By David Robinett, Miguel Maravilla, Rocky Morales at ringside
Rising heavyweight prospect Efe Ajagba (12-0, 10 KOs) overcame a third round knockdown and a courageous opponent in Iago Kiladze (26-5-1, 18 KOs) to remain undefeated, earning a fifth round stoppage in an exciting heavyweight battle that left the crowd buzzing for several minutes afterwards.
Early on it looked like a showcase fight for Ajagba, who represented his native Nigeria in the 2016 Summer Olympics before moving to Texas to work with distinguished trainer Ronnie Shields. Ajagba was moving like it was a sparring session, leisurely walking down Kiladze and hammering him with jabs and straight hands as Kiladze dutifully took his punishment. It was also apparent, though, that Kiladze had significantly faster hands than the lumbering Ajagba, who is a Joshua-esque physical specimen but slow and methodical.
Kiladze, who came into this bout on a three-fight losing streak, suffering knockouts in all three losses, was eating the majority of the punches early on, but occasionally fired back and caught Ajagba, who wasn’t defending with any particular urgency. In round two, Ajagba knocked Kiladze down with a left jab, straight right combination, but was ineffective in his follow-up attack, allowing Kiladze to survive the round. Ajagba nailed Kiladze again with the left jab, straight right, causing Kiladze to do a wobble dance while Ajagba turned his back on him, assuming Kiladze was going to fall down. Realizing his opponent was still standing, barely, Ajagba casually walked in when Kiladze fired a lightning-quick short right hook that immediately dropped Ajagba and sent the crowd into a stunned frenzy. Ajagba beat the count but was on the defensive, asKiladze continued to throw fast left and right hands at his wounded opponent, but wasn’t able to land a finisher.
In the next stanza, both fighters approached each other respectfully, but Ajagba quickly regained control with a straight right, left uppercut that again left Kiladze wobbling and on the verge of going down. More of the same in round five, with Ajagba punishing Kiladze over and over with the one-two. Kiladze was still shooting off his dangerous short hooks, connecting with several, but wasn’t able to hurt Ajagba again. Repeatedly on the verge of going down, Kiladze’s corner finally threw in the towel at 2:09 of the fifth round of the scheduled ten-round bout.
Former middleweight title challenger Hugo “The Boss” Centeno, Jr., (27-3-1, 14 KOs) seemed to outbox slugger Juan Macias Montiel (21-4-1, 21 KOs) over ten rounds, but only managed a split decision draw on the official scorecards, winning 97-93 on one card, but losing 94-96 on another, with the third card registering an even 95-95.
The fight played out as the classic boxer versus puncher matchup, with Centeno relying early on his quick jab and constant movement around the ring, staying out of harm’s way by keeping the stalking Montiel out of punching range. Centeno also routinely switched his stances, giving Montiel different looks, though Montiel served notice he would be a dangerous opponent with a left hook to the chin of Centeno late in round two that badly wobbled his opponent.
Centeno recovered between rounds and continued to stick and move effectively, gradually opening up over the middle rounds to trade more with Montiel, but still mostly boxing from the outside, and doing so well enough to cause visible damage to Montiel’s face. However Centeno appeared to visibly tire by the seventh round, allowing Montiel more opportunities to trap Centeno and force exchanges which favored the naturally stronger Montiel. Montiel’s left hand was particularly effective in the last three rounds, but Centeno was never as badly hurt again as he was in the second round and seemed to box well enough to earn the decision despite the final verdict, outlanding Montiel 132-128 in total punches.
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2016 Russian Olympian, Petr Khamukov (5-0, 2KO) was the TKO winner over Maceo Crowder (2-4, 1KO) when Crowder did his best Julio Cesar Chavez Jr impression and retired on his stool between the second and third round. Khamukov put Crowder on the canvas towards the end of the first round with a perfectly landed right cross over a lazy jab. In the second round, Crowder took more punishment and complained to the ref about his eye bothering him but action continued. However, from his body language, it was evident that Crowder had no fight left in him so it came as little surprise when he elected to not continue after the second round. Official time of the stoppage was 3:00 of the second round in a scheduled six round middleweight bout.
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19-year-old super welterweight Raymond Guajardo (5-0, 4KO) scored a spectacular first round knockout over the game Donnis Reed (3-5, 2KO) in a scheduled four round bout. The southpaw Guajardo landed a perfectly placed lead straight left cross to the jaw of Reed and immediately landed a follow up right hook and another left cross to floor Reed. Reed was in bad shape and the referee stopped the bout at 1:40 of the first round. Reed left the ring on a stretcher as a precaution but was conscious and hopefully not seriously injured.
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Super lightweight prospect Justin Cardona (3-0, 2 KOs) earned a solid four-round unanimous decision over professional opponent Archie Weah (3-14, 1 KO), by scores of 40-36 across the board. Cardona, who is trained by Ruben Guerrero, father and trainer of former multi-division champion Robert “The Ghost” Guerrero, was never in danger of losing, but was tested by the unorthodox Weah, who danced, ducked, occasionally punched, and appeared to be having way more fun than a 3-14 fighter should in the ring. A good, if unusual, test for the young fighter, which Cardona passed with composure and professionalism.
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Lithuanian amateur standout Eimantas Stanionis (10-0, 7 KOs) made quick work of Julio Cesar Sanchez (11-3, 6 KOs), dropping Sanchez early in round three before his followup barrage forced a referee’s stoppage at 2:05 in that same round of a scheduled ten round welterweight contest.
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In the opening bout from the Toyota Arena Heavyweight Adrian Taylor (11-1, 4 KOs) of Dallas, Texas won a unanimous decision over German Pérez (11-7-3, 3 KOs) of Los Mochis, Mexico. Taylor pressured and let his hands go as he backed Perez the entire fight. The Texan, Taylor was dominant in route to the decision as all three judges scored the bout 60-54.