The CBZ Newswire

Fight Report: ‘Quest for 50′ Thwarted at the Venue, Undercard Shows Potential of Some Future Contenders

by on May.30, 2010, under Boxing News, Guest Columnists

Achour Esho (R) Gets Through the Guard of Robert Jones

Achour Esho (R) Gets Through the Guard of Robert Jones

By Kerstin Broockmann

Photos by Scott Dray

HAMMOND, IN, May 29, 2010 — Hitz Boxing returned to Hammond, Indiana’s Horseshoe Casino with a packed card headlined by Montell ‘Ice’ Griffin entering the ring for his 58th bout in his quest for 50 wins against Buffalo, NY’s Ross ‘The Boss’ Thompson.  The ‘Quest for 50’ also featured a packed undercard of Chicago fighters, including Henry Coyle returning to the ring after an injury to face Danville, VA’s Marcus Luck, and Achour Esho looking to maintain his unbeaten record against Ann Arbor, MI, veteran Robert Jones in what would be the Fight of the Night. The event featured lots of action in small quantities, as most of the fights ended early. The Main Events were disappointing. There was a respectable crowd (given the fact that another card was taking place just a few miles away at the UIC Pavilion and the Blackhawks were playing in Game One of the Stanley Cup Finals). Hawks fans were mollified by the big screen broadcast of the game between bouts.

Rafael Murphy (L) looks for an opening against Quinton Smith

Rafael Murphy (L) looks for an opening against Quinton Smith

The first bout of the evening featured the Cruiserweight professional debut of Chicagoan Rafael Murphy (200 lbs.) against Covington, TN’s Quinton Smith (2-6-0, 0 KO’s, 201 lbs.). The slightly paunchy Smith came out strong and landed a few punches. However, Murphy withstood the first onslaught and countered. Smith charged in again, but with his head low, he found himself eating an uppercut, followed by a barrage of punches from Murphy, none of which he could not see to counter. Smith found himself on the canvas at :49 seconds into Round 1, and Referee Celestino Ruiz waved off the fight, giving Murphy his first professional victory by knockout.

Murphy wins by knockout

Murphy wins by knockout

Russell Fiore (R) pressures Terrance Roy

Russell Fiore (R) pressures Terrance Roy

After an unexplained 45 minute delay, Junior Welterweight Chicagoan Russell “Rocky” Fiore (3-0-0, 3 KO’s, 140 lbs.) looked for another knockout against veteran Terrance Roy of Ripley, TN (9-30-0, 1KO, 133 lbs.). Fiore was greeted by thunderous applause as he was introduced, and the crowd kept yelling their approval as the bout began. The noticeably smaller Roy came out of his corner throwing quick punches, most falling short of their mark.  Fiore used his reach and conditioning to keep Roy at bay with jabs. Roy slipped into the ropes early in the round twice. Roy began holding and trying to move his opponent to minimize his power, causing his corner to instruct him to “Don’t wrestle, box.” After Roy initiated a clinch, Fiore started timing him with crosses as he approached. Seeing an opening, Fiore threw a flurry of shots, sending Roy to the ground again. He popped up, only to encounter another flurry shortly thereafter. A left hook to the head, which Roy covered, nevertheless sent Roy down again. Getting frustrated, he tried to re-engage, but Fiore once again caught him with a cross, for a third knockdown. After another count, Roy tried to take the fight to Fiore once again, but found himself backing into the ropes, where a hook to the body knocked him down once again. He got up, determined to continue, but Referee Ruiz had seen enough, waving off the fight just shy of the bell at 2:56 of the first round, a call that Roy questioned, asking Ruiz, “What you doing, man?”. Ruiz asked in turn, “You went down five times and you want to keep fighting?” Roy responded in the affirmative, “I got up, didn’t I?” While Roy was unhurt and definitely able to continue, it did not look as if he would be able to change the path of the fight if allowed to do so.

