Sunday, August 11, 2019

Summerslam Recap

By Steve Ward

The 32nd installment of WWE’s biggest party of the summer, Summerslam, emanated from the home of the NBA World Champion Toronto Raptors, the Scotiabank Arena. With less than two weeks before AEW presents ALL OUT, their last major pay per view before they premier on TNT in October, and with the upcoming premier of Smackdown on FOX, one was left to wonder if WWE would take this opportunity to push the envelope further with what they’ve labeled as a move to “edgier” programming. The card certainly had no shortage of star power as it featured Brock Lesnar, as well as, ring legends Trish Stratus and Goldberg - both in competition. The nine match card also treated fans to four title bouts headlined by Brock Lesnar pitted against Seth Rollins for the Universal Championship.

RAW Women’s Championship Submission Match
Becky Lynch (c) vs. Natalya
Winner: Becky Lynch via submission

Canada’s own Natalya Neidhart challenged “The Man” for her Women’s Championship as the two proficient submission experts squared off in a submission match to kick off the main card. After a very evenly contested bout, it appeared Natalya would finally earn championship gold again as she cinched in a picture perfect Sharpshooter, however, The Man was able to avert disaster and turned the tables as she locked in The Disarmer for the submission victory.

Goldberg vs. Dolph Ziggler
Winner: Goldberg via pinfall

For several weeks Dolph Ziggler had belittled several WWE legends, most notably Shawn Michaels. At the contract signing this past Monday, Ziggler under the belief that he was signing up to fight The Miz, neglected to read the fine print and found himself obligated to face the legendary Goldberg much to the chagrin of the WWE Universe. It appeared for a brief moment that Dolph would pull off an unbelievable upset as he hit the super kick immediately after the opening bell. With Goldberg laid out, Dolph stood poised to land another super kick, however, Goldberg returned to his feet and intercepted Ziggler with a body-breaking spear. Goldberg immediately followed up with the Jackhammer as he made quick work of Ziggler.

United States Championship Match
A.J. Styles (c) w/ The OC vs. Ricochet
Winner: A.J. Styles via pinfall

Now reunited with his old Bullet Club cohorts, Gallows and Anderson, A.J. Styles defended his United States title this evening-one which he captured from Ricochet last month. Ricochet earned this opportunity after he prevailed in a gauntlet match recently on RAW. In the final moments of the contest, Ricochet vaulted off of the top rope only to be caught by the Phenomenal One who put him away with the Styles Clash for the victory.

Smackdown Women’s Championship
Ember Moon vs. Bayley (c)
Winner: Bayley via pinfall

Ember Moon controlled the tempo of this entire match with her striking ability, however, Bayley picked her shot as she intercepted Ember Moon on the top rope and executed the Bayley to Belly to put the final stamp on her title defense.

Kevin Owens vs. Shane McMahon
Winner: Kevin Owens

KO seemingly had the victory sealed as he executed a senton and frog splash back to back only to have the special guest enforcer Elias disrupt the referee’s 3-count. After Elias was disposed of, KO proceeded to kick Shane-o-mac between the uprights and finished him off with a stunner for the victory and to ensure he kept his job.

Trish Stratus vs. Charlotte Flair
Winner: Charlotte Flair via submission

Stratus entered this match looking as phenomenal as ever and immediately took the fight to Charlotte. This didn’t last long as the Queen quickly assumed control and controlled the tempo for a majority of the match as she mocked the WWE Hall of Famer at every opportunity. Trish attempted a late rally as she landed the Stratusfaction and the Chick Kick but they were not enough to put Flair away. In the end, Charlotte trapped Trish in the Figure Eight for the submission victory. Needless to say, this match did not leave this writer stratusfied.

WWE Championship
Randy Orton vs. Kofi Kingston (c) 
Winner: No contest

This bout was ten years in the making as Kofi accused Randy Orton of holding him back with his backstage influence back in 2009 - apparently this was the best buildup that the writing team  could come up with for a Summerslam championship match. One of the most entertaining aspects of this match didn’t come from one of the performers but rather the crowd as they repeatedly engaged in the chant, “Kofi’s stupid, Randy sucks!” In the closing moments of the match, the most spectacular moment of the contest was spoiled as Kofi leapt off the top rope and got caught with an RKO Outta Nowhere only to roll out of the ring and avoid a potential pinfall. Orton proceeded to follow Kofi out of the ring where he laid in front of his family at ringside. As Orton attempted to embarrass Kofi, the two men were counted out, however, this was not the end as Kofi proceeded to lay waste to the Viper with a kendo stick as he took exception to his actions.

