Thursday, February 26, 2009

The Contender Finale Recap

After an intense but slightly awkward fight, it was no big surprise that the end to last night’s Contender final came suddenly. Both the tournament winner, Troy Ross and runner-up, Hino Ehikhamenor had thrown caution to the wind late in round 3, and it seemed only a matter of time before someone landed a really damaging blow.

The final sequence started with just over a minute to go in round 4, with Troy landing two chopping lefts, followed by a big right that drove Hino into the corner. Troy immediately pounced, and it looked like Hino may have panicked a bit, as he turned his back and grabbed the top rope to try and avoid Troy’s follow up assault. Once he did that, referee Steve Smoger was left with little option but to jump in.

While Smoger made the right call, the ending was still a little unsatisfactory as I don’t think Hino was that badly hurt. He was just trapped in a bad spot. I’m not a proponent of the standing 8 count in pro-boxing, but if ever there was a time it might have come in handy, it was then.

The time of the stoppage was exactly 2:00.

Up until that point, the two counter-punchers had engaged in a mostly tactical battle, punctuated with sporadic bursts of free swinging exchanges, where they both unloaded with bombs that mostly missed the mark. Overall, I thought Troy had slightly the better of the action, and was looking the more likely winner, but Hino was still very much in the fight until he got caught.

It will be interesting to see where Troy goes from here. I think he’s a legit top 5 cruiserweight, capable of giving the division’s current champ, Tomasz Adamek a run for his money. At the very least, I’d hope he gets a crack at one of the belts before the year is out.

As for Hino, he’s still young, and from the sounds of it hasn’t really given boxing his undivided attention. Hopefully he earned a decent paycheck (the prize money wasn’t announced for some reason) for his runner-up performance and can devote himself full time to getting better. With a bit more top level experience, I don’t think it’s out of the question that he could earn a shot at a belt somewhere down the line.

In the third place bout, Rico Hoye won a unanimous decision over Akinyemi “AK” Laleye by scores of 79-72 across the board.

It was a scrappy, mauling affair, with both fighters banging away at close quarters.

AK started off well, taking the fight to Rico and bulling him backwards, but Rico eventually started to find the mark, and by the third round was landing the cleaner, heavier punches.

AK never stopped battling, but was consistently getting the worst of it, and I think if Rico had a little bit more in his tank, he might have been able to finish things inside the distance, but as it was, he was a comfortable winner.

- Andrew Fruman e-mail