With Nowhere to Hide, Stark Starched by Escalante

boxingBy Juan C. Ayllon at ringside - CHICAGO – Prior to his heavyweight title defense against slick and fast punching Billy Conn in June of 1941, Joe Louis uttered that famous line, “he can run, but he can’t hide.”

NABO Junior Featherweight champion Antonio Escalante could have said the same thing tonight, and he’d have been right.

On Friday, April 24, 2009 at the UIC Pavilion, Staten Island, New York’s Gary Stark, Jr. (121.5 lbs., 22-2-0, 8 KO’s) was fast. He was fleet-footed. And he had great footwork.

However, his opponent, Juarez, Mexico’s Antonio Escalante (18-2, 12 KO’s) was also fast. He also had good footwork. And he hit hard..

It didn’t take long for the track meet to start, as Escalante pursues a fleet-footed Stark around the ring. He dug some hard hooks to the body and a good right to the jaw – and he maintained a high guard against his quick-countering foe. Stark caught him with a good right to the chin.

In the second, Escalante drilled Stark with a right over the left shoulder in a corner that drew a collective “ooh” from the crowd of some 1,850 and maintained steady pressure. However, he was generally finding his dodgy opponent very hard to hit cleanly. Meanwhile, the circling Stark landed a small handful of crisp rights on Escalante, drawing a nod of acknowledgement.

Moments into the third, Escalante drilled him with a left hook that resounded at ringside. The battering escalated. Stark trash-talked.

Chants of “Meh-hee-co, Meh-hee-co, Meh-heeco” rose through the crowd and derisive whistles rained on Stark.

A left hook crashed into Stark’s jaw. His eyes rolled back in his head. He dropped hard in a corner, his head underneath the lowest rope. He didn’t look well. Still, he managed to rise around the six count and retreated.

Escalante stalked gestured triumphantly to the crowd, pacing along the opposite ropes.

One ringside observer said, “I feel bad for him. When [Escalante] was celebrating, [Stark] called him a [profanity].” Talk about adding fuel to the fire!

Unleashing a fury, Escalante trapped Stark on the ropes and slammed home a left-right combination to the jaw. Stark’s head bobbled with the exaggerated motion of a spinning top that’s slowed down and about to fall. And fall he did. Dropping hard, he tried to rise, only to pitch forward. Referee Gerald Scott waved it off at 1:31 into the third for a knockout victory for Escalante. With nowhere left to run, Stark got hided.

The undercard

It was three and out for the designated victim for ex-Olympian Deontay Wilder, the burley Joseph Rabotte.

After blocking the incoming and sidestepping the bull-rushes, Deontay Wilder (215 lbs., 3-0, 3 KO’s) dispatched Joseph Rabotte (264 lbs., 3-5, 1 KO) with three knockdowns – the first and third courtesy of smashing rights and the second a thudding left – stopping him at 2:33 into the first round. Celestino Ruiz served as referee.

It was as if a high fidelity symphonic record played, only to hear the loud scratch of a turntable’s needle on vinyl as the toner arm was yanked. For what began as a display of technical skills ended abruptly when Brooklyn, New York’s exciting knockout artist, Daniel Jacobs (161 lbs., 14-0, 13 KO’s), drilled Chinandega, Nicaragua’s Jose Varela (161 lbs., 22-5, 15 KO’s) with a smashing right to the chin. Varela collapsed like a rag doll thrown down the laundry chute. Referee John O’Brien waved it off immediately at 1:29 into the first round.

“When they’re laying there lifeless, I’m not going to count,” said O’Brien afterwards.

With blood seeping from a cut that emanated somewhere high on his forehead since round one, Chicago’s Ivan Popoca (142 lbs., 9-0-1, 7 KO’s) had his chin tested several times and prevailed over gutsy Montreal, Canada’s Sebastian Hamel (143 lbs., 10-17-1, 1 KO).

In a precursor of things to come, Popoca dug some hard body shots in the first but was caught with a solid left hook to the jaw at the end of the round.

Popoca continued pressing in the second, banging to head and body as he pressed his taller and lankier foe. However, the left-handed Hamel landed several sharp combinations to the head.

The crowd cheered heartily in the third when Popoca upped the battering to the body and head. However, Hamel caught him, too, with some right hooks. In the final moments, the crowd roared as the two traded and Hamel bounced a left off Popoca’s jaw to close the round. The two smiled and tapped gloves.

As Popoca was trying to end it in the fifth, he got caught with a couple straight lefts and wobbled momentarily. However, he regrouped and administered a fierce beating to the body, along with some harsh head shots.

Early in the sixth, it looked like Hamel was gone. He got nailed on the ropes and stumbled away with Popoca in hot pursuit. However, he weathered the storm and, in the final 30 seconds, unloaded with a wild fusillade of lefts and rights from all directions.

Judges scored the bout 59-55, 58-56 and 60-54 for Ivan Popoca.

John O’Brien Served as referee.

The younger brother of popular slugger Luciano Perez, Chicago’s Noe Perez (127 lbs., 1-0) proved dogged for about a minute and a half, pressuring Cincinnati, Ohio’s Ronnie Howell (126 lbs., 1-1). Then, he connected with a right to the jaw. Howell was clearly hurt. However, ducking under several follow-up blows, Howell dropped to his knees where he was counted out by referee John O’Brien at 1:46 into the first round.

Asked what he thought about that, O’Brien huffed and said, “[Howell was] looking for a soft spot!” Clearly, many spectators agreed, as Howell was booed when he exited the ring.

Chicagoans Leo Martinez (133 lbs., 13-12, 6 KO’s) and Oscar “El Guapo” De La Cruz (135 lbs., 5-5, 2 KO’s) pitched an entertaining scrap, with Martinez prevailing by scores of 39-37 twice and 40-36.

The overused saying, “he doesn’t like it to the body” definitely applied here. Chicago’s Ramiro Carrillo (136 lbs., pro debut) drilled San Antonio, Texas’ Steven Hall (132 lbs., 0-1) to the body several times, causing him to visibly wince. After a couple more blows to the midsection, Hall turned his back, bent forward and put his gloves on his knees.

34 seconds into round one, referee Celestino Ruiz waved off the bout.

Nigerian by way of Milwaukee, Wisconsin Enobong R. Umohette (230 lbs.) lost his pro debut versus Chicago’s Theron Ronnell Johnson (233 lbs., 2-1) in a hard-swinging, but somewhat sloppy four rounder. Scores were 39-37 thrice for Johnson, who won by unanimous decision.

Gerald Scott served as referee.

Promoters: Golden Boy Promotions and 8 Count Productions

Article posted on 26.04.2009

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