Finn Balor vs. “The Fiend” Bray Wyatt
Winner: The Fiend via pinfall

This evening marked the in-ring debut of Bray Wyatt’s new persona The Fiend. With the exception of some brief offense displayed by Finn late in the contest, this was the definition of a squash match. Finn was finally put out of his misery as Bray shoved his fingers down his throat with a Mandible Claw pinning Balor’s shoulders in the process for the victory.

Universal Championship Match
Brock Lesnar (c) vs. Seth Rollins
Winner: Seth Rollins

This was by far the longest, most competitive match these two men have ever had. The action was fast and furious as each continued to execute their signature moves throughout the match to no avail. The closing moments saw Rollins drop Lesnar to the canvas with a super kick which he immediately followed with a curb stomp as a new Universal Champion was crowned in what may have been Lesnar‘s shortest title reign to date.

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Saturday, August 10, 2019

Sosa Impressive; Adan Gonzales Spoils Cuban Prospect Ramirez's Debut

By Matt Ward, Ringside

Top Rank professional boxing on ESPN+ returned to the Liacouras Center on the campus of Temple University in North Philadelphia on Saturday night. The main event of this action-packed card pitted super featherweights Jason Sosa (23-3-4, 16 KOs) and Lydell Rhodes (27-4-1, 13 KOs) against one another in a ten round contest. Sosa, a former WBA Super Featherweight World Champion, made a big step on the trail to reclaim a world title by stopping tough veteran Rhodes at the 1:08 mark of the seventh round.

The two gladiators fought a close fight through the opening two frames. In the third round, Sosa opened up on Rhodes with a barrage of effective punches to the head and body. This offensive onslaught was highlighted by hard upper cuts that made Rhodes cringe under the pressure. Sosa again went on the attack in the fourth round when he connected with a left hand to the face of Rhodes. Rhodes rallied at the end of the round, landing a multi-punch combo that let Sosa know he was still in the fight.

In the fifth round, Sosa sent Rhodes crashing to the canvas with a left hook to the head. Rhodes managed to pull himself up from the mat, and fight on until the final 30 seconds of the round when Rhodes was punished with a series of Sosa punches to the head that again sent him down to the canvas. An accidental headbutt in the sixth round opened up a cut near Sosa's left eye. Fortunately, the location of this wound had little impact on the Camden native's fight plan and momentum going forward.

The third and final knockdown came in the seventh round when a well-placed Sosa right hand to Rhodes' head sent him crashing to the canvas. Rhodes recovered from the knockdown, but his corner had seen enough of the beat down, and threw in the towel. Referee Benjy Esteves honored the request by waiving off the fight. 

Gonzales Spoils Olympian's Debut

Denver's Adan Gonzales (5-2-2, 2 KOs) spoiled the long anticipated professional debut of Cuban Olympian Robeisy Ramirez (0-1) in a four round featherweight bout. Gonzales, fighting like a man looking for the upset, introduced Ramirez to a pro boxing canvas in the first round with a hard right hand to the head. Ramirez appeared to struggle with Gonzales in the second round, as he continued to apply pressure to the highly successful former amateur fighter. Ramirez, hoping to salvage his night, unloaded on Gonzales at the end of the third round, having to be pulled off of Gonzales after the bell rang. Ramirez fought hard in the fourth and final round, but it was not enough to salvage a win or draw. The judges scored the bout 39-36 for Gonzales, 38-37 for Ramirez, and 40-35 for the winner by split decision, Adan Gonzales. 

Berlanga Extends Kayo Streak to 12

"Knockout Artist" Edgar Berlanga (12-0, 12 KOs) won his twelfth straight fight by way of knockout over Gregory Trenel (11-5-2, 3 KOs) in the first round of a middleweight contest scheduled for eight. Berlanga answered the bell by landing crushing shots on his French opponent. Trenel hit the canvas after Berlanga, a native of New York, connected with a left hook to the head. Trenel hesitantly pulled himself up from the canvas only to be beaten into submission seconds later. Berlanga landed numerous left hands, at will, on the defenseless Trenel. Referee Benjy Esteves saw enough of the massacre at the 2:24 mark of the opening frame.

Philadelphia's Kroll Wins by UD 

Undefeated welterweights Paul Kroll (5-0, 4 KOs) and Shinard Bunch (2-1, 2 KOs) battled through a six round bout. The two men put on a display of speed throughout the opening frame of the contest in front of a crowd that roared with approval. As the first round ended, the referee had to pull Kroll away from the dogfight that was highlighted by great exchanges of multi-punch combos. In the second round, the two men slowed down the pace of the bout.

