By John G. Thompson: The title to this article prior to the reading of the decision at Bally’s Event Center in Atlantic City, New Jersey was about to be “Ossie Duran Upsets Gonzales despite Hair Trouble.” Televised on ShowBox: The New Generation, Ossie “The Ghanaian Gladiator” Duran (26-9-2, 10 KO’s) outfought Brandon Gonzales (14-0, 10 KO’s) over the course of eight rounds, and when the announcer read the split decision the crowd responded with a chorus of boos. The only low point in the fight for Duran occurred when his dreadlocks came undone and obscured his vision in a couple rounds.
From Accra, Ghana and now living in Paterson, New Jersey, Duran has never been stopped in the ring. He won his last three bouts including a tenth round TKO in June. A couple of his losses came at the hands of then undefeated fighters Fernando Guerrero and James Kirkland. From Portland, Oregon and now fighting out of Sacramento, California, Gonzales won his last fight via unanimous decision in January. His last three opponents each had only one loss on their records; however, he has not fought anyone of note. At age thirty-four (Gonzales being twenty-seven), and with thirty-eight professional bouts, Duran certainly came into the fight with more experience. Duran had been ten or more rounds sixteen times whereas Gonzales had never been past eight.
Duran really let his hands go in the first round, coming after his younger opponent. Gonzales looked like he was trying to show off good form and defensive prowess while moving away and keeping his shoulder up high in a Mayweather-like defense pattern (Gonzales previously trained with Jeff Mayweather). However, Duran got through his defense with a volume of punches. Duran also managed to block a lot of Gonzales’ counter punches. Duran continued to apply pressure in the second, not neglecting the body. Gonzales seemed to loosen up a bit in the final minute of the third, but Duran outworked him and a cut formed over Gonzales’ left eye. Duran landed a fantastic left hook to the jaw in the fourth and later landed another left hook to the body.
During the fourth round, however, Duran’s dreadlocks came loose and started getting into his eyes. Between rounds Duran’s corner man Virgil Hunter yelled to his assistants, “Somebody got to fix his hair!” As Duran’s hair fell back into his face at the start of the fifth round, Referee Lindsey Page actually stopped the action so that Duran’s corner could fix the problem. It seems as this disadvantage was Duran’s problem, and the referee should not have given him additional time, but the corner was allowed to give him a quick styling before the action continued. Duran probably won the round connecting again with the left hook, while also working the body.
Between rounds Virgil Hunter (who also works with Andre Ward) said to Gonzales, “Brandon, I’m not going to lie to you, man, this fight is close… This is your moment. You want to let it go tonight?” Duran’s jab looked sharp at the start of the sixth, as it had all night, but Gonzales threw more combinations than he had in earlier rounds as his corner instructed him to do. He also started moving around the ring better than before, making Duran miss and countering when he did. Ringside commentator Antonio Tarver said, “Seems like Gonzales has made the adjustment just like his corner asked him… And I have him winning the round.”
Gonzales continued to move well in the seventh, using the ring, and countering. But Duran landed a hard overhand right, one of the best punches of the evening, in the final thirty seconds of the round and then raised his hand in victory after the bell. Hunter said to Gonzales between rounds, “Do you understand – you are going to have a slow plane ride home.” Despite the motivation, Duran continued to connect flush with the jab, his money-shot throughout the evening. The crowd chanted, “Ossie! Ossie!” Gonzales continued to move away from his aggressive opponent, even though it seemed to most watching (including his own trainer) that he needed a knockout to win. Duran kept working the jab and throwing the overhand right and then threw every punch in his arsenal in the final ten seconds of the round.
The usually competent judge Julie Lederman scored the bout 77-75 for Gonzales, drawing the first set of boos from the crowd. The next judge scored the bout exactly as I had it (as did ringside commentator Steve Farhood) 78-74 for Duran, which brought cheers. The final judge scored it 77-75 awarding the split decision to Gonzales and a lot of anger from the crowd. I’m the last writer to throw out phrases like “exposed,” but given his performance and the lack of serious opposition he’s fought thus far in his career, in this case it did appear that Gonzales was somewhat overrated. He never seemed to step on the gas or find that killer instinct he needed to change the momentum of the fight (except for a few moments in the sixth and seventh), content to stick with a failed game plan, even if the judges did not see it that way.
Artemio “King” Reyes (14-1, 11 KO’s) of Colton, California did get his upset victory over Javier “El Intocable” Molina (9-1, 4 KO’s) from Norwalk, California. Upon closer inspection of the two boxers’ resumes, however, Reyes was not the underdog the announcers made him out to be prior to the bout with the then undefeated Molina. Molina became the amateur Junior Welterweight National Champion in 2007 and a 2008 US Olympian, thus the high expectations. Despite the amateur experience, he never fought anyone of note in the professional ranks and his last five straight fights all went the distance.
Reyes won twelve straight (ten by stoppage) since losing a four round unanimous decision to the talented and then 3-0 Mike Dallas, Jr. back in 2008. Though on an impressive winning streak, it is worth mentioning that his wins came against limited opposition as well. His last opponent’s record was 20-21-1 and before that 13-15. This was Reyes’ first fight outside California.
Even though he possessed a height advantage (6’ compared to Molina at 5’9), Reyes came towards the shorter man throughout the evening. Molina started throwing combinations in the second, but Reyes landed the cleaner more effective shots for the most part. He also landed a great combination of his own – a series of uppercuts and hooks to the jaw. For the next few rounds the two continued to trade punches up close at a fast pace, though by no means throwing haymakers.
Molina started coming on stronger in the fifth, but Reyes continued to throw not only more punches, but cleaner punches. Both men looked tired in the seventh round, but continued to exchange. Molina seemed to look for that one big punch in the eighth and final round, probably knowing he needed a knockout, but Reyes kept coming forward throwing punches. And even though there was little pop on those shots from Reyes, his work rate probably won him the round and hopefully more time on TV. Two judges scored it 78-74 and the other 77-75 all for Reyes. It wasn’t quite Gatti vs. Ward, but it was a very entertaining fight thanks to both boxers.