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‘Fight Night at the Horseshoe: The Black Wednesday Battle’ Lights Up the Venue at the Horseshoe Casino

by on Nov.28, 2013, under Boxing News, Guest Columnists

Yakubu Amidu (L) Pierces Rynell Griffin's Guard En Route to Victory

Yakubu Amidu (L) pierces Rynell Griffin’s guard en route to victory

By Kerstin Broockmann
Photos by Scott Dray

HAMMOND, IN, November 27, 2013 – Continuing a Thanksgiving Eve tradition, Hitz Boxing presented another Black Wednesday Fight Night at the Venue at the Horseshoe Casino, featuring mostly local boxers building their skills and their resumes. Though there were a few lackluster bouts, there was more than enough explosive action, especially when the local favorites went after each other for bragging rights. Lending a somber note to the evening was the ten count tribute to recently slain fighter Michael “The Midnight Stalker” Walker.

Rynell Griffin (L) attacks the body of Yakubu Amidu

Rynell Griffin (L) attacks the body of Yakubu Amidu

In the non-local attraction, Ghanaian Yakubu “Black Mamba” Amidu (20-4-2, 18 KOs), now based in Los Angeles, returned to the Heartland following several losses and a heartbreaking split draw against Juan Carlos Burgos to face journeyman southpaw Rynell Griffin (7-18-2, 2 KOs) in a Lightweight bout scheduled for 10 rounds. Though he has come up on the losing end of most bouts, Griffin’s experience in the ring with some of the best in his weight class showed as he used impressive movement and combinations in the slow first round, coming under Amidu’s punches to land to the body and often coming back up top. Amidu seemed tentative, though he threw and landed a few powerful single punches.

Amidu (R) lands a hook while Griffin covers

Amidu (R) looks to land a hook while Griffin covers

The feeling out process ended as Amidu began finding his stride in the second round, and both fighters exchanged hard single shots and hooks to the body and head in combinations of three to five. By mid-round, Amidu had the advantage, though Griffin continued to get in some blows of his own. The third round started with more exchanges, though Amidu was looking stronger. Several uppercuts from Amidu seemed to make an impression on Griffin, though he continued to be dangerous. Amidu’s power was the deciding factor as he wore down Griffin and backed him into the ropes in the final minute of the round. Though Griffin escaped, Amidu was able to drive him into the corner by the end of the round and nearly finished the bout.

 

Griffin (L) on the attack

Griffin (L) on the attack

In the fourth, Griffin came out with renewed determination, and more movement, following his corner’s advice to not engage with Amidu. After some exchanges, Amidu began doubling up on his left to great effect, throwing hooks and uppercuts. This time, Griffin managed to get away long enough to regain his composure, managing to rock Amidu with a powerful left hook near round’s end, though it was probably not enough to win him another round.

 

Amidu (R) goes to the body

Amidu (R) goes to the body

Griffin tried to return to the movement that had allowed him to stymie Amidu in the first round in the fifth, but he was not able to move fast enough to avoid the heavy leather that Amidu was throwing. Near the two-minute mark, Amidu looked like he was about to finish the fight, having backed Griffin against the ropes and unleashing a torrent of punches from all angles, but he could not keep up the pace long enough to put Griffin away. Griffin somehow escaped despite the punishment and even delivered a telling combination before the bell sounded. The beginning of the sixth showed the toll that the previous rounds had taken on Griffin. Though he certainly was there to fight, his offense had slowed. Amidu was walking him down without fear, looking for another opportunity to pin him to the ropes. Though neither boxer was able to attack with the same ferocity of preceding rounds, Amidu controlled slightly more of the action.

 

Amidu (L) stays on offense

Amidu (L) stays on offense

Though both boxers were clearly tired in the seventh, Amidu used his reserves to attack with pinpoint accuracy. Griffin looked like he was ready to give up, though he toughed through and kept fighting. A volley from Amidu had Griffin take a knee, but he got up and returned to action, only to take a knee again after another barrage and a left hook from Amidu. Once again, Griffin got to his feet before the count ended and seemed prepared to fight before his corner waved it off, for which he seemed grateful. Amidu returned to the win column with a solid TKO at 2:50 of the seventh round.