Bunch unloaded a three punch combo on Kroll in the third. The fourth round kicked off with a exchange of big shots near the center of the ring. Later in this round, Kroll put the pedal to the metal as he aggressively nailed Bunch with a series of multi-punch combos to the head and body, shots that made Bunch slump into the ropes. At this point of the fight, the advantage was seized by Kroll who landed big shots that were responded to by Bunch clinches and wrap-ups. This was especially the case in the fifth round when Kroll connected with a right hook to Bunch's head. Seconds later, Kroll tee'd off on Bunch with a series of shots, but Bunch managed to dance out of the trap on shaky legs. 

In the sixth round, Kroll went into knockout mode chasing Bunch around the ring and swinging wildly at his opponent, missing more than connecting. To the crowd's dismay, Bunch, clearly beat up from rounds of taking damage, managed to stay on his feet. Referee Gary Rosato had to pull Kroll off of Bunch as the bell marking the end of the round rang. The judges scored the bout 58-56 twice and 59-55 for Kroll. 

Conto Sweeps "Game" Del Rio 

Philadelphia's Sonny Conto (4-0, 3 KOs) defeated a tough opponent in Mexico's Guillermo Del Rio (2-3-1, 2 KOs) to the hometown crowd's delight on Saturday night. Conto went on the attack early in the first of this four rounder as he punished Del Rio with straight left and right hands to the head and body. Del Rio was rocked with a big overhand right to the head in the final 30 seconds of the first round, but showed his grit by staying on his feet and surviving the opening the frame. Conto had to deal with Del Rio's clinching and wrapping throughout the second round. As the round neared its end, this strategy turned into wild swinging at Conto that failed to hit its mark. A Conto left hook made Del Rio drop into the ropes, but the Mexican heavyweight again made it to the end of the round.

Sonny landed shots at will on Del Rio in the third which appeared to have a damaging effect on him. Again, to the frustration of Conto and the audience, Del Rio's body did not hit the canvas. The crowd roared "Sonny! Sonny!" in the final round as the Philly heavyweight clubbed Del Rio. Del Rio deaf to the chants of the Liacouras Center, valiantly fought on. As the round neared its end, Conto finally sent Del Rio crashing to the canvas with a left hand to the head. Del Rio, on wobbly legs, pulled himself up for the unanimous decision defeat. All three judges scored the bout 40-35 for the heavyweight prospect Conto.

Smith Dominates Abdullah in Six 

Philly's Donald Smith (10-0, 6 KOs) won his tenth fight as a professional over Colorado's Raheem Abdullah (3-3). Smith controlled the momentum of the featherweight contest throughout the bout, and answered all of Abdullah's attacks with effective multi-punch combos of his own. Smith closed out his dominant performance by hammering Abdullah with right hands to the body as the fight came to a conclusion. The judges scored the fight 59-53 twice and 60-52 for Smith.

Adorno Wins by Kayo

Jeremy Adorno (2-0, 1 KO) defeated Fernando Robles (2-2) by knockout victory in a super bantamweight bout that was scheduled for four rounds. The knockout shot came at the 2:01 mark of the third round when Adorno dropped Robles with a right hook to the body.

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Sunday, July 28, 2019

Iron Boy 52

By Steve Ward, Ringside

The Celebrity Theatre in Phoenix played host to a night of pure pugilistic bliss as Iron Boy Promotions presented Iron Boy 52. After some young fighters from the Phoenix chapter of USA Boxing were given their moment in the spotlight for four amateur contests, the pros took center stage as the capacity crowd bared witness to six exhilarating professional bouts. As always, Iron Boy showcased the finest local talent, primarily from Arizona, as they progress on their young campaigns towards hopeful superstardom.

Allen Navarez (2-2-0, 1 KO) vs. Deshawn Boyd (4-0-0, 2 KOs) Four Rounds, 132 lbs
Decision: Deshawn Boyd via UD (39-37, 39-37, 40-36)

Allen Navarez attempted to bring the fight to Boyd for the duration of round one, unfortunately for him, it was to no avail. Boyd displayed great composure as he played more of a counter-puncher role peppering Navarez with shots each time he was able to avoid his advances all with a smile on his face for the majority of the round. Navarez continued to push the action in round two, however, his reckless abandon did leave him open for a few solid shots from Boyd that he was luckily able to sustain. Rounds three and four saw Boyd begin to answer less of Navarez’ offense, however, the punches he did land were with more conviction as his power game came into play. The judges were all in accordance as the unanimous decision was awarded to Boyd keeping his perfect campaign intact.

