Three of the happiest words a boxer can hear at the end of a fight is “And the new.” With the IBF World Super Lightweight Championship title at stake, either Subriel Matías of Fajardo, Puerto Rico (19-1, 19 KOs) or Jeremias Ponce of Buenos Aires, Argentina (30-1, 20 KOs) would hear those words Saturday at Minnesota’s favorite boxing venue The Armory.
It was music to Matías’ ears as he gave Puerto Rico a new champion with a victory over Ponce of Buenos Aires, Argentina.
Matias extended his 100% stoppage streak. He’s in the company of Artur Beterbiev as champions with that distinction. Ponce takes his first loss.
Matias is the first male Boricua champion since Hall of Famer Miguel Cotto’s reign ended in 2017.
“The victory was for God,” said Matias. “We worked for 10 months really hard in the gym, I came here to win. There was nothing to offset that.”
Firefight Breaks Out At The Armory
Matias had to earn it. Ponce came to play. The 26-year-old threw power punching combinations to the target from the opening bell, throwing 96 punches and landing 28 in the first round against 11 of 38 for Matias. Matias struggled to get his bearings, caught off guard by the assault.
Matias quickly got his act together and revved his engine in round two. The fight became everything promised and what fans craved. Matias got the upper hand at the end of round five, dropping Ponce with a series of left hooks capped with a body shot to the sternum. Ponce made it back to his corner, but to everyone’s surprise, Ponce’s corner decided the evening was over for their fighter and asked referee Mark Nelson to stop the bout.
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It was a surprise to everyone but Matias. “What I wanted to do was knock him out in the sixth round. I’m not surprised they stopped the fight. I saw that he was hurt and going back. I’m like a lion looking for the feast and I found it,” said Matias.
Afterward, Ponce assured fans and his family watching he was fine. “I’m in great health. My corner knows me better than me. It’s better to take the precaution a minute earlier rather than a minute late.” Ponce thought the fight was even before the knockdown. “But in this kind of fight, one punch ends it and that’s what happened.
Ponce said he’d love a rematch. No doubt the fans would too. Matias may want to enjoy his new status as champion first before going to war again with the game Ponce.
Body of Work: James Beats Palmetta
Minneapolis welterweight Jamal James of Minneapolis (28-2, 12, KOs) made a successful return from a loss with a unanimous decision over Alberto Palmetta of Buenos Aires (18-2, 13 KOs). Scores were 99-91 and 98-92 twice, a deceptive impression of the effort by the challenger Palmetta.
James, who’s battled back from three cases of COVID-19, said “I’m pretty sure everybody can see the layoff did affect me. The legs weren’t as sharp, the punches weren’t as sharp. I was glad to get in there against a tough guy to sharpen me up mentally.”
Both men brought plenty of action from the opening bell without either gaining much advantage in the early going. James had the reach and height advantage, but Palmetta held his own with smart jabs and solid ring generalship. James eventually closed the distance to land combinations with body shots to Palmetta. Jamal landed 68 body shots to just 20 for Palmetta. This was the difference as they took their toll.
“Instead of getting worried about it, I was just trying to adapt,” said James. “I definitely feel like I won the fight but feel I could have done better. I know I can be a champion again. I already was a champion. I need to stay focused, stay in the gym, live in the gym, study this fight and totally step it up.”
Palmetta is also a good body puncher but faced greater risk moving in while James could keep his distance. James was able to relax into the rhythm and roll up the rounds without giving Palmetta a chance to press forward and pose much of a threat.
In Round 7, James heard the hometown fans cheer at his wild exchange, but he risked gassing out. Palmetta pushed James into the corner and blasted away with nothing to lose. In the final rounds, it was Palmetta who had to dig down and draw on his reserve tank as James continued landing combinations punctuated with body shots. The tough Argentinean and 2016 Olympian gave it his best right to the final bell. His effort wasn’t reflected in the lopsided scorecards.
Rodriguez Warms Up and Works Over Adorno
Ring rust is real. Just ask Elvis Rodriguez. Fortunately, the super lightweight Rodriguez of the Dominican Republic (13-1-1, 12 KOs) shook it off to prevail in te rounds over Joseph Adorno of Allentown, Pennsylvania (17-1-2, 14 KOs) by majority decision to open the Showtime Boxing broadcast. Rodriguez went the ten-round distance for the first time. Scores were 97-91 and 95-93, overruling a draw on the third card, 94 even.
Given the stakes, the fighters showed a surprising lack of urgency through the first half of the fight, keeping their hands to themselves with few punches thrown. Rodriguez admitted after the fight he had to shake off his ring rust after a year-long layoff.
In the seventh round, Rodriguez raised the temperature with a blistering right hook to the head of Adorno for the first knockdown of Adorno’s pro career. Rodriguez did what he could to end the fight, but Adorno came to life by firing back. Rodriguez continued to pressure and look for another opening while respecting Adorno’s offense. He landed the right hook again, but Adorno stayed on his feet. Prior to round ten, trainer Freddie Roach told Rodriguez, “Make him quit!” Rodriguez continued landing power shots and was given credit for a second knockdown prior to the final bell, though it seems to be a slip by Adorno. It wasn’t the deciding factor on the scorecards. Judges split the rounds through five between both fighters, but the Dominican won the final five rounds on all three cards.
“After I found the right hook, I got into my rhythm,” said Rodriguez. “As soon as I hit him with the right hook, I thought I was going to finish him. But he kept going. I definitely give him credit for taking the fight. He’s a good fighter, he stands up.” Rodriguez pledged to stay more active, and get right back to the Wild Card Gym.
Undercard Results: Hometown Favorite Owens Gets Win
It was a good night for the home team with a minor upset. Welterweights VeShawn Owens (14-3, 12 KOs) and Kudratillo Abdukakhorov of Uzbekistan (18-2, 10 KOs) both hoped to get a win after more than a year out of the ring. It was Owens who used speed and crisp counterpunching to keep the Uzbek backing up for a lopsided unanimous decision. Scores were 98-92, 99-91, and 97-93.
Willie Jones of Burlington, North Carolina (10-2, 6 KOs) delivered a first-round shocker to Derrick Jackson of Orlando, Florida (10-1, 5 KOs). His vicious left hook to the temple just 1:20 into the first round quickly ended this welterweight bout. Jackson was out cold before he hit the canvas. No need for a count by referee Mark Nelson. Jones is trained by veteran Ronnie Shields.