Pannell stuns L'Heureux in first round

By Alex Pelletier at Ringside


Pannell stuns L'Heureux in first round

Ngoudjo stops ex-champ Rojas in Ottawa

In front of the same crowd that saw him win the bronze medal at the 2001 Francophone Games in Hull-Ottawa, Herman Ngoudjo co-headlined the first card the city of Hull has seen in fourteen years,
and gained his first professional title, winning the NABF junior
welterweight title against former 126 lbs. world titlist, Venezuelan
Eloy Rojas, at the Lac Leamy Casino on Saturday.

Rojas (40-5-2, 28 KOs) has defended the WBA featherweight title six times between 1993 and 1996, until he was stopped for the only time in his career by the great Wilfredo Vazquez in Ring Magazine's 1996 KO of the year. Now 37 years old and fighting three divisions heavier, Rojas brought in a lot of professional baggage compared to young Ngoudjo's 22 professional rounds, all fought in little over a year. He had never gone past six rounds, and an opponent as sturdy as Rojas almost guaranteed that the young prospect would see plenty of action.

The fight opened quietly, but the Cameroon-born Ngoudjo gained the initiative in the third round, jabbing away at Rojas and having the advantage in exchanges. But Rojas had a resurgence in the fifth round, winning it on all three official scorecards, and he carried this into the sixth, with Rojas still holding strong despite being cut over the right eye.

But Ngoudjo gained a definitive advantage in the seventh frame. Clearly comfortable in the ring, he dictated the fast and heavy handed pace he's been showing so far in his career. By the eighth, he clearly wanted to go home, hammering away at a game but outmatched Rojas, who used all his savvy to make it out of the round on both of his feet, losing his mouthpiece twice. Rojas went into his corner after the bell ended the eighth round, and after conferring with his cornermen, elected to stop the bout.

This win gives Herman Ngoudjo the NABF title on his ninth professional fight. He improves to 9-0 (8 KOs). Ngoudjo told Boxingtalk after the fight that he feels he could be ready for a world title fight in about a year, and his promotional team has echoed similar sentiments, wishing to maintain the increase in the level of opposition the 26 year old will be facing as he climbs in the rankings.

The Lac Leamy audience was still soaking in the Ngoudjo triumph when Virginia's Steve Pannell brought everyone back to Earth by roughing up the reigning Canadian champion Patrice L'Heureux, and stopping him 2:31 into the first round. Pannell (34-8, 28 KO) had lost five straight bouts by early KO going into this fight, to Hasim Rahman, Wladimir Klitschko, Ed Mahone, Frans Botha and Ray Mercer, in that order. During that six-year losing streak, most people either never knew or had forgotten Pannell had a very good right hand. But Pannell himself didn't forget it.

L'Heureux came out with his left hand low, and Pannell was quick to exploit that opening, peppering the much bigger L'Heureux with right hands whenever possible. He caught his chin midwaythrough the first, and it didn't take long before the heavy favorite was on the canvas, the result of five consecutive roundhouse rights. L'Heureux got up quickly, but was visibly shaken. Pannell rushed at him with both hands this time, scoring at will, and referee Gerry Bolen had no choice but to step in stop the contest at 2:31 of the first round, as L'Heureux was on the verge of being knocked down again.

For L'Heureux, it was the first loss of his career, his record dropping to 14-1-1 (7 KOs). Pannell wins his first bout since beating Danny Wofford in Nashville in March 1998, and really his first win ever against a legitimate boxer.

On the undercard, very well matched middleweights Walid Smichet (8-1-2, 6 KOs) and Darnell Boone (4-0-1, 2 KOs) fought an entertaining four-round majority draw, while junior middleweight Sébastien Demers improved to 6-0 (4 KOs) with a fourth round stoppage of Venezuelian Presente Brito (11-9-3, 9 KOs).