Chad Davis (5-15-0, 1 KO) vs. Waldo Cortez Acosta (4-2-0, 2 KOs) Six Rounds, Heavyweights
Decision: Waldo Cortez Acosta via TKO in round 3

Round one of this clash of heavyweights, each from Phoenix, turned into an extended feeling out process. The two fighters stood toe to toe with little to no movement aside from a couple brief flurries. Round two saw an uptick in the action but the most exciting moment of the round arguably was when Davis almost bulldozed Acosta through the ropes in the closing seconds. Acosta was like a man possessed as round three commenced. Acosta proceeded to deliver a vicious barrage of shots to Davis that was capped with a right uppercut that dropped him to the canvas. While Davis was able to answer the referee’s count, Acosta continued his relentless assault which quickly lead the referee to put a stop to the action.

Damarias Russell (0-1-0) vs. Eduardo Ayala (5-0-1, 2 KOs) Four Rounds, 165 lbs
Decision: Eduardo Ayala via TKO in round 2

Marine Corps combat veteran Damarias Russell made his professional debut against the undefeated Eduardo Ayala. Round one showed there would be no feeling out process as the two pugilists went after each other immediately. Russell may have been a bit overzealous as he was quickly knocked down but quickly recovered and immediately snapped Ayala’s head back with a stiff jab. Russell attempted to push the action in round two landing some nice shots, most notably a strong left hook. This wasn’t enough with Ayala’s strong jaw absorbing the brutal blow. Russell again left himself open late in the round and Ayala was able to capitalize with a stiff right to the jaw that again dropped Russell to the canvas. Russell was able to return to his feet but he clearly did not know he was in Phoenix as the referee called a stop to the action.

Vernon Brown (11-1-1, 7 KOs) vs. Roberto Yong (6-17-2, 4 KOs) Six Rounds, 151 lbs
Decision: Vernon Brown via SD (57-56 Yong, 59-54 Brown, 58-55 Brown)

After a rather uneventful first round and a half, the action picked up in the closing moments of round two. Yong decided to drop his hands and showboat a bit which Brown did not appreciate much as he answered with a right hook that dropped him to the canvas. After Yong returned to his feet, Brown trapped him on the ropes and teed off on Yong as he did his best to cover up for the remainder of the round - shockingly without a stoppage by the ref. In round three, Brown was able to continue to put in some solid work as he exploited Yong’s lack of defense with another right hook that rattled his cage but Yong was again able to survive the round. Rounds four through six saw Brown control the tempo of the fight as he continued to cut off the ring and continue to exploit Yong with his right hook much to the chagrin of his corner. To Yong’s credit, he continued to attempt to answer Brown and demonstrated a solid chin throughout the fight. As is often the case with judges from the Arizona Athletic Commission, the decision was a bit questionable as one judge gave the fight to Yong, nonetheless, Brown was able to walk away with the split decision victory.

Co-Main Event
Francisco Dominguez (7-11-1, 1 KO) vs. Jesus Ibarra (9-0-0, 4 KOs) Six Rounds, 126 lbs
Decision: Jesus Ibarra via UD (60-52, 59-53, 60-53)

Dominguez certainly did not come out in round one looking like a fighter with 10 losses as he brought the fight to Ibarra until he was dropped to the canvas with a left hook – one that Dominguez and his corner argued was to the back of the head and they may have had a legit argument. For the next two and a half rounds, Dominguez appeared to slow down a bit until Ibarra snapped his head back with a straight right in round four that reinvigorated him making the second half of this round quite competitive. Dominguez tried to continue to get back into the fight at the onset of round five until another straight right broke through his guard and landed him on the canvas. Perhaps it was fatigue or erring on the side of caution, but rather than pounce on Ibarra, Dominguez elected to strategically pick his punches for the remainder of the round as he firmly asserted control.

Main Event
Omar Garcia (6-9-0, 1 KO) vs. Trini Ochoa (7-0-0, 4 KOs) Six Rounds, 140 lbs
Decision: Trini Ochoa via TKO in round 6

Trini Ochoa demonstrated outstanding ring generalship throughout this fight as he barely allowed Garcia to land any meaningful shots while he kept him at bay with a quite effective jab which he used to open the opportunity for some very effective body work. Garcia also had a tendency to lift his arms in a “V” every time Ochoa landed a combo to his body-while Garcia seemed to be trying to tell Ochoa he wasn’t hurting him, I’d beg to argue that he was more in search of relief for some ailing ribs. In round six, Garcia had a significant cut open up above his right eye from an accidental head-butt that initially caused the ring doctor to be called upon to check him. After Garcia was allowed to continue, Ochoa immediately went after the eye and despite Garcia’s attempts to answer his attack, referee Wes Melton stepped in to call an end to the contest.