Antonio Canas (L) finds an opening as Genaro Mendez tries to cover

Antonio Canas (L) finds an opening as Genaro Mendez tries to cover

The final bout of the evening featured a six-round war between former sparring partners and Chicago fan favorites Antonio “Aztec God of War” Canas (9-1-1, 3 KOs, 143.2 lbs.) and southpaw Genaro Mendez (7-2-1, 4 KOs, 143 lbs.), facing off as opponents in the Light Welterweight division. Canas took the first round decisively, driving Mendez into the corner with body and head shots and then stepping to the side to throw hooks to Mendez’s head and face.

Canas (L) pursues Mendez

Canas (L) pursues Mendez

The second round was cut from the same cloth as the first. Mendez threw dangerous, powerful punches, but Canas used his reach and speed to drive him back consistently. After rocking him with a jab-cross-jab combination, it looked once again like Canas was heading for the knockout, but once again Mendez got off the ropes to come back with a vengeance.

Mendez (R) flies at  Canas

Mendez (R) flies at Canas

In the third round, Mendez looked ready to turn the tide, attacking with speed and determination and making his mark on Canas, who could not find his rhythm as Mendez kept on the move and threw from multiple angles. Despite Mendez’s efforts, he still found himself on the ropes taking punishment, though for the first time he was able to minimize the damage.

In the fourth, Mendez looked to even the scorecards, again attacking strongly from multiple angles. Canas used his size advantage (and occasionally his head) to keep bullying Mendez to the ropes and unleashing hooks to the body and head, though Mendez countered with effective shots of his own. Though Canas controlled the action, it was hard to tell who did more harm and landed the more powerful punches.

Mendez (R) gets under Canas's guard

Mendez (R) gets under Canas’s guard

Canas attacked in the fifth, but Mendez took control after a brief exchange. Mendez tried, mostly successfully, to time Canas with counters and follow up. It looked like Canas was starting to tire and lose his composure as Mendez kept on the move and lunged inside to attack before clearing out.

Mendez (R) tries to find an opening while Canas covers

Mendez (R) tries to find an opening while Canas covers

Mendez came out strong in the sixth, taking Canas to the ropes and launching multiple punches. Canas tried to return the favor, but was not able to fire off as many punches as Mendez countered on the inside. A right jab from Mendez as Canas was closing in seemed to rock Canas but he managed to fully recover. A left hook from Canas opened the swelling by Mendez’s right eye, but Mendez continued strong despite the flow of blood, taking the final round. Canas’s efforts in the opening rounds were rewarded by judges’ scores of 57-57 once, and 58-56 twice, giving him the Majority Decision. The biggest winners, though, were the fans who got to see these Chicago bred fighters in action against each.

Eddie Ramirez Scores his First TKO as a Pro

Eddie Ramirez Scores his First TKO as a Pro

The first bout of the evening featured local lightweights Aaron Lucky (1-5, 146.2 lbs.) of Anderson, Indiana against decorated amateur boxer and Chicagoan Eddie Ramirez (143.8), making his pro debut. Lucky was the busier fighter at the outset, and landed some solid shots, but Ramirez was clearly calmer, looking for his openings. The first came at just under a minute in when he dropped Lucky with a right upper cut. Shortly after, with Lucky looking to get back into the action, and landing a thudding hook to the body, Ramirez countered with a right that put Lucky down again. The end came in the form a perfect right cross to the chin of Lucky, giving Ramirez his first win by TKO at 2:21of the first round.

Kristin Gearhart (R) Keeps Allanna Jones at Bay

Kristin Gearhart (R) Keeps Allanna Jones at Bay

Next in the ring, multiple Chicago Golden Gloves champion Kristin Gearhart (139 lbs.), in her second pro bout, squared off against MMA veteran Allanna “Hands of Stone” Jones (139 lbs.) of Inkster, Michigan in her pro boxing debut. Gearhart used her jab in the first round to find her range against her shorter but game opponent. Jones landed some solid shots, but left herself open to the straight punch combinations that Gearhart began putting together with increasing confidence. Jones displayed a tendency to come in with her chin up, which Gearhart was able to exploit.