Roy finds himself on the canvas for the last time

Roy finds himself on the canvas for the last time

John Lewus (L) faces William Armstead

John Lewus (L) faces William Armstead

In a Junior Middleweight bout, John “Bad Boy” Lewus (23-4-0, 19 KO’s, 152 lbs.) of Monticello, IN, returning for his second fight in twelve years, was next. His opponent, from Columbus, OH, was William Armstead (2-11-0, 1KO, 158 lbs.). Armstead, looking fit, tried to take the fight to Lewus, who looked a bit out of shape, but in his desire to cause harm, he rushed in leaving himself open. Lewus, while not getting a lot of shots off, landed some solid ones when he did and exposed Armstead’s unsteady footwork. A close exchange found Armstead against the ropes, where a short left hook to the head sent him down, giving Lewus the knockout victory at 32 seconds into the first round.

Lewus (R) pushes Armstead into a corner

Kevin Cestone (R) pushes Cullen Rogers into a corner

In the first bout of the evening to go beyond the first round, Kevin Cestone (5-0-0, 2KO’s, 201 lbs.), St. Charles, IL, squared off against Cullen “Raw Dawg” Rogers (9-26-2, 5KO’s, 200 lbs.) of Akron, OH. The fight was a sloppy brawl that almost went the distance. The taller boxer, Cestone, scored some damaging points when he used his reach to keep Rogers out. More often than not, though, he allowed Rogers to close with a punishing, lunging haymaker from either hand and then prevented further damage by holding, or resorted to bullying Rogers with his superior size. Rogers had a tendency to lead with his head, and occasionally resorted to holding when he found himself too close for comfort, though he showed slightly more solid defensive movement.

The first round began with Rogers pressing the action with his jab, though occasionally coming in too far. Cestone landed some good combinations to Rogers’ head, but would counter Rogers’ aggression by holding. Rogers’ response was to try to land as many hooks to the body and head as he could with his free glove. When outside, Cestone found an effective jab, but by the end of the round, the frequent holding by both fighters had frustrated both Referee Kurt Spivey (who saw nearly as much action as the boxers as he intervened to separate them and tried to prevent spills when grappling would supplant boxing) and the assembled crowd, which, nevertheless, remained firmly behind Cestone, who was asserting himself as well using his size to drive Rogers into the ropes with a combination of punches and trapping with his body.

In the second round, both fighters came out looking a bit worse for wear, mouths open, and hands held a bit too low.  Rogers tried to approach this round with more boxing, but was met with even more holding. When he remembered to box, Cestone landed some solid straight punches that resulted in a bruise under Rogers’ left eye. A cut also appeared under Rogers’ right eye, though this may have been the result of a head butt during one of the many clinches. Both fighters drew a warning from Referee Spivey that he would begin deducting points for holding. Toward the end of the round an awkward exchange ended with the fighters in a clinch resulting in Cestone falling backwards through the ropes and onto this reporter’s laptop and on into her lap. The laptop was momentarily stunned but recovered, and Cestone appeared unhurt.

Cestone (L) and Rogers lean ominously on the ropes

Cestone (L) and Rogers lean ominously on the ropes

The third round began with Rogers feeling out Cestone, landing a powerful looping left. Moments later Rogers managed an overhand right followed by an uppercut. Rogers’ efforts in this round were the most impressive of the fight. Cestone prevented another onslaught by holding as Rogers came in again. Referee Spivey, true to his word, deducted a point from Cestone. Rogers continued to try to come inside, and Cestone continued to hold. Neither fighter managed to inflict much harm. Cestone also continued to try to muscle Rogers around the ring, tiring both in the process.