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Friday, July 26, 2019

Iron Boy 52 Preview

By Steve Ward

The pugilists of Iron Boy Promotions make their return to Phoenix, Arizona this Saturday evening as the storied Celebrity Theatre plays host to Iron Boy 52. Iron Boy is poised again to satiate the thirst of Phoenix fight fans for top tier sanctioned savagery as they are prepared again to showcase the finest up and coming professional fighters coupled with some grizzled veterans of the squared circle.

The co-main event will pit 21-year old Jesus Ibarra (8-0-0, 4 KOs) as he seeks to remain undefeated against Francisco Dominguez (7-10-1, 1 KO) in a six round bout that will be contested at 126 lbs. Ibarra, a resident of nearby Apache Junction, AZ, will try to continue to build momentum on the heels of his most recent victory – a unanimous decision victory over Isaac Camarillo back in April. Ibarra’s opponent, Francisco “Panchito” Dominguez, a veteran of 18 professional bouts, will seek to right the ship of his career as he is currently riding a seven-fight winless streak with his last victory coming way back in 2010 as he earned a unanimous decision or Arturo Murillo.

In the main event, budding fan favorite Trini Ochoa (6-0-0, 3 KOs) will also strive to remain undefeated in his young campaign as he battles Omar Garcia (6-8-0, 1 KO) at 140 lbs. Ochoa will already be making his third appearance of 2019 after he fought FOUR TIMES in 2018. Ochoa most recently stepped into the ring in April as he made quick work of Elliot Brown with a third round knockout. The 20-year old Ochoa’s opposition will be supplied by 35-year old Omar Garcia. Garcia who goes by the moniker Mr. Power (I must say this may be one of the best ring names I’ve ever seen as it would have perfectly suited a heel character in the 1989 Hulk Hogan classic No Holds Barred – in fact, it’s so incredible that the gentlemen of The Weigh-In may need to bestow it upon our esteemed colleague Justin Dohnson), will seek to return to the win column as he is in the midst of an intimidating six fight losing streak. Garcia last tasted victory in April of 2016 as he earned a unanimous decision over Juan Payta.

The casual fight fan may look at the seemingly mismatched records between some of these fighters and discount the result as being anything but an inevitable victory for the “A side” fighter. An assumption as such would quite frankly be foolish.  These combatants don’t continue to rigorously train to simply get in the ring and lose which is why these action-packed events always provide such a compelling dynamic. Fans not only have the opportunity to witness prospects cut their teeth on the way to potential stardom but also discover whether these young fighters have the grit to overcome some deceivingly stout competition who are not there necessarily to just “lay down” but still have their own hopes of some semblance of glory - despite a seemingly lopsided record.

Don’t deprive yourself of the opportunity to witness all of the action within the intimate confines of the Celebrity Theatre this Saturday! Tickets are still available at starting at only $30, however, if you are not able to come out don’t fret because the fights will be live-streamed on!

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Friday, July 19, 2019

Thomas LaManna Interview

By Luis A. Cortes III

Check out my recent interview with Thomas "Cornflake" LaManna (27-2-1)! 

LaManna will step into the ring for his 31st professional fight this Saturday at the Showboat in Atlantic City. LaManna will square off against Puerto Rico's Carlos Garcia Hernandez (15-21-1) in an eight round bout in the super welterweight division. 

You can stream the interview on both SoundCloud and iTunes

Thomas LaManna Interview with Luis Cortes on SoundCloud

Thomas LaManna Interview with Luis Cortes on iTunes

For more information on this great night of boxing in Atlantic City, visit the Rising Star Promotions official website

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Monday, July 15, 2019

The New Jersey Boxing Scene

New Jersey fight fans will not have to travel far to watch their home grown pugilists this summer as three scheduled fight cards in “The Garden State” will feature homegrown talent.  Leading the parade, 2016 Olympic Silver Medalist Shakur Stevenson headlined a well-attended Top Rank promoted show at the Prudential Center in Newark.

The city of Newark has nothing but love for Stevenson and loudly cheered the 2016 Olympic silver medalist's entrance into the arena. Pumped up for his homecoming celebration, Stevenson,126 lbs, punched the air out of Alberto Guervara, 125.4 lbs of Mazatlan, Mexico, stopping him at 2:37 of the third round. Excited about his homecoming celebration,  southpaw Stevenson started fast dropping Guervar twice during the second before ending it in the next stanza with a double right hook and straight left to Guervara's head.  Stevenson, 12-0 (7 Ko’s), called for a fight with IBF Featherweight champ Josh Warrington afterwards. Guervara returns south of the border with a 27-4 (12 Ko’s) record. 

