Brooklyn’s Courtney Pennington again fought on enemy turf Saturday and this time left with the hometown favorite’s championship belts. Pennington (10-4-1) defeated Worcester, Mass., junior middleweight Khiary Gray (14-2) by unanimous decision, 77-74, 76-75, 78-73, at Twin River Casino in the main event of CES Boxing’s 2017 debut.
The Brooklyn native, promoted by Joe DeGuardia’s Star Boxing, out-boxed Gray by utilizing his lead right hand early and often and frustrated Gray boxing effectively on the inside. The challenger also scored a disputed knockdown in the fourth round to widen the gap and continued to land effectively down the stretch.
Gray was clearly frustrated, twice pushed to the canvas and at one point falling through the ropes after his feet got tangled with Pennington’s during a few close exchanges on the inside. Glenn Feldman scored it 77-74, Don Trella had it 76-75 and Clark Sammartino scored it 78-73. Pennington won the final five rounds on two of the cards (Feldman and Sammartino) and four out of the last five on the remaining card to secure the win.
Gray bounced back from his first career defeat in July with a knockout win over Chris Chatman in October, but has now lost two of his last three while Pennington has won two in a row after beating 15-1 Boyd Melson by knockout in November.
In a fight that lived up to expectations, New Bedford, Mass., junior middleweight Ray Oliveira Jr. (7-0, 1 KO) continued his impressive run with his toughest victory to date, defeated rising Hartford, Conn., prospect Jose Rivera (2-1) by majority decision, 59-55, 58-56, 57-57.
Rivera came out strong, using his footwork and timing to catch Oliveira cleanly as his more aggressive opponent tried to dictate the pace by stalking him down in the early rounds. Once Oliveira began to close the gap, he started working the body and closed the fight a strong performance over the final three rounds to secure the win.
Feldman scored it 59-55, awarding the final five rounds to Oliveira, while Sammartino scored it 57-57, giving two of the final three rounds to Rivera. Oliveira won four of the final five rounds on Trella’s scorecard for a 58-56 verdict.
Facing his toughest test to date, Worcester, Mass., lightweight Jamaine Ortiz (3-0) earned a majority decision win over decorated amateur and Jacksonville, Fla., native Canton Miller, 40-36, 40-36, 38-38. Trella and Wayne Lima scored it a shutout in favor of Ortiz while Feldman scored it a draw.
Ortiz, who scored knockouts in his first two pro bouts, pressed the action and kept Miller against the ropes, but Miller continued to fight, landing uppercuts on the inside to keep Ortiz at bay. Ortiz turned it on in the third and fourth to punctuate the victory, his third as a pro and his first since last July.
Also stepping up in competition, Providence, R.I., junior welterweight Anthony Marsella Jr. (4-0) earned his most impressive win, 40-36 on all three scorecards, against 16-fight vet Francisco Medel (10-7).
After scoring first-round knockouts in each of his first two bouts at Twin River in 2016, Marsella faced a much tougher test against the hard-nosed Medel, who closed the gap often and fought well on the inside to frustrate the taller, faster Marsella. The pace ultimately proved to be too much for Medel and Marsella won unanimously to improve to 4-0.
In one of the most highly anticipated bouts of the evening, Salem, Mass., junior welterweight Matt Doherty (6-3-1, 4 KOs) continued his turnaround with a third-round knockout win over Framingham, Mass., vet Julio Perez (4-2), who has now lost his last two. Doherty won the first two rounds and continued his surge in the third. Perez did not answer the bell for the fourth and Doherty scored his fourth career knockout win and his second in a row after losing his previous two bouts.
Three fighters scored first-round knockouts on the preliminary portion of Saturday’s card. Returning to the ring for the first time since suffering a loss in his professional debut in September, Taunton, Mass., welterweight Marqus Bates (1-1, 1 KO) earned his first win, stopping pro debut Aaron Muniz (0-1) of Warwick, R.I., at 2:59 of the opening round.
Bates tried to outbox Muniz on the outside, circling the ring and landing quick jabs to set the pace, but once Bates found his footing and began to cut the ring off, he started to unload on Muniz, dropping him with a body shot in the closing seconds of the round. Muniz was slow to get to his feet, prompting Lupino to stop the bout.
Worcester, Mass., middleweight Kendrick Ball Jr. (5-0-2, 4 KOs) kept his unbeaten record intact, rebounding from a majority draw against Nathan Millier in December with a 29-second knockout win over last-minute replacement Patrick Leal (0-2). Ball Jr., who has now fought seven times in a nine-month stretch since turning pro in May, was originally supposed to face Minnesota’s Kenneth Glenn, but Glenn suffered a knee injury the week of the event.
Lynn, Mass., junior welterweight Khiry Todd (2-0, 2 KOs) also remained unbeaten in his second pro fight, dropping the game Bruno Dias (0-3) of Woburn, Mass., with a body shot at 1:23 of the opening round. Dias tried to exchange on the inside, but took a right hook to the ribs and dropped to a knee before Smoger waved it off.