By Ricardo Ibarra
Photos by Mike Blair/Boxingprospects.net
Adding his fifth consecutive win in fourteen months, Mike “Imagine Me” Gavronski (24-2-1, 15 KOs) annexed the vacant WBA-NABA super middleweight title on Saturday night at the Emerald Queen Casino in his hometown of Tacoma, Washington, defeating Arizona’s Andrew Hernandez (19-8-1, 9 KOs) with an eight round split technical decision. The fight was the main event of Brian Halquist Productions’ ‘Battle at the Boat 113’ and had been a closely contested battle right up to the eighth round when an injury suffered by Hernandez forced the contest to go to the cards.
The two fighters traded momentum from the start with each man trying to impose their game plan on the other, Hernandez looking to close the gap and Gavronski attempting to box on the outside. Hernandez closed the distance well in the first round, stepping in behind his jab and unloading with hard right hands to the head and body. Gavronski, who had been working to move the fight to a more favorable distance, began to find more success in the second, using his lateral movement well and connecting with crisp one-twos.
The third and fourth rounds were close with Gavronski working better from range and Hernandez having the advantage when he stepped in behind his left. Hernandez appeared to land the more effective shots in both rounds, though, finding a home for his right hand consistently.
In the fifth, Gavronski stepped up his aggression cracking his opponent with hard right hands upstairs and hooks to the body, pushing through Hernandez’ guard and out-working the Arizonian. The pace intensified with both fighters letting their hands go in the sixth, but it was Gavronski who appeared to be taking the lead.
By the seventh the local fighter was finding his rhythm, snapping his jab and following up with long and accurate right hands. Throughout the round he out-landed Hernandez and did a good job of maneuvering away from his right hand, effectively neutralizing his most damaging punch.
Gavronski continued to control the tempo in the eighth, slamming Hernandez with hard right hands and slowly accelerating his aggression as the round wore on. Gavronski was coming on late in the round when, as the two got tangled up in a clinch, he appeared to trip Hernandez, causing him to fall to the canvas. Hernandez stayed down for some time and, after being given five minutes to recover, he stated he could no longer continue citing a leg injury. Referee Jeff Macaluso ruled the injury was caused by an unintentional foul and the fight went to the cards. Two judges saw the fight for Gavronski with tallies of 78-74 twice, with the last judge seeing it 77-75 for Hernandez, giving Gavronski the split decision win and his first championship belt.
“We were tangled up,” said Gavronski after the fight. “He kept holding me and I was just trying to get out of it. What are you going to do? People aren’t happy about it. I’m not happy about it. I would’ve liked to have laid him out in front of everybody and let him take a nice nap, but what are you going to do.”
“I was just getting into it,” continued Gavronski. “The longer the fight goes the better I get. I was just finishing up.”
Gavronski’s manager Sam Ditusa had doubts about the legitimacy of Hernandez’ injury and made his feeling known after the fight. “He was looking for a reason to quit,” said Ditusa. “Mike was coming on and he didn’t want to have to fight three more rounds. That’s the bottom line. He was breathing hard, his face was getting marked up and cut, and he didn’t want to fight three more rounds with Mike. That was what he used to get out of it. He was hanging on Mike and Mike pushed him off. That’s not enough to mess your ankle up. I’ll bet in twenty minutes you’ll see him walking fine.”
With the win Gavronski caps off a busy year that saw him claim three victories, including a six round TKO over former contender Brian Vera, and now a title winning effort for a meaningful North American belt. Hernandez, meanwhile, drops his second loss in a row.
The remainder of the card featured five fights. In one of two semi-main events, Tacoma’s Andre Keys (5-1, 1 KO) defeated Sean Gee (4-7) by unanimous decision. Keys was the more effective fighter for a majority of the fight, employing an aggressive approach and pressing the action with lead right hands against his southpaw opponent. Gee tried to box early but he was consistently beaten to the punch by the faster Keys. In the fourth round Gee, a Chicago native now fighting out of Portland, Oregon, stepped up his output and scored often, having his best round of the fight. Keys rallied back in the fifth, though, countering with straight rights and moving in and out of the pocket with quick one-twos. All three judges scored the fight for Keys with tallies of 50-45, 50-45, and 48-47. The bout was contested in the welterweight division.
