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06/19/2004 Archived Entry: "Gonzales Undefeated No More in Controversial Loss to Hopkins"

Gonzales Undefeated No More in Controversial Loss to Hopkins
By Juan C. Ayllon
Photos by Edward Zajac

(Chicago, Illinois): One of the disadvantages of carrying an undefeated record in boxing is that, with rare exception, it must eventually come to an end. And, when two solid and undefeated fighters meet head-to-head, someone is going to lose.

On the evening of June 18, 2004, Al “Speedy” Gonzales lost the “0” on his record via a controversial, 7-round technical decision loss to Demetrius Hopkins in front of both an indignant crowd at the DePaul Athletic Center and a national audience via ESPN2’s Friday Night Fights.

However, although the verdict disappointed many, overall the viewers of this spectacular evening of boxing were winners never the less as this night provided high-level thrills, chills and drama of the highest order.

The atmosphere was charged with adrenalin as the two junior welterweights were announced at ring center. Looking supremely confident, the chiseled, taller and goatee-wearing Hopkins (14-0-1, 6 KO’s) loosened up lightly while across the ring, Gonzales (14-0-1, 7 KO’s), still clad in his robe, appeared somber and tense. However, after Gonzales pulled off his robe at the last possible minute—a practice designed to keep from cooling off and stiffening up, to retain the limberness of a good sweat generated from pre-fight warm-ups—he broke into a large smile as he limbered up his arms and made eye contact with friends in the audience. Once the bell rung for round one, Gonzales initiated behind a series of jabs and pressed Hopkins into the ropes behind a flurry of blows. Hopkins circled on his toes, danced and looked to counter the incoming Gonzales. His strategy was all the more clear as Speedy came in and Hopkins just missed with a heavy right uppercut. This was Gonzales’ round.

Gonzales continued to press in round two while Hopkins countered with jabs and occasional crisp rights. About two minutes into the round, Speedy gestured the retreating Hopkins to fight. Hopkins flurried effectively near rounds end with a furious three or four punch combination—showing flashes of speed. However, Al Gonzales appeared to have banked another round.

GonzHop3 (46k image)Hopkins lands stiff right

In round three, Hopkins circled Gonzales at rings center while Gonzales turned and pivoted to face him. Hopkins landed a hard right. Pursuing, Gonzales banged away at Hopkins with several brisk flurries on the ropes. Gonzales now sported a small cut on the outer left portion of his left brow. Hopkins landed another large, smacking right on Gonzales coming in. Gonzales continued to pressure. The busier fighter, his face was reddening and a little worse for the wear as Hopkins continued to pot shot his antagonist coming in. Although close, it appeared to be another round for Gonzales.

Round four, Hopkins circled while Gonzales waited and pressured. Hopkins landed a couple of potent rights onto the cut, while Gonzales occasionally trapped him on the ropes and peppered away with four or five punch combinations. The strategy was clear: make Gonzales chase him and as he stepped in, Hopkins suddenly plant, use “Speedy’s” momentum against him and fire hard shots. Hopkins landed another hard right as Gonzales came in near rounds end. Frustrated with his move and hit tactics, Gonzales pushed Hopkins off of him just before the round ended. Although it was a close round, in to this writer, it appeared that Gonzales sported a slight edge due to a higher number of punches landed.

The crowd grew restless as the pattern continued into round five: Hopkins retreating and circling and Gonzales pursuing. Suddenly, Gonzales sustained a huge cut on his left brow from an incidental collision of heads about one and ha half inches in length along the upper orbital ring of his left eye. Desperate, Gonzales upped his attack, while Hopkins continued to target the cut with heavy rights. The ref called the supervising doctor, Dr. Bynum, to the ring to examine the cut. Given the go ahead, fighting resumed with Gonzales desperately pursuing, punching at a slippery and elusive retreating target who continued to pepper whilst in retreat. This was a tough round to score, but possibly favored Hopkins.
GonzHop1ASm (67k image)Gonzalez bulls Hopkins into the ropes

Commenting on Gonzales’ cut, ringside physician Dr. Becton said, “It’s a bad cut.” However, by the beginning of round six, Gonzales’ corner had stemmed the bleeding.