 

Jones (R) goes on the attack

Jones (R) goes on the attack

In the second round, both fighters looked more comfortable, leading to some heavy blows. Jones found a home for her left hook and right overhand, and demonstrated the source of her nickname on several exchanges, which probably gave her this round. Meanwhile, Gearhart employed more of the combinations that had served her well in the first. Gearhart dominated the first half of the third round with her combinations, but Jones eventually found her way inside to land more heavy hooks and short crosses, which Gearhart did not counter. It was a close round, though Gearhart maintained the edge, and by the end, Gearhart had bloodied her opponent’s nose, while she sported a bruise under her right eye.

 

Gearhart (R) scores with a jab

Gearhart (R) scores with a jab

The fourth round belonged to Gearhart. Though Jones landed a few hard body shots and hooks, she looked to be tiring, and Gearhart was able to keep up her work rate to land far more punches. Judges’ scorecards read 40-36 once and 39-37 twice, moving Gearhart’s record to 2-0. Though losing her boxing debut, Jones’s ability to make adjustments in her first fight bodes well for her if she wishes to continue her fistic career.

Fidel Navarrete (L) rains punches down on DeWayne Wisdom

Fidel Navarrete (L) rains punches down on DeWayne Wisdom

The next fight featured Highland, Indiana’s Fidel “Feroz” Navarrete (2-0-1, 127 lbs.) against DeWayne Wisdom (3-13, 1 KO, 131 lbs.) in a Super Featherweight bout scheduled for four rounds. The opening round was close but messy, with both boxers winging wide punches from the outside and holding. Navarrete may have managed to land more punches by the round’s end, but Wisdom showed more effective movement and landed some good counters. In the second round, Navarrete used shear power and athleticism to drive Wisdom into the ropes. Though Wisdom covered well, he was clearly tiring from the onslaught and the hooks to the body. While Navarrete was not able to put Wisdom away, he did manage to land two low blows that brought Wisdom to his knees, twice. Near the end of the round, Wisdom managed to open a cut on Navarrete’s face with a head but

Navarrete (L) sneaks in an uppercut on Wisdom

Navarrete (L) sneaks in an uppercut on Wisdom

t.

In the third round, Navarrete picked up where he left off, bulling Wisdom to the ropes with a flurry of punches and unleashing a brutal hail of blows—one of them again low. In the middle of the last volley, Wisdom’s corner decided to save their fighter from more punishment and threw in the towel, though neither fighter noticed this turn of events, trading blows for another few seconds, while the referee tried to draw their attention to the stoppage, which came at 2:59 of the third round. It wasn’t pretty, but it was entertaining.

Ricky Smith (R) lands a shot to the body under Luis Santiago's jab

Ricky Smith (R) lands a shot to the body under Luis Santiago’s jab

In a Welterweight bout scheduled for four rounds, Chicago’s Luis “Sito” Santiago (7-0, 1 KO, 152.8 lbs.) looked to stay perfect against Green Bay’s Ricky “Da Chosen 1” Smith (1-5, 150.6 lbs.). Smith looked more like a boxer than he ever has in the first round, putting together combinations and throwing solid shots to the body that seemed to take Santiago off guard. Though Santiago threw the more telling punches, he was not able to put together a compete offense against Smith. The second round was closer, with Santiago landing more combinations and pounding Smith with a hammering overhand right. Smith continued to land solid straights to the body and some good shots to the face of Santiago, but Santiago’s composure was starting to shift the balance.

Santiago (L) finds openings on the inside

Santiago (L) finds openings on the inside

In the third round, Santiago came inside to throw the body shots that he knew could win him the bout but too often Smith would catch him on the way in. Smith seemed to be tiring as the round drew to a close, but again he kept it close. Santiago seemed to recognize that the scorecards might not be in his favor and came out fast in the fourth, starting to break Smith down with body shots and then landing some powerful rights, dislodging Smith’s mouthguard and giving him a needed break. When he saw the opportunities, which the tired Santiago gave too frequently, Smith would land powerful rights of his own to the body and head, but the final round definitely belonged to Santiago. Final judges’ scores gave the Majority Decision to Santiago with a fair 38-38 and 39-37, and one shut out  score of 40-36, which did not do justice to Smith’s efforts.

