SAN DIEGO, Calif., August 2, 2020 – Boxing fans wandering through the sports desert to find their fight oasis saw the return of boxing on two major platforms in the U.S. on Saturday.
Showtime Boxing was the last to close down after its March 13 card from Hinckley, Minnesota when Brandun Lee stopped Camilo Prieto. Just short of five months later, Showtime Boxing launched its return series Saturday from its designated East Coast bubble at the Mohegan Sun Resort and Casino in Connecticut.
It intended to kick off with undefeated super bantamweight Stephen Fulton Jr. against undefeated challenger Angelo Leo (20-0, 9 KOs). But Fulton Jr. tested positive for COVID-19 a week before the fight. Thankfully, Showtime learned some valuable lessons watching Top Rank Boxing step forward as the first major promoter back in action. It had a standby opponent, Tremaine Williams (19-1, 6 KOs), who gladly stepped in from the co-main event to fight Leo for the vacant WBO junior featherweight title.
Williams is a Connecticut native fighting without his hometown fans. Leo, age 26 from Albuquerque, hoped to become the first world champion from New Mexico since Johnny Tapia. He took a step toward that goal on Saturday with his unanimous decision victory over Williams. Scores were 118-110 X 2 and 117-111.
Leo got off to a slow start but began turning up the heat and accelerating his activity rate from the third round on. Williams was competitive but posed less and less of a threat round by round.
Referee Harvey Dock let the pair fight on the inside, letting them work. Williams’s corner told him after seven rounds, he was getting hurt and needed to show something. All Williams could show was personal determination to end the fight on his feet in his first 12 round bout. It’s no small thing, but it won’t get you a victory.
“It feels good, it hasn’t sunken in yet, it feels surreal,” said Leo. “The first few rounds I was just feeling him out. I started putting the pressure on him more,” saying the pressure and bodywork were his keys to the fight.
“I’m pretty sure they’re celebrating for sure – there are four champions. You can’t exclude Holly Holm. I’m pretty sure I made history tonight,” said Leo. “I came here to win a world title and I did it. Boxing is the ultimate truth-teller. It detects all lies in there. If you didn’t train hard enough, you’ll show it.”
Leo will now face Stephen Fulton Jr. when he’s able to return after he clears his COVID-19 test.
Aleem cruises to TKO victory over Bates
The co-main featured another pair of super bantamweights. Undefeated Ra’eese Aleem of Muskegon, Michigan (17-0, 11 KOs) got the better of replacement opponent Marcus Bates of Washington DC (11-2, 8 KOs) for the second time in a WBA title eliminator contest. Bates was the designated COVID standby fighter, and due to Fulton’s positive test got an unexpected opportunity to try and avenge his only loss at the hands of Aleem in this rematch.
Aleem didn’t leave any doubt, dominating Bates with his speed and movement. Aleem was on cruise control throughout the fight. Bates sealed the win when he suffered an injured right hand. He wanted to continue but referee Gary Rosato called on the ringside physician to make it official at 2:18 of round ten. Scores were all 90-81 for Aleem at the time of the stoppage.
“I was setting him up with the jab to the body as well, I had him leaning over,” explained Aleem. “I wanted him to get relaxed; that’s exactly what he did. I slipped over and just shot it. He gave it to me; I had to take it and put him down.”
Lights out for Joseph George in nine rounds
Joe George turned Escudero’s lights out with an uppercut 😯
— ESPN Ringside (@ESPNRingside) August 2, 2020
In the opening fight on the broadcast, Joseph George (11-0, 7 KOs) gave Marcos Escudero of Argentina (10-2, 6 KOs) a rematch of their first meeting, won by George in a split decision. George left no doubt this time, putting himself in position to land the perfect left uppercut off a right jab, dropping Escudero to the canvas with no possibility of getting up at three minutes of the ninth round. To the point of the stoppage, Escudero had been the busier, more aggressive fighter and the outcome looked good for him, but he made a mistake and paid for it. Fans got to hear the KO shot land without fan noise interference.
With the exception of Fulton Jr., no other fighters or team members tested positive for COVID-19. Fulton Jr had been tested six times before his positive test. He never entered the closed property.
“Extensive protocols have been put in place to catch this very possibility and they’ve proven so far to be effective,” said Tom Brown, President of TGB Promotions.
Take it outside boys – Matchroom Boxing throws a garden party
Earlier in the day, Matchroom Boxing UK returned from its newly created Fight Camp compound on the grounds of the Matchroom Boxing main office in Brentwood, Essex. The setting also happens to be promoter Eddie Hearn’s childhood home. The setting was idyllic and all fighters made it to the card under sunny skies.
In the main event, Ted Cheeseman (15-2-1 9 KOs) defeated Sam Eggington (28-7, 17 KOs) in an entertaining slugfest to win Eggington’s IBF International super welterweight title by unanimous decision. Scores were 116-113 X 2 and 115-114. Cheeseman hopes the win will position him for a title fight opportunity in the near future.
Coming off a string of two losses and a draw after being undefeated, the win came at the right time for an emotional Cheeseman who said he would have retired with another loss. “You can’t imagine. I see fighters lose who don’t care. I cared, I cried my eyes out, I stormed out of the ring. A lot of people doubted me, thought I would tire.
“I was confident going into that ring. There was no pressure with no crowd. I made mistakes but I boxed really well … I could cry my eyes out with happiness.”
Gayle Lynn Falkenthal, APR, is a veteran boxing observer covering the Sweet Science for Communities. Read more Ringside Seat in Communities Digital News. Follow Gayle on social media at@PRProSanDiego.
Please credit “Gayle Falkenthal for Communities Digital News” when quoting from or linking to this story.
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