Derek “Chitown’s Finest” Zugic’s TKO Victory One of Highlights in Action Packed Evening
by Kerstin Broockmann
Photos by Scott Dray
Finest Promotions staged its first event last night at the Cicero Stadium, with a six-bout card that showcased some fine boxing and plenty of heart. Zugic family pride was in evidence at the door, in the crowd, and in the ring. Many members of Chicago’s boxing community, fans and fighters alike, came out to support the event. In the midst of a generally celebratory tone, the memory of Francisco “Paco” Rodriguez, whose penultimate fight before his death as a result of injuries suffered in the ring after a November 20th fight in Philadelphia had taken place last December at Cicero Stadium, was evoked. Half of all t-shirt sale proceeds from the event will be donated to a fund to help Rodriguez’s widow and five-month-old daughter, and donations were also collected. An 11-bell salute before the final bout paid tribute to a fallen boxer who was loved by many in the ring and the crowd. Finest Promotions shows great promise for the future in putting together this exciting premiere.
In the first bout, super bantamweights Juan Carlos Fernandez (122 lbs., 1-0-0) and Daboe “Bad Boy” Thomas (123 lbs., 1-2-0) fought to a majority draw in a back and forth war that showcased the skills of both boxers as they tirelessly put together sharp combinations to the body and head.
Round One began with both fighters feeling each other out with jabs, a situation that did not last long, as Daboe attacked with a combination, only to be countered with inside shots by Fernandez. As the round continued, Daboe focused on the body. Fernandez forced Daboe onto the ropes with a combination, only to find himself in the same situation shortly thereafter; he got himself out of the situation with a vicious left hook to Daboe’s head. A nice left uppercut/overhand right combination from Daboe was countered with a hook by Fernandez. With both boxers working at a fast pace and putting together effective combinations, Fernandez’s more effective counters probably took the round.
Round Two started strong with both fighters coming aggressively out of their corners and then clinching to regroup. After another brief probing exchange of jabs, they were at it again with first Fernandez being the aggressor, then Daboe. Both fighters seemed more wary of each other’s power, and clinched to buy time. As the round progressed, Daboe took control, dropping an off-balance Fernandez, in what seemed to some to be a slip. However, Fernandez was unhurt and re-engaged effectively. As the round ended, Fernandez found himself with his back against the ropes, countering a cross-left uppercut combination by Daboe with a short hook. Though dominance changed hands throughout the round, Daboe was a bit more effective in the second.
Though both fighters showed signs of tiring in their faces at the top of third, this was not reflected in the punch volume. A quick first engagement again ended in a clinch. Daboe then threw an outside straight combination followed by an inside uppercuts with both hands. From this point, the fighters again took turns throwing effective combinations with speed and power. Daboe adopted the strategy of moving around Fernandez, often circling near the ropes and countering when Fernandez managed to cut him off. In one of these exchanges later in the round, Daboe took a hard left hook which made him lose his footing for a moment. He was hit by another left shortly after, but recovered his equilibrium quickly. Fernandez continued stalking Daboe, landing a nice straight right through Daboe’s guard seconds before the bell.
The final round began much like the third, with both fighters attacking into a clinch, which Daboe exploited to land a short cross followed by a left uppercut. Fernandez backed up, landing an effective jab-cross combination in retaliation, and the battle was on. Daboe again worked around the perimeter of the ring with Fernandez pursuing, both attacking and countering effectively from their respective positions. Fernandez began working the body more, forcing Daboe to the ropes with repeated shots to the midsection just after the midpoint of the round and following with a volley of body and head shots. Another Fernandez attack was effectively rebuffed with a low/high left hook combination by Daboe. The pace never flagged as both fighters battled through the end of the round.
In the end, the scorecards reflected the efforts of the fighters as Emily Cain and Robert Hecko scored the bout as even, and John McCarthy gave Daboe a slight edge with a score of 38-37 for a majority draw. While some members of the audience expressed dissatisfaction with this verdict—though this writer is unclear whether the boos came from the Daboe or Fernandez supporters, there is no doubt that these boxers were well-matched, and did not disappoint with their well-rounded performances in the ring.
