By David Robinett and Rocky Morales at ringside
Heavyweight Luis “King Kong” Ortiz (30-1, 26 KOs) earned his second consecutive win since returning to the ring following his knockout loss to Deontay Wilder last March, stopping fringe contender Travis Kauffman (32-3, 23 KOs) at 1:58 of the tenth and final round. The bout was largely a tactical affair, with Kauffman’s ability to keep substantial distance between him and Ortiz making it a jabbing contest for large stretches of the fight. Ortiz, arguably the most feared heavyweight in boxing before getting crushed by Wilder, had trouble luring Kauffman into any prolonged exchanges and as a result had to rely on his jab and movement to try to outpoint Kauffman in many of the rounds.
Notwithstanding Kauffman’s style, there is a reason Ortiz is called “King Kong” and even with limited opportunities, Ortiz was able to flash his vaunted power, scoring knockdowns with his left hand in rounds six, eight, and ten. In round six, Ortiz broke through for the first time with a right jab, left cross that crumpled Kauffman down to his knees. Kauffman got up and immediately retreated to safety mode, using his legs and a high guard to prevent Ortiz from trying to swarm him for the knockout. In round eight another left cross by Ortiz from distance downed Kauffman, but he didn’t seem badly hurt. Ortiz, seemingly aware Kauffman would not go down under heavy pressure, abandoned any sense of urgency and followed up his second knockdown by dancing around the ring flicking jabs and straight hands at Kauffman. By round ten the fight seem destined for the scorecards but another Ortiz left hand dropped Kauffman for a third time. Although not dazed by the punch itself, Kauffman appeared spent in general, and this time Ortiz was able to follow up the knockdown with sustained pressure, landing a big left hook followed shortly after with a sustained flurry that prompted referee Thomas Taylor to step in and wave the fight over. In the end, it was hard to fault Ortiz’s performance, but Ortiz will have to fight with more urgency in the future if he’s to compete with the Wilders and Joshuas of the boxing world.
In the first bout on the pay-per-view undercard from Staples Center, England’s latest heavyweight prospect Joe Joyce (7-0, 7 KOs) crushed Joe Hanks (23-3, 15 KOs) with left hook in round one of a scheduled ten-round contest to remain undefeated with a perfect knockout record.
Joyce, who was the silver medalist in the super heavyweight division at the 2016 Summer Olympics, started cautiously with a probing jab until Hanks landed a sneaky three-punch combination that caused Joyce to take a step back. Joyce answered with a right uppercut, before landing a left jab, right hand combination that appeared to hurt Hanks, despite the latter’s big grin after regaining his balance. Moments later, a perfect left hook dropped Hanks, who struggled to rise from the canvas. Referee Jerry Cantu may have been a little premature in halting the bout before reaching a ten count, but Hanks seemed to be in bad shape despite his visible objection to the stoppage. Joyce, an art aficionado with a degree in fine art from Middlesex University in London, didn’t have quite enough time to paint a masterpiece, but there’s no doubt he’s already a player in the heavyweight division and, at the advanced age of 33, he’ll likely be moved briskly through the pro ranks.
Robert “The Ghost” Guerrero (34-6-1, 19KO) made a successful ring return with a second round knockout over outclassed Hungarian fighter, Adam Mate 28-13 (9KO). Guerrero dropped Mate for an eight count at the end of the first round with a harmless enough looking lead left cross and then again in the second round with a hard body shot. Mate got up from the body shot in visible pain and was quickly put down again by Guerrero with the referee waving off the bout at 2:25 of the second round. Guerrero wins for the first time in four bouts and sets himself up for a bigger fight against the numerous other top welterweights in the PBC stable.
Prior to the evening’s main event, another Wilder from Tuscaloosa, Alabama, squared off in the ring at Staples Center. Cruiserweight Marsellos Wilder (3-0, 2 KOs), the younger brother of heavyweight champion Deontay, went the distance for the first time in his fledgling career, grinding out a four-round unanimous decision over David Damore (1-5-3, 0 KOs), with all three judges scoring the bout 40-35. Wilder, who played wide receiver at Jackson State University and didn’t start fighting as an amateur until just three years ago, is clearly a work in progress, but had enough to handle Damore, knocking him down with a right uppercut late in round two just before the bell. Wilder seemed to have hit his peak by round three though, visibly slowing down and losing steam on his punches. To his credit, Damore was game to take advantage and keep going after the knockdown, catching Wilder occasionally with a shot that would snap his head back. However, those shots were few and far between and Wilder was able to stay just busy enough to shade the remaining two rounds.
Former super welterweight title challenger Julian “J-Rock” Williams (26-1, 16 KOs) got in a brief workout against long-faded former lightweight contender Francisco Javier Castro (28-9, 23 KOs), pounding on Castro for about five minutes before referee Ray Corona stepped in to stop the mismatch at 2:40 of round two in a scheduled eight-round light middleweight contest. Williams started round one at a measured pace before opening up on Castro in round two, dropping Castro with a left hook to the head in the second stanza. Castro, whose punches were so slow in developing the arena ushers could have dodged them, was actually taking his punishment like a man after the first knockdown, but with his head snapping back after nearly every punch, the referee made the right decision to send everyone in the ring home for the night.
In a battle of little men from Texas, 18-year old light flyweight Jessie Rodriguez (8-0, 4 KOs) cruised past Josue Morales (8-9-3, 0 KOs), earning a six-round shutout of 60-54 on all three scorecards. Rodriguez, who trains out of the Robert Garcia Boxing Academy, opened up working primarily off the jab but as it became clear Morales was only offering tepid resistance, Rodriguez began showcasing his skills, firing off impressive combinations with both hands en route to the easy victory.
Kicking off the undercard of the Wilder vs. Fury heavyweight title fight at Staples Center in Los Angeles, California, light-hitting Issac Lowe (16-0-3, 6 KOs) from England was able to knock out Argentinian journeyman Lucas Rafael Baez (33-17-5, 17 KOs) with a left hook to the body at 2:11 of round five in a scheduled ten-round bout for the vacant WBC International featherweight title. Lowe was sharp from the opening bell, sticking and moving with double and triple jabs while keeping enough distance to prevent Baez from countering with any consistency. As Lowe began to sit down on his punches more in the middle rounds, he dropped Baez for the first time early in round five before scoring a second knockdown with the finishing shot moments later.