Cestone manages to stay in the ring after getting hit by a cross

Cestone manages to stay in the ring after getting hit by a cross

The fourth and final round began as the others had, with Rogers trying to box, and Cestone using his reach and holding to prevent the option of an exchange.  Another clinch drew a point deduction for Rogers from Referee Spivey, though it looked to this reporter as though Rogers countered a hold with hold.  The bout continued with punches being countered by holding on both sides, nearly resulting in both boxers going through the ropes as they got tangled after Rogers fell on top of Cestone when his attack was met by holding as Cestone was going backwards. Fortunately, the corner padding helped keep the boxers in the ring this time. However, near the end of the round, Rogers managed to connect with one of his lunging haymakers, a right, and the off-balance Cestone was driven through the ropes once again by the force of the blow. Referee Spivey called the fight at this point, over Cestone’s protestations, giving Rogers the TKO victory at 1:31 of the final round. Cestone could be justified in his disappointment, as he had clearly done more damage to his opponent, though Rogers had landed more shots and held less. Cestone dropped to 5-1 with this loss, while Rogers moved his win column into double digits. As Rogers commented on his victory, “It is what it is.”

Ninos Abraham (L) stalks Shane Gierke

Ninos Abraham (L) stalks Shane Gierke

Chicago prospect Ninos Abraham (4-0-0, 1KO, 166 lbs.) was up next, facing the more experienced Shane Gierke (4-19-2, 3KO’s, 157 lbs.).  The Real Assyrian King, Ninos “The Champ” Abraham, looking sharp in red and white sequined shorts, topped with a matching jacket for his entrance, appeared to have the advantage in power. He entered to live accompaniment. His slighter-framed opponent, tattooed, with a mop of unruly hair, looked to have a slight reach advantage. In this bout, first impressions were not deceptive. Both boxers showed some skill and ring savvy, though Gierke’s style was awkward enough to challenge the more straightforward Abraham as the fight began. Abraham showed maturity in waiting for the right moments to implement his plan.

Shane Gierke launched the first attack. Moving in and out, trying to land and occasionally succeeding. In an early attempt, he attacked with a little too much gusto and found himself on his knees as Ninos Abraham stepped back to avoid him. Abraham looked for openings and opportunities to counter, at times seeming almost too patient as Gierke used awkward angles and footwork to find ways to land his own shots. The power difference was clear in that Abraham’s punches were by far the most damaging when they found their mark. A left hook-right cross combination mid-round from Abraham drove Gierke into the corner, where Abraham inflicted more punishment before Gierke punched his way out and then connected with a nice uppercut shortly before moving out of range. Abraham lunged across the ring looking to connect, Gierke clinched and Abraham settled for a hook to the head. As they parted, Gierke managed to land a good, clean right cross. As the round came to a close, Abraham again found an opportunity to send Gierke to the ropes with a right hook. He followed by a brutal volley of shots and Gierke proved his durability as he withstood the attack until the bell.

Gierke switched leads at the top of Round Two. Abraham started to attack his exposed right side with a stiff jab, throwing in a quick right hook to the head when he saw the chance. Gierke went back into his regular stance and both fighters tried out some different combinations until Abraham found his punch, a left hook that inevitably found its mark on Gierke’s head. After Abraham threw four successful hooks, Gierke tried the punch himself, also landing a few times, though not with the same punishing power. Another left hook from Abraham drove Gierke into the corner, where Abraham went to work, throwing powerful combinations to the head and body, which Gierke absorbed without answer, though he showed some defensive skill. A final left hook dropped Gierke, where the effects of the storm he had weathered showed in his face as he crumpled further. When Kurt Spivey waved it off at 2:44 of the second round, he got no argument. The knockout moves Abraham’s record to 5-0, 2 KO’s.

Gierke chooses not to continue

Gierke chooses not to continue

Mike ‘Kujo’ Kurzeja (3-0-0, 3KO’s, 168 lbs.) returned to find his third knockout again Joe Howard (1-11-1,1KO, 157 lbs.), Kokomo, IN, which he did with a technical knockout (which looked like a plain knockout to this reporter) at 2:18 of Round 1. Neither boxer displayed a lot of finesse, but Kurzeja was more solid on his feet. Early in the round, Howard made some inroads with combinations to the head and body, but his punches were tentative and he did not put as much of his weight behind them as he needed, while keeping his chin up and exposed.  Kurzeja discovered that his overhand right was finding its target on Howard’s temple whenever he threw it, so he did. After knocking Howard down twice with this punch, he decided to double up on this shot and put Howard down for the third and final time, ending the bout at 2:18 of Round One.

