Although a draw wasn’t what fight fans were hoping for Friday in the main event of CES Boxing’s card headlined by Peter Manfredo Jr. and Vladine Biosse, the sold-out crowd at Twin River Casino got its money’s worth with exceptional finishes in the two title bouts on the undercard.
Cranston, R.I., super lightweight Nick DeLomba and Worcester, Mass., junior middleweight Khiary Gray turned in the most impressive performances of their careers in front of more than 2,500 fans at the packed Event Center.
Facing the hard-hitting Quinton Willis (10-4-1) of Fort Meyers, Fla., in the eight-round co-feature, Gray (13-0, 10 KOs) scored his 10th career win by knockout, stopping his opponent at 1 minute, 41 seconds of the second round to retain his Universal Boxing Federation (UBF) Northeast Title.
The knockout win was a return to normalcy for Gray, who needed all 10 rounds to beat Nicaraguan journeyman Eduardo Flores in February, a last-minute replacement when his original opponent, Cameron Rivera, withdrew due to a wrist injury. With more than six weeks to prepare for Friday’s opponent, Gray picked apart Willis quickly, sending him to the canvas in the opening round with an overhand right and finishing him for good with a left hook to the chin in the second.
The unanimous decision win over Flores snapped Gray’s eight-fight knockout streak. He’s now won nine of his last 10 by knockout with only two of those fights lasting beyond the opening round.
As for DeLomba (9-1), Friday marked his return to the win column after suffering a brutal, first-round knockout loss to Gledwin Ortiz in September.
The slick-boxing Cranston native took eight months off between fights to recover from the loss and prepare to make the transition from welterweight to super lightweight, dropping to 143 pounds Friday to challenge Worcester’s undefeated Freddy Sanchez for the vacant New England Title. A former 147-pounder, DeLomba clocked in at 141 at Thursday’s weigh-in, the lightest of his career.
In addition to becoming a father in January, DeLomba revealed an additional source of motivation, the perception from critics that he was taking on more than he could chew against the hard-hitting Sanchez, who had never so much been knocked down in his previous seven fights.
Instead, DeLomba returned to form in the biggest fight of his career, out-boxing Sanchez (7-1) en route to a 59-55, 58-56, 60-54 unanimous decision win.
Springfield, Mass., super lightweight Zack Ramsey (7-1) also suffered the first loss of his career, a 56-58, 56-58, 57-57 major decision against seasoned New York City vet Issouf Kinda (18-3) in a six-round bout, and lightweight Julio Perez (4-1) tasted defeat for the first time in a unanimous shutout loss to Providence’s Cido Hoff (1-0-1), an intriguing outcome in the opening bout of the night considering Perez had only lost two rounds his entire career entering Friday’s event.
The future of New England boxing was also on display in front of a packed house at Twin River as Worcester’s Kendrick Ball Jr. (1-0, 1 KO) and Jamaine Ortiz (1-0, 1 KO) scored knockout wins in their professional debuts. Ball flattened Providence’s Tunde Odumosu (0-1) at 1:46 of the opening round of their scheduled four-round super middleweight bout with a left hook to the jaw and Ortiz battered Maine’s Josh Parker (0-3-1) to the point were Parker couldn’t answer the bell for the second round due to a jaw injury, an impressive first night for both rising stars.
The main event, though lacking a decisive outcome, did not lack in excitement as Biosse (15-7-3), nicknamed “Mr. Providence,” put together a solid performance on just two and a half week’s notice against the 47-fight vet Manfredo (40-7-1), who was originally supposed to face the undefeated Angel Camacho Jr., a fight scheduled as far back as March.
Judge Don Trella scored it 77-75 in favor of Biosse, Clark Sammartino had it 78-74 for Manfredo and Glenn Feldman had it even at 76-76.
The 36-year-old Manfredo, who fought for the first time since November of 2013, got off to a slow start, but caught his second wind in the later rounds as Biosse began to fade, perhaps a byproduct of only having a handful of weeks to train.
Afterward, Manfredo pointed to the fact he had to switch from preparing for a right-hander to training for a southpaw as a reason for his early struggles, but made no excuses, complimenting Biosse for his bravado and fearless approach.
Whether Friday’s result officially ends Manfredo’s storied career as a Rhode Island icon remains to be seen, but the outcome was uplifting for Biosse, who rose to the challenge despite having lost his last five fights and earned a draw against one of New England’s most celebrated fighters.
Also on the undercard, New Haven, Conn., welterweight Jimmy Williams (11-0-1) remained unbeaten in a 59-54, 59-54, 60-53 unanimous decision win over St. Petersburg, Fla., vet Manny Woods (15-5-1), and Holyoke, Mass., junior welterweight Mohamad Allam (3-1) avenged his September loss to Stoughton, Mass., vet Travis Demko (4-1) by handing Demko his first career loss, winning Friday’s rematch by unanimous decision, 58-56, 58-56, 59-55.