El Gato Dominates On Wednesday Night Fights

George Kimball @ ringside


El Gato Dominates On Wednesday Night Fights

NEW YORK --- Just after the conclusion of Wednesday night’s main event, Tom Kaczmarek, the 79 year-old boxing judge from New Jersey, stopped to admire the stately lobby of the fortress-like former headquarters of the Greenwich Savings Bank and said, “you know, the last time I worked a fight in a place where the audience didn’t have seats was when James Scott fought at Rahway State Prison.”

No longer a bank, the elegant granite edifice is now called Gotham Hall, a seemingly odd place to stage a boxing card, but then these weren’t your everyday Wednesday Night Fights, either. In what was billed as a private, invitation-only party, ESPN2 and ESPN Desportes staged a joint production in telecasting Lou DiBella’s midtown show, and if most of the invitees had to stand, none of them seemed to be complaining. Most of them, in fact, seemed to be paying more attention to the open bar and the seemingly endless supply of shrimp cocktail and crab cakes than to what was taking place in the ring.

Frankie Figueroa, the diminutive Puerto Rican-born southpaw now domiciled in the Bronx, won the New York state junior welterweight title two years ago when he upset then-unbeaten Joey Rios on the Klitschko-Brock undercard at Madison Square Garden, and last summer added a regional title to his collection of hardware.

Figueroa was defending that title for the third time against 22-1 Mexican Luis Rodriguez in the main event of Wednesday night’s ESPN card, and while manager Sal LoNano had considered the opponent a significant step up in class, he apparently forgot to tell Frankie.

Repeatedly beating Rodriguez to the punch, Figueroa was able to negate the Mexican’s reach advantage, taking away his jab as he got inside to pound him with left-hand leads and uppercuts, and turned what looked on paper like a well-matched fight into a rout.

Before the first round ended Rodriguez was bleeding from a cut above the right eye, which referee Pete Santiago ruled to have been the result of a clash of heads.

Although there were no knockdowns, Rodriguez was probably fortunate to get out of the first round without one. Late in the opening stanza Figueroa drove him to the ropes and landed a hard left to the head that buckled his knees. Rodriguez nearly went down, but caught himself, spun away, and, turning his back on Figueroa, ran across the ring in headlong flight with Frankie in hot pursuit. Just before Figueroa reached his wounded quarry, Santiago inexplicably seized him from behind and pulled him away, a bizarre break in the action which allowed Rodriguez to collect himself, escape the round and, ultimately, the night.

Figueroa is quicker than most 140-pounders, and he was certainly too quick for Luis Rodriguez. For most of the bout the only question was whether Figueroa could sustain his frenetic pace over a full 12 rounds, but if he slowed toward the end, it wasn’t by much.

Although Rodriguez was able to counter with some decent body work, he was never able to mount an attack of his own as Figueroa coasted to an unexpectedly easy win.  Billy Costello scored it 118-111, Kaczmarek 117-111, and Robin Taylor an unaccountably close 116-114. It’s hard to imagine just which four rounds Ms. Taylor thought Rodriguez won. The last two may have been closer than the others, but from our vantage point the Mexican might not have won any.

Now you might assume that having won for the 11th straight time in his 19-2 career Figueroa, or his handlers, would be eyeing a title shot in a division seemingly replete with beatable champions (read Andreas Kotelnik and, now, Timothy Bradley), but neither LoNano, trainer Buddy McGirt, or even Frankie himself seems in any big hurry.

“Frankie and Paulie would be a hell of a fight,” said LoNano, who formerly managed IBF champ Malignaggi – and before that, Micky Ward. “But Paulie’s committed to fighting Ricky Hatton after his fight (a rematch against Lovemore N’dou ten days hence) in England.

“There’s no rush,” said LoNano. “We’re just going to take it easy and let this one sink in before we even start thinking about what’s next for Frankie.”

Figueroa, by the way, prepped for Wednesday’s encounter with Rodriguez with more than a month in the Big Bear training camp of Shane Mosely, and in the end he probably got more out of it than Sugar Shane did, since Frankie hit peak condition just about the time Zab Judah decided he’d rather fight a shower door than Mosely.

Christopher Fernandez D8 Efrain Joel Torres... The co-feature saw upset-minded Christopher Fernandez earn a draw in his bout with unbeaten Efrain Joel Torres. Torres, signed by DiBella after making a successful New York debut in March, had won his eight previous fights in his native Puerto Rico, and while Fernandez brought a respectable 15-4 record to the bout, he was 10-0 in his home state of Utah, 5-4 elsewhere, and wasn’t expected to test Torres to the extent he did.

Fernandez, who had “Kid Kayo” emblazoned on his waistband, never threatened to live up to his handle, but he did beat Torres to the punch for most of the night and appeared to have won at least five rounds. One judge, Luis Rivera, gave him six with his 78-72 scorecard, but when George DeGabriel scored it 77-75 for Torres, the issue hung in the balance with John Signorile, and when Signorile returned a 76-76 score the result was rendered a stalemate.

Joselito Collado W4 Jose Ortiz... Joselito Collado, a featherweight punching dynamo from the Queens, won a lopsided decision in his four-rounder against New Jerseyite Jose Ortiz. This time DeGabriel, Rivera, and Signorile were in agreement, as all three scored it a 40-36 shutout. Collado is now 3-0, while Ortiz slips to 1-2.

Jonathan Nelson TKO1 Borngod Washington... The already abbreviated five-bout card was shortened to four with the decision to abandon the scheduled walk-out bout between lightweights Jorge Lara and Alberto Amara, leaving Jonathan Nelson to close the show. Nelson (2-0), the 22 year-old nephew of longtime Jermain Taylor trainer Ozell Nelson, turned pro in April after being eliminated in last summer’s Olympic Trials, and won a dedision over Devin Laney on the Dawson-Johnson/Tarver-Woods card in Tampa.

He extended his experience by a minute and 48 seconds in New York, earning a first-round TKO over Borngod Washington.  Nelson hurt Washington with a hard left hook, and subsequently send his mouthpiece flying into the audience, prompting the intervention of referee Gary Rosato. Borngod, who must have been born under a bad sign, is now 0-3.
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MAY 14, 2008

JUNIOR WELTERWEIGHTS: Francisco Figueroa, 139 1/4, Santurce, Puerto Rico dec. Luis Rodriguez, 138 344, Monterey, Mexico (12) (Retains NABF title)

Christopher Fernandez, 137 1/2, Salt Lake City, Utah drew with Efrain Jose Torres, 137 1/2, Guynabo, Puerto Rico (8)

LIGHT HEAVYWEIGHTS: Jonathan Nelson, 166 1/2, Little Rock, Ark. TKO’d Borngod Washington, 169, Astoria, N.Y. (1)

FEATHERWEIGHTS: Joselito Collado, 125 1/4, South Jamaica, N.Y. dec. Jose Ortiz, 125 3/4, Jersey City, N.J. (4)