Welterweight Jimmy Williams of New Haven, Conn., started a new win streak Saturday with a controversial unanimous decision win at Foxwoods Resort Casino.
Headlining in an exciting pro-am card promoted by CES Boxing at the Fox Theater, Williams (16-1-1) earned a 78-74 win on all three scorecards over Enver Halili (10-2) of the Bronx, much to the dismay of the sold-out crowd, which felt Halili had done enough to get the nod.
Judges Eddie Scuncio, Richard Flaherty and Peter Hary scored the fight, a back-and-forth battle between two regional veterans who continued to scrap until the final bell. Williams had the height advantage, but didn’t do enough to establish his jab, allowing Halili to cut off the ring brilliantly and work the body effectively in the middle rounds.
Williams had a hard time using his distance to his advantage and Halili stayed aggressive throughout, fighting his way through glancing blows by Williams to land cleanly on the inside. The win was Williams’ second in a row since suffering his first career loss early in 2018, a setback that ended his previous 11-fight unbeaten streak.
Anchored by a sturdy chin and a relentless, come-forward attack, junior middleweight Anthony Lenk(16-5) of Niagara Falls proved to be too much down the stretch for New Haven’s Edwin Soto(13-4-2), earning a unanimous decision win, 78-74 on all three scorecards.
Soto looked sharp in the opening round, landing short, but effective, hooks upstairs, but Lenk walked through everything, which became a reoccurring theme as the fight progressed. Lenk pressed the action from the opening bell, which left him open for some hard counter punches by Soto, but Lenk never wavered, taking Soto’s best for eight rounds. Soto regained his composure momentarily in the sixth, but Lenk remained unharmed, having built up enough of a lead in the middle rounds to earn the win on the cards.
Soto lost for the first time since 2014, snapping a four-fight win streak, while Lenk won for the first time since last September.
Stealing the show on the undercard, Springfield, Mass., welterweight Derrick Whitley(4-0-1) and Sharad Collier (1-0-1) of Hartford, Conn., fought to draw in a close-knit six-round war. Eddie Scuncio had it 59-55 in favor of Collier, Richard Flaherty scored it 58-56 in favor of Whitley and Peter Hary had it even.
In just his second pro fight, Collier stood toe-to-toe with the more experienced Whitley and began to find his groove after losing the opening round. Neither fighter tried to establish much distance, leading to an entertaining, back-and-forth battle featuring several high-powered exchanges in the center of the ring.
Whitley got head-butted accidentally in the third round, opening a cut over his right eye. The ringside physician examined it closely and allowed Whitley to continue. The last two rounds were so close that neither of the three judges had the same card. Scuncio gave the final two rounds to Collier, Flaherty gave the edge to Whitley and Hary had it split with Whitley winning the fifth and Collier earning the draw by squeezing out the final round.
The knockout of the night belonged to New Haven super middleweight Elvis Figueroa(6-0, 3 KOs), who pieced together his most complete performance with a third-round stoppage against previously Leemont Johnson(6-1). Figueroa dominated from the opening bell, working the body and backing Johnson against the ropes with overhand rights. In the third, Figueroa came out firing again with a right hook to the ribs and more combinations upstairs. Johnson found himself on the ropes a second time, but had no answer for Figueroa’s flurries, prompting referee Al LoBiancoto stop the bout 49 seconds into the round.
The female bantamweight showcase also did not disappoint as Ledyard, Conn., native Marcia Agripino (3-1-1) earned her second consecutive win, narrowly defeating Canada’s Stephanie Essensa(3-2-1) by majority decision, 60-54, 58-56, 57-57. As expected, the two exchanged haymakers for six hard rounds, with Agripino closing the fight with a spirited rally in the sixth. Hary had Agripino winning all six, while Scuncio and Lombardi agreed on Essensa taking rounds two and five. Agripino won for the second time since June while Essensa suffered only her second pro defeat and first since 2016.
Making his Foxwoods debut, Taunton, Mass., welterweight Marqus Bates(5-2) won his third consecutive bout in a wildly-entertaining slugfest with Bridgeport, Conn., vet Carlos Hernandez(3-3-1), earning a 59-55, 58-56, 57-57 majority decision win.
Bates landed cleaner, more effective blows in spurts, but Hernandez continued to press forward, landing occasional counter shots to keep himself within striking distance. Bates was at his best in the first three rounds and Hernandez found his second wind in the fourth before Bates regained control in the fifth and final round. Flaherty and Frank Lombardi scored it in favor of Bates while Hary again had it even, giving Hernandez two of the final three rounds, including the sixth.
Fighting for the first time professional, Danbury, Conn., native Geoffrey Then(1-0, 1 KO) scored the upset of Providence’s Nicky DeQuattro (3-2), stopping DeQuattro 41 seconds in the second round. A professional Muay Thai and mixed martial arts fighter, Then looked comfortable in the ring, landing at will in the opening round as DeQuattro failed to establish his defense. Then opened the second equally as aggressive and eventually backed DeQuattro into a corner, unloading with combinations before LoBianco stopped the bout.
Debuts Calixto Cruz(1-0) of Springfield, Mass., and Joseph Santana(0-1) of Providence opened the nine-bout card with a thrilling, back-and-forth lightweight bout with Cruz winning by unanimous decision, 39-37, 40-36, 39-37.
Cruz, the more accomplished amateur, got off to a fast start, stalking down Santana as he tried to circle the ring and box from a distance, but Cruz remained persistent and eventually worked with his way to the inside, where he landed effective body shots to soften Santana’s defense. Santana had his best round in the third, but Cruz closed the show with a strong final three minutes to earn his first career win.
Also making his professional debut, Bridgeport’s Jacob Marrero (1-0, 1 KO) dominated California’s Fierce Taylor(0-3), scoring the win by knockout at the 2:30 mark of the second round. Marrero outworked his opponent in the opening round and then closed with a flurry along the ropes, the last series of shots sending Taylor crashing to the canvas just as referee Benjy Esteves waved it off.