In round six, the skirmishes became more pronounced. As Speedy pressed to trap his opponent, Hopkins countered with increasing regularity. Borrowing a page from middleweight great, Gene Fulmer, in his first fight with Sugar Ray Robinson, when Hopkins clinched, a frustrated Gonzales hit him several times to the back and side of the head over Hopkins’ shoulder. Separated, Hopkins landed several punches including a heavy right and a low blow for which he was warned. The crowd chanted “Speedy, Speedy,” as their frustrated hero pressed the attack. Hopkins landed a huge right that stunned and caused Gonzales to dip momentarily. Gathering himself up, Gonzales attacked, driving Hopkins to the ropes with a furious, two handed assault. A close round, it appeared that Hopkins might have edged this round.

At the beginning of round seven, there was a delay due to water on the corner of Hopkins. After Hopkins’ corner cleaned it up to the referee’s satisfaction, the action resumed. Gonzales pressured while Hopkins continued to circle on his toes and evade. Trapped momentarily on the ropes, Hopkins landed three punches and later a big right at rings center. Hopkins landed a heavy jab, then retreated as Gonzales pressured with hooks. Ducking under a lead right, Gonzales countered furiously with both hands. The two engaged at ring’s center. Hopkins landed another big right, Gonzales landed three hooks to the body, and Hopkins landed a low hook. Gonzales landed about eight blows in flurried succession as the round ended and even landed a right for good measure after the bell. This was a tough round to call, possibly favoring Hopkins.

GonzHop5Sm (67k image)These two guys don't like each other

Before round eight, the presiding doctor called the referee over and halted the fight. Loud boos echoed in the gymnasium, shouts of protest and even some beer cascaded onto the ring.

Commenting on the stoppage, Doctor Becton said, “He did the right thing, (John O'Brien) the ref did the right thing by stopping it, it affects the vision and he was being setup for a series of right hands. If it happened enough, it could have been fatal. The ref did the right thing.” Held aloft by his seconds in a boxing ring crowded with people, Al Gonzales yelled at Demetrius Hopkins and emphatically waved him in, gesturing for him to come on and finish the fight. Observing the chaotic scene, Dr. Becton reiterated, “They did the right thing.” A chorus of profanity arose from a segment in the crowd as it voiced its vehement displeasure. Promoter Dominic Pesoli yelled out from the ring to doctors Becton, Bynum and anyone else that was listening, “No way that’s even stopped!” The crowd started chanting “Meheeco, Meheeco” repeatedly before the official judgment was rendered. An irate fan—who was clearly besides himself—heatedly argued with Dr. Bynum at the end of this writer’s table, ranted and protested, adding, “He was robbed! He wasn’t even bleeding!”

One of the working referees standing by the table said, “the cut was real bad, if it was allowed to go on, it could have taken up to a year to heal!” The judge sitting to the immediate right of this writer said, “Hey doc, that was a good stoppage. What if he’d have gone blind?” Dr. Bynum added, “I stopped the fight because the cut was about two inches long and very deep. His cut man also indicated that he couldn’t handle it any more, although it was 100 percent my decision.” Roundly booed, the official scores were announced: a technical decision unanimously with scores of 67-66, 69-64, and 68-65 for Demetrius Hopkins. This writer scored the bout 67-66—possibly 68-65—for Gonzales, while CBZ photographer, Ed Zajac, had it at 68-65 and contributing writer, Ben Torres—who viewed this fight from home—called it 66-66 even, adding, “Gonzales got robbed. He got robbed! Perhaps those big overhand rights that Hopkins threw looked better live than on TV.” Commenting on the controversial decision, 8 Count Productions media specialist Bernie Bahrmasel lamented, saying, “We can’t get a fair decision in our own town!”

