Expectations met: Jesus Soto Karass vs. Yoshihiro Kamegai
On Friday night, Mexico’s Jesus Soto Karass and Japan’s Yoshihiro Kamegai took part in probably the best fight in the history of the “LA Fight Club” series put together by Golden Boy Promotions. It was also the main event of an Estrella TV telecast held at the Belasco Theater in Los Angeles, California.
While the final scorecards tallied the bout a draw (97-93 Kamegai, 96-94 Soto Karass, 95-95), the real winners were those in attendance and the many watching on television or streaming via RingTVLive.com. It was an all-out slugfest for the two junior middleweights, who didn’t fight for title contention or a meaningless strap but for pride and determination, as the fight reached the summit of its expectations and reached the depths of each man’s fortitude.
Soto Karass, 28-10-4 (18), had the benefit of a biased crowd that overfilled the small venue and, with every clubbing shot he landed, he got a nice reaction. On the other hand, Kamegai, 26-3-2 (23), didn’t get the same feedback but there was a collective dread that couldn’t be hidden among those same fans. The two stepped into a phone booth from the jump and never exited after the 10 rounds played themselves out.
In the second, both men were cut. Soto Karass had a gash on his scalp but Kamegai had a cut above his right eye. In the middle of the third, Kamegai’s cut looked so bad that the thought of him lasting was nothing more than hopeful logic. Perhaps it inspired Kamegai to use his feet more and, in the middle of the third, and throughout the middle rounds, the Japanese slugger began to fight better out of the gate.
Theirs was a spectacle in the waning seconds of the fifth. And it wasn’t as if the two didn’t trade power shots leading up to that point but the final seconds of the fifth activated a roar from the sold-out crowd as they were given something they were promised when the two first went tit-for-tat. As the fight went on, it became a see-saw battle. Soto Karass had a great seventh round with his overhand rights but Kamegai would rally back in the eighth with calculated counter uppercuts. In the final round, with the crowd on its feet, both men posted an exclamation point to a story that didn’t really need one up until then. Still, they traded and traded and traded and when the final bell sounded, the crowd was still on its feet, ready for the ovation they were about to give.
Few words could really describe what went on in the ring and the outcome reflected the fight perfectly. No man really won the fight, nor lost it, and neither showed he was hurt at any point. The winners are those who watched the bout and it’s more than likely a rematch will be on deck but equally likely on a grander stage. Up until then, the full experience of it cannot be explained in words, rather observed on the internet for years to come.
“I’m still getting used to the time zone here but I feel really good about my performance tonight,” Kamegai said afterward. “Soto Karass did catch me a few times but, every time he did, he was met with my counterpunches. Soto Karass is the kind of fighter I was expecting to fight – a true warrior.”
“The fight was a war, exactly what the fans expected. The people truly won tonight,” said Soto Karass. “I felt really good in the ring but Kamegai was a true Japanese warrior. I feel we both delivered an exciting night of boxing.”
The co-feature of the card was merely a calm before the storm of the main event as Vyacheslav “Slava”/”Chingonskyy” Shabranskyy forced Derrick Findley’s corner to stop their fight after three full rounds. Set at a catchweight of 180 pounds, the bout was scheduled for eight rounds.
Shabranskyy, a light heavyweight prospect, was put in there with a much smaller opponent, and the short, bulky, stature of Findley proved to be a bit of a trick for the 6-foot 4-inch Ukrainian. Findley, who fought twice this year already, under 162-pounds, smartly ducked just about every punch Shabranskyy threw at him. Yet, Shabranskyy was patient and didn’t let the early swings and misses enhance his anxiety. Slava kept his jab consistent and it eventually found its mark in the second round.
Eventually Shabranskyy mixed in some power shots now that he had Findley within arm’s reach and, after two slow rounds, the fight began to blossom in the third. Shabranskyy trapped Findley in a corner and, there, Derrick couldn’t get out of the way of the brute force coming from Shabranskyy’s fists. An accumulation of shots slowly put Findley into a slump and his back dragged against the turnbuckle padding as Slava wailed on him. He eventually got to a squat but referee Raul Caiz Jr. didn’t rule it a knockdown just yet. Perplexed, Findley looked at Caiz with a blank stare before putting his knee to the canvas for the official knockdown. Shabranskyy, 16-0 (13), tried his best to get Findley, 23-19-1 (15), out of there in the remaining seconds but there just wasn’t enough time. Still, it inspired Findley’s corner to just stop it then and there before the fourth round had begun.
