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Rosado moves closer to title shot, Kovalev scores impressive KO, but local crowd leaves unhappy

An exciting tripleheader put on by Matchmaker Russell Peltz on NBC Sports Channel under Main Events/Gary Shaw Promotions brought one fighter to the brink of a Jr Middleweight Title, a Light-Heavyweight that had everyone buzzing, and a split decision that pleased few in the Bethleham, Pa. Sands Casino crowd.

In the opening bout of the telecast, Antwone Smith lost his chance to fight for Ronald Cruz’s WBC Continental Americas Welterweight title on the scales, but that didn’t stop him from eeking out a narrow split decision victory over local favorite
Ronald Cruz, who lives a mere 20 min drive away from the Casino. Smith captured the opening rounds with a stiff jab, accompanied by a ever-annoying grunting, before the vocal crowd exhorted Cruz to come to, starting in the fourth round. Cruz took control of the fight and dominated the fifth, before inexplicably returning to a reticent style of single punches and fighting sporadically.

Smith’s Trainer Sheilds Davis insisted between rounds that Cruz was finished and urged his charge to go for the kill but with the eighth round, Cruz enjoyed some success by switching to southpaw and refocusing on the body attack. After a nice overhand right punctuated a strong ninth-round for Smith, Cruz responded with a spirited attack and won the round.

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A desperate Smith came out for the 10th and final round pressing the action, but Cruz stemmed the tide and appeared content to fight safely, protecting a lead that it turned out he didn’t have. A fantastic flurry at the bell that left fans cheering wildly was soon met with a chorus of boos as Announcer Joe Antanocci delivered the Split verdict for Smith. Dave Greer scored 96-94 for Smith, George Hill had it 96-94 for Cruz, and Dave Braslo’s 96-94 gave the visiting Florida veteran the road victory, much to the chagrin of the homefolks.

For Cruz, it was a good learning experience despite suffering his first loss, as he drops to (17-1, 12 KOs). Meanwhile, it remains to be seen what doors were opened for Smith, who improves to (22-4-1, 12 KOs). Afterward, Cruz said, “I knew it was close, I had no excuses. I just got a really late start”. This reporter agreed with Judge George Hill and against the majority as I had Cruz winning 96-94.

In an impressive Light-Heavyweight contest, Unbeaten WBC #12 light heavyweight Sergey Kovalev (19-0-1, 17 KOs) faced substitute Lionell Thompson (12-2, 8 KOs) who took the fight two weeks ago when highly-regarded former WBA Light heavyweight Champion Gabriel Campillo pulled out with a Back Injury. Kovalev had little problem with the switch, despite training for a southpaw and Thompson’s being an orthodox fighter, as he dominated Thompson from the opening bell. Thompson, as well as Trainer Ross Thompson (no relation) had entered the fight extremely confident, based mostly on work Lionell had been doing in Las Vegas with the Chad Dawson Camp. It proved to be of little value against the hard-punching Chelyabinsk, Russia native who fights out of Ft. Lauderdale, Florida.

Kovalev landed hard rights throughout the first round punctuated by a stinging left with 10 seconds to go in the round,but it was in round two when the destruction truly began. Kovalev was cutting the ring off beautifully as Thompson became increasingly defensive in the wake of the punishment before going down with 16 seconds left in the round, and then once again at the bell. Controversy ensued as Trainer Thompson entered the Ring before Referee Gary Rosado had finished administering the mandatory eight count, which could’ve resulted in a DQ, but the fight was allowed to continue…………..but not for long.

Following the 60-second break, which wasn’t nearly enough for Thompson to revive, Kovalev ended thing with a devastating right that brought Rosado to Thompson’s rescue and the fight to a close. Thompson stated afterward that he “wasn’t hurt, just dazed” and that Kovalev was more awkward than anything else, but it’d be hard to convince anyone else of that. From this vantage point, it appeared that Gabriel Campillo dodged a bullet by pulling out, Kovalev’s power, at least on this night, was certainly impressive.

In the Main Event, a IBF junior middleweight eliminator for the right to face Champion Cornellius “K-9” Bunderage, #3 rated Gabriel Rosado (21-5, 13 KOs) scored a tenth round TKO over 38-year-old #2 Charles Whittaker (36-12-2, 21 KOs), who’d been on a eight-year undefeated streak and at 38-years-old was hoping to land an elusive title shot……it was simply not to be. Despite being game, he was simply Despite being game, he was simply outgunned by the younger, harder-punching foe, who dropped him in the fifth, the seventh, and twice in the 10th before it was finally stopped a merciful Steve Smogger. Following the fight, Whitaker hinted at retirement and credited the younger, stronger Rosado with a fine performance.

For Rosado, it marked a long road back from a devastating loss to Alfredo Angulo three-years ago in his biggest fight to date. His dream shot against Bunderage now awaits him.

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