There was no controversy, just sheer thrills in the scintillating and short-lived bout between slugging welterweights Kendall Holt (15-0-0, 11 KO’s) and Thomas Davis (8-1-1, 4 KO’s).

At the beginning of round one, Davis started out fast, landing a couple of hard shots. However, Holt rocked Davis first with a wicked right, and then hurt him repeatedly with heavy lead rights and the odd left hook. He pressed his advantage and battered his opponent about the ring. As it appeared that Holt was surely cruising towards a knockout victory, Davis surprised all when he knocked Holt down with a heavy right, drawing a brief intervention by the referee. As the ref directed Davis to the opposite corner, Holt sagged against the ropes and was clearly hurt. When the ref turned to check Holt, he was cleared to go. In short order, Davis drilled Holt violently to the mat with a straight right, prompting the referee to waive off the fight. The TKO officially occurred at 2:59 into round one!

When Holt started arguing with the ref about the stoppage, ringside physician, Dr. Wendell Becton observed, “He’s just now coming to his senses after several minutes of rest—after the concussion blow. Now, he’s becoming more mentally alert. And when they become mentally alert, they become more aware of what is going on and become argumentative about the decision. That’s a good sign that concussion effects are resolving.”

In a thrilling see-saw battle, super middleweights David Estrada (4-1-0, 2 KO’s) repeatedly swapped momentum with, out-boxed and—ultimately—broke down Shayondrey Mobley (6-2-1, 2 KO’s) via TKO with less than a minute to go in their fight!

In round one, Estrada initiated behind a sterling jab that occasionally knocked his opponent back a half step, while Mobley countered and traded in spots. Estrada appeared to take the round behind hard jabs and heavy lefts and rights.

Round two began with Estrada pressing, but then Mobley pressing back. The two traded turns, back and forth as in a violent tango, being the more effective. Mobley turned southpaw as he countered and pressed Estrada, who in turn landed heavy blows of his own. Eventually, he converted back to a conventional right hand stance. The two took turns landing heavy rights and lefts, with Estrada landing a heavy left hook at rounds end.

Round three was toughly fought, with Mobley appearing to edge in terms of total effective aggression. The busier fighter, Mobley scored with sturdy jabs, hooks and rights. However, Estrada appeared to have an edge in power as he landed tough combinations, especially very potent jabs and hooks to head and body, suggesting to this writer that perhaps he was a powerful converted southpaw.

In round four, Mobley continued to be very active, but absorbed a number of flush shots to the head, moving back with no head movement to speak of. Although not obvious at the time, this would prove critical in the fight: whereas both were tough bearded, Mobley caught a lot of punches flush—failing to use head movement and often moving straight back—while Estrada ducked and moved his head just enough to slip some punches. The punches that land on Estrada consistently produced a look of stern and resolved consternation on Estrada’s face as he reset and resumed the battle. The round was very close, with Mobley landing a solid flurry at the end of the round.

Round five, Mobley maintained a superior work rate when suddenly he was visibly hurt with a wicked left hook to the belt line. Estrada surged, landing a myriad of blows, but Mobley hung tough and fought back hard out of harms way. Near rounds end, Estrada nearly knocked Mobley down with vicious lefts and rights—the ropes appearing to hold him up—and pummeled Mobley on the adjoining ropes when Mobley escaped to that side. This was a big round for Estrada.

In round six, Estrada landed a huge right that knocked Mobley back several steps, and pressured, but Mobley countered and momentarily thwarted his surge. However, Estrada continued to box smartly behind a high guard and repeatedly jarred Mobley. A big hook precipitated a frenzied rally of lefts and rights that knocked down and rendered Mobley, for all practical purposes, disabled from further combat. He tried valiantly to get up, collapsed and rose again. Looking into his eyes, the ref waved off the fight at 2:04 into round six. It was an electrifying TKO victory for Estrada.

Afterwards, Estrada donned a pair of smart looking glasses that made him appear a tad bookish and waved to the crowd. No doubt this elicited hidden cheers from stigmatized glasses wearers around the world!