A bunch of North Jersey ticket sellers were on the undercard . Most prominently seventeen-year-old welterweight Vito Mielnicki, 146 lbs., of Roseland, NJ made his pro debut dispatching Tamarcus Smith, 139 lbs, of Meridian, MS in the first round. Mielnicki has a powerful build for a boxer his age and very quick hands. Press agent Marc Abrams indicated the very popular Mielncki sold over a thousand tickets. Mielnicki starts his senior year at West Essex High School this fall. Smith is now 2-3 (2 Ko’s).

Entering his third year as a professional, John Bauza, North Bergen, NJ, continued to pad his record against inferior competition. The formerly Roc Nation promoted southpaw, Bauza, won a boring eight round decision over Angel Sarinana Gomez, Palacio, MX, in a junior welterweight contest. Bauza is now 13-0 (5 Ko’s). Gomez hovers above .500 at 10-9-2 (4 Ko’s).

Atlantic City boxing savior LaManna Family’s Rising Star Promotions are staging two shows two weeks apart at The Showboat Hotel. On Saturday July 20th, world rated Thomas LaManna headlines the night in a ten rounder. Two other local fan favorites, super welterweight Isiah Seldon and super middleweight Gabriel Pham support the card. LaManna was in negotiations to face former welterweight king Kell Brook on the undercard of Joshua vs Ruiz at Madison Square Garden in June, but Brook would not accept him as an opponent. A rumor circulated that LaManna was in line to challenge WBO Super Welterweight Champ Jamis Munguia for his crown.

On August 3, Rising Star Promotions returns to the ShowBoat Hotel to host the return of the South Jersey bantamweight prospect  Christain Carto. Carto was considered the areas hottest prospect and promoters from around the globe wanted to ink him. Carto won his first seventeen fights, eleven by kayo. One punch from Mexican journeyman Victor Ruiz changed that. Ruiz caught Carto with a shot to the chin that had him knocked out cold before he hit the canvas. The effect of the blow left Carto motionless on the canvas until he was placed on a stretcher and taken to the hospital. An opponent has yet to be named for Carto. In the co-feature, super middleweight Derrick Webster, will make his come back from a one sided loss in Lennox Allen.

LaManna, Carto, and Webster are big draws and both of these shows will undoubtedly sell out.

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Sunday, July 7, 2019

Slammiversary XVII Recap

By Steve Ward

The seventeenth installment of Impact Wrestling’s Slammiversary emanated from a sold out Gilley’s Complex in Dallas, TX this evening. The stacked card featured eight matches and was headlined by Tessa Blanchard battling Sami Callihan in an intergender match. Impact Wrestling continues to put forth a solid product as they have shown true perseverance after several years of turmoil within their ownership structure that had them on the brink of disaster and they needed to deliver again this evening with the quickly evolving landscape of professional wrestling. Impact did just that but only time will tell how things shape up with AEW coming on strong as their weekly tv program debuts on TNT in October, Ring of Honor is maintaining their foothold with their partnership with NJPW, and of course WWE -despite their stale writing and booking- is still the standard bearer in sports entertainment.

TJP vs. Trey Miguel (of the Rascalz) vs. Jake Crist (of OVE) vs. Willie Mack
Winner: Willie Mack via pinfall

The opening contest of Slammiversary was an X-Division fatal four way attraction featuring TJP (T.J. Perkins) in his first pay per view appearance since his return from being buried in WWE on 205 Live. The action was fast and furious and certainly set the tempo for the evening. The body flying action culminated with the 285 lb Willie Mack executing a frog splash on Jake Crist to solidify the pinfall victory.

Impact Tag Team Championship
The Rascalz (Dez & Wentz) vs. LAX (Santana & Ortiz) w/ Konnan vs. The North (Josh Alexander & Ethan Page) (c)
Winners: The North via pinfall

After shockingly losing their tag team titles to The North Friday night at Bash at the Brewery - an Impact Plus event that literally looked like it was in front of a crowd of 100 people at a brewery - LAX entered as the challengers. Unfortunately for The North, the retention of their titles was overshadowed in this one by a bad landing Santana took that required him to be helped out of the arena after the contest.

First Blood Match
Killer Kross vs. Eddie Edwards
Winner: Eddie Edwards

After weeks of mind games initiated by Killer Kross including the destruction of Edwards’ best friend Kenny - the kendo stick - Edwards achieved retribution this evening as he made Kross bleed by raking the splintered edge of a kendo stick across his mouth.