The second bout of the evening, a light welterweight battle between Oswaldo Lopez Escobedo (133.5 lbs., 2-3-0, 2 KO’s) and Robert Matthew Jaskierny (135.5 lbs., 3-2-0, 2 KO’s), did not feature the same tension between equals as the first, but still provided plenty of action. Escobedo clearly came to fight, but struggled throughout to deal with Jaskierny’s southpaw stance, effective counters, and slight size advantage. Much of the fight showed Escobedo overreaching with lunging lefts, and Jaskierny countering his charges with straight rights to Escobedo’s body and head, occasionally followed by some stinging lefts. While Escobedo certainly did not allow him to let his guard down, Jaskierny earned a shut-out score of 40-35 with his superior skill.
Round One set the tone for those to follow with Oswaldo Escobedo attempting to connect with left jabs and hooks, and Bobby Jaskierny keeping his distance and countering with straight rights from his lead hand. Both seemed tentative at the outset. After Escobedo charged inside, Jaskierny accidentally countered with a right hook to the back of his head, drawing an admonishment from referee John O’Brien. The action continued with Jaskierny starting to push the action, throwing straight rights to the body and head of Escobedo and following up with a left cross. Escobedo clinched to stop the volley, a strategy he would employ more frequently in later rounds. The round ended with a desperate charge by Escobedo the Jaskierny ducked under and countered with a straight left at the bell.
The second round found Escobedo once again trying to charge inside of Jaskierny’s guard only to be countered by a left hook to the head. Two more charges were countered by right hooks to the body and head. One more attempt lead to the same result. After these unsuccessful onslaughts, Escobedo found his range and managed to land a solid right cross to Jaskierny’s face. While Jaskierny still managed to counter most attacks from Escobedo, Escobedo managed to land occasional straight shots to Jaskierny’s head. Toward the end of the round, Escobedo forced Jaskierny briefly to the ropes with body shots, which Jaskierny countered with a straight 1-2 combination. Moments later, Jaskierny landed a left hook to Escobedo’s head, knocking him down. The bell rang just after Escobedo got to his feet.
The punishment that Escobedo had taken began to show in Round 3. He continued to charge in, but his shots were wider and his defense shaky. Jaskierny countered most attacks with single shots and lateral movement, but also threw enough powerful lefts to force Escobedo into increasingly frequent defensive clinches, which drew a verbal warning from referee O’Brien. Mid-round, Escobedo again positioned himself for a few good crosses, and he began landing more straight lefts as well, but it was too little too late, as he was unable to put enough power into his shots to do much harm. Jaskierny continued to land effectively, adding more body shots to his repertoire. He was now trying to find a blow to finish the fight. Nearing the end of the round, Jaskierny landed a left-right straight combination. Escobedo tried to avenge the attack with another charge, but was hit with a staggering straight left as the round drew to a close.
The final round found Jaskierny in pursuit, looking for the knockout, with Escobedo managing to weather the storm.
Jaskierny tried different combinations in his quest to finish the fight, straight combinations to the head and body shots followed by hooks from both hands. Toward the middle of the round, Escobedo tired of being on the receiving end of the attack, and charged once again, only to run into another hard left. The round ended with Bobby Jaskierny pushing the durable Escobedo back with straight rights and following up with an assault to his head and body, rocking Escobedo back on his heels with a powerful left cross to end the fight.
While the overmatched Escobedo fought bravely and managed to go the distance, the judges’ scorecards reflected Jaskierny’s dominance with a unanimous score of 40-35.
The third bout, a welterweight bout between Anthony “Assassin” Linenfelser (140.5 lbs., 1-0-0, 1 KO) and Joshua Shelem Rodriguez (142 lbs., 1-3-0, 1 KO), was a battle in which both were pushed to their limits, though the outcome went in Rodriguez’s favor as he won a split decision.
