Let me start things off by saying that I’ve been to a number of boxing shows and the atmosphere at the MGM at National Harbor is without a doubt the most electric that I’ve witnessed in person at a boxing venue both pro and amateur. When fans are treated to something great, they turn out in droves. The venue was packed to the max and all of the individuals who are local to the D.C. boxing scene were in attendance as well as those from around the world. Washington, D.C., is a fight town, period. That was already a given but couldn’t have been exemplified more with the great show that was put on by Top Rank Promotions on the night of April 8, 2016.
The inaugural boxing event was headlined by none other than consensus top five pound for pound boxer Vasyl “Hi-Tech” Lomachenko, 8-1, 6 KO’s. Lomachenko proved yet again that there is no rival within his weight division. The thought that a win is inevitable in boxing is usually attributed to a world class fighter being matched up with a lower tier, less experienced fighter. In that situation it’s expected that the world class fighter will demolish his/her opponent. What we see with Lomachenko is different. Lomachenko is re defining the narrative and making elite fighters looks less than ordinary. He’s simply a man amongst boys.
Jason Sosa, 20-2-4, 15 KO’s, came into the fight with all of the confidence you can expect from a guy who’d shown that he belongs at the top of the ranks and deserved a shot at the Ukrainian mystery that everyone has been making a fuss about. Sosa did everything right and probably couldn’t have prepared any better than he did for this night. Still, his best wasn’t close to enough for competing with Lomachenko. It was merely survival.
From the onset, Lomachenko started out on the swivel as usual. The almost half or more Ukrainian crowd was very live with chants that carried throughout the theater. Lomachenko tested Sosa with the jab quickly. Sosa was able to land a decent shot here and there but Lomachenko stayed on the attack, backing Sosa against the ropes landing crisp, clean shots. Loma’s pivots were amazing from the first round on. Round two through three were much the same and Lomachenko was able to hurt Sosa at the tail end of round three. Lomachenko’s footwork sets him apart from almost everyone in or around his division.
Round four saw Lomachenko get off with a multitude of unanswered punches and it was beginning to be clear that Sosa wouldn’t be able to keep up. The tenacious crowd continually chanted Lomachenko on and he seems to feed off of the energy.
Round five was a round where the tide started to really turn and one wondered if Sosa would make it out of the round from my vantage point. Lomachenko’s speed was so amazingly fast that it can be argued that he has the fastest hands in boxing. As the fight dwindled down in the latter round Lomachenko continued to unload the fight started to resemble sequences of a bull and a matador as Lomachenko displayed his brilliance in making Sosa missed while he followed with precise stabs to the body taking everything out of Sosa. Sosa eventually was just taking punishment and his corner, rightfully so, stepped in as Sosa was unable to answer the bell for the 10th round.
In the co-main event, Oleksandr Usyk, 12-0, 10 KO’s, was successful in his defense of the WBO cruiserweight title in an exciting back and forth fight with Michael Hunter, 12-1, 8 KO’s. This two was a fight in which the Ukrainian crowd drowned out any signs of support for Hunter as he was booed during the introductions. This raucous support carried over throughout the entire fight. Usyk landed several solid shots and hurt Hunter many time throughout the fight though Hunter was able to hang on to the end. There were several moments of sustained action throughout, eclipsing at the tail end of rounds.
Usyk was without a doubt the aggressor throughout and fed off of the crowd in his moments of momentum. There were several points in which it seemed he was going to stop Hunter but credit must be given to Hunter for withstanding. With the unanimous decision victory, Usyk himself has become highly regarded Ukrainian fighter and surely his supporters will travel to see him in action wherever he chooses to fight. A fight that would be largely entertaining for the boxing die-hards is Usyk vs Murat Gassiev, an undefeated Russian cruiserweight with devastating power.
Yunieski Gonzalez, 18-3, 14 KO’s, proved to be in over his head as he was blitzed in three rounds by Oleksandr Gvozdyk, 13-0, 11 KO’s, another rising Ukrainian with devastating punching ability and excellent skills. Gvozdyk’s relentless approach served him well as Gonzalez had no answer for his offensive barrage. In the third round Gvozdyk caught Gonzales with a great combination that put him on the canvas. Gonzalez was able to answer the count and seemingly threw caution to the wind from there forward until he was caught with another right hand that put him down for good. Gvozdyk is without a doubt ready for the best at light heavyweight and there is plenty of competition for him to take on in the near future.
Philadelphia, PA, native Jesse “Hard Work” Hart, 22-0, 18 KO’s, picked up a nice technical knockout win over Alan Campa as he continues his march towards the top of the super middleweight ranks.
In one of the earlier fights, rising Top Rank Promotions prospect Mike “Yes Indeed” Reed, 22-0, 12 KO’s picked up a unanimous decision win over Reyes Sanchez, 26-10-2, 15 KO’s, in a good fight. Reed brought a nice crowd in to see him as several chants rang down for the hometown fighter in the new venue.
Reyes was the most eccentric fighter of the night as he sported green hair as a statement only he knows the answer to. Reed showed that he’s worth the billing as he rang down heavy shots to the head and body of Reyes though Reyes was able to last the entire fight. There were several moments in which Reed staggered Reyes and the game fighter ensured that the crowd got their money’s worth as he continually pushed forward. Reed sets himself up for more quality competition as he continues to show an array of talent.
Patrick Harris won a unanimous decision over Omar Garcia with a score of 80-72 on all cards as he improved to 11-0, 7 KO’s. Harris staggered Garcia with a left hook early and landed solid flurries to the head and body throughout.
In the opening fight of the night Egidijus Kavalaiuskas improved to 16-0, 13 KO’s, put a hurting on Rames Agaton to start the momentum of the monumental night off right. Kavalaiuskas dropped Agaton twice in third round and once again for good at the 2:58 mark of the fourth as he was unable to answer referee Brent Bovell’s count.
All in all, it was a great night at the MGM and from what I could tell by the sellout crowd, a major financial success. This surely should bring about more boxing action to the venue as the intimate setting doesn’t have a bad view from a seating perspective. Top Rank showed that they know what it takes to put on a great show with exciting fights and hopefully this continues as boxing makes it march towards rating dominance in the 2017 calendar year.
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