RVD vs. Moose
Winner: Moose

For several weeks, Moose proclaimed that the old legends needed to retire and go away. This generated a brief feud between Moose and The North and ECW originals RVD, Tommy Dreamer, and Sabu. This short lived program seemingly reached it’s climax this evening in Dallas as Rob Van Dam stood toe to toe with Moose. First things first, RVD may be 48 but he certainly can still keep up with the best of them and has aged pretty well considering the wars he’s been in as he doesn’t look much different than the last time he had a significant run in WWE - with the exception of appearing to enjoy a few beers here and there. It appeared RVD would walk out victorious as he had Moose laid out on top of a chair as he scaled to the top rope for the Five Star Frogsplash. As Van Dam took flight, Moose rolled out of the way leaving nothing but unforgiving steel for RVD to land on. Moose jumped to his feet and nailed RVD with the spear for the pinfall.

Impact Knockouts Championship Monster’s Ball Match
Taya Valkyrie (c) vs. Rosemary vs. Su Yung w/ Father James Mitchell vs. Havoc
Winner: Taya Valkyrie

These ladies wasted no time after the opening bell as they rapidly transformed the ring into a visceral playground littered with chairs, ladders, tables, and eventually thumb tacks. Havoc seemed poised to solidify a dominating victory after she Tombstoned Su Yung from the top rope - yes you read that correctly - onto a bed of tacks but Taya Valkyrie returned to the ring and greeted Havoc with a chair to the face. As Havoc rolled out of the ring, Valkyrie covered Su Yung to retain her title.

X Division Championship
Rich Swann (c) vs. Johnny Impact w/ Johnny Bravo
Winner: Rich Swann

Two of the best high-fliers in not only Impact, but potentially all of pro wrestling, squared off for the storied X Division Title this evening. After a fairly even bout where neither man was really able to create much momentum, Rich Swann was able to persevere. In the closing moments of the match, Swann withstood a series of Spanish Flys (the first from the top rope), Starship Pain, and the antics of Johnny Bravo at ringside to answer with two springboard cutters and the Phoenix Splash to retain his title.

Impact World Championship
Brian Cage (c) vs. Michael Elgin
Winner: Brian Cage

Former Ring of Honor and New Japan star Michael Elgin made his in-ring pay per view debut this evening as he challenged “The Machine” Brian Cage for the Impact Heavyweight Championship. Cage wasted no time bringing the fight to Elgin as the first time Elgin rolled to the outside of the ring, Cage ensured there would be no reprieve for him as he ran and vaulted straight over the top rope to the arena floor taking out Elgin and landing on his feet in the process. In the final minutes of the contest, Cage attempted the Drill Claw but his back “went out” and he dropped Elgin. Elgin answered with a buckle bomb and as he hoisted Cage up for the Elgin Bomb, The Machine slipped out and rolled Elgin up for the pinfall. After the match, Elgin assaulted Cage with the title and then dragged Don Callis into the ring from his commentary position. Just before Elgin was going to lay waste to Callis, a masked man entered the ring from the crowd, executed a spear that looked a lot like a Gore (wink wink), and escaped through the crowd.

Intergender Match
Tessa Blanchard vs. Sami Callihan
Winner: Sami Callihan

A rarity in pro wrestling today, at least in televised matches and never in WWE, Impact decided to push the envelope and headlined this pay per view with an intergender match between Sami Callihan and Tessa Blanchard, the daughter of former Four Horsemen member Tully Blanchard. Blanchard made another huge step this evening as she continued her ascension from barely gaining air time in NXT towards becoming a bona fide superstar as she more than hung in with “The Draw.” Blanchard displayed her grit as she took some huge bumps in this bout but also demonstrated her impressive strength as she hoisted Callihan up for a Samoan Drop at one point. In the closing moments, Callihan escaped a crossface submission to finish Blanchard off with a Cactus Special piledriver allowing him to earn the pinfall.

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Thursday, June 27, 2019

The Road to Undisputed Lightweight King Begins

By Luis A. Cortes III

On Saturday night from Temecula California, Top Rank Promotions and ESPN (10 p.m. ET/4 p.m. PT) will broadcast a fight card that’s main event will feature the beginning of the path towards an undisputed king.  The quest for lightweight supremacy begins as IBF lightweight champion Richard Commey (28-2, 22 KO’s) defends his title for the first time against former world champion and grizzled veteran Ray Beltran (36-8-1, 22 KO’s).  When Mikey Garcia decided to vacate the WBC portion of the lightweight crown back in April after his loss to welterweight champion Errol Spence, it meant that the biggest fight in the division between Garcia and the WBA/WBO champion Vasiliy Lomachenko would have to once again be placed on hold.