Round One saw the 18-year-old “Assassin” taking the fight to his 19-year-old opponent after a brief exchange of probing jabs. Throwing powerful combinations to both head and body, he had Rodriguez covering and countering (often with some snap of his own, and also not shying away from body shots) throughout most of the round. On several occasions he managed to back Rodriguez onto the ropes, moving and covering to escape the assault. While both boxers landed effective combinations and showed some good speed and power, it was the more aggressive Linenfelser who came out ahead in the opening round.
The second round saw another jab exchange at the top, but this time, it was Rodriguez who engaged with a textbook jab-cross-hook combination. Rodriguez still seemed a bit reluctant to throw, but when he did, his combinations found their mark, while Linenfelser seemed slower in getting off his shots, though both were still putting together punishing combinations. An accidental clash of heads in the second half of the round seemed to throw Linenfelser off, and he went to get it checked out by his corner (including his father/trainer Jeff Linenfelser), but the interruption to the action was brief. Linenfelser’s shots were getting wider near the end of the round, but he managed to force Rodriguez to the ropes. Rodriguez worked his way off with a cross-jab-cross combination that he ended with a left hook that seemed to rock Linenfelser.
In the third round, both fighters were starting to show serious signs of wear and tear, though Rodriguez’s more defensive style was proving to be the more effective, as he was able to deflect more shots with his high guard than his opponent, who grew visibly more tired throughout the round. Rodriguez countered Linenfelser’s early attacks by deflecting or dodging the incoming shots and coming over them with either hand. Linenfelser redoubled his advance with a body/head combo and then forced Rodriguez to the ropes with a follow-up straight combination. Both fighters landed straight rights consecutively to disengage and Rodriguez began taking advantage of Linenfelser’s inability to defend himself effectively. While Linenfelser continued to mount the attack, his punches were coming out slower and wider, making it easy for Rodriguez to fire off sharp counter-punches on the inside. By the end of the round, Linenfelser had his hands down and was sluggish on his feet.
The fourth round was a war of attrition, though it was clear that Linenfelser had not managed to fully recover between rounds and came into the battle with much of his arsenal spent. While Rodriguez was equally tired, he was able to defend himself and counter more effectively. Both fighters charged in at the bell, though the snap with which they had engaged in the initial rounds was absent. Rodriguez managed to get off a sharp straight combination shortly after the start of the round which gave Linenfelser a nosebleed. Linenfelser kept swinging, but, despite his corner vociferously shouting at him “Hands up! Touch, touch” and, later, “For Papa,” he was unable to respond, too exhausted to raise his hands, and throwing mostly single punches. Rodriguez was not in much better shape; although he kept his guard up when in range, he mostly stuck with defense as he moved to avoid punches. Both fighters were flat-footed and moving slowly from exhaustion. Rodriguez was the more effective puncher, but by the final bell, it was clear that both fighters had left everything in the ring, as Linenfelser collapsed onto Rodriguez and they supported each other before a congratulatory hug.
In the final analysis, judges Robert Hecko and John McCarthy scored the bout 39-37 for Rodriguez, while Emily Cain scored the bout 39-37 for Linenfelser, giving the split decision to Joshua Rodriguez, who improves his record to 2-3-0, while Linenfelser is no longer undefeated at 1-1-0. Both young boxers put on a gutsy display that won the approval of the crowd.
The fourth bout featured Chicagoan David “Diesel” Latoria (220 lbs., 3-0-0, 2 KO’s) in his fourth fight since making his professional debut in July of this year. Though he outpunched opponent Cleophris Glover (280 lbs., 3-11-0, 2 KO’s) by a wide margin, he was unable to put the bigger man down, winning by lopsided unanimous decision.
The first round established a pattern that would continue through most of the fight, with Latoria throwing hard, straight, usually single shots to the body of Glover from the outside. Glover would move out of the way and wait for Latoria to pursue, throwing light jabs to keep Latoria outside and occasionally following up with a heavy hook that made its mark on the rare occasions when it landed. Sometimes Latoria would work in off his opponent’s jab and throw a solid left hook or sneak a cross up the center. After previous bouts, the pace, which Latoria allowed Glover to set, seemed slow.
