Northeast Philadelphia native, Cruiserweight Tony “Boom Boom” Ferrante 13-4 (8 KO’s)was a huge underdog when he faced undefeated cruiserweight prospect Isa Akberbayev 10- 0 (7KO’s) on Saturday January 19th inside the MECCA of boxing, Madison Square Garden. Ferrante recently moved up in weight from light heavyweight to cruiserweight after struggling to cut 38 lbs. in his last fight. Taking the Akberbayev on only 20 days’ notice, Ferrante said he and his new trainer went into combat mode. “We started training right after Christmas. I had always been keeping in shape with my strength and conditioning Coach Sean Thompson, but my boxing coach Mike Cassell had me watching tape, and together we came up with a game plan, not just to win, but to knock the big Russian fighter out.”
The game plan was simple for Ferrante and his team. Make the big man fight small, then take him deep and put him to sleep. Akberbayev was coming off 4 KO’s in a row and was very confident. Ferrante was coming off 2 very tough losses that both went 10 rounds. But Akberbayev had never gone past 6 and team Ferrante were hoping that he would fade.
Ferrante started off very strong winning the first round easily. Akberbayev shot out of the gate, but Ferrante went to the body to make the big man respect him. Ferrante dropped Akberbayev with about 28 seconds left in the first, then Akberbayev got off the canvas to land a right hand, with eight seconds to go, handing Ferrante a flash knock down. The war was on, and it couldn’t have been written any better. Akberbayev came out in round 2 to do what he does best. Knock guys out. He went hard at Ferrante who used excellent defense and counter right hand body and head shots to curb the big Russians surge forward. Rounds 3 and 4 were not Ferrante’s busiest rounds. But he was following his plan perfectly. His trainer Mike Cassell was impressed with his discipline. “He did exactly, and I mean exactly, what I asked him to do. This kid is so smart. I wanted him to let Akberbayev wear out, without taking too many punches. He was slipping, rolling, countering. In essence, he was boxing beautifully.”
Round 5, the halfway point is when Ferrante was asked to turn it up. “This kid has never been past 6, I knew round 5 or so he would fade and Tony’s hand speed would take over,” said Cassell. Ferrante landed a gorgeous counter right hand in round 5 that created a huge gash over the eye of Akberbayev. In the past Ferrante may have jumped on the fighter, but not that night. Ferrante ended round 5 with beautiful precise jabbing on the injured eye. Round 6 saw Akberbayev trying again to make a stand, but Ferrante’s timing and hand speed landed another gorgeous right hand, opening yet another cut over Akberbayev’s eye. Ferrante finished the round strong. By round 9 Ferrante was up on all 3 judges’ scorecards shooting power jabs to the badly bleeding left eye of Akberbayev who was fading fast. Ferrante controlled the center of the ring while Akberbayev did ring circles, avoiding any more contact with Ferrante.
By round 10, Akberbayev was badly beaten, losing by almost 5 rounds on one of the judges’ scorecards. Akberbayev was desperate, as Ferrante recalled after the fight.
“I learned something new with my coach. He told me, be patient. Show discipline. Set a trap for that right hand.”
With a minute 1:32 left, a very tired, battered and desperate Akberbayev moved forward throwing a combination Ferrante partially slipped and blocked, then as Akberbayev went into a “peek a boo” stance, Ferrante through two small jabs to blind the big man, then dropped him with short over hand right. Akberbayev was knocked out cold as the referee immediately waved in doctors. Ferrante captured the IBO Intercontinental cruiserweight title, but he also captured the hearts and minds of the fans in the Garden. His heart is strong, his power in undeniable, and at cruiserweight, we may be witnessing the birth of a powerful exciting fighter at cruiserweight.