With Garcia now set to face Danny Garcia at welterweight, it meant that the division could now move on from the unification fight between Garcia and Lomachenko and allow for the rest of the world class talent a chance to stake their claim as the king of the talent rich division.  Lomachenko (a top pound-for-pound fighter) and already a unified champion in the division is clearly the proverbial favorite to be the last man standing when the dust settles.  This brings us back to what will take place this weekend between Commey and Beltran. 

Commey, the hard-punching champion from Ghana, won the IBF portion of the crown in February when he blasted Isa Chaniev with power shots in two rounds to earn the knockout win.  It was supposed to have set up Commey with the chance to unify his titles with Lomachenko in April.  However, due to a hand injury sustained during his title winning victory, it caused a need for surgery and Lomachenko to look elsewhere for his next opponent.

Beltran himself has had to navigate a twisting path towards this opportunity to have his name listed as the divisions king.  It was just last year that Beltran, after a long career that had seen its ups and downs, finally captured a world championship when he defeated Paulus Moses.  In his first defense of the WBO title in August, he dropped a decision to Puerto Rico’s Jose Pedraza.  Going into that fight (like the Commey situation this year), it was believed that with the victory over Pedraza, Beltran would be next in line for Lomachenko and the seven-figure payday that accompanies that type of fight.  Unfortunately for Beltran, Pedraza not only won the WBO title but would get the fight last December with Lomachenko.  With a comeback knockout victory last February, Beltran has now placed himself into a prime position to challenge Commey for another portion of the lightweight crown.   

“Being a world champion is great.  I went back home, and everyone welcomed me at the airport.  It was like a hero’s welcome, it was unbelievable,” stated Commey during the final press conference this week.  “I never try and knock out my opponent.  It comes when it comes.  I believe he’s a strong guy, a tough guy, and so am I.  It’s going to be a good fight, but I’m the champion, and I’m going to keep my belt.”

It’s clear that Commey has taken to the role of favorite for this fight as the champion, but for Beltran being an underdog is par for the course for him at this point in his twenty-year career.  “I feel like I made it the hard way.  Even when the sport or boxing world didn’t believe in me, that’s when I had to believe in myself,” expressed Beltran.  “Nobody gave me an opportunity, I had to go and take it.  I became a world champion and I am fighting for another world title.  It’s not about if people believe in you.  You must believe in yourself.”

Both fighters are clearly focused on the task at hand and through their words one can tell that they are not taking this opportunity to prove that they are elite lightly.  Having both missed out on an opportunity to fight for bigger fight purses, each fighter clearly is aware what victory and defeat can mean to their careers.  What should also be promising for fans is the fact that both men are hard nosed both in their approach to the sport in terms of preparation, but also in how they fight inside of the ring.  They do not shy away from trying to find their opponents and are happy to exchange power shots to inflict punishment.  In other words, get ready for a fight that has the potential to provide fireworks and bombs for as long as the warfare lasts. 

With a fight between the sport’s top young sensation lightweight Teofimo Lopez and veteran Masayoshi Nakatani scheduled for July 19th as an IBF title eliminator, whoever survives the fight on Friday night and steps out of the ring with the IBF title will have his eyes focused on that ring in July.  In fact, Lopez will have his eyes on the ring Friday since he is scheduled to be in California to watch Commey and Beltran do battle from ringside. 

Lopez has not been shy about wanting to prove to the world that his days as “top prospect” are behind him.  He has been vocal in calling out the unified champion Lomachenko and with this road to crowning an undisputed lightweight king getting underway.  Lopez will have his chance with just two victories during the remainder of the year to not only fulfill his dream of becoming a world champion, but also, to put himself in the prime position to challenge Lomachenko to become undisputed champion.

A wild card has been thrown into the mix since there still is that issue of the WBC title being vacant.  While it seemed that Luke Campbell, the former 2012 Olympian, would somehow be involved as one of the fighters with top contender status in the WBC rankings, what became interesting was that the WBC named Lomachenko also as a top contender in their rankings despite holding two other portions of the crown.  As a result, there have been plenty of news circulating that a unification fight between Campbell and Lomachenko tentatively scheduled for late August in London is all but set.  Campbell could walk into a London ring with no titles, and if he were to pull off the mega upset, would walk out of that ring with three of the four portions of the undisputed lightweight crown. 

However, if all goes as expected late this summer across the pond, Lomachenko will add that WBC title to the other two portions of the crown he already holds and will await the fighter who survives this small tournament that gets underway Friday night to decide the IBF title.  Whichever way things will pan out in the division, by this time next year, barring any drastic changes or outside of the ring mishaps, fans of the sport should be happy to know that finally a talent rich division will have the elite champions and contenders fight to crown one undisputed king at lightweight. 

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