The second round saw a little more head movement from Glover, who also attempted a few offensive right crosses. Latoria continued to work the body and picked up the pace a bit with more frequent follow-up punches. The last moments of the round found Glover on the ropes, with Latoria punishing his body with hooks to the midsection.
The third round picked up where the second left off, with Latoria backing Glover to the ropes and again working the body. The two fighters went back to their usual mode with Latoria throwing straight punches to Glover’s midsection and Glover staying outside on the basis of his jab, though he injected a momentary sense of interest by switching to southpaw, though this did not appear to change his strategy. Leaning against the ropes, Glover fired off a right as Latoria advanced to keep him there, but did not exploit the advantage he briefly gained. Glover’s rights began coming out slower, and lost their snap. The round ended with Glover once again on the ropes, with Latoria throwing multiple punches to his body. The crowd was beginning to show its displeasure with the pace of the action during this round.
The final round was again dominated by Latoria, who seemed to want to make an attempt to finish the fight early. However, his combinations to Glover’s head and body on the ropes did not affect Glover enough to push him to this conclusion. Glover managed to land a few good straight punches as Latoria tried to push the pace, resulting in a return to form. The round once again ended with the out-of shape Glover on the ropes, taking punishment from Latoria.
Glover showed great sportsmanship in his loss, congratulating Latoria on his win and ignoring the insults from some of the crowd, but probably needs to get back into the gym if he wants to continue his career. The final scores read 40-35 for Latoria on one card, and 40-36 on the remaining two cards.
In the co-main event of the evening, Derek “Chitowns Finest” Zugic (176 lbs.) made his professional debut against Cesar Martinez (169 lbs., 1-0-0), winning by a surprisingly quick first round TKO in this light heavyweight matchup.
Martinez touched gloves when the bell rang, and then landed the first punches, a straight combination. He followed that up with several body shots. The taller Zugic then found his range, keeping Martinez outside and then knocking him down with a short, powerful hook when Martinez again tried to come inside. A follow-up hook as Martinez tried to re-engage seemed to rock Martinez again. After a few quick exchanges, Zugic forced Martinez into a corner, and landed a combination of straight punches and an uppercut. Martinez managed to turn out, but Zugic covered and avoided his punches. As the fighters separated, Zugic delivered a straight right that staggered Martinez, who stumbled to the edge of the ring and reached out to steady himself on the top rope. At this point, referee Pete Podgorksi waved off the fight, over the objection of Martinez, who had regained his footing after his short break. There was some suggestion that the stoppage came too early, but the safety of the boxers who step in the ring is the priority of the referee, and Podgorski clearly decided that it would be prudent to not let Martinez take more punishment. The 34-year-old Martinez showed great heart and some solid ring skills, but was no match for Zugic’s speed and power. Podgorski’s call was wise. “Chitown’s Finest” begins his professional career with his first professional knockout.
After the bout, Zugic took a moment to offer up a prayer in the corner before announcer Steve Corbo handed him the microphone. At the mic, Zugic gave thanks to God for the opportunity given him that evening and for life, the greatest gift. He then thanked his pops and his brother, Devin, the “best promoter in town,” before posing for a few victorious photos. The Zugic brothers made each other proud.
Before the main event, announcer Steve Corbo read a short tribute to fallen boxer Francisco “Paco” Rodriguez, urging those in attendance to give as much as possible to help his surviving family members. All rose for an eleven-bell salute to Francisco—one more than the traditional ten-bell salute—the extra ring signifying the Rodriguez’s contributions to his family and the Chicago boxing community.
The main event of the evening, a scheduled six-round bout between light middleweights Patrick Coleman (157.5 lbs., 29-14-0) and Rudy “El Cachorro” Cisneros (157 lbs., 11-2-0) lived up to the slugfest label, with both fighters throwing powerful combinations to the head and body, frequently at close quarters. Though he stayed in the fight almost to the end, Coleman eventually succumbed to the punishment faster than his opponent, losing by TKO in the fifth when his corner threw in the towel. However, he amply demonstrated the skill and determination that resulted in a respectable career in the ring, including battles with some of the world’s finest boxers. At 39, though, he may want to consider taking a well-earned retirement.
