Griego stops Aquino in controversial fashion

GriegowinsBy David Finger at ringside

For boxing fans in the Duke City, Saturday night was supposed to be the long awaited opportunity to learn if their undefeated local prospect Matthew “Diamond Boy” Griego was in fact the real deal. Griego showed flashes of brilliance in his career, but he also had made some rookie mistakes over twelve fights that had boxing insiders concerned that he might struggle as he stepped it up. We were supposed to find out on February 4th what the trajectory of Griego’s career was going to be as he moved into the next level of his career in the main event of the Wrecking Crew Promotion event “Rumble at the Revel” at the Revel Event Center in Albuquerque.

Unfortunately for Griego and boxing fans, that question appears to remain somewhat unanswered, although by no fault of Griego or Wrecking Crew Promotions. Griego, 112.8, took on a fellow prospect in Puerto Rico’s Bryan Aquino, 113, who came into the fight with a 12-2 record with his only two losses coming by decision to undefeated prospects. But for three rounds Bryan Aquino did almost nothing in the ring except dance and clinch against the aggressive Griego before the local prospects scored a controversial stoppage in the opening minute of round four.

The fight started off with a lack of action in round one as neither fighter threw a punch in the opening minute of round one. But by the second half of round one Griego began to step up the pressure slightly after recognizing that the feeling out process on his end was for all intents and purposes done. But the defensive minded Puerto Rican was not interested in trading punches just yet and by the end of the round neither fighter had landed anything of substance. But whereas Griego was the fighter moving forward and had at least thrown about a dozen shots, Aquino had a stat line that read like a pinch hitter’s box score in a newspaper: 0-1.

Round two saw more of the same, with Aquino appearing to look for the one picture perfect counter punch while Griego elected to win the round by simply outworking his over cautious opponent. Aquino constantly moved away from trouble whenever Griego was close to pinning him down, but by round three it appeared that Greigo was closing the gap. However this only prompted Aquino to add the clinch to his rather limited arsenal. Going into round four there was a recognition that the Puerto Rican was in danger of digging himself a hole he couldn’t get out of against a hometown fighter in an eight round fight. And perhaps it was for that reason that he was stationary for just a moment in the opening minute of round four. But what happened next would be a deeply dissatisfying and controversial ending to what had already been to that point a dissatisfying bout. As Matthew Greigo launched a right hand that appeared to catch Aquino on the chin the two fighters clashed heads, sending the Puerto Rican to the canvas clutching his left eye. Referee Rocky Burke missed the head-butt, but in his defense so did almost everyone sitting ringside on the north side of the ring (including this reporter). As Burke counted, Aquino rose on shaky legs and loudly protested as he clutched his eye, prompting Burke to wave off the fight at 0:55 of round four. But although many ringsiders also missed the head-butt, a replay on video clearly showed that the two fighters did in fact clash heads right before Aquino hit the canvas.

“I hit him with a right hand,” Griego said after the fight, “but honestly, it was a clash of heads.”

New Mexico Athletic Commission Executive Director Richard Espinoza confirmed that if there is a formal complaint filed that the commission may review the result, which could lead to the fight being declared a no-contest. Clearly not the result that anyone was looking for, particularly “Diamond Boy”, who despite that rather poor performance of his opponent still ended up with a TKO over a respectable young prospect. The win should propel Griego into a discussion for a regional title fight like an NABF or NABO, but the controversial ending could rob him of that if in fact the result gets overturned. Nonetheless Griego was in good spirits (particularly after he and his fiancé held an in-ring reveal announcement of their upcoming child’s sex). He recognized that the win over Aquino was not without its controversy and offered Aquino an opportunity for a rematch in Albuquerque later this year. Although Aquino never really tested Griego, the fight did show a polished Griego who didn’t seem to suffer from any ring rust, although it is hard to say how much he improved against a fighter who threw so few punches. With the win Griego improves to 13-0, 9 KOs. Aquino sees his record fall to 12-3, 6 KOs.