Mike Kurzeja (R) waits for his moment against Joe Howard

Mike Kurzeja (R) waits for his moment against Joe Howard

Chicago favorite, the hard-punching Achour Esho (7-0-0, 5KO’s), stepped through the ropes to face slick Ann Arbor, MI, native Robert Jones (7-7-1, 2KO’s) in an exciting six-round contest that demonstrated once again that styles make fights. Both fighters showed great composure as they worked to impose their will on each other, Esho being the more powerful puncher while Jones, who lacked knockout power, used his defensive skills to look for and exploit openings.

Ashour Esho (L) asserts his power against Robert Jones

Ashour Esho (L) asserts his power against Robert Jones

The first round looked to foretell another early stoppage as Esho came out swinging landing flurries of punches on Jones’s arms as he covered. Jones would move away, using his head movement and footwork to avoid Esho’s charges until he got trapped again. He also seemed to be carrying his hands a bit low. In the second half of the round, Jones started to throw some combinations, though he was not sitting on his punches, with made little impact, though a left hook shocked Esho for a moment.

The second round found Jones a little more aggressive, occasionally launching himself at Esho to throw multiple punches, most of which Esho blocked, though a few got through. Jones used his head movement to avoid any counters. As the round progressed, both boxers found their confidence. Jones’s punches became more solid as he took the time to find openings, and paused to throw, rather than strafing Esho as he moved. Both boxers threw some good body/head combinations. Esho established himself as the more powerful puncher, while Jones fought from a more defensive stance, but threw more punches.

In the third round, Esho seemed to be looking for a knockout. Several times he charged at Jones from a distance. On one of these occasions, he left himself open and Jones punched him into a corner, where he closed his guard to weather the volley. Jones’s lack of power proved a liability in this and other exchanges like it. Esho punched his way off the ropes and proceeded to throw some solid combinations, with many punches finding their mark, though Jones came back strong to finish the round.

Jones (R) tees off on Esho

Jones (R) tees off on Esho

Jones started the attack in the fourth, while Esho tried to keep him at bay with snappy jabs. Jones backed Esho into the ropes with punches, and Esho once again covered, but looked for and found opportunities to counter with jab-cross combinations. The counters were more powerful than the attack, and at one point Esho appeared to taunt his opponent. After some exchanges center ring, Jones once again backed Esho into the ropes with a volley, but did not have the power to finish him. Throughout the round, Jones maintained the aggression, but Esho landed the more effective punches.

Esho (R) lands a crunching right hand

Esho (R) lands a crunching right hand

In round five, Jones adopted a crouching stance, launching left hooks and jabs from this low angle, with occasional rights. Esho threw single, hard punches when he saw openings, though Jones again threw more punches and used his defense to elude most of what Esho threw. Again, it was a battle of speed versus power.

Round six found both boxers redoubling their efforts, matching each other blow for blow in the center of the ring. Esho landed several effective uppercuts and a cross that momentarily broke Jones’s composure, but the round was back and forth, with the edge going to Esho. Again, Esho charged, looking to finish, while Jones avoided his attack. Almost at the bell, Jones slipped in the corner and fell, making for an anticlimactic finish to a terrific battle. 
In the end, the judges scores read 59-55 twice and 58-56 once, giving Esho the unanimous decision. Jones put up an admirable fight throughout, thwarting Esho’s attempts to finish, and keeping enough pressure on him to force him to use the defense that he has not had much opportunity to practice in recent battles and proving himself capable to taking the extremely hard punches that Esho dished out. Both boxers showed heart and skill, both offensively and defensively, in the best match-up of the evening.

