By Darryn Albert
The sweet science returned to the City of Glendale, California over the weekend in style. After a 62-year municipal ban that barred the sport of boxing from the entire Glendale community, Glendale Fight Night took place on Saturday night at the Glendale Civic Auditorium. The 5th such professional boxing show since the ban was lifted, the event featured 10 bouts of hard-nosed, in your face action as the fighters made up for what they lacked in name recognition with heart and tenacity. The card was promoted by Art of Boxing Promotions in conjunction with Bash Boxing and Top Rank and it definitely gave a sold-out audience its money’s worth.
One of the first fights of the evening was a 6 round welterweight affair as Mesa, Arizona native Saul Benitez was defeated in a unanimous decision by the Liverpudlian Liam Vaughn. Vaughn, a protégé of famed trainer Freddie Roach (who was in attendance in Vaughn’s corner for the fight), picked his spots to perfection and picked apart his often wild opponent. Benitez was the more offensive fighter and tried to strike first by going low on the Brit but Vaughn, a defensive master, waited for Benitez to open himself up, then tagged him with well-timed counter punches. The fight featured many exciting exchanges in the middle of the ring but in the end, it was Vaughn’s combos and counters that bested Benitez’s hooks and uppercuts. Vaughn was the more poised fighter, standing his ground and blocking several of Benitez’s shots with his gloves and his arms. He developed a nice 4 punch L-R-L-R combo that he was able to get off with regularity thanks in a large part of the aimlessness of Benitez’s jabs which allowed Vaughn to keep close. When the bell sounded at the end of the 4th and final round, two judges had it a clean sweep at 40-36, and one judge had it 39-37 all for the winner by unanimous decision: Liam Vaughn. Vaughn improved to 9-2 while Benitez suffered his 6th professional defeat, falling to 3-6-1.
Another one of the evening’s exciting fights featured a battle of Luises as Luis Diaz of Puerto Vallarta, Mexico battled Luis Sedano of Duarte, California in a 4 round lightweight bout. Sedano was in attack mode from the get go as he relentlessly pursued his opponent around the ring from the opening bell. However, that strategy worked against him in the first round as Diaz, who could pass as a Carlos Boozer doppelganger, used Sedano’s own aggression against him and floored him with a picture-perfect counter. Credit to Sedano though as he didn’t alter his gameplan after touching the canvass. Refusing to be intimidated even after get knocked down, Sedano came back and won the last 3 rounds as he set the pace with his left jab and found the soft-spots in Diaz’s defense. Sedano snapped Diaz’s head back a couple of times and made him eat a ton of hard combination shots. He stayed aggressive while Diaz was the one who became flustered, finding himself with his back to the ropes and even switching his own stances recklessly. The crowd admired Sedano’s heart and got behind him chanting his nickname “Smokey! Smokey! Smokey!” His head movement got better as the fight progressed and it was just an all-around great comeback performance. Sedano wound up taking this one by unanimous decision as the 3 judges scored the fight 38-37, 38-37, and 38-36 in his favor as he picked up his 3rd professional victory as he jumped to 3-0 and Diaz fell to 1-1.
The main event of the evening pitted knockout artist Jose Felix Jr. against journeyman Alejandro Rodriguez. The 8 round super featherweight bout was another good one as Felix Jr. impressed with his bounce and footwork while Rodriguez also impressed with his willingness to stand toe-to-toe with his opponent. It soon became clear, however, who was the better fighter as Felix Jr. bounced and pounced all over Rodriguez who kept his hands up but left enough a gap between them for Felix Jr. to pound his head. Felix Jr. seemed to have outshot his opponent by at least a 3:1 ratio as they were really fighting his fight. Felix Jr. would tag, tag, tag, then reset as Rodriguez would just take it. When Rodriguez did attack, his punches were robotic and could be seen from a mile away. Meanwhile, his jabs often drew nothing but air while Felix Jr. tagged and countered and tagged and countered him to death. In the 3rd and 4th rounds, Rodriguez began bleeding profusely from his nose/mouth area and maybe the sight of his own blood invigorated him as he came back to win Round 4 with a burst of aggression that got Felix Jr. on the ropes. But it was short-lived as Felix Jr. soon began landing with the same accuracy and devastation that characterized his entire evening. The fight ended prematurely, however, as Rodriguez appeared to injure his arm in the 6th round, forcing the referee to stop the fight. Later reports claimed that Rodriguez had broken a finger or an arm and it was an anti-climactic ending to what was an otherwise brilliant fight. Felix Jr. officially claimed the victory by TKO, his 27th for an improvement to 27-2-1 as Rodriguez suffered his 15th defeat to fall to 21-15.
One final fight had a battle of undefeateds squaring off as San Antonio native Benjamin Whitaker got in the ring with Lithuanian fighter Egidijus Kavaliauskas. On paper, the 6 round welterweight contest seemed to be a balanced fight but it turned out to be one of the more lopsided ones of the evening. Whitaker, nicknamed “The Blaxican” looked wobbly and off-balance the entire fight. He looked ready to fall over when he was the one attacking and his footing looked even more unstable when Kavaliauskas tagged him. Whitaker bounced off the ropes wildly the entire fight and often clung and clinched to his opponent to prevent himself from falling. He had absolutely no jab and either tried to dodge or absorb all of Kavaliauskas’ punches rather than countering. Whitaker stuck to almost entirely left hooks and towards the end, his approach could be summed up somewhere along the lines of “hang on for dear life” or “run for the hills.” Kavaliauskas, a Robert Garcia fighter, didn’t have much of a right hand himself but he timed Whitaker well and drew blood on him by the middle rounds. Kavaliasukas’ overhand rights were the single best punch of the fight and he knocked down Whitaker once in the 3rd round and twice in the 5th round, the latter of which Whitaker could not get up from. The KO put an exclamation point on Kavaliauskas’ evening as he moved to 7-0. Whitaker suffered his first professional defeat and dropped to 7-1.
All in all, it was a wildly entertaining evening at the Glendale Civic Auditorium. The fighters put on a great show for the fans and the energy level was on full blast the entire evening. Boxing is back in black in the City of Glendale and we can look forward to a lot of high-octane ringcraft in the city for many years to come. Score this one a unanimous decision victory for boxing fans everywhere.