Griego ComainIn a six round featured co-main event, popular local welterweight Josh “Pitbull” Torres, 148.8, had a much tougher assignment against rugged journeyman Todd Manuel, 149. Manuel came into the fight with a less than impressive record of 21-21-1, 7 KOs. But for boxing insiders, there was a recognition that Manuel was in fact a very dangerous opponent despite his record, particularly after a layoff of over seven months for Torres. Manuel was best remembered for dropping former world champion Victor Ortiz en route to a decision loss back in May of last year, and he had shown an ability to box effectively and use his reach to his advantage. It was clearly a dangerous fight for Torres, who was scheduled to fight an undefeated fighter in less than three weeks in Rio Rancho. And after six rounds many ringsiders were concerned that Torres might have stepped on a landmine right when he career was moving back in the right direction. It started competitively in round one as Josh Torres tried to box with the taller man. Although it was not the style that Torres preferred, he did have some success with the overhand right. But as Josh tried to box the boxer, Manuel started to tag the local fighter with right hands of his own. By round two Torres tried to force Manuel to fight a style of fight more suited for the New Mexican, but as he stepped back to bring Manuel in the veteran wouldn’t take the bait, and in fact challenged Torres to “come on!” and move forward himself. Round three saw Torres seem to figure out his opponent, landing a few more shots and having more success with his offensive attack, but by round four Manuel was able to stifle any change in the momentum. At one point Manuel landed a sizzling two punch combination upstairs on Torres, but as he stepped back to admire his work Torres fired back with his own two punch combination upstairs. Although round five had the crowd chanting “Pitbull! Pitbull!” it would prove to be one of Manuel’s better rounds as he boxed well behind the jab. The final round was competitive, but it appeared that Torres has pulled it out. But for some ringsiders there was a concern that it was too little, too late as there was no question that Todd Manuel had given Josh Torres all he could handle. Nonetheless, Torres would end up getting the benefit of the doubt in the close rounds, winning a lopsided decision by scores of 60-54 (Mark Sanchez), and 59-55 twice (from Alan Dominguez and Anthony Romero).® scored the fight 58-58. With the win Torres improves to 25-7-2, 14 KOs.

“I could have fought a bum tonight,” Torres admitted after the fight, “but I took on a warrior. We knew that coming in.”

In a four round affair, undefeated prospect Maximus Moya, 131.8, went the distance for the first time against cagy veteran Jazzma Houge, 134. Although few predicted Houge would upend the apple cart, there was a recognition that the veteran was a solid opponent for a 2-0 fighter. Houge came into the fight with a 4-10-1 record but had gone the distance with such notable fighters as Carlos Castro, Christopher Diaz, and former world champion Isaac Dogboe. And early on it became clear what his strategy would be: smother the taller Moya and simply outwork him in the phone booth. It was a cagy veteran trick that could have frustrated a lot of young fighters. But Moya did handle it well and timed Houge coming in on several occasions. There were no knockdowns over four rounds, and although Moya was the clear winner, the fight was nonetheless competitive enough for at least one judge (Alan Dominguez) to score it 38-38. Judge Mark Sanchez scored the fight 39-37 and Judge Anthony Romero scored it 40-36 for Moya, who improves to 3-0, 2 KOs. With the loss Houge drops to 4-11-1, 0 KOs with only two of those losses coming by way of knockout.

In the opening fight of the night debuting Albuquerque native Steve Trujeque, 117.2, almost saw his career derailed in less than thirty seconds as he was dropped by a perfectly timed counter right against Albuquerque’s Jose Vialpando, 118. Trujeque was clearly rattled but got up and took control of the round with solid pressure and an effective strategy of mixing his offense from upstairs to the body. By round two Trujeque was clearly in control, as Vialpando’s offense completely shut down. Trujeque was effectively able to land upstairs and by the second half of the second round there was little question that referee David Rios was close to waving the fight off. The end would in fact come at 2:40 of round two. With the loss Vialpando sees his record drop to 0-2.

For promoter Wrecking Crew Promotions, there was no question that February 4th was a knockout. With a near capacity crowd and four entertaining bouts that left fans satisfied, there is little question that we should expect more from the young promotional outfit and the Revel Entertainment Center, which proved to be an excellent venue for boxing events.

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