Scenes from a fight night at ATLAPA
Many sorts of detours and roadblocks can be encountered on the road to the top of the boxing world. Even with the proliferation of rival organizations that hand out world championship belts, there still isn't that much room at the top.
However, Panamanian boxing has a brilliant history, we are in one of those unusual golden moments of multiple world champions, and the face of the boxer you see above may be destined for our national pugilistic pantheon.
It belongs to Anselmo Moreno, a bantamweight whose nickname from way back is Chemito, but whose boxing trunks bore the moniker "El Martillo" --- The Hammer.
On May 5 at ATLAPA, we really didn't see the devastating punches that would justify Moreno's comparison with a hammer. We did, however, see him defeat Félix Machado, a Venezuelan who has held an IBF world title and went into the night rated number six in his classification by the World Boxing Association.
This was a 10-round battle between two southpaws, rather even over the first four rounds but after that convincingly in Moreno's favor. The up-and-coming Panamanian --- he's 20 years old --- showed discipline and maturity, ignoring Machado's constant taunts, repeatedly moving in to tag the Venezuelan about the face and then moving away to avoid the counterpunches. By the seventh round the Machado corner could see what was going on and increased the pressure, such that in that asalto and the next it was Moreno doing the counterpunching, then ducking away from his opponent's blows. In the final two rounds Machado had tired, and Moreno poured it on. It was one hell of a slugfest, which Moreno won. The judges called it unanimously for Moreno, and none of them scored it as particularly close.
There was no world championship at stake on this night, and consequently we didn't have the preening celebrities out to be seen, although there were a few notables on hand from the worlds of mass communications, politics and aristocratic families. There are true boxing fans in those circles, too, and that's the crowd that came to ATLAPA for this Friday night's bouts. The cheap seats were $6, or a buck less than that if bought before the day of the event. I was in a very good spot for $20, and could have been there for five bucks less had I bought my ticket earlier. Senior citizen discounts applied here as well, making this an economical as well as entertaining night on the town.
The penultimate bout was the night's controversial one. In that junior flyweight contest Venezuelan Edgar Velásquez, rated number 11 by the WBA, took on Colombian Kermín Guardia, who has held world championships in two other classifications. Guardia, a left-hander, knocked Velásquez down in the second round and thereafter ran, clinched and countered, sitting on the lead he got from that one early punch. In the sixth and seventh he picked up the pace ever so slightly, and I had Velásquez coming back to win the eighth just barely and the ninth substantially, and Guardia winning the last round. On my card I had it scored 98 to 95 for Guardia, but the judges came back with a split decision, one of them calling it a draw and the other two a win for Velásquez. A lot of people in the crowd voiced their displeasure with the decision, so I guess I was not alone. It seems that the judges reacted against the strategy of trying to sit on a lead gained in the second round.
In the match before that, we hardly got to see anything. Juan Mosquera and Edison Teherán sparred inconsequentially in the first round, and then just a few seconds into the second, the ref called in the doctor and the fight was stopped. It was not a bad call, just one of those things that happen in boxing. As you can see above, Teherán had a hole torn into his left eyelid and it was a bloody mess that should not have been and was not allowed to be aggravated into a permanent serious disfigurement.
The previous bout was an exciting contest between Joel Cerrud and Armando Rojas for the national super featherweight belt, which the former went into the ring wearing. It was a slugfest from start to finish, with Cerrud retaining his belt by unanimous decision.
Before that we had another fight stopped in the second round by the doctor because of a busted up eye, but in this case Porfirio Carrasco had less to be disappointed about than did Edison Teherán. Ameth Díaz had totally dominated him from the opening bell, so there was no sense wondering "what if?" here.
Prior to that we saw another in a long line of competent shows by William González, shown above. He's a fine athlete who was raised in Chiriqui and lives in Santiago, and who despite the longer reach of his opponent Juan Quezada moved in, bobbed, weaved, ducked and above all punched his way to a unanimous decision. They keep