Earlier, touted amateur star and current middleweight, Rudy Cisneros (1-0-0, 1 KO), showed promise in the early portion of round one, ducked into two uppercuts and—like that—was shockingly knocked out by opponent, Ed Lee Humes (4-31-1, 0 KO’s). He was counted out officially at 1:48 of round one. Commenting on Cisneros’ condition afterwards, a ring physician said that he clearly did not know where he was. As he was being escorted out of the ring, she claimed that he said, “What happened,” and “What’s next?” She further stated that the damage was done by a hard blow to the soft area just behind the orbital bone of the eye and below the temple.

Commenting on Cisneros’ stunning loss, a prominent local boxer said that it was a case of a young fighter with a good amateur career but very limited professional experience being brought up too fast against someone with vastly superior professional experience; the seasoned pro would take advantage of the rookies’ mistakes. Even with all the losses, the total professional bouts provided an abundance of experience that an extensive amateur record could not offset, as the two styles of fighting—amateur and professional—are completely different. Therefore, he concluded that it was much wiser to break the new professional in easy, only gradually raising the level of competition over time.

In an era where sound bytes rule the popular media, Light heavyweights Sam Merza (13-0-0, 10 KO’s) and Tommy Ray Kern (11-17-0, 5 KO’s) produced an entertaining visual byte as Merza flattened Kern inside the first round.

Merza asserted himself right away, taking it to Kern but good. Pounding away, he knocked Kern through the lower ropes with a solid combination of blows with a huge left to the body. Clearly shaken and in pain, Kern climbed back into the ring and struggled up but the ref stopped it at 45 seconds into round one.

Lightweight Tommy Pyle (1-0-0, 0 KO’s) impressed in his dominating knockout performance over Daniel Sidney Schlienz (4-4-0, 3 KO’s) in four rounds.

Pyle started out strongly as he punished and knocked down Schlienz once in the first and once in the second, bloodying his opponent’s nose badly in the process. Never the less, Schlienz fought back hard and aggressively. Clearly, his knockouts were not an aberration.

In round three, Pyle continued to punish. Schlienz fought back hard, trapping him on the ropes momentarily and raining down blows hard. However, Pyle continued to potshot the aggressive Schlienz as he swarmed and had him somewhat wobbly. To his credit, Schlienz finished the round with a flurry.

Pyle spent most of round four doing an impression of Willie Pepp as he evaded, ducked and occasionally pot-shotted his opponent. He banked some good defensive work in for the greater balance of the round. Suddenly, however, Pyle landed a hard flush right on the chin that dropped the oncoming Schleinz unconscious face first in a corner. Although the force of his hitting the mat appeared to revive him somewhat, he was clearly hurt and the referee stopped the fight immediately. Time of the knockout was 1:25 into the fourth and final round.

Welterweight Jermaine White (2-0-0, 1 KO) won a clear-cut, but somewhat entertaining decision over rough-hewn fighter, Jason Smith (4-2-0, 2 KO’s). He started off quickly, rocking Smith twice in the first round, the second time with a left hook, which dumped Smith into the ropes and was ruled a knockdown, drawing a closer examination from the ref. He continued to bomb away as White cleared his head.

In round two, Smith continued to dominate, but Smith fought back hard, mauling and brawling in close.

Round three, White continued to outclass, but Smith made a fight of it, surging when White grew arm weary, ducking, grabbing and mauling. The two had some competitive moments as White could not make this awkward and seemingly outclassed opponent go away! Like a cornered alley cat, Smith clawed back as best he could to savage his more highly skilled antagonist.

Bleeding badly from the nose from the battering he absorbed, in round four, Smith hung tough, grabbed and punched back crudely. White did his best to get him out of there, teeing off on him every opportunity he got. In the process, he grew arm weary. The audience laughed as both combatants, tired, swung wildly and caromed off one another into the ropes. The two slugged non-stop to close out the stanza for the better portion of the last two minutes. White won by unanimous decision with scores of 40-35 all.
Promoter - Dominic Pesoli's 8-Count Productions
Network - ESPN2


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