Last night at the MGM Grand Garden Arena there was a trio of Asian fighters in action, and they had rather mixed fortunes on the biggest show of the weekend.
The most impressive was Bektemir Melikuziev (3-0, 3) [Бектемир Мелиқўзиев], who was actually extended into the 4th round by the unheralded Clay Collard (4-2-3, 1). The fast rising "Bek Bully" was up against someone wanting to fight back and show his toughness, but in the end Collard was broken down by body shots as Melikuziev continued to build his reputation as a body snatcher.
Talented Kazakh Middleweight Meiirim Nursultanov (13-0, 8) extended his unbeaten run and scored his fourth win of the year, as he out pointed tough Mexican Cristian Olivas (16-6, 13). The talented Nursultanov did what he needed to earn a shut out over 10 rounds, and does seem to be improving fight by fight, but this is his third decision win this year and we do wonder if he has the power for the next. Saying that however Olivas is tough, and has never been stopped so not getting him out, in isolation, it nothing to be ashamed by.
Sadly it was a terrible night for Filipino Romero Duno (21-2, 16) as he was stopped in just 98 seconds by unbeaten American Ryan Garcia (19-0, 16). Duno managed to land a decent right hand, but was then taken apart by Garcia's speed and combinations, and dropped after around 90 seconds. He then failed to beat the count, with his balance being totally gone. This was very much the speed of Garcia being too much for Duno, and in fairness to Garcia shows how much he has improved over the last year or so.
In the co-feature of today's Filipino card fans saw the heavy handed Romero Duno (19-1, 15) easily take card of Indian foe Kuldeep Dhanda (7-2, 1) and become the new WBA Asia Lightweight champion. The match looked like a mismatch from the off, and Dhanda struggled to avoid the right hands of Duno from the very early moments.
With less than 2 minutes of the fight gone Dhanda was down, hard. He beat the count but was wobbled again soon afterwards. It was a case of when, and not if, Duno was going to stop his man. To his credit Dhanda did survive the opening round. Sadly for Dhanda that wasn't a good thing, and early in round 2 Duno landed a dynamite right hand that left the Indian visitor out cold.
There was worrying scenes afterwards, with Dhanda not moving, and being left needing medical attention for several minutes before sitting up and eventually leaving the ring under his own power.
It should be noted that Dhanda hadn't ever fought outside of India and hadn't fought in over a year, so this was always expected to be a mismatch. What wasn't expected was the brutal finish, that seemed to leave Duno concerned about his opponent whilst he received medical attention.
This was a sure fire KO of the year contender for Duno who will have bigger tests later this year.
Gaballo, the WBA "interim" Bantamweight champion, will be up against Japan's Yuya Nakamura (9-2-1, 7), who continues to fight outside of the Japanese system with bouts in China, Thailand and the Philippines. Nakamura really caught our attention back in December, when he had an unlucky 6 round draw with Yongu Yu, in what was a thoroughly entertaining contest.
Duno on the other hand will be up against Indian foe Kuldeep Dhanda (7-1, 1), who will be fighting outside of India foe the first time. Not only will this be Dhanda's international debut, but also his first bout since December 2017!
Whilst we love the main event between Apolinario and Vicells, we can't help but feel Gaballo and Duno have been matched relatively easily, a pattern we are seeing a little too often with these ESPN5 shows.
Earlier today Filipino promotional outfit Sanman Promotions revealed that their first show of 2019 will be doubleheader, to be held on February 9th in the Philippines and shown on ESPN5.
One of the two main event bouts will see WBA "interim" Bantamweight champion Reymart Gaballo (20-0, 17) whilst the other will feature Lightweight hopeful Romero Duno (18-1, 14). At the moment neither man has had their opponent for the bout's announced but they will be international opponents and will hopefully beat the typical opponent we've seen served up on the main bouts of the ESPN5 cards, such as Gaballo's last opponent Julias Kisarawe, who was just terrible.
The one bout that has been put together will see Dave Apolinario (9-0, 6) battle against Mark Vicelles (9-0-1, 5) for the WBO Asia Pacific Youth Flyweight title, in what is an excellent step up for both men.
We saw a number of Sanman shows on ESPN5 last year and it really did help fans keep up with Filipino hopefuls, and seems to be something that is continuing into the new year, as the channel once again looks to back Filipino boxing, and developing the sport. Sanman Boxing CEO Jim Claude Manangquil is quoted by ESPN.Com as saying:
"I couldn't have done this without the support of ESPN5. They are doing a very noble mission helping Filipino boxers get the exposure they deserve. (The year) 2018 was such a great year for Sanman, will ensure 2019 will even be a more explosive year for us and for Philippine Boxing. This Gaballo and Duno double treat is our way of starting the new boxing year with a bang. We look forward to more world titles for Fiipino boxers and more big events for Sanman,"
With that in mind it seems obvious that there is big plans for ESPN5 to stay involved in the sport, something really needed to try and recapture the Filipino audience, and give fighters a chance to build their names.
Heavy handed Filipino fighter Romero Duno (18-1, 14) showed that he was still a work in progress on Saturday night as he defeated Ezequiel Aviles (16-3-3, 6), but had his defensive flaws picked apart at times by the gutsy Aviles.
In the opening round Duno's power was the difference, as he dropped Aviles at the end of the round to secure a 10-8. Other than the knockdown there had been very little to separate the two men in the opening stanza with Aviles boxing well, picking his spots and taking advantages of Duno's defensive openness. The right hands from Aviles were landing at will but they never seemed like they effected the Filipino.
Aviles would continue to pick apart the holes in Duno's defense through out the fight, but lack the power to ever make Duno respect him. Instead it was Duno's power that really acted as the difference and Aviles was reacting significantly more to his shots than the other way around. That was particularly notable in round 6, when Aviles was dropped by a huge right hand. Aviles recovered but was dropped again later that same round for Duno to secure a 10-7 round.
A slowing Duno would be outboxed for much of round 7 and round 8, but finished the fight by wobbling Aviles on the bell, again showing just how heavy handed he is, but will have been disappointed with Aviles going the 8 round distance with him. He will also have been disappointed in being hit as much as he was. However with a 10-8 and a 10-7 in his favour Duno really had no issues with getting the decision, with all 3 judges scoring it 78-71 in his favour.
Against better competition Duno will have to tighten up, though he's a smart fighter who landed some eye catching counter shots. If he can sort out his stamina, tweak his footwork and tidy up his defensive flaws, he can go a long way. There is however a lot of work to do with Duno before he begins to look at world level competition. He's a fun fighter, who will continue to get fights in front of the cameras and seems a very likable fighter, but there are clearly areas to work on which were shown by this performance.
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