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A Night At The Fights: Walsh vs Villarreal

By Scoop Malinowski

First sight upon arrival to the historic Madison Square Garden theater is to see former World Heavyweight Championship challenger Gerry Cooney at ringside recording pre-fight broadcast commentary. After filming, he graciously does a Biofile interview with me (will be posted in following days).

First fight is the Irish super featherweight prospect Feargal McCrory against a tough, sneaky, Russian lefty Nikolay Buzolin. No highlight moments in this tough hard fought chess match win by McCrory 58-56 on all the scorecards. Crowd chants of “Let your hands go” and “Send him back to Brooklyn” did not influence this match.  McCrory is now 15-0, 7 KOs, Buzolin drops to 9-7-1, 5 KOs. After this fight Gerry Cooney spots Chuck Zito on other side of ring and goes over to embrace and share some nice words.

Fight 2: One of the stars of the night, featherweight Omar Trinidad and his flying fists were too much for Jersey City stylish lefthander Andrew Bentley. Trinidad came out whaling shots and showed star quality in dismissing Bentley in the first round. After the triumph he climbed up the ropes in the corner and lounged on the ropes as if relaxing. A cocky, colorful gesture by this charismatic athlete, now 14-0, 11 KOs. He will fight again on the next 360 show on January 27 for WBC Continental America title at Commerce Casino in CA.

Fight 3: Super welterweights. New Yorker Brian Ceballo entered the ring wearing a New York Rangers blue Wayne Gretzky 99 jersey. His opponent Kenneth McNeil, from Birmingham, Alabama, came to the ring to the Lynyrd Skynyrd classic “Sweet Home Alabama.” It was a good tussle but Ceballo’s superior offense and combinations earned the stoppage at 2:17 of the fourth.

Fight 4: Gor Yeritsyan received a good test from the Buenos Aires veteran cutie, slick boxing Luis Alberto Veron but the stronger man earned verdicts of 80-71, 79-72 and 78-73. Ceballo watched a round of this fight with Dana White but didn’t seem overly impressed. Gor is now 17-0, 14 KOs while Veron falls to 20-8-2, 9 KOs. Freddie Roach trains Gor and was in his corner.

Gerry Cooney spotted his old rival and friend Larry Holmes across the ring and walked over between fights to embrace with the man who beat him in a major world heavyweight title fight in the early 1980s. Just a few minutes later, Holmes departed the arena with his wife Diane, presumably to make the 2.5 hour drive back to Easton, PA. Holmes received a lot of positive attention from fans as he walked through the crowd to exit. It was 9:25 pm when Holmes left.

Fight 5: Light heavyweight match was won by Los Angeles, California resident Umar Dzambekov (8-0, 6 KOs) on points vs. Frederic Julan (13-3, 10 KOs) of Brooklyn.

Fight 6: Boxing superstar Teofimo Lopez arrived just in time to watch Sugar Cain Sandoval vs. Wesley Ferrer at Super Lightweight. This was a classic bloody brawl of the technical brawler/combination puncher  vs the slick, lefty boxer. Another action packed conflict saw the heavy handed Sandoval from Sacramento, CA prevail in the fifth round. Ferrer endured too much punishment and didn’t protest the stoppage. Sandoval rises to 11-0 (11 KOs), Ferrer drops to 17-2-1 (8 KOs).

Main Event:  The star of the night, King Callum Walsh entered the ring to an intriguing female voice song but when he arrived at his corner he expressed a slight gesture of frustration, which he later explained that it was a mistake and not the musical choice he selected. Walsh wanted a Cranberries song. The unforced error may have fractionally impacted his fighting spirit and mood in the first rounds.

The 22 year old Irishman, now based in Hollywood and trained by Freddie Roach, picked a very difficult challenger for his ninth pro fight in Ismael Villarreal, of the Bronx. It was an interesting clash of styles, the tough, slashing punches and combinations from Walsh and the brute physical strength and intelligent varied tactics from the 26 year old who creatively, cleverly alternated from boxing, countering, hunting, and at certain moments, suddenly turning up the heat going for the kill assault.

Walsh handled it all and had his own moments landing solid hits throughout the fight with straight lefts and right hooks which wobbled the very strong Villarreal, who had the visage of a strong man who could endure four or fives hits from a baseball bat.

It was a thriller of a fight.  Villarreal was credited with a knockdown about a minute into the tenth but it looked like a partial push with as assist from fatigue. It was the first time Walsh (9-0, 7 KOs) has ever boxed beyond six rounds. It was also the first time Walsh has been knocked down in 129 amateur and pro fights.

At the conclusion it was a joyful Villarreal who celebrated at the final bell, raising his arms, believing he had won. Walsh’s response was more stoic, suggesting the perfectionist was not entirely satisfied with his performance. Judges all agreed Walsh won –  Max De Luca (97-92), Glenn Feldman (97-92) and Eric Marlinski (96-93). Some of the crowd mildly booed the decision but Villarreal nodded in agreement. He and Walsh exhibited top sportsmanship and mutual respect. They produced a terrific, exciting fight which surely had to impress Walsh’s backers 360 promoter Tom Loeffler, and UFC’s Dana White, seated at ringside for most of the entire card. Crowd energy and electricity was excellent all night and especially for the main event. When you see the crowd chanting and waving flags and towels in near hysteria, you know it’s a successful event.

“I was happy with the fight,” Walsh commented to reporters after his Madison Square Garden debut. “I was happy we put on a good, entertaining fight. I was happy that the opponent wanted to fight and wanted to win. It was a good ten rounds. You know, I’m gonna learn a lot from that. I’m only 22 years old and I’m fighting real fights. And he was definitely a real fighter.”

Villarreal suffered his second loss in six years as a pro. The Kathy Duva promoted contender has never been stopped as a pro in fifteen pro fights (13-2, 9 KOs). The Bronx, New Yorker’s previous loss was by split-decision to Ardreal Holmes Jr. (14-0, 5 KOs) on February 17 in Topeka, Kansas.

Walsh wasn’t sure he was really knocked down. “You know, these things happen,” Walsh said. “You get hit, but I wasn’t hurt. I think I got caught with maybe a shot and I tripped over, but I don’t think I was dropped. He landed some good shots – don’t get me wrong. But I have a good chin. I was never really hurt at any stage. I was very aware. Even you seen when I got back up, I was fine. So, I think it was more of a punch and I tripped more than a drop.”

Earlier this week, Freddie Roach asserted that Walsh will be a world champion in a year and that declaration was fortified by what Walsh showed vs. Villarreal inside the historic boxing theater where legends like Mike Tyson, Ray Leonard, Bernard Hopkins, Michael Dokes, Iran Barkley, Donny Lalonde, LeRoy Neiman, Bert Sugar, Arturo Gatti have roamed. I’d like to see Villarreal’s next fights as well.

At the end of the night I had a nice interaction with Teofimo Lopez while he socialized with fans. I asked him, “I have one question, how did you know you would beat Lomachenko?”

“Faith…” Lopez answered. Then added, “God has a funny way of putting his children in the right place at the right time. And Lomachenko does the same things over and over.”

“That was a boxing masterpiece,” I said.

“And there will be more in the future,” Lopez said with a smile. Then he lifted up his shirt to show his ripped abs, he’s in top fighting shape right now, even without a fight scheduled.

 

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