In a night of New Jersey homecomings, Newark native and 2016 Olympic silver medalist Shakur Stevenson made quick work of late replacement Alberto Guevara, scoring a knockout in round three. It was clear that Guevara, who took the fight on short notice after Franklin Manzanilla and Hairon Socarras both pulled out, did not appear physically nor mentally primed to compete, as he backpedaled aimlessly for much of the match.
Stevenson scored a pair of knockdowns in round two and appeared on his way to an easy stoppage in the third before a shot below the belt gave Guevara a few minutes to gather his bearings. But it wasn’t enough, as Shakur pounced on Guevara when action resumed and dropped him for the third time, this time for the full count.
“Top Rank gotta give me better competition,” said Stevenson following the blowout and he implored Arum to match him against the best. “I want the IBF and the WBO [Warrington and Valdez]. I would love to go to England to fight Josh Warrington!” We’ll have to wait and see if manager Andre Ward and promoter Bob Arum take the necessary steps to fulfill the young contender’s wishes before the year is up.
In the co-main, Chicago bantamweight Joshua Greer Jr. won a hard-fought majority decision over slick Russian contender Nikolai Potapov. Greer took the fight to Potapov, but the Russian used a stiff jab and good footwork to set up solid combinations and counter punches. Greer landed effectively to the body, but Potapov took over in the middle rounds, really controlling Greer from range. Greer came back to hurt Potapov to the body in round ten and he punctuated his performance with a strong final round to secure the win on two of the judges’ cards; the third saw it a draw. The Fight City scored it for Potapov by two points.
Greer improves to 21-1-1 (12 KOs) with the win, and earns the NABO bantamweight title and a number two spot in the IBF rankings. The crowd did not enjoy the action however, even while the two fought at a high level throughout in a close and competitive affair.
“The booing didn’t bother me,” said Greer. “I know I won the fight. Every time I hit him to the body, I hurt him. I didn’t get the knockout, but I got the win. Next time out, you’ll see the pillow again.” Greer was forced to go the distance for the first time since April of 2017, snapping his seven fight stoppage streak.
Potapov’s team was not satisfied with the outcome. “We feel we got robbed, as do boxing fans,” said Potapov’s promoter Dmitry Salita. “ESPN and the media had Nikolai winning. We are going to appeal the decision. ESPN is a great platform for the sport of boxing. We are grateful for the opportunity … [but] Nikolai won the fight!”
Bronx prospect Josue Vargas looked impressive in scoring a seventh round stoppage of a game Manuel Lopez. Vargas outboxed Lopez for much of the fight, but began to hurt his durable opponent in the latter stages as he began to add the uppercut to his arsenal. Lopez was ready to go late in round seven and Vargas poured it on with a series of unanswered punches that prompted referee Sparkle Lee to intervene. Vargas improves to 14-1 (9 KOs) with the win, his only loss via disqualification early in his career.
Making his pro debut in front of a ecstatic New Jersey fan base, 17-year-old high school senior Vito Mielnicki scored a brilliant first round knockout over Tamarcus Smith. Mielnicki scored with a left hook that knocked Smith out cold, leaving him flat on his face. Mielnicki was granted an exemption by New Jersey to turn professional before the age of eighteen and showed fans exactly why he earned the privilege. Once a standout amateur, Mielnicki might be an exciting prospect to keep an eye on and appears to be a shoe-in for prom king at West Essex High School.
In his first outing since his nearly two year layoff due to injury, Julian “Hammer Hands” Rodriguez scored a sensational first round knockout over Hevinson Herrera. Rodriguez came out poised, and used a beautiful left hook-straight right combination to floor the Columbian veteran. Rodriguez improved to 17-0 (11 KOs) with the win, and hopes to make headway in the 140 pound division in the near future.
Following the fight, Rodriguez played to his local following. “That’s what [the fans] like about me. When they come here, they see a show.”
Unbeaten New Jersey southpaw John Bauza looked impressive in out-boxing a rugged but outclassed Angel Sarinana, scoring a unanimous shutout after eight rounds. Bauza, who is trained by Robert Garcia, didn’t showcase much power as he appeared to land everything but the kitchen sink on Sarinana without much effect, but nonetheless showcased impressive combinations and defensive ability throughout. With the win, Bauza improves to 13-0 (5 KOs).
Popular Indian 168 pounder Vijender Singh dominated Michael Snider, forcing the referee to step in after Singh scored a series of unanswered punches in round four. Singh looked sluggish in his first fight back after a 19 month layoff, but nonetheless faced little in return from Snider. With the win, Singh improves to 11-0 (8 KOs), and it remains to be seen if the Indian prospect will add to his massive social media following (3.8M Twitter followers) with his first appearance in the US and on ESPN.
“It was excellent getting back in the ring after a long time off,” said Singh. “It’s great to be in here in the USA and to get the win.”
And in the opening fight of the night, unbeaten lightweight prospect Joseph Adorno made quick work of Adriano Ramirez, scoring a knockout at 1:12 of round two. Adorno decked Ramirez twice in the second round, both times with the left hook, and referee Sparkle Lee waved off the contest following the second knockdown. Adorno improves to 13-0 (11 KOs) with the win. — Alden Chodash