In desperate need of a win, Khiary Gray reached back with a vintage performance to capture the vacant New England Interim Welterweight Title Thursday in CES Boxing’s season finale at Twin River Casino.
The Worcester, Mass., native Gray (15-3), fighting at welterweight for the first time in his career, turned on the pressure over the final four rounds of his eight-round main event about against Philadelphia’s Greg Jackson (8-5-1) to earn a 76-76, 78-71, 80-72 majority decision win.
Having lost three of his last four fights at 154 pounds, Gray heated up in the fifth Thursday and kicked off his campaign at welterweight with an exciting win against the tall, lean Jackson, who simply couldn’t match Gray’s output down the stretch. The 25-year-old Gray turned back the clock and looked every bit like the fighter who opened his career with 13 consecutive wins.
Gray worked the body effectively in the fifth, then continued to apply pressure in the sixth, mixing in uppercuts on the inside to win the battles in the trenches. The win was Gray’s first of the year in his final fight of 2017 as CES Boxing closed out its season with its official 25th anniversary celebration.
The co-feature delivered, as promised, with a competitive, back-and-forth battle between Marshfield, Mass., welterweight Aleksandra Magdziak Lopes (18-4-3) and Ontario’s Natasha Spence (8-3-2) as the two fought to a majority draw, 77-75, 76-76, 76-76.
Judge Wayne Lima gave Spence the 77-75 edge on his scorecard with Spence controlling the fight from rounds two through six. Spence actually trailed on the card by Peter Hary and Eddie Scuncio, but earned the draw by rallying to win two of the final three rounds, including the eighth and final round while trailing on two of three scorecards.
Lopes fought to back-to-back draws in 2013 and 2014 before winning eight of her next 10 fights. Thursday’s draw snapped a two-fight winning streak, which included her win over Paty Ramirez at Twin River in April.
Facing his toughest test to date, Worcester lightweight Jamaine Ortiz (7-0) cruised to a 60-54 win on all three scorecards against 17-fight vet Derrick Murray (13-4-1) of Saint Louis, Mo.
Murray entered the fight with experience on his side, but Ortiz, a former semifinalist in the U.S. Olympic Trials, boxed circles around the game Murray, working the body and stalking him down despite an impressive punch output from his opponent. The undefeated Ortiz was simply too much from the opening bell as he finished 2017 with a perfect 5-0 record.
Fellow Worcester native Kendrick Ball Jr. (9-0-2, 6 KOs) also finished 2017 unbeaten and earned his first knockout since April, stopping tough middleweight Alshamar Johnson (1-2-1) of Vineland, N.J., at the 1:22 mark of the sixth and final round of their scheduled six-round bout.
Ball Jr. staggered Johnson from the opening bell and it appeared he was well on his way to a quick knockout victory, but Johnson made it through the first round and began to establish a pace in the middle rounds once he adjusted to Ball Jr.’s size and height advantage. Ball Jr., who won all six of his fights this year, led 48-47 on judge Frank Lombardi’s scorecard, 49-46 on Hary’s card and 50-45 on Scuncio’s card before the knockout.
Undefeated Providence lightweight Anthony Marsella Jr. (7-0, 4 KOs) continued the climb with another knockout victory, his fourth overall win of 2017. Marsella stopped Mexican challenger Oscar Eduardo Quezada (7-5) with a body shot at the end of the first round. Quezada tried to beat the count, but referee Joey Lupino waved it off, giving Marsella the win at the 3:00 mark. The 22-year-old lightweight closed the win with three victories over the final six months of the year.
Making their Rhode Island and Twin River debuts, Worcester super middleweight Bobby Harris III (2-0) and Boston, Mass., super middleweight Jarel Pemberton (2-0) won majority decisions on the preliminary card. Harris III outworked the game Amadeu Cristiano (0-1) of Sao Paolo, Brazil, 40-36, 39-37, 40-36, a full-time Muay Thai fighter. Pemberton also faced a tough test against Brazilian Rene Nazare (0-2) and earned a 40-36, 39-37, 39-37 victory.
Providence lightweight Mike Valentin (3-0) also kept his perfect record intact in his third and final fight of the year, defeated debut New Bedford, Mass., native Efren Nunez (0-1) by unanimous decision, 40-36, 40-36, 39-37. The two exchanged blows in the center of the ring for the first two rounds before Valentin’s endurance took over down the stretch. Valentin debuted in June and remains the youngest fighter on the roster at 18 years old.