Henry Coyle wins by anticlimactic TKO

Henry Coyle wins by anticlimactic TKO

In the Co-Featured bout of the evening, Ireland’s Henry ‘The Western Warrior” Coyle (9-2-0, 9KO’s, 160 lbs.) entered the ring to the accompaniment of bagpipes looking to get back to his winning ways after a tough loss against Neil Sinclair in Belfast in May of 2009 for the Irish Light Middleweight title, followed by an injury that sidelined him shortly before his last scheduled bout. He was wearing a T-shirt in support of Natasha McShane Day, a day of events scheduled for June 13 to raise money to help the young Irish woman who was brutally attacked with a baseball bat during a robbery and remains hospitalized with a serious brain injury and her family. Trying to thwart him was Marcus Luck (9-17-1, 3KO’s, 156 lbs.) of Danville, VA. Luck showed impressive defensive skills as well as schooling Coyle in the art of holding, which he did very judiciously, not only managing to foil a number of Coyle’s straight shots, but also making it look like the holding was being initiated by Coyle from the referee’s perspective. On one occasion, Coyle’s corner notified referee Celestino Ruiz of where the holding was taking place, allowing the referee to break the boxers.  Despite his cagey defense, interspersed with some rapid-fire volleys to head and body that found their mark on Coyle, Luck found himself with a cut under his left eye from Coyle’s straight punches as the round progressed. Near the end of the round, the boxers tangled in the corner after Luck clinched to avoid a close attack. When the Ruiz separated the fighters, Luck was clutching his left arm. No information was given about the nature of the injury, but it appeared that the elbow might have been hyper-extended as the boxers struggled to get back to punching range.  After a discussion with Luck, during which Luck notified him that he was “not 100%,” Ruiz waved off the fight before the second round could commence, giving Coyle the victory by TKO, officially at one second into Round 2. Coyle’s record now contains ten victories, all by knockout, to two losses.

Montell Griffin (L) Looks for an Opening Against Ross Thompson

Montell Griffin (L) Looks for an Opening Against Ross Thompson

In the Main Event, Chicago’s own Montell “Ice” Griffin (49-8-0, 30 KO’s, 188 lbs.) matched skills against Ross “The Boss” Thompson (27-14-2, 18KO’s, 205 lbs.) of Buffalo, NY, in an attempt to add a 50th win to his record.  The battle was a sluggish, sloppy affair, with neither fighter looking too eager to engage. Montell Griffin showed some of the skill that enabled him to beat James Toney and Roy Jones, Jr., but that was another Griffin, one that could impose his will on his opponents with his body and punches. The one that entered the ring on May 29th was reluctant to take the kinds of offensive risks that may have given him a chance against the larger, slightly younger Ross Thompson, preferring to throw single shots at Thompson’s ample mid-section for much of the bout. Whenever Griffin attempted a shot at Thompson’s head, “The Boss” leaned back out of the way almost casually. Thompson for his part might have had a chance to finish Griffin, but, while his overhand right usually found his mark, opening a nasty cut under Griffin’s left eyebrow in Round 4, which he targeted for the remainder of the fight, most of the time, Thompson seemed to be content to taunt Griffin with what he could do, without following through. Whether there was a shortage of stamina or will or both, neither fighter could work up much enthusiasm for the battle. Final judges scores were 96-94 for Griffin, 97-93 for Thompson (the most accurate score, in this observers opinion), and 95-95, for a draw.

In rounds one through three, both Griffin and Thompson established that they had the power to take the fight to each other, but showed too much respect to do so. Thompson favored a jab-cross combination to Griffin’s face, interspersed with a flicking jab that was just enough to keep Griffin far enough out of range to make it difficult to land a solid shot to the head. Under the circumstances, Griffin mostly stuck with single shots to the body, which “The Boss” simply absorbed. In the second round, Thompson raised a bruise under Griffin’s left eye with a jab-overhand right combination. Griffin muscled Thompson onto the ropes, but did not take advantage of this position. After tying up Thompson after the latter threw another effective one-two combo, Griffin broke and countered with a body-head hook combination. By the end of the round, Thompson was looking too confident in his abilities, and had started a taunting dialogue that would continue throughout the fight. Round three continued with both boxers occasionally throwing the punches that would carry them through the fight, “The Boss” throwing one-two’s or single overhand rights, while Griffin threw straight punches to the body and occasionally attempted an attack to the head, usually with a lunging jab.r

Round Four was perhaps the best round of the evening, with both boxers throwing more and taking some chances. Thompson threw some effective combinations to Griffin’s head and body. Griffin in turn landed some solid right hands which temporarily suspended the conversation in the ring. A cut opened under Griffin’s left eyebrow, though whether this was from one of Thompson’s overhand rights or a head butt was not clear, as there were several occasions when the boxers seemed to clash.