“I have the best teams and the best fans,” Shabranskyy said after the fight. “I’m so happy Los Angeles has welcomed me into their familia! In the ring, I’ve learned to become more patient, waiting for my opponent but I’m also ready to pounce for an attack. I embrace my ‘Chingonskyy’ nickname and I’m looking forward to training hard to give my fans more shows.”
In the opening bout of the Estrella TV telecast, Genaro Gamez tortured Archie Weah into submission in the opening round to win his professional debut by way of knockout. The lightweight contest was scheduled for four rounds.
Gamez, San Diego, California, established an early jab that snapped Weah’s head back consistently and it kept him on the defensive as he fought backward. With his right hand cocked, Gamez waited for his mount to unleash his power shot to the body and head. Weah, Norcross, Georgia, tried his best to impede the pressure with a jab of his own but it paled in comparison to his opponent’s. While he was champing at the bit to mix it up with Weah, Gamez was still poised enough to not be sloppy in the ring.
Weah, 1-6, gave off the impression that he needed to go for broke with an anxious man in front of him, whom had a crowd cheering him on. After an unsuccessful combination of blows to Gamez’s head, the latter trapped Weah into a corner and unraveled a left/right combo of his own to force Archie to a knee. Weah didn’t get up from that knee and at the official time of 2:29 in the opening round, Gamez won his debut the best way he could have.
“I made sure to start the fight slow so I could figure out Weah,” said Gamez, 1-0 (1), after his win. “Once I was aware of Weah’s style, I proceeded to take control of the fight and I’m glad I was able to stop him early. I am excited about this victory in my professional debut and look forward to the next fight.”
Niko Valdes shined in his professional debut after knocking Roberto Ramirez down three times in the opening round, which earned him the knockout victory. The super middleweight contest was scheduled for four rounds.
A southpaw fighting out of Miami, FL, Valdes, 1-0 (1), sent his foe to the canvas with the first solid punch that landed. It was a check right hook within the first 45 seconds of the fight, and it caught Ramirez off-guard. Ramirez, 0-3, bit down and let his hands go soon after getting up but it left his soft body open for the taking. Valdes took advantage and a left to the body sent the pudgy Mexican writhing on the canvas. Shortly after withstanding his second 10-count, Ramirez was down again after a final body blow and that’s when referee Rudy Barragan waved it off.
Jonathan “Thunder” Navarro blew out Tavorus Teague with two knockdowns in as many rounds before the latter’s corner stopped the fight before the third round. The welterweight contest was scheduled for six rounds.
Navarro, 5-0 (4), took the initiative in the opening round with pressure to Teague’s body. It forced Teague to fight backward and then a thunderous left hook to the ribs forced him to take a knee for a knockdown. Navarro proceeded to cut the ring off nicely and trapped Teague into just about every corner in a hellacious opening round. The second one didn’t bode well either for the Paramount, California native.
Teague, 3-11-2 (2), had a menial moment of positivity after landing a flush right hand to Navarro’s face but all it did would inspire more pressure from the East Los Angeles native. Navarro whipped body shot combinations to force Teague to a knee again for the second knockdown. Again, he was helpless while being trapped, and in the waning seconds of the round, a left hook from Navarro landed on the chin of Teague and stumbled him. The round ended before he took his third knee of the fight and it warranted his corner to decide his fate.
“It was a good fight tonight. I came in more patient and waiting to strike,” said Navarro afterward. “I learned a lot from this fight because it was my first time coming across my opponent’s fighting style. I feel ecstatic about adding another knockout and I’m very excited for my next fight.”
Making his professional debut in the opening bout of the Golden Boy Promotions card, Jousce Gonzalez knocked down Noe Perez three times in the opening round en route to a knockout victory. The junior lightweight contest was scheduled for four rounds.
Just after landing the first solid punch of his nascent career, Gonzalez, Glendora, California, landed an overhand right that buckled Perez to the mat within the first minute of the fight. The punch was inevitably the beginning of the end for Perez, 0-4, who, moments after withstanding his first ten-count, was back on the canvas after a flurry from Gonzalez. After a desperation attempt moments afterward, Perez crumbled to the canvas a final time after a Gonzalez right hand landed. That’s when referee Rudy Barragan immediately waved off the contest.
“I feel so blessed to start off my pro career how I did tonight,” said Gonzalez, 1-0 (1). Coming from a family of fighters, Gonzalez’s brother, Joet, is a featherweight prospect under the Golden Boy banner. The 22-year-old rookie continued, “Coming out to my song, the lights and to the fans, I can’t help but feel excited for the future.”