There were a couple “theater of the unexpected” occurrences last week, as Showtime ticked down to their ring return, at Mohegan Sun in Uncasville, CT, where they will set up residency to present pugilism to boxing fans for the near future.
OK, maybe the fact that main event talent Stephen Fulton got scratched from the event because he tested COVID positive shouldn’t be put under the ‘unexpected’ category. Fight fans have come to understand that the fight game in the pandemic mini era is even more twist-y and turn-y, and COVID will gum up the works. But the Thursday word that Showtime analyst Paul Malignaggi got the ax from the cabler did propel jaws to drop.
The 39 year old Brooklyn-bred talker refused a request to see some of his utterances from an April interview from the vantage-point of people steering a publicly traded media mega corp, and apologize for racially provocative declarations he made to IFL. So, his tenure at Showtime came to a screeching halt, while debate flared between those feeling he was sacrificed on the altar of church of political correctness and people who now wondered how deep his feelings about the rise of “Eastern European” fighters, white ones, actually go.
You can’t easily reduce to a tidy summation the move to sack Malignaggi, who in 2013 got voted the Taub award, for excellence in broadcast journalism by the Boxing Writers Association of America, after started at Sho in 2012. Ideally one would scan his entire CV, and factor in the periodic instances where his outspoken nature made a higher up cringe. And one also would take a step back, and then look forward, and ponder how his arc will play out…But also center oneself, and remember the wider world keeps turning. Fights will unfold, and people other than Paulie will call them, and that world will keep on turning.
Certainly, young Angelo Leo (below; pictures by Amanda Westcott) didn’t seem to be out off kilter as he put up with COVID tests, living in a bubble till fight night, the change in foes, and who was in a suit on site describing how he was performing, yes?
Here is the release Showtime sent out, touching on Leo’s win, and the broadcast as whole.
UNCASVILLE, Conn. – August, 2, 2020 – Angelo Leo is the new WBO Jr. Featherweight World Champion. The 26-year-old Mayweather Promotions fighter dominated Tramaine Williams en route to a unanimous decision live on SHOWTIME Saturday night from Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, Conn. in the network’s first live boxing event since March 13. Leo won by scores of 117-111 and 118-110 twice.
Leo (20-0, 9 KOs), who was originally scheduled to face Stephen Fulton, Jr. in the main event of Saturday’s card presented by Premier Boxing Champions before Fulton tested positive for COVID-19, used a dominant body attack and consistent pressure to overwhelm Williams (19-1, 6 KOs), who stepped up from the co-main event to face Leo. Albuquerque’s Leo had a 248-196 edge in punches landed while landing 39 percent of his power punches. 102 of his 248 connects were body punches.
Leo, who was ranked WBO’s No. 2 junior featherweight going into the fight, is now expected to defend his title against Fulton, ranked No. 1 by the WBO, within the next 180 days.
“It still hasn’t sunk in yet, it just feels surreal,” said Leo. “The first few rounds I was just feeling him out, getting his timing, getting the feel of him. I felt him kind of loosening up and breaking down, and that’s when I started putting the pressure on him a little more.
“That was the key factor in this fight, the body work and the pressure. I’m pretty sure Albuquerque is celebrating tonight. I think they have four world champions, because you can’t exclude Holly Holm. You have Johnny [Tapia], Danny [Romero], Holly and now me. There’s four champions in that city and I think I’ve made history there.”
Fulton, who watched the fight on television while quarantining following his positive test, was interviewed following the fight by SHOWTIME host Brian Custer.
“Congratulations to Leo, he did it,” said the Philadelphia native. “But listen, I’m ready for him. I’ve been ready. Just be ready to face me when it’s time. That’s all I’ve got to say.”
In the co-featured bout, a WBA Super Bantamweight Title Eliminator, 122-pound contender Ra’eese Aleem (17-0, 11 KOs) kept his undefeated record intact via TKO over late replacement Marcus Bates (11-2-1, 8 KOs). Aleem was originally scheduled to face Williams before Fulton’s positive test. This was a rematch of a 2018 bout in which Aleem won by unanimous decision.
The 26-year-old Bates suffered an injured right wrist and battled through the pain for several rounds. Prior to the start of the 10th round, Bates’ corner and referee Gary Rosato warned the fighter that the bout was in danger of being stopped. At 2:18 of round 10, Bates grimaced in pain and turned his back on the action, causing the fight to be stopped. Aleem dominated from the opening bell, out-landing Bates 193-86 in total punches, including 71 landed body shots.
With the win, Aleem sets himself up for an opportunity for a 122-pound title fight.
“I would love to fight either the winner of the main event or any current world champion – Akhmadaliev has two of the belts,” said the Las Vegas-based Aleem who was born and raised in Muskegon, Mich. “Brandon Figueroa, Rey Vargas, or the winner of this one. It doesn’t really matter who but I want the strap.
“I didn’t know his hand was hurt, I thought he was just shaking it just to try to get me to look at it and distract me. I didn’t worry about it.”
In the opening bout of the telecast, undefeated light heavyweight Joe George (11-0, 7 KOs) scored a stunning ninth-round stoppage of Marco Escudero (10-2, 9 KOs) in a rematch of their November ShoBox showdown that saw George win a heavily-debated split decision.
#SHOBoxingReturns with a BANG 💥
Joe George KOs Marcos Escudero with a massive uppercut in Round 9. pic.twitter.com/dVdWogdfwe
— SHOWTIME Boxing (@ShowtimeBoxing) August 2, 2020
This time, George left no room for a controversial decision. At 3:00 of round number nine, George caught Escudero with a vicious left uppercut that sent Escudero flat on his back in a candidate for KO of the Year. At the time of the stoppage, George was behind on two of the judges’ scorecards, 79-73 and 77-75, and ahead on one judge’s card, 79-73. Prior to the one-punch KO, George was getting out-landed 127-89 by Escudero, and Escudero held a 2-1 edge in punches thrown.
“I was setting him up with the jab to the body, I had him leaning over a little,” said Houston’s George, who turned 31 on Friday. “I was shooting the right uppercut, some landed and some didn’t. I wanted him to get comfortable and relaxed, and that’s exactly what he did. He was relaxed and I slipped over and just shot it. He gave it to me and I had to take it. It put him down.
“The result is self-explanatory. I don’t have to say nothing. I’m willing to fight whoever next. One fight at a time and I’ll be prepared for whatever’s on the way.”
Saturday’s SHOWTIME CHAMPIONSHIP BOXING telecast was the first of a nine-event television lineup taking place over the next five months.
Saturday’s fights were presented by Premier Boxing Champions and promoted by TGB and Mayweather Promotions in association with Kings Promotions. The main event was promoted in association with New World Sports and Warriors Boxing.
An industry leading production team and announce crew delivered all the sights, sounds and drama from Mohegan Sun Arena. Veteran broadcaster Brian Custer hosted the telecast, versatile combat sports voice Mauro Ranallo called the action ringside alongside Hall of Fame analyst Al Bernstein and three-division world champion and Olympian Abner Mares providing expert analysis for the first time on SHOWTIME CHAMPIONSHIP BOXING. Two Hall of Famers rounded out the SHOWTIME telecast team – unofficial ringside scorer Steve Farhood and world-renowned ring announcer Jimmy Lennon Jr. The Executive Producer was David Dinkins, Jr. and the Director was Bob Dunphy.
The telecast was available in Spanish via Secondary Audio Programing (SAP) with Alejandro Luna and former world champion Raul Marquez calling the action.