Griffin (R) traps Thompson

Griffin (R) traps Thompson

Round Five featured a lot of chatter from Thompson, who seemed to be resting, much to the chagrin of his corner. Griffin was the more aggressive fighter in this round, managing to land a nice jab-cross-uppercut combination on Thompson. An overhand from Thompson midway through the round once again opened the cut under Griffin’s eye. By the end of the round, Thompson had stopped even pretending to box, standing in the center of the ring, hands down, smiling and taunting Griffin, who threw a desultory straight punch to his body, eliciting a grin, as the round ended.

On the advice of his corner, who informed him that it was unwise to take rounds off in another fighter’s hometown, Thompson again started boxing in Round Six, and dominated Griffin throughout the round. An opening combination opened Griffin’s cut again, though Griffin managed to avoid several subsequent attempts to do more damage, showing off some of the skills that got him through 47 previous fights, though he was not able to counter effectively, despite attempts to do so. Thompson managed to put together some good combinations in the latter half of the round, setting up another solid overhand to Griffin’s cut with a jab-uppercut combo, then following up with a jab-cross-jab to finish. After moving out, Griffin re-engaged with solid body shot, only to have an attempt at a jab countered with a stiff jab from Thompson.

Round Seven started with a good triple jab from Thompson, surprising both Griffin and this observer. Unfortunately, conversation then took precedence. Griffin managed to land a solid right, and then, a little later a left-right combination. A combination to Griffin’s body, followed by a right-left-right from Thompson opened the cut once again, and the round ended with Thompson pushing Griffin to the ropes with a body/head combination.

Thompson (L) taunts Griffin

Thompson (L) taunts Griffin

Round Eight began with Thompson in a southpaw stance, which Griffin countered with a solid left hook. Another combination from Griffin was countered with a laugh from Thompson, who seemed to enjoy the round. He switched leads and occasionally threw single punches at Griffin, but mostly chatted with his opponent.

The ninth and tenth rounds saw a bit more action, Thompson again having listened to a pep talk about the need to throw more punches, especially when not at home, peppered with encouraging words informing him that he was capable of winning the fight. The ninth round started with an exchange of punches initiated by a combo from Thompson, which was countered by Griffin. A double jab from Thompson set him up for another attack on the cut via a cross-left uppercut-right overhand combo. Griffin attempted a combo that unfortunately fell short of its mark. Thompson continued to pick away at the cut and finished the round with a hook to the body and a triple jab. The final round found both boxers squaring off center ring, exchanging combinations to the body. Ross went up to the head first, again targeting the cut. Griffin threw an effective combination to Thompson’s head and body. The second part of the round was less active, with both fighters engaging in some conversation, with occasional punching. A final shot to the cut led to a standoff that ended the bout. All animosity apparently forgotten at the bell, the fighters embraced and congratulated each at the center of the ring. The judges’ split draw decision was disappointing to both, with Thompson’s corner loudly protesting the robbery. While this observer would agree that Thompson did enough to take the fight, the 39-year-old Griffin showed heart in staying in the fight with a larger and more powerful opponent and trying to press the action despite a reach disadvantage. Thompson showed some skill and versatility–it would be great to see what he could do if he demonstrated more motivation.

Griiffin (R) ducks under an attack from Thompson

Griiffin (R) ducks under an attack from Thompson

Overall, the card, when it moved, contained enough action to be entertaining, and the Venue at the Horseshoe Casino is really an ideal place to view fights, comfortable well-lit, and with excellent sight lines. There were a few too many mismatches–it would be good to see some of the featured fighters challenged a bit more. A slightly more competitive card, and fewer and shorter pauses between bouts, would make an exciting evening for any fight afficionado.

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