’m saying….had the opportunity to visit with the family of Brian Howard after the card concluded. What a joy meeting Brian, his wife Yolanda, and their adorable children Brian Jr. and Jade, who happily announced to Fight News that they were both “straight A” students at their Atlanta grade school. Awesome job Brian Jr. and Jade, keep up the great work!…and finally, overheard at ringside once the Abbruzzese-Prescott scorecards were divulged: “what the hell, I thought Adalaide Byrd was ordered to take the rest of 2017 off”……