Well, it took until August, but maybe boxing fans will have something to look forward to in 1998 after all. Kostya Tszyu dismantled a game but overmatched Rafael Ruelas last night at the El Paso County Convention Center to earn a fight for the vacant WBC Super Lightweight Championship against Miguel Angel Gonzalez. A Tszyu-Gonzalez fight is a true pick-em matchup, and one which will undoubtedly battle Manfredy-Gatti for "boxing purist" fight of the year.
Tszyu (21-1-1), who tumbled from boxing's pound for pound ranks after his kayo loss to Vince Phillips, has rebounded nicely, with last night's win being one of his most impressive performances. The Australian based Russian pounced on Ruelas at the opening bell, and seconds into the fight Rafael was in deep trouble. Ruelas weathered the storm though, and even managed to momentarily stun Tszyu with a short left hook. But that was to be the only spell of trouble for Kostya all evening.
Ruelas bounced back in the second, though his legs still seemed wobbly, and he attempted to establish his jab. But from the fourth round on, Tszyu was in total control, using angles, superior speed, and 1-2 combinations to befuddle his opponent. In the eighth, another right blasted Ruelas into the ropes. Despite getting three reprieves (two Tszyu slips, and a loose tape repair), Ruelas was unable to clear the cobwebs. Surprisingly, longtime trainer Joe Goosen allowed his charge out for the ninth round, and not surprisingly, an inept refereeing job by Luis Carlos Guzman forced Goosen to race into the ring 21 seconds into the round to rescue Rafael from further punishment. Even Tszyu seemed reluctant to keep pounding on Ruelas (52-4), who has been one of boxing's classiest warriors, and who should seriously consider hanging them up.
As for Tszyu, he has jumped right back on the map with this impressive stoppage, and a win over Gonzalez later this year will not only be a Christmas present for Tszyu, but one for boxing fans as well.
In the co-feature, WBC Featherweight champion Luisito Espinosa looked to be coasting to a victory over local favorite Juan Carlos Ramirez in their 12 rounder. But a late rally by "El Ranchero" put Espinosa in trouble on a couple of occasions, and after an accidental clash of heads (which caused a cut on Espinosa's brow) caused the fight to be stopped, the decision seemed to be up in the air. And it was a close one. One judge scored it in favor of Ramirez 106-104, and the other two scored it 106-104 and 105-104, allowing Espinosa (43-7) to escape El Paso with a split decision win. This was an entertaining fight which was tactical at times and a brawl at others. Ramirez (14-1) looks to have a bright future, and he could have had a title if not for a slow start. For the record, I had the fight even (106-106) after eleven. As for Espinosa, though he is a crafty veteran, his looping punches and willingness to mix it up would spell doom for him against Prince Naseem Hamed, whom he has been actively pursuing to fight.
In other undercard action...
If you think that boxers are the only ones who need stamina, think again. In one of my toughest fights to stay awake, the immortal 315 pound Wolfgramm (16-1) plodded his way to a majority decision win over washed up Jorge Luis Gonzalez (25-5). Actually, I shouldn't say washed up because Gonzalez was never anything but hype anyway. Anyway, these two should be poster children for the sad state of heavyweight boxing today.
Kirino Garcia won a majority eight round decision over Roland Rangel (17-11-2) in a junior middleweight bout. Garcia, who started off his pro career with 18 straight losses, has now gone 19-1-1 since.
Hector Camacho Jr. upped his record to 17-0 with a fourth round kayo over outclassed Margarito Navarro (8-12-1) in a junior welterweight tiff which was scheduled for six rounds.
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