In recent weeks, we have seen the UFC return to some sort of normality, with cards taking place in behind closed doors arenas. There has also been boxing in outposts such as Nicaragua, but last night saw the USA, and Las Vegas take centre stage, as boxing officially made it’s comeback at the aptly named Bubble inside the MGM Grand.
It was a five-fight card with no contest lasting the scheduled distance. It was an eery atmosphere with empty seats everywhere you looked, but at least the sport we loved had made a welcome return.
Topping the bill for this Top Rank/ESPN production would be 2016 Olympic Silver medalist Shakur Stevenson. In his last outing captured the vacant WBO Featherweight title in just his 13th fight with a clear points win against Joet Gonzalez in October 2019.
Much is expected of Stevenson, and he had been active on social media talking up a possible unification match with IBF holder Josh Warrington in the near future.
Stevenson’s first scheduled defence was set for March, but the global pandemic then took hold, wiping out boxing in general, and with it Stevenson’s opportunity to perform.
A meeting with Warrington is now unclear, with the Virginia native moving up in weight to 130lbs for this ten-rounder against Puerto Rico’s Felix Caraballo.
This would be Caraballo’s first venture outside his homeland. He began his career in March 2014 with two draws. His sole reverse had come over eight rounds in January 2018 when outscored by Pedro Marquez Medina and he came into the meeting with Stevenson on a run of five straight wins.
As expected though, Caraballo was simply no match for Stevenson, who quickly got back into the groove with a sixth round stoppage win.
The first round saw the shape of things to come, with Stevenson scoring a first round knockdown, with some powerful and stiff punches unlocking the door.
Caraballo was taking punishment on the way in just trying to lay a glove on Stevenson, and a right hook to the body took the visitor to the canvas.
The one way traffic continued, with Stevenson teeing off on the limited Caraballo, punching through the target and showing sublime hand speed.
The fight pattern had been set, and Caraballo’s tip-tap punches were unsurprisingly having no effect on Stevenson, who responded with loaded shots with power and intent in every one.
Caraballo held out until the sixth round to his credit, but the writing had been on the wall for several rounds.
Stevenson cut loose again and another body shot, this time a much more severe one than the first round, left Caraballo writhing in pain, and the fight was stopped. The telling blow was a right to the body followed by a savage left.
“It was different. The crowd, the preparation, it was all different” said Stevenson post fight.
Shakur Stevenson stole the show as boxing returned to the big stage. Photo Credit: Mikey Williams
There was no mention of the future for the victor, who sported a Black Lives Matter t-shirt, and vowed to join the front line of protests now that his in-ring commitments are over.
On the undercard, amateur standout, Robeisy Ramirez continued his professional journey with a routine opening session stoppage victory over Year Andujar.
Ramirez defeated Stevenson in the final of the 2016 Olympics to win his second gold medal, this time at Bantamweight after striking gold in the Flyweight division in London’s 2012 games.
Ramirez was touted much in the Vasyl Lomachenko mould when he turned professional in August 2019. But, while the superlative Ukrainian lost in World title class in his second fight, Ramirez was stunned on his debut in a six rounder. Robeisy fought the little known 4-2-2 Adan Gonzales, dropped twice on the way to a split decision loss.
The rebuild had seen two straight confidence building knockout wins, and Andujar became the third victim in a row by the short route by lasting just 54 seconds of a scheduled six rounder.
Ramirez showed a statement of intent from the off, with a power left uppercut landing. The left hook simply couldn’t miss the target, and a loaded follow up left hook shook Andujar, with two further left hooks forcing him to the canvas with just over 30 seconds gone.
Andujar went for broke upon the resumption, and was wide open for the counter, which arrived via left hook that knocked Andujar’s head to the bottom rope. Referee Tony Weeks had seen more than enough, and the fight was waved off.
2016 Olympian, Guido Vianello also notched a first round win to move to 7-0 by seeing off Don Haynesworth at Heavyweight.
Guido Vianello claimed an impressive first round victory on his ring return. Photo Credit: Mikey Williams
Vianello started in relaxed fashion, putting together decent and heavy combinations, and the end wasn’t long incoming.
A short chopping right hand on the top of the head put Haynesworth on the floor. It was a hard knockdown, and with Haynesworth wobbly trying to beat the count, he was stopped on his feet to save further punishment.
In another Heavyweight attraction, Jared Anderson moved to 4-0 with a third round stoppage of Johnnie Langston.
The other contest saw Quatavious Cash overcome Calvin Metcalf via technical decision, with Metcalf cut over the left eye in the sixth and final round from an accidental head butt.