Andrew “The Beast” Tabiti (13-0, 11 KOs), of Las Vegas, turned back a determined effort by previously unbeaten Keith “Machine Gun” Tapia (17-1, 11 KOs) to win a 10-round unanimous decision in a collision of United States-born cruiserweights in the main event of Friday’s ShoBox: The New Generation quadrupleheader from Sam’s Town Live.
Tabiti triumphed by 97-92 twice, and 99-90 in a match that appeared slightly closer than the scores indicated. He scored the bout’s lone knockdown in the eighth, dropping Tapia with a perfect right hand to the side of the head.
In a second scrap between U.S.-born cruiserweights, 2012 U.S. Olympian Michael Hunter (12-0, 8 KOs), of Las Vegas, captured a lopsided 10-round division over Dominican Isiah Thomas (15-1, 1 ND, 6 KOs), of Detroit, in the ShoBox co-feature.
“The two fights brought both hope and caution about the present state of the cruiserweight division in America,’’ ShoBox expert analyst Steve Farhood said afterward. “We saw two very awkward fighters in Thomas and Tapia and as a result of their awkwardness, the winners, Tabiti and Hunter, weren’t allowed to truly shine.
“They both did enough to clearly win, but it’s early in the game of their ascendency.”
In other ShoBox results, promising Mayweather Promotions super middleweight, Romanian Ronald “The Thrill” Gavril (16-1, 12 KOs), of Las Vegas, registered an impressive sixth-round TKO over Colombian Juan Camilo “La Boa” Novoa (25-7-1, 23 KOs), of Miami, Fla., and Uzbekistan’s super lightweight Sanjarbek “The Terminator” Rakhmanov (4-0-1, 3 KOs), of Las Vegas, and Alfonso Olvera (7-2-1, 3 KOs), of Tucson, Ariz., battled to a six-round draw in a hard-fought, entertaining and exciting slugfest that opened the telecast.
Tabiti, 26, making his 2016 and 10-round debut, was mostly pleased with his performance although he feels there is room for improvement.
“Tapia is a good fighter, strong, awkward, a little wild, with some real experience,’’ Tabiti said. “You can definitely say he was the best fighter I’ve been in with. It took me a while, maybe four rounds, to figure him out and get the timing on my punches down.
“I’m happy to get the win and I hope I opened some eyes tonight, but I know I can do better. For now, I’m going to savor this win before I think about what’s next for me.’’
Tapia, 25, who was cut on his left eye early in the fourth from one of several unintentional headbutts in the fight, was taking a step up in class even though he had a clear advantage over Tabiti in experience as an amateur and a pro. Despite the defeat, he was not dismayed.
“I feel good,’’ said Tapia after his second scheduled 10-rounder. “I still feel positive even though I lost. My first loss, but there’s a first time for everything, right? I don’t feel like it was a unanimous decision, don’t feel it was that serious to be one. We’re in Las Vegas, it’s his house, I can’t complain. Ultimate respect for him, I’m not going to talk about anybody, that’s not my style.
“My game plan was to be smart and throw jabs. I threw jabs and combinations and then went off to the side. I was doing all of that but he’s a slick fighter and he’s awkward. He kept grabbing me too; I think it was because he felt the power when I was connecting. I feel like I poured my heart out, I fought 1000 percent. I don’t feel bad.’’
Regarding the headbutts, he said, “None of the cuts were from punches, they were from headbutts. The one over my left eye was bothering me. It was annoying. I mean who wouldn’t get mad? Sometimes I was leaning my head in, too. I’m going to keep it real, I have my mistakes too, but it’s boxing. We’re going to exchange while we are throwing punches and getting close to each other.
“Everything was an accident, nothing was on purpose. It wasn’t his fault, it wasn’t my fault. It’s part of the game.’’
Hunter, going 10 rounds for the initial time, pressed the action throughout against Thomas and won by the scores of 100-90 twice and 99-91.
“I didn’t do exactly what I wanted to do but I got the job done so I can’t complain,’’ said Hunter, the son of the late former cruiserweight and heavyweight contender Mike “The Bounty” Hunter. “I just learn to live in the moment. I wanted to press him, hurt him early and continue to hurt him towards the middle. I think he was a little more stagnant and hesitant to engage; I think he felt the intensity after the first two rounds so he started to step back and was just trying to survive for the rest of the fight.
“I would want to fight Tabiti later down the line when our names get bigger. I mean if it comes it comes. I’m ready for any and everything.
“Next, I’m going to go back to the gym and go back to the drawing board and hopefully I have a mandatory next now that I have a small title (NABF). Someone in the top 10 will have to feel my wrath. I hope to go after a big title after this.’’
Thomas, who was fighting for the first time since last December, offered no excuses.
“I felt good but I was really rusty, and he came with his A-game,’’ he said. “I would rate my performance a C-minus. My performance was terrible, I should have come more prepared. I should have taken this more seriously. He’s a crafty fighter, he throws a lot of punches at different angles. He kept me on my toes, but I could have been better.
“He was the busier fighter in this fight. I just have to get back in the gym and train harder and give myself more time for the next fight.’’
Dominant throughout, Gavril dropped Novoa with a body shot early in the sixth. Novoa made it to his feet, but was on shaky legs. Gavril continued to come forward with combinations and moments later the referee stepped in and halted the one-sided proceedings at 2:08 of the round.
“I feel great,’’ said Gavril, an outstanding amateur and longtime member of the National Team of Romania before turning pro in December 2011. “This was a good performance for me. He was a tough guy but I did what I have been training to do in the gym. I used my jab and body shots. It was a great night.
“I didn’t face any challenges, I kept using my jab and kept moving. He didn’t hurt me, just a small cut above the eye. I did my best, but I have a long way to go. This is just the beginning. I am going back into the gym to work hard.’’
Novoa was fighting for the first time in the U.S. in about six-and-one-half years.
“I felt good,’’ said Novoa, whose last fight was in April 2015. “Unfortunately things didn’t turn out in my favor. I felt I was doing well up until that point but he was able to land a power punch to my side and it took me down.
“The fight was defined by one punch, and unfortunately he was the one who landed it first. I felt really good prior to that punch. I felt I intimidated him at some point because I came forward and put pressure on him, and he backed up a bit. At that point I knew he had respect for me. I was getting in my zone. I tried to do my best and feel good about my performance.
“Gavril executed well; he’s a great fighter. He was able to land that great power punch to get the win, but that’s boxing for you. He is a tough fighter and really did put on a great performance.’’
The Rakhmanov-Olvera fight was scored 58-56 for Olvera, 58-56 for Rakhmanov and 57-apiece. It was tough and testy with excellent two-way action from the outset. Rakhmanov, as expected, pressed the action, but Olvera, at 5-foot-11, was able to utilize a four-inch height advantage to fight back each time. Both landed frequently with both hands.
“We knew going in this was going to be a very tough fight, and it was,’’ Rakhmanov said. “I didn’t feel like I lost but this is what happens when two guys fight their hearts out like we did. Both of us gave our best. The fans got a tremendous fight. I feel we hurt each other. If the people want to see us do it again, let’s do it.’’
Said Olvera: “I can’t say anything, I’m just happy that we didn’t lose. I felt like I won but we can’t be the judges, too. I felt great, I felt strong. My speed was good. I feel like I got him with a really good punch in the third round. I caught him with a right hook.
“He wasn’t doing anything that caught me off guard. I just feel like it was a draw because this is his house. I felt comfortable with myself and with my corner. I can’t really say anything else. I feel we came and did our job. The world saw what happened and that’s what matters.”