2006 has been a disastrous year thus far for the New Jersey-based promotional company Main Events. Their long-time Atlantic City cash-cow Arturo “Thunder” Gatti was annihilated by Carlos Baldomir—maybe he’s got one farewell fight left in him. Fernando Vargas, the outfit’s West Coast earner, is also finished; he might be good for more lucrative paydays, but the 28-year-old’s body is no longer fit for much more than 18 holes of golf. The pre-law college student/action-fighter Juan Diaz has become the new jewel in Don King’s crown.
All that’s really left for the company are three fighters, who may or may not develop into champions: heavyweight Calvin Brock, fighting Wladimir Klitschko at Madison Square Garden on Nov. 11th; the promising but green featherweight Jason Litzau,; and last but not least, welterweight Joel Julio, a Colombian transplant who was named 2005 Prospect of the Year by ESPN.com’s Dan Rafael.
Julio boasts an amateur record of 85-0. Just 21, he came to the States last year a 21-0 (18) pro. He disposed of trial horses Carlos Vilches, Christopher Henry and Hicklet Lau in impressive fashion, extending his knockout streak. He then notched a couple more wins at the beginning of this year.
Colombia is known for producing fearsome punchers, but ones lacking in fundamentals. They rarely go far when they face the elite. They tend not to have solid amateur backgrounds, and their records are built on soft opposition. Julio seemed different, though. Yes, he could punch and had the expected killer instinct, but he was a calculating and economical hunter. June 24th was to be his official unveiling, even though he’d already appeared on ShoBox and ESPN2. He was to face southpaw Carlos Quintana on HBO’s Boxing After Dark. Although Quintana was also undefeated, it was assumed Julio would get by him and perhaps earn a title shot by the end of this year.
Ah, the best-laid plans…. Quintana gave him a boxing lesson, winning a UD. Julio’s performance was alarmingly listless and uninspired. (Judge Patricia Morse Jarman’s score of 115-112 was disgraceful; anything less than 118-110 should raise eyebrows.)
The Spanish channel televised Julio’s comeback last Friday from the Miccosukee Resort & Gaming in Miami, Florida. His opponent, Cosme Rivera, looked like a safe bet. Most fight fans’ memories of him are from the televised undercard of Trinidad-Wright in 2005, when Zab Judah knocked him down three times before it was stopped in the third. But Rivera, now 30-10-2 (21), is either better than we realized, or perhaps Julio was not worthy of the hype?
Christmas came early for Julio this year. He was awarded a split decision—112-115, 113-114 and 115-112— that could have just as easily gone the other way. He was also hurt several times in the 12th before getting dropped. I had it 114-113 for Rivera.
It was not an exciting fight. The first four rounds were fairly close, with neither getting off anything big. The tall (about 6’0’’), stringy Rivera upset Julio whenever he presented a moving target. Julio does best when he’s set to punch and is not especially fleet of foot. But Rivera also had some success in the fifth and sixth when he took it to Julio. Straight punches did the trick most of the time. His best combo was a left hook that reached around toward the kidneys, followed by a jarring uppercut and left hook.
The fighters circled each other clockwise in the seventh, each seeming to wait on the other. Julio’s best round came next. However, a left-right from Rivera just before the bell erased much of the previous three minutes of work. A shaken Julio held on for the last few ticks.
Rivera received the worse end of a clash of heads in the ninth. The action was stopped to examine the cut. I haven’t seen enough of Julio to know if the butt was by design. The subsequent overhand right that landed on Rivera’s tender head certainly was. Rivera was undaunted and had Julio running from him in the 10th. Toward the end of the round, Julio mixed in some good jabs with the running. It served him well.
In the 11th Julio was back to running more than boxing, as Rivera brought the fight. The final round was by far the best. Rivera hurt him with a number of rights. Julio kept away as long as he could. A nice combo—right to the stomach and two jolting left uppercuts up top—near the end of the round severely hurt the prodigy. Too bleary to run, he was forced to stand and trade. A wild overhand right caught him high on the forehead and he visited the canvas—for the first time in his career, as far as I know. Between the count and some wise holding on his part, Julio made it though those stormy last seconds.
With youth on his side, Buddy McGirt in his corner, and a record of 28-1 (24) doesn’t sound so bad, in the last four months Julio’s stock has fallen faster than Kripy Kreme doughnuts. Anything less than a sensational win over Rivera would be a letdown. Main Events V.P. Carl Moretti looked to be having a cow as he waited for the scores to be read. He didn’t look much better upon hearing the verdict—like us, the bald, bespectacled, beleaguered matchmaker was still left wondering, Whadda we got in this kid?
Bantam Cecilio Santos won a UD 12 over Alex Baba.
Jnr. welter Lenin Arroyo scored a UD 6 over Haider Berrio.
Jnr. lightweight Carlos Claudio got a UD 6 over Carlos Perez.
Jnr, welter Amaury Torres won a UD 4 over Devarise Crayton.
Middleweight Oriol Martinez got a UD 4 over Henry Cruz.
Crusier Vincent Miranda got a UD 4 over Hilario Guzman.