Alycia Baumgardner got what she came for Saturday in Detroit. Baumgardner (15-1, 7 KOs), 29, defeated Cristina Linardatou (14-3, 6 KOs), 35, of Greece, to remain the unified, undisputed super featherweight champion, avenging the single loss on her record by Linardatou by a dominating decision win. Scores were 99-91, 98-92 X 2 for Baumgardner.
Baumgardner gave herself an A for her performance. “I got my win back like I said I would. This game is about having fun, and that's exactly what I was doing. I'm thankful to be here,” said Baumgardner.
“For me, it's about boxing smart. We have ten rounds in this fight. I'm a professional. It's about skill, it's about being smart,” added Baumgardner.
Recent homecoming fights haven't always gone as planned. Regis Prograis struggled in New Orleans. Katie Taylor lost in Dublin to Chantelle Cameron. No such trouble for Baumgardner, who delivered a sharp and focused performance.
Baumgardner and Linardatou Bring the Heat
Linardatou, returning to the ring after being off for a year to have a baby, came into the fight in superb condition. She pushed the pace, forcing Baumgardner to step up the action after the first few rounds. Baumgardner was stronger, faster, and once she settled in after the first two rounds, she took control and took the win.
In round four, Baumgardner hurt Linardatou with a body shot blast followed by a good left hook. With just two minutes to work with in each round, scoring knockouts is a challenge. Baumgardner kept the output high. Linardatou is well-trained and durable and kept up the pressure with aggressive offensive output.
Baumgardner focused on the body attack in the final rounds, pressuring Linardatou back into the rope to smother her attack. The pair traded shots as the Detroit's Masonic Temple crowd roared in approval and appreciation for both fighters.
At the end of round nine, Baumgardner poured it on with hard right hooks and uppercuts. Linardatou's mouthpiece flew out while she took the punishment, but she made it to the bell thanks to her sturdiness. The assault continued in the final round. Baumgardner wanted to stop Linardatou from making an emphatic point.
Credit to Linardatou for preventing Baumgardner for putting the cherry on top, a moral victory. Linardatou's family can be proud of her effort, and she will be back.
Baumgardner and Serrano Next?
Baumgardner said she would continue to defend her unified titles at 130 pounds, but she called out the big names waiting for her at 135 pounds, including Katie Taylor, Chantelle Cameron, and Amanda Serrano. Baumgardner vowed to keep improving and keep applying her skills.
With Taylor and Cameron headed for a rematch, Amanda Serrano is the woman in the crosshairs. Matchroom Boxing promoter Eddie Hearn said it's the megafight Baumgardner deserves.
Serrano returns against former champion Heather Hardy on August 5 on the Jake Paul vs. Nate Diaz undercard, where she is a massive favorite. The top women pros don't let fights marinate. Seeing these two power punches together in the ring before 2023 ends is a tremendous matchup.
Andy Cruz Exceeds Expectations In Debut
Andy Cruz of Cuba (1-0) met and exceeded expectations in his ten-round pro debut, taking it to veteran Juan Carlos Burgos of Tijuana, Mexico (35-8-3, 21 KOs). Cruz dominated Burgos in every round. Scores were 100-90 X 2 and 98-92. It's hard to see how one judge gave Burgos two rounds.
The 27-year-old 2020 Olympic gold medalist was cool and comfortable transitioning to the professional style, using speed, footwork, feints, and ring generalship to take Burgos apart.
Trainer Bozy Ennis, father/trainer of welterweight Jaron “Boots” Ennis, liked what he saw from Cruz. After X rounds, he asked Cruz to sit down on his punches and go for the knockout win over Burgos, who had never been stopped in 45 fights. Burgos looked diminished from his best at age 35, but takes nothing away from the skill and conditioning shown by Cruz in his first fight beyond three rounds.
Matchroom Boxing CEO Eddie Hearn couldn't have been happier with Cruz's performance. “You already see the adaptation from the amateurs to the pros. He's a very special talent,” said Hearn, unconcerned about Cruz going the distance. “This is the kind of fight you need. He's going to move really fast. Ten rounds in the bank. This fighter is a genius. He's going to run the lightweight division.”
Cruz has repeatedly called out fellow 202 Olympian Keyshawn Davis. Cruz and Davis fought four times in the amateurs; Cruz won all four fights. He won't face Davis so soon. One potential foe: William Zepeda of Mexico.
Jermaine Franklin Outlasts Tough Issac Muñoz
Heavyweight Jermaine Franklin of Detroit (22-2, 14 KOs) blasted Isaac Muñoz of Mexico (17-2-1, 14 KOs) with everything he could land but couldn't score the knockout thanks to an incredible chin from Muñoz. Scores were 100-90 X 2 and 99-91 to put Franklin back in the win column after back-to-back decision losses to Dillian Whyte in November and Anthony Joshua in April.
Comparing Muñoz to Andy Ruiz was inevitable; the Mexican took the fight on late notice and was impressed with his calm approach and good basic skills in a significant step-up fight, despite the scores. The loss could spark some changes to make the 31-year-old Munoz a more serious competitor in the future.
Hometown Victory for Ja'Rico O'Quinn
In the opening bout, super bantamweight Ja'Rico O'Quinn of Detroit (16-1-1, 8 KOs) and Carlos Mujica of Caracas, Venezuela (8-3, 2 KOs) delivered ten rounds of action. O'Quinn gets the decision win by scores of 100-90, 97-93, and 96-94.
O'Quinn got off to a slow start after being out of the ring 15 months. Mujica controlled the ring and bullied O'Quinn into the corners. After a few rough rounds, O'Quinn got it together and was better able to evade Mujica, though he still took too many hard shots. Both corners believed it was anyone's fight to the end.
Early Undercard Winners: All Michigan Team
Michigan fighters took advantage of the opportunity to perform in front of their fans, all delivering victories in early fights.
Welterweight Jermarco Holloway of Redford, Michigan (6-0, 3 KOs) scored a fourth-round TKO over Angelo Snow of Toledo (9-5, 6 KOs).
Welterweight Joshua James Pagan of Grand Rapids (8-0, 4 KOs) scored a first-round TKO win over Gabriel Smith of Houston (11-10-1, 4 KOs).
Super middleweight Joseph Hicks of Grand Rapids, Michigan (8-0, 5 KOs) over Ramses Agaton of Mexico (22-15-3, 12 KOs) with a six-round shutout by scores of 60-54.
Super bantamweight Cameran Pankey of Pontiac, Michigan (8-0, 4 KOs) won by unanimous decision over Misrael Reyes of Chihuahua, Mexico (4-5, 1 KOs). Scores were 60-54 X 2 and 58-56.