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Casino Del Sol Resort took its largest conference room and converted into a venue that held a capacity crowd of approximately 2,000 fight fans for a SHOBOX event that was broadcast worldwide and made Tucson the center of the boxing world for five hours last night.
Those lucky enough to have had a seat were witness to multiple knockdowns, stoppages, sweat splattering hits, mouthpiece inducing blows, deafening roar of the crowd, equally expressive boos and plenty of heart being poured into the center of the ring.
Del Sol staff, the Showtime production team, Roy Jones Jr Promotions and Greg Cohen Promotions started as early as 10:00 a.m. and worked together all day to pull off an evening of some of the hardest hitting boxing Tucson has seen in years. From the official weigh-in on Thursday, to fight night on Friday, Casino Del Sol proved to be a venue more than capable of hosting events of higher profile than it has ever had before.
Steven Neely, Chief Marketing Officer for Del Sol, was asked what role the Casino could play in making Tucson a hotbed for boxing once again.
“Baby steps,” he said. “We have to be able to prove to media outlets like Showtime that we’re capable of putting on a show like this. This is simply a start.”
Neely has graciously made himself available to us in the near future to discuss this topic further.
Salvador Valentino, a longtime professional ring announcer from El Paso, and a well-respected member of the fight scenes’ inner circles in the southwest, recalled announcing and attending fights in Tucson in the 1990’s.
“We’re neighbors with Mexico,” he said. “The Mexican fighters want to come to this side of the border and win. That will always provide a hotbed for boxing, as long as they have that opportunity to come here. The casinos need to provide the venue. Tucson will always have that chance.”
David Courtney (Debut) vs Carlos Cordova (Debut)
This is a bout SHOBOX billed to be a Phoenix vs Tucson clash. The opening bell signaled a crossover from amateur status into the professional ranks for both of these fighters. Both seemed eager to get their debut clash over with as they came out of their corners swinging at each other. Courtney went to the canvas three times in the first round, though he made the standing eight count each time and was allowed to fight on. After some adjustments between rounds, Cordova was able to win by TKO midway into the second. Tucson 1 – Phoenix 0.
Keenan Carbajal (8-2-1) vs Thomas Herrera (4-15-1)
Made possible by the addition of Herrera to the card on short notice, this bout surprisingly went all six rounds with Carbajal picking up the victory by majority decision. Judge Chris Flores being the only person in the building that felt it was close enough score it a tie. Tucson 1 – Phoenix 1
Demond “Body Shock” Brock (10-3) vs Samuel “Tsunami” Teah (7-1-2)
A bout that turned out to be worthy of the international viewership that the main event bouts received, both of these sluggers got the soldout crowd at Casino Del Sol riled up and rowdy. Those of us in press row scored the fight easily in Brock’s favor as he put on a tremendous display of punching power and accuracy. There is an undeniable ferociousness to his style that gave the audience a visual sense that he was the deserving winner. The judges, however, tallied the volume of punches thrown with respect to accuracy and the bout was announced as a draw. Credit Teah for keeping his feet well, withstanding the thunderous cracks of leather against his face and having the ability to counter and score in volume.
Alfonso Olvera (5-2) vs Colbert Lozoya (7-11-1)
A display of awkward fighting styles, this bout was originally billed as the second fight of the night but was shuffled and put on just before the main event. It looked every bit like the fight it should have been: An undercard, crowd warmer. Olvera scored a TKO win in the third when Lozoya seemingly gave up and spit his mouth piece out after being knocked down. At any rate, score another victory for Tucson. Tucson fighters went 2-1 on the night.
TELEVISED MAIN EVENT BOUTS
Bakhtiyar Eyubov (9-0) vs Jared Robinson (16-2-1)
— SHOWTIME SPORTS (@SHOsports) January 23, 2016
Everyone will soon know the fighter from Kazakhstan. Fans will take the time and learn to pronounce his name (BAWK-TEE-YAR) because according to his promoter Dmitry Salita,in his Urkainian accent said: “He is good enough to beat the best in the world right now. My guy is Gennady Golovkin number two.”
He told us this at ringside no less than five minutes after Eyubov completely outclassed Robinson. We couldn’t blame him for his confidence. Eyubov scored two knockdowns in the first round, another 15 seconds into the second and was awarded a TKO victory 56 seconds into the third because of Robinson’s inability to defend himself.
When asked about the relative ease of his victory, Eyubov said, “Was I surprised at how easy it was? No I can’t believe he made it to round three. It was harder than I thought it would be. The ref should have stopped it earlier.”
The Tucson crowd went crazy for the foreigner who broke into a traditional Kazak dance, wore what looked like a blonde wig and delighted in his victory. Eyubov enlightened us, “The dance and the hat are traditional Kazakhstan traditions. I was honoring my countrymen with that dance. And the hat is a symbol of my honor. No one can take that hat from me.”
Jarrell “Big Baby” Miller (15-0-1) vs Donovan Dennis (13-2-1)
Knocking down Dennis twice while bloodying his nose and mouth in the first round, “Big Baby” Miller gave the capacity crowd at Casino Del Sol a sense that this one was over just as soon as it started. Dennis was saved by the bell at the end of the first round from a third knock down and was able to satisfy the crowd that they were getting there’s money’s worth.
After the fight, Miller recalled, “Some guys take a lot more than one or two shots to bring them down and that’s how he is.”
From that resurrection, Dennis came alive in the middle of the second and began trading with Miller. Before this bout, Big Baby had never lasted beyond the sixth round. Dennis took him there and won the crowd over even after the bout was called to a stop by referee Rocky Burke in the seventh.
Dennis won some admirers, to which Miller gladly conceded as he shouldered the WBA-NABA Heavyweight belt. Speaking with Salita who promotes Big Baby, I asked if whether or not his weight being at 275 pounds may have played a factor in allowing Dennis to stick around in this fight.
“We acknowledge that since his previous fight, he came down 10 pounds for this fight and we will continue to do so moving forward,” Salita said.
When Salita was asked about potential fights lined up for Miller he said, “We want to enjoy this win, but he would beat Charles Martin. Hopefully in 10-15 months, we would like to line up Tyson Fury.”
Miller added, “Charles Martin, I’m coming for you! Deontay Wilder, I’m coming for your Alabama BBQ.”
Robert Brant (18-0-1) vs Decarlo Perez (16-3-1)
— SHOWTIME SPORTS (@SHOsports) January 23, 2016
After witnessing hearts being left out on the canvas in the previous bout, spectators saw a main event in which a champion caliber fighter was put in the ring with a fighter that perhaps was better suited for one of the night’s undercards.
Brant seemed to toy with Perez for the first few rounds landing cleanly and avoiding blows with a Mayweather-like style. Unlike the pound-for-pound champion however, Brant relished going toe-to-toe with Perez and getting the better of him every time they came together and clashed in the center of the ring.
In the fourth round, Brant rocked Perez with a right hook so vicious that those of sitting ringside could see Decarlo’s eyes roll back. The crowd’s eruption immediately turned to concern, then relief when he was helped to his feet minutes later.
Born a Wildcat fan, lifetime fanhood was solidified when he was able to meet Tedy Bruschi, Sean Harris, Brandon Sanders, Chuck Levy and Ontiwaun Carter as a sixth grader. Having served 10 years in the armed forces and been deployed all over the world, he’s still managed to make it to every Arizona home football game, bowl game and at least one away game for the last 12 years. Now combining his love of writing with his love of all things sports, Jose is proud and honored to join AllSportsTucson.com as a writer.