Sharkie’s Machine: Ikeke’s Jab TKO’s Echols In 10

16.04.05 - By Frank Gonzalez Jr. In boxing, everything flows from the jab. Kingsley Ikeke (23-1-0-13 KO’s) demonstrated that to perfection Friday night at the Northern Quest Casino in Washington State, where he took on former IBF Middleweight Champ, Antwun Echols (31-6-1-27 KO’s) for the number two ranking in the IBF.

While Ikeke doesn’t possess great power, he has a powerful weapon—his lead left jab. He nickel and dimed Echols all night with that punch, swelling his face to a pulp and closing his right eye with the constant tapping of his jab.

For the power punching Echols, his strategy was obvious, get in close and crash Ikeke up on the inside. At times, Echols got inside and landed his punches but—there was something missing.

Ikeke never faced a puncher like Echols before, and in a way, he still hasn’t. Echols was a mere shadow of the cagey, strong puncher he once was. His stamina was also questionable as he breathed heavily after the first few rounds. He was also throwing a lot of big punches that were missing, and that in itself, can wear a guy out..

As big and lean as Ikeke is (6’4” tall), he was not an easy target. Ikeke moved well and showed remarkable ring generalship. He established his range and kept Echols at a safe distance most times with his stinging jabs, followed by occasional right hands. The only real criticism is that Ikeke rarely aimed at the body.

The fight started with Echols pressing the action and Ikeke boxing outside. Echols was able to corner Ikeke and land a few good shots inside. In the next two rounds, Ikeke’s jab was proving a force, as he stung Echols constantly.

In the fourth round, Echols did more damage as he rallied midway and scored well. By the end of the fourth, Echols looked a bit spent. I had it an even fight at that point but Ikeke looked sharper as he went on to win all of the remaining rounds. Echols, not known for his defense, was unable to hurt Ikeke and was reduced to fighting in spurts.

By the fifth round, Ikeke’s jab had Echol’s eyes swelling badly. By the sixth, Echols right eye was puffed and almost shut. The fight was very one-sided from that point on. Ikeke was the boss, scoring at will with his jab. Eventually, Echols was in so much pain that he took a knee in the tenth. His face was blown up and both his eyes were closing fast.

After the tenth round, Echol’s trainer, Dan Birmingham stopped the fight. Ikeke was the winner by TKO.

Ikeke, whose nickname is “King Sharp Knuckle” is still a Prospect. He hasn’t faced anyone as notable as Echols so far. He took advantage of the chance to showcase himself and what he does best—boxing tall. Kingsley showed himself to be a smart boxer who uses the basics effectively. His jab landed continuously and frustrated Echols to the point of no return.

Though “Kid Dynamite” Echols is known for his dangerous power punching, he didn’t have any noticeable strength in his punches Friday night, especially as the fight got deeper.

Ikeke’s skills and focus was impressive but what I noticed most was the decline of Antwun Echols, a guy who was always dangerous and fun to watch, win or lose. Friday night looked like more than just a bad outing for Echols—it looked like the end of the line. Gone was his killer instinct. His punches lacked authority and his confidence was quick to wither. He was
really beaten by the fifth round, when it became obvious that he couldn’t handle the long and accurate jabs of Ikeke.

Outside of the ring issues may have contributed to Echol’s poor showing. His fiancé is hospitalized with a serious condition that was compared to the Terri Schiavo case. He also has four kids to care for. That has to be tough on him mentally. Many times, we see fighters take whatever pains them outside the ring and channel it into a performance in the ring that gets the job done. Echol’s spirits were pretty low Friday night. My best wishes go out to him and his family. Guys like Echols are great for boxing.

* * *

Bernard Hopkins will probably retire after this year. That leaves the Middleweight division open to the top dogs, Howard Eastman, Felix Trinidad, Sam Soliman, Jermain Taylor, Felix Sturm and now, Kingsley Ikeke.

The fight I want to see is Taylor vs. Ikeke.

It’s debatable whether Taylor vs. Hopkins will happen because supposedly, Taylor has an issue with the contract. Okay. How hungry is Taylor and how often do you get a shot at the best in your division? If money is an issue, consider what Hopkins has accomplished vs. what young Taylor has not, and there is no justification for a 50-50 split that Taylor has the audacity to ask for. Its not like Taylor has done anything spectacular lately. If Taylor’s camp were more confident in his abilities, they would jump at the opportunity to take all of Bernard’s titles regardless of the purse.

Kassim Ouma, the IBF Jr. Middleweight Champion, has offered to step up, where Taylor is stepping away. I hope Ouma gets the shot. At least Ouma deserves it.

If Taylor does not fight Hopkins (which is doubtful), that would avail him for a match up with Ikeke. I like Ikeke’s chances to beat the cautiously managed Taylor. Ikeke has very tight skills and does not make many mistakes. Taylor has good skills too but still does some questionable things, like pulling back and leaving himself open when he throws his right.

Taylor has been fed a steady diet of relatively easy match ups so far. Ikeke’s record reflects a similar state. Taylor out pointed a declining William Joppy. Ikeke dominated a fading Antwun Echols. Bernard Hopkins destroyed both Echols and Joppy. On paper, Ikeke vs. Taylor is a perfect match up.

Taylor has some quality but is still untested. How would Taylor handle adversity? How well would Taylor negotiate the ring with a taller man who uses his jab so well and would actually be there to win and not just contribute to Taylor’s fluffy record? I’d love to see that answered in the ring.

Congratulations to Kingsley Ikeke for a well executed performance against a well-regarded opponent.

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Article posted on 16.04.2005

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