The first round was tough to call, with both boxers taking turns hailing blows on the other. Coleman lost his footing early in the round in what appeared to be a trip but stayed on his feet. Coleman used his jab well to find his distance before closing in to throw a barrage of short hooks and body shots. Cisneros countered with a solid overhand right, only to be answered by a right uppercut-left hook combination from Coleman. An exchange of jabs followed until both fighters again began slamming shots into each others’ bodies and heads. Cisneros was more effective at penetrating Coleman’s sometimes wide guard with straight shots. Coleman again closed for a hook-uppercut combination at the end of the round.
The second round again found the boxers pounding each other non-stop, employing the full arsenal of punches available to them. In an initial exchange of jabs, Coleman found his way inside more often, then the round evened up. Cisneros forced Coleman to the ropes with a series of short punches, and Coleman worked his way back into the fight with an uppercut-right combination. Staying away from the ropes, the boxers nevertheless chose to work inside, landing brutal punches to both head and body. Cisneros would break out and throw a hard cross, but for the most part the boxers kept close tabs on each other. Near the end of the round, Cisneros took advantage of Coleman’s low left hand to throw an effective straight punch combination to his head. The round was back and forth, but Cisneros outpointed Coleman by a narrow margin. Both inflicted some serious punishment.
Round 3 began with Cisneros trying effectively to maintain the slight advantage he had wrested from Coleman in the preceding round, forcing Coleman into a corner with a powerful left hand. Coleman again worked his way out with an uppercut, only to encounter a hard right hand from Cisneros that momentarily rocked him. Working inside again, Coleman threw combinations of stinging shots to body and head, which were countered for the most part by Cisneros. The distance between the fighters varied as the round progressed, but neither felt compelled to move out of range to take a break. Moving his head, Cisneros made Coleman miss with a left hook, and countered with a left of his own, only to be hit with a right uppercut from Coleman. Cisneros backed off briefly, but then came back with a powerful left hook that dropped Coleman to the canvas. He got up but was again forced back against the ropes as the bell rang. Cisneros again dominated.
Cisneros took charge decisively in the fourth, rocking Coleman with a stiff jab as he attempted to come inside. He continued to put pressure on Coleman with combinations of body shots followed by big right hands. This strategy resulted in an accidental but obviously painful shot below Coleman’s waistline. Referee John O’Brien told Cisneros to keep his punches above the belt. Still in pain, but shaking it off, Coleman reentered the fray, and finished the round with a strong uppercut-hook combination. Cisneros’ aggression in pushing the action won him the fourth round.
Round five saw both boxers again trying to take each other out. Coleman was moving more and, in a change of strategy, working his jab to keep Cisneros away. Both were still throwing effective and powerful combinations, but Coleman was struggling to avoid incoming shots from Cisneros, who again applied pressure. Cisneros again rocked Coleman with a hook to the head and came in to pursue his advantage, landing another left hook, followed by a hard right, the combination of which clearly had Coleman in trouble. While he was still moving and covering, he was having difficulty countering and could not seem to move out of the barrage. Various people in the crowd started yelling at first the referee and then Coleman’s corner to stop the fight. Shortly thereafter, Jeff Linenfelser, who was working Coleman’s corner, waved a white towel at the referee, signaling that he should end the fight, which he did. Coleman did not seem to know what had happened but acquiesced to his corner’s decision, going over to Cisneros to congratulate him on his well-fought win, a show of sportsmanship that Cisneros graciously returned. Though the fight did not go the scheduled distance, both boxers put on a terrific show.
Cisneros’ impressive display against the still-dangerous Pat Coleman earned him a fifth round TKO, and put an appropriate end to an exciting evening of fights from the debuting Finest Promotions, which is to be commended for putting together a polished evening of generally well-matched fights, not a small feat.