Jr. middleweights Steven Villalobos (6-0-1, 5 KOs), of Burlington, Washington, and Wapato, Washington’s Eduardo Torres (1-1-1) fought to a split draw in what was a grueling five round battle. After a tentative start to the bout both fighters came on mid-way through the first round, with Torres landing from awkward angles, and Villalobos pressing with his right in a close opening round. The momentum seemed to shift in Torres’ favor in the second as he moved away from his opponent’s right hands and stepped into the pocket with accurate combinations. Torres again took an early lead in the third, but even as he scored, Villalobos continued to press, digging to Torres’ body as he took shots. The perseverance paid off late in the round for Villalobos. As the two traded in close, Villalobos sent Torres down with a flurry, started with a hard right to the side of the head. The two unloaded heavy artillery down the final stretch of the fight, trading momentum with Torres seeming to have an edge in the fourth and Villalobos eking out the last round. The judges were split three ways with one seeing it for Villalobos at 49-45, one scoring for Torres at 48-46, and the final judge seeing it even with a score of 47-47.
Renton, Washington’s Jorge Linares (2-0, 2 KOs) claimed his second consecutive win in two months, scoring a third round stoppage victory over Austin Springer (0-1), of Vancouver, Washington, in a welterweight contest. Both fighters had their moments in an evenly fought first round, but in the second the busier work rate of Linares began to take over. Late in the round a sharp left hook sent Springer down for a count. In the third Linares came out swinging, pressing the action and finding openings for his left hooks and right hands. After a Linares combination caused Springer to clinch, the Vancouver fighter lost a point for holding. Linares kept up the pressure and in the final minute of the round unloaded with a barrage that forced Springer to take a knee. After the mandatory eight-count Linares pounced, buckling his opponent with a right, after which referee Jeff Macaluso stepped in and called it at 2 :33 of the round.
The light heavyweight rematch between local Cameron Sevilla-Rivera (7-5-3, 5 KOs) and Vancouver, Canada’s Kian Heidari (1-0-2) once again saw the two combatants engage in an action-packed affair and, like in their first fight, once again end in a draw. Sevilla-Rivera came out strong in the first round, blocking Heidari’s looping shots and drilling him with hard rights in close. As the round neared the end, Sevilla-Rivera put Heidari down with a three-punch assault. Sevilla-Rivera continued to score in the second, moving in and out of the pocket with accurate flurries. Heidari, who makes up for his lack of experience with heart and determination, came on in the third round catching Sevilla-Rivera with one-twos and thudding hooks to the body. He continued to work well into the fourth, landing at a higher rate than his opponent, who slowed going into the final leg of the fight. All three judges scored the fight differently with tallies of 38-37 for Sevilla-Rivera, 38-37 for Heidari, and 38-38.
In the evenings opener, Portland, Oregon’s Niko McFarland (1-4-1, 1 KO) added his first win in six fights as a pro, stopping Sunnyside, Washington’s Keith Wolf (0-1) in the third round. It took McFarland some time to get accustomed to Wolf’s aggressive southpaw style, who pressed well early in the first round. Late in the round, though, McFarland began to tag his opponent with sharp counter left hooks. McFarland’s superior boxing skills began to take over in the second as he blocked well in close, avoiding Wolf’s aggression, and unloaded with hooks to the body. In the third McFarland pressed the action early, slamming Wolf with left hook-right hand combos. Nearing the mid-way point of the round, McFarland cornered his weary opponent, peppering him with a sustained assault. After an uppercut snapped back the head of Wolf, referee Bob Howard stepped in and called it at 1:24 of the third round. The fight took place in the welterweight division.
A large and boisterous Tacoma crowd packed into the I-5 showroom for the 113th ‘Battle at the Boat,’ the last boxing event of the year for Brian Halquist Productions who close out a banner year for the promotion. The next ‘Battle at the Boat’ takes place on January 12th. Tickets are available at the EQC boxing office or all Ticketmaster locations. For more information visit www.halquistproductions.com or the Battle at the Boat Facebook page.