(Frank Galarza drops John Thompson; photo credit: Tom Casino, Showtime)
MEMPHIS — ShoBox prides itself on consistently matching promising, up-and-coming fighters with their toughest opponents to date. More often than not, you’ll see boxers on these cards get their first, real tests in the ring – tests of their athleticism, resolve and skills in the sweet science alike.
Friday night, undefeated Ivan Redkach (16-0, 13 KO) faced – and was challenged – on all of these fronts when he defeated the speedy Tony Luis (17-2, 7 KO) by unanimous decision in a competitive bout.
Entering Friday’s outing on Showtime, Redkach was widely considered a can’t-miss prospect. What he lacked in hand speed, he more than made up with his violent punching power, kayoing 13 of his first 15 opponents. However, Redkach had never been in the ring with the likes of the fast-fisted Luis, and it showed in the first five rounds of a fight that would ultimately go the distance.
Redkach spent much of the first half either missing wildly with power shots or pinned along the ropes as Luis smothered him and peppered his body. Only a lone, round-saving knockdown late in Round 1 kept Redkach from being blanked on my scorecard through five. (It should also be noted that said knockdown came just moments after a controversial call by Referee Randy Phillips, in which Redkach’s glove seemingly grazed the canvas after being hit with a hook from Luis, but no knockdown was ruled. This was a huge swing that affected the course of the fight.)
In the later rounds, Redkach was finally able to land his power shots with regularity and seemed to stun Luis at times. Luis, perhaps fatigued, lost enough elusiveness to drop a number of close rounds and let Redkach back into the fight.
Entering the 10th and final round, TV microphones caught both corners pleading with their fighters to go for a knockout in the final frame – the ultimate indication that both boxers believed they were down on close scorecards.
However, after a spirited 10th round, the judges weren’t so convinced that the bout was close, scoring it unanimously for Redkach 99-90, 97-92, 97-93. After correcting a mathematical mistake that initially led me to tweet that I had scored the fight 95-94 in favor of Luis, I correctly tallied my scorecard 95-94 for the winner, Ivan Redkach.
But, obviously, this isn’t about me picking the winner. It’s about this fight being far more competitive than the official scores indicate. More importantly, Luis exposed Redkach as a good, but incomplete fighter. I feel like Redkach might have problems with the type of speed he’ll run into as he moves into the higher tiers of the lightweight division.
But that’s not to say Redkach won’t stick. Rumors of his power have not been exaggerated. He also has proven he can manage a steep learning curve. After the fight, Redkach said in an interview via a translater that a mid-fight adjustment helped him win the contest.
Redkach had spent a long, three-month camp sparring with the likes of Ray Beltran to prepare for Luis’ speed and volume. But early in the fight, Luis neutralized Redkach’s usual, hard-nosed pressure by swarming him and keeping the fight in close quarters along the ropes. Seeing their warrior look wild, frustrated and vulnerable, Redkach’s corner’s advised him to remain patient and shift his focus to counterpunching in the second half of the tilt. This strategical change was not only apparent, but, at least on my scorecard, completely swung the momentum of the fight.
In many ways, Redkach reminds me of Juan Manuel Lopez. Both fighters share the uncanny power, left-handedness, weight class and even the ease with which they seem to be hit by their opponents. I think Redkach can meet JuanMa’s ceiling, but in order to do so, he’ll need a little more time to develop and let his boxing skills catch up with his natural ones.
I don’t think this is the last we’ll see of Luis, either. He put on an entertaining scrap and demonstrated that his only loss – a surprise upset to Jose Hernandez on ESPN’s Friday Night Fights – was more of a fluke than many might have given him credit for at the time. When asked about his future plans, Luis was quick to answer that – after he took a vacation – he’d love a rematch with Redkach. Whether he gets it or not, I think at a minimum Luis has proven he’s a TV-friendly fighter and not worth writing off.
THE TELEVISED UNDERCARD
This ShoBox event featured an especially juicy, three-fight undercard that showcased six unbeaten prospects, each taking their first, significant tests of their respective careers.
First up was Arizona-based Abel Ramos (8-0-1, 4 KO) who fought to a majority draw with the lanky Maurice Hooker (12-0-2, 9 KO). This fight was a high-output, tale-of-two-halves. Early on, Hooker used his movement and long jab to keep Ramos at bay and dominate the first half of the fight. Later, Ramos was able to consistently get inside and neutralize Hooker’s ranginess with body shots and looping overhands. This was the first eight-round contest for both fighters and while fatigue became apparent, the pace never slowed for either combatant throughout.
Official judges scored the bout 77-75 in favor of Hooker and 76-76 twice. Queensberry Rules scored the fight 76-76 as well. Given the physical and stylistic contrasts seen in this fight, it’s easy to think that both fighters will benefit from the experience despite the outcome.
Next up was Antoine Douglas (12-0, 7 KO) overwhelming Marquis Davis (8-1-2, 5 KO). Douglas threw punches in bunches from the opening bell, most of which were thumping power shots that seemed to connect more often than not. Official judges scored the bout 79-73 and 80-72 twice unanimously in favor of Douglas. Queensberry Rules scored the fight 80-72 for Douglas as well.
While Douglas certainly routed Davis, it’s worth noting that he never seemed to have his foe in any real trouble. Davis’s chin might have caused him more harm than good, though. He lost a tooth in the 6th and absorbed a terrible amount of punishment over the course of eight rounds. This was a big step up in competition for Davis and I’m not sure he’s ready to make this jump.
The final undercard fight of the evening proved to pack the most wallop, as Frank Galarza (12-0, 8 KOs) upset the previously undefeated John Thompson (14-1, 5 KOs) with a spectacular second-round knockout.
After a feel-out round in the 1st, Galarza opened the 2nd round by bull-rushing Thompson and connecting with a straight right hand that wobbled the taller fighter. Smelling blood, Galarza pounced on Thompson and landed a devastating hook that folded Thompson inside-out, sending him face-first to the canvas in a position could best be described as “downward facing dog.”
Curiously, the ref began administering a count to the fallen Thompson before waving it off and declaring Galarza the victor in the relative upset.
At 28 years-old, Galarza is hardly a young prospect. At this trajectory though, it’s not hard to see why some have tabbed him with the nickname “The Brooklyn Rocky.”