Without a local boxing promoter, San Diego boxing fans have been forced to travel south to Baja California or north to Anaheim, Carson, Los Angeles, Indio or even further to Las Vegas to witness a live show. It’s a grind unbecoming a boxing fan from a major metropolis, or worse yet from a county where you have 60 gyms dedicated to the sport. Local fans can still remember when Danny Garcia, Alan Sanchez, Giovani Santillan, Maurice “Mighty Mo” Hooker, Gary Russell, Jr., Keith Thurman, Marco Antonio Periban and Emmanuel Robles were featured on a local boxing card.
Up until Friday, it had been two years, two months and 21 days since anyone of their stature had fought in San Diego. That’s how long it’s been since Relentless Antonio Orozco fought Martin Honorio at the Del Mar Fairgrounds on May 15, 2014. Without a doubt, that’s a long time between Pro boxing shows.
Pechanga to the rescue: On Friday night, the Pechanga Resort & Casino in Temecula hosted a top quality boxing show in their Grand Ballroom and announced that more and even bigger shows are in the planning stages, especially after the completion of their brand new ballroom, luxury four-diamond hotel wing, spa, pool complex, etc. We’re hoping Friday night’s televised event, presented by Greg Cohen Promotions in association with the International Championship Boxing League (ICBL), Ringside Ticket Inc., and David Schuster’s Winner Take All Productions is the first of many shows. The members of this group seem excited about the limitless possibilities in what the casino has planned. They’re calling it: “Pechanga: The Next Chapter.”
In Friday’s opening bout, Bout #1, Detroit’s Ja’ Rico O’Quinn (2-0, 2 KOs) survived a scare from nearby Oceanside, California’s Johnathon “Johnny Boy” Quiroz (6-3, 1 KO) in their bantamweight, four-round thriller. Even though O’Quinn looked so polished, so slick in round one, reminiscent of someone like Floyd Mayweather Jr., Quiroz soon had him figured out and midway through round two started to turn the tables. Quiroz had amazing success landing these in your face left hooks one after another and even staggered O’Quinn with a hard overhand right. With the fight dead even at this point, O’Quinn made a comeback in round three. This made round four critical for both fighters and both went all out right up until the final bell. When the three scores of 39-37 for O’Quinn were announced, the hometown boo-birds let their thoughts be known. “It was a good step up for me, being 2-0, fighting someone with nine fights,” said O’Quinn. “I learned that not everybody is going to lay down and that’s exactly what I wanted. I didn’t want a cake-walk.”
Early in Bout #2, Baltimore, Maryland welterweight Malik “Ice Man” Hawkins had his hands full dealing with the brawler Sean “The Beast of War” Gee (3-4) from Portland, Oregon. In the end, Hawkins, the pure boxer, had far too much speed and skill for Gee who moonlights as a Mixed Martial Artist. Each time Hawkins saw one of these wild, all or nothing overhand rights coming his way, he showed how clever and elusive a boxer can be. His matador style and brilliant boxing technique carried the night as he was awarded a unanimous decision (40-36) by all three judges.
Undefeated middleweight Cem “The Champ” Kilic (6-0, 3 KOs) from Sherman Oaks, Calif. by way of Frankfurt, Germany, did what he was supposed to do in Bout #3, his tryout performance for Greg Cohen Promotions. What he did was make the cocky Jerhed Fenderson (1-0) look pedestrian. Each time Fenderson threw one of his wide looping punches, Kilic would counter with a quicker, straighter, on target blow.
After the feeling out round, Kilic found himself in the driver seat and began to really pound Fenderson. Before long he had him pinned against the ropes. Nearing the halfway mark of round two, Kilic backed Fenderson up in his own corner. At that point, he landed two more heavy blows to the head. As a result, Fenderson fell back as if he were about to take a seat on the nonexistent stool. Once referee Edward Hernandez Sr. noticed that Fenderson’s eyes appeared glassy and he had this uncomprehending look on his face, he stopped the bout. The end came at the 1:50 mark of round two.
In the co-main event, Bout #4, it was “No Surrender” Skender Halili of Fort Worth, Texas by way of the Bronx, New York, by way of Klina, Kosovo making quick work of the 18-year veteran Ben Odamattey (16-15-3, 9 KOs) who is from Accra, Ghana but now trains in Silver Springs, Maryland. There is not much you can say about this beat down, except it was over in a hurry. The end came at 1:17 of round one.
Halili, who improved his record to 11-1, 11 KOs, wasted no time and went straight at Odamattey firing off these big overhand rights. Before you knew it, the brave but unsteady Odamattey was standing there almost defenseless. After Odamattey rose from the first knockdown, Halili was right back in his face whacking him from left to right. Once he saw Odamattey was no longer fighting back, veteran referee Ray Corona stepped in to stop the bout. Prior to this fight, the GCP (Greg Cohen Promotions) publicist boasted about Halili’s appeal: “He’s never been in a bad fight. With his action-packed way of doing things, he’s become must-see TV.”
In Friday evening’s Main Event, Bout #5, they had the current WBO NABO and WBA NABA Middleweight Champion and WBA #4- and WBO #7-rated middleweight Rob “Bravo” Brant (21-0, 14 KOs) of Saint Paul, Minnesota who now trains in Dallas, Texas, going up against Chris “The Irish Ghost” Fitzpatrick (15-5, 6 KOs) from Columbia, South Carolina by way of Cleveland, Ohio. Untouched, Brant moved smoothly around the ring and landed his punches without retribution. Then, in round two, he landed this devastating uppercut that almost sent Fitzpatrick flying out of the ring. At 1:18 mark of round three Brant finished the bout with a second knockdown. “Under the tutelage of Derrick James, I’ve learned to sit down on my punches and stay defensively sound at the same time,” said Brant. “It’s now time for me to step up my level of competition. As nice as it is to get these kinds of victories, it’s time for me to start fighting the gents at the top level.”
Bout #6 was thought to be a routine, ho-hum pro-debut between two relatively unknown boxers. Not so! The bout between “Slick” Will Davis and the wild-swinging Erick Fowler quickly turned into a “Fight of the Year” candidate, à la Micky Ward versus Arturo Gatti, a battle of the ages. With momentum swings going back-and-forth with every punch, Davis managed to drop Fowler in the second. The too legit to quit, iron-chinned Fowler surprised everyone by returning the favor in round three. In the final round, Davis landed this barrage of unanswered blows that caught Fowler truly unprotected and hands down. The end came at the :39-second mark of round four after referee Tony Crebs had to grab the fallen Fowler from behind to prevent Fowler from continuing. At the time, he was down on his knees and spitting up blood, but most assuredly preparing to get back on his feet.
In Bout #7, local super flyweight Danny Andujo (1-0, 1 KO) turned professional with a quick stoppage of San Jose’s Israel Hernandez, who now drops to 1-3-1, 1 KO. The way Andujo pounced on Hernandez, it kind of reminded you of a swarm of bees. The hard shots to the head soon had Hernandez in cover-up mode. The end came early, at the :55-second mark of round one.
In the final bout of the evening, Bout #8, it was the undefeated Temecula featherweight Robert Meza (3-0-0, 1 KO) cruising to a dominant four-round decision victory over the game Jose Fabian Naranjo (3-3-1, 1 KO) of Tijuana. Whenever Naranjo would score, Meza made certain to match his efforts and then some. In regards to who was ahead on the scorecards, Meza removed all doubt with his strong finish in the final round.
Bottom line, this was a dandy show and the local boxing fans certainly appreciate the fact that Pechanga Resorts & Casino along with the CBS Sports Network Championship Boxing series thought enough to bring such a show our way.