Jose Arambula (R) overwhelms Fred Fleming

Jose Arambula (R) overwhelms Fred Fleming

Fred Fleming of Cincinnati, Ohio (0-6, 139.4 lbs.) got in the ring hoping for his first win—or even his first loss not by KO—against Harvey, Illinois-based Jose “Chico” Arambula (6-0, 3 KOs, 138.8 lbs.) Fleming landed a few good rights over Arambula’s guard, but Arambula was clearly the faster and more experienced boxer. Fleming survived a standing eight count and several protracted attacks against the ropes, but he got out of a first round dominated by Arambula, who for the most part unleashed his arsenal of body and head shots at will. Fleming looked tentative and fearful at the top of the second, allowing Arambula to walk him down and rain down punches from all angles,  though Fleming did land a few hooks on the inside. Fleming’s corner threw in the towel at 1:47 of the second round.

Roy Navarro (L) and Nick Ramirez trade blows

Roy Navarro (L) and Nick Ramirez trade blows

A six-round Middleweight bout between unbeaten boxers Roy Navarro (3-0, 2 KOs, 145.4 lbs.) of Downers Grove, Illinois and Rockford, Illinois-based Nick “Bad Boy” Ramirez (3-0-1, 1 KO, 146 lbs.) promised fireworks, and did not disappoint. From the first round, both fighters showed more power, intelligence and punch volume than many more experienced fighters would have brought to the ring. Both landed effectively to the body, but Ramirez showed the more effective jab, coming up the center to hit Navarro’s face and break his composure, while Navarro used his uppercut to attack when he got inside.

Navarro (L) on the attack

Navarro (L) on the attack

The second round picked up where the first left off, though Ramirez took control as Navarro seemed to tire in the second half. Both boxers continued to keep up a blistering pace. Though the round belonged to Ramirez, Navarro twice managed to get Ramirez back against the ropes with his body attack, though Ramirez turned the tables on the first occasion.

Navarro (L) looks for a counter as Ramirez (R) attacks

Navarro (L) looks for a counter as Ramirez (R) attacks

Ramirez attacked with a stiff straight jab at the beginning of the third, though Navarro countered with a volley of body shots. Navarro again drove Ramirez to the ropes with hooks to the body and rocked him with a hard right uppercut, forcing Ramirez to regroup. From that point, the action seesawed throughout the rest of the round, though it looked for the most part like Navarro was getting the worst of it. Navarro was the aggressor in the fourth, driving Ramirez back at the bell. Ramirez recovered from the onslaught and delivered his own attack. Once again, the action was close, with both fighters finding success with combinations to body and head, though Ramirez was landing the sharper combinations. In the final seconds, Ramirez attacked with a fury, driving Navarro back, but it was not enough to finish his equally determined opponent. Final scorecards read 38-38 once, and 39-37 twice for a Majority Decision for Rick Ramirez. Both fighters deserve credit for performances that showcased skills beyond their ring experience and for delivering the gutsiest and best fight of the evening.

Though Amidu and Griffin put on an entertaining scrap, it was the local fighters who had the audience on its feet. Kristin Gearhart, Eddie Ramirez, and Luis Santiago showcased their composure against determined opponents. Ricky Smith demonstrated his evolving skill set. Roy Navarro and Nick Ramirez challenged each other to become better boxers and fighters, and both rose to the challenge, never letting the pace flag as they worked different attacks. Antonio Canas and Genaro Mendez showed what an old-school fight must have been like in their relentless and brutal war.

Nick Ramirez (L) is declared the victor, while Roy Navarro registers his disappointment

Nick Ramirez (L) is declared the victor, while Roy Navarro registers his disappointment

 

Fidel Navarrete (R) poses with Ozzie Guillen

Fidel Navarrete (R) poses with Ozzie Guillen

Yakubui Amidu is victorious

Yakubu Amidu is victorious

 

Kristin Gearhart celebrates with her team

Kristin Gearhart celebrates with her team

 

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