Irvin Gonzalez remains perfect,stops Israel Rojas in second round

Boxing returned to Worcester last night (Thursday) for the first time in more than five years to the delight of a capacity crowd of 2,100 passionate fans at the Palladium.

The inaugural event of the “New England’s Future” series, presented by Rivera Promotions Entertainment, featured 10 action-packed fights, highlighted by rising Worcester featherweight prospect Irvin Gonzalez (5-0, 5 KOs).

“The support we received from the sold out crowd was exciting for our first show,” said promoter Jose Antonio Rivera, the former 3-time, 2-division world champion. “We working on our second show in March, of course, right here in Worcester.”

The 20-year-old Gonzalez was absolutely relentless in the main event, fright rom the opening bell, throwing a barrage of unanswered punches from every conceivable angle, repeatedly hurting his Mexican foe, Israel “Tigre” Ramos (9-15, 3 KOs), including a late first-round knockdown. Gonzalez didn’t let up in the second, firing crisp punches, until Rojas hit the canvas early in the second frame and referee Steve Clark had seen enough, stopping the one-sided fight.

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Gonzalez is continuing the rich Worcester boxing tradition. “I’m always relentless,” Gonzalez said with a smile. “It was great fighting in the main event at home. I heard the crowd and really appreciated their support. I hurt him early and I almost took him out in the first round with a body punch. I finished him off with a right in the second. None of my fights have gone the distance, but I prepared to go the full six tonight, if needed.”

Gonzalez takes off Sunday o report to undefeated Guillermo Rigondeaux’ training camp in Miami, where he’ll work with the reigning WBA super bantamweight world champion and 2-time Olympic gold medalist.

Undefeated Ray “Bazooka” Gracewski (5-0, 3 KOs), fighting out of Springfield (MA), was on a search-and-destroy mission in the co-feature against Worcester super middleweight Ralph Johnson (2-10, 1 KO), who was dropped three times before referee Kevin Hope halted the fight.

Hartford’s pro-debuting Richard “Popeye The Sailor Man” Rivera was good to the finish, albeit only two rounds, in a fight contested at a 185-pound catchweight against Philadelphian Davonte Hopkins (0-3). Rivera, who was a 2016 Rocky Marciano Tournament winner, punished Hopkins, finally dropping him in the second round, after which his corner threw in the towel.

In an evenly matched junior featherweight bout, hometown favorite Ranse Andino’s pro debut resulted in a hard earned victory, by way of a four-round unanimous decision, over Lowell’s (MA) previously unbeaten Jonathan Perez (2-1-1, 2 KOs)

Unbeaten Haitian heavyweight Jean Pierre “Kid Creole” Augstin (7-0-1, 3 KOs) pounded game Mexican foe Jose Humberto “Olympico” Corral (19-22, 12 KOs) from the opening bell en route to a shutout six-round unanimous decision.

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East Hartford prospect Anthony Laureano (2-0, 1 KO), a 2016 New England Golden Gloves champion, finished off winless welterweight Rafael Francis (0-9) with a debilitating body shot early in the second round.

In his pro debut, popular Worcester heavyweight Felix Martinez, a local barber, spotted his opponent, 392-pound Bobby Favors (0-4), nearly 60 pounds but Favors was unable to continue after the first round.

Southbridge, MA Wilfredo “El Sucaro” Pagan turned in a memorable pro debut, winning a four-round majority decision over Alexander Picot (1-2-1 (0 KOs), contested at a 145-pound catchweight.

The second-oldest pro fighter in Massachusetts history, 49-year-old “Irish” Chuck Shearns (3-1, 2 KOs), of nearby Auburn, MA., ended his boxing career in style with an opening-round technical knockout victory over Philadelphia junior middleweight Shavonte Dixon (0-2).