Back in the ring for the first time in more than two years, former world champion and pound-for-pound king Chad Dawson shook off some early rust and survived a flash knockdown Saturday at Foxwoods Resort Casino to earn a hard-fought win over Quinton Rankin at the Fox Theater.
The 36-year-old New Haven, Conn., southpaw won for the first time since April of 2016, beating Rankin (15-6-2) by unanimous decision, 80-68, 78-72, 78-72, despite getting dropped by an uppercut in the fifth round.
In what turned out to be a bizarre, somewhat sloppy, finish, Rankin had two points deducted – one in the fifth for swinging at Dawson while he was down and again in the seventh for hitting his opponent on the break. Even with the knockdown, Dawson (35-5) still dominated the majority of the rounds, ripping Rankin to the body and using his height and reach advantage to keep the free-swinging southpaw from boxing on the inside.
In the co-main event, co-promoted by CES Boxing and Roc Nation Sports, New Haven featherweight Tramaine Williams (18-0) remained unbeaten with a methodical, 99-91, 99-91, 98-92 unanimous decision win over tough Filipino Neil John Tabanao (17-6). Williams’ hand speed was the difference and he consistently landed two-punch combos while boxing effectively on the outside. There weren’t a lot of long, drawn-out exchanges as neither fighter seemed too eager to box on the inside, but Williams no doubt got the better of his opponent with superior speed and footwork.
In another wildly entertaining bout, Manchester, Conn., junior middleweight Jose Rivera (8-4) won his Connecticut homecoming, defeating Italian slugger Luca Podda (7-4) by unanimous decision, 59-54 on all three scorecards. The two came out throwing haymakers with Podda landing a few solid shots, but once Rivera regained his footing and slowed the fight down, he consistently backed Podda against the ropes and pressed the action. Rivera closed strong and scored a knockdown in the fourth round to seal the fight.
Bridgeport, Conn., lightweight Oscar Bonilla (6-3-2) remained hot, winning his third consecutive bout and second in a row at Foxwoods with a 59-55 unanimous decision across the board against Worcester, Mass., vet Julio Perez (4-4). Bonilla’s work to the body was just too much for Perez to overcome as he maintained a consistent pace from the opening bell.
The female flyweights kicked off the pro card in style with an entertaining, back-and-forth battle as New Haven’s Marisa Belenchia (1-0) earned the win in her professional boxing debut, beating Clearwater, Fla., native Delaney Owen (0-3), by unanimous decision, 40-36, 39-37, 39-37.
An accomplished amateur boxer, Belenchia is also a professional in mixed martial arts, where she currently boasts a 3-0 record. Her win Saturday came less than one month after her third career MMA win, which highlighted the preliminary card of CES MMA 56 in Hartford on May 31.
In what might’ve been his most performance to date, New Bedford, Mass., super lightweight Wilson Mascarenhas (2-1) dominated Philadelphia pro debut Anthony Ramirez (0-1) to earn a 40-36 unanimous decision on all three scorecards. Fighting for the second time since April, Mascarenhas weaved in and out of traffic effectively, using his footwork to baffle Ramirez. The 24-year-old right-hander has now won back-to-back fights since taking a loss in his pro debut.
New Britain, Conn., featherweight Nathan Martinez (4-0) remained undefeated with an impressive unanimous decision win over Minnesota’s Jose Homar Rios (2-7-1) in what turned out to be a fast-paced slugfest with Martinez earning the 40-36 score on all three cards. Rios held his own, even landing a few effective body blows, but Martinez was the aggressor the entire night and simply kept applying the pressure to pile up points on the scorecard.