The KFC Yum! Center in Louisville, KY held the first round of the Jose Sulaiman WBC World Invitational Tournament on Friday night, and the city was treated to an exciting night of bouts, headlined by the tournament #8 seed and late replacement, Francisco Santana, shocking tournament favorite and former Olympic gold medalist Felix Diaz in the main event of the evening.
Diaz came out with the more decisive punching, but Santana (25-6-1, 12 KO) applied pressure throughout the fight and was relentless on the attack. Once the judges cards were read halfway through the fight, as the event used an open scoring system with 5 judges, Santana became even more fervent with his aggressiveness and backed Diaz onto the ropes repeatedly.
The sixth round saw Santana finally catch Diaz clean, but Diaz returned the favor one round later to stun Santana only to be unable to drop him before the bell rang. Francisco pressured and controlled the remaining rounds while Felix Diaz seemed to gas out, taking the big upset victory on scores of 96-94, 98-92, 98-92, 98-92, and one score of 95-95. Fightful scored the fight 95-94 for Santana.
"i'm not surprised" was Santana's response when Fightful inquired the winner about his feelings on upcoming opponent, previously victorious Bard Solomon of Douglasville, Georgia, assuring me that while he had to use many tools within his repertoire against a world class fighter such as Diaz (19-3, 9 KO), "I didn't have to pull all of them out, just some". Santana has little time to soak in the victory, insisting that he "has to go back to work Monday!", but plans to resume training for his second round matchup immediately afterwards.
The tournaments other quarterfinal bouts, all held at Welterweight, were action packed as well. The co-featured pitted #2 seed South African Chris Van Heerden (26-2-1, 12 KO), against mostly untested German Timo Schwarzkopf. Timo (18-2, 10 KO) landed the more thudding shots of the fight, including a huge right in the 7th that had Van Heerden out on his feet, however Chris used his elusiveness and superior boxing experience and skill to land combinations and evade the German for almost every round before and afterwards, displayed by the judges results of 98-92x3 and 97-93x2 (Figful scored it 97-93). Van Heerden said he was familiar with his next foe, Fredrick Lawson, as a big puncher. However after a nearly 2 year layoff, the South African said tonight was more about "trying to get used to getting punched again".
Lawson, the #3 seed, easily outpointed unknown Chinese competitor Baishanbo Nasiyiwula (13-2-1, 6 KO) in an unanimous decision with scores ranging from 96-94 to 99-91 for Lawson (27-1, 21 KO). Lawson controlled the fight early and was up handily on the judge's cards halfway through, and although Nasiyiwula applied immense pressure throughout, he could never really land anything meaningful on Lawson, who easily coasted to victory with swift combinations and a good jab.
The opening match of the tournament found Solomon (28-1, 9 KO) and Paddy Gallagher of Belfast, Northern Ireland give the crowd an excellent show with a slugfest from the first round. Solomon attempted to get his shots in and get out, but Gallagher was relentless in attempting to pin him against the ropes and land a looping right hand. Solomon was knocked down in the closing seconds of the first round, however that "he woke me up". The cards were very telling of how tight the fight was, with Solomon taking home the split decision with scores of 97-93, 97-94, 95-94x3, and one score of 93-96 for Gallaher, with Fightful scoring the bout 95-94 for Solomon. After the fight, Solomon said that Gallaher was "tougher than I thought", but after seeing his toughness, the American had to "put a little experience on him".
Evander Holyfield's real deal promotions also put on an eventful undercard, headlined by hometown junior lightweight Carlos Dixon (3-0, 1 KO), who had his work cut out for him with game challenger Aaron Jamel Hollis (4-6, 2 KO) of Cincinnati, OH, scored a hard fought split decision. It appeared as if Dixon had Hollis out cold during the second round, with the Ohio native slumped against the ropes taking massive, unprotected, shots from Dixon. After having the ropes come down twice after that, giving Hollis a little more recover time, the underdog seemed to settle down and started landing solid combinations and avoiding some of the big shots he had been taking earlier. Fightful scored the fight 57-56 for Dixon in the very good matchup.
Also on the card:
Russin Sergey Lubkovich (8-0) improved his perfect record to 8-0 with a less than entertaining performance in a mixed decision over veteran Karim Mayfield.
Alycia Baumgardner (6-0, 4 KO) looked impressive by controlling a vast majority of the fight, getting a split decision nod against Kirstie Simmons, although a unanimous decision could have easily been awarded for her quick jab and combinations.
Janelson Bocachica (10-0) brutally knocked out Pablo Sanchez 2:49 into the first round, prompting a stern talking to from referee Steve Smoger for taunting Sanchez while unconscious on the mat.
Cruiserweight Joshua Temple (6-0, 5 KO) rushed challenger Muhammad Abdullah and dropped him only seconds into the fight. Abdullah rose, but Temple just crushed him with another barrage of shots to send Abdullah to the canvas with a KO victory at 1:21 of the first.
Louisville native Trevis Burgos (1-0, 1 KO), made his professional debut by defeating late replacement Yunier Valdez via 4th round knockout. Burgos showed solid footwork and fast hands and is hoping to rise up the ranks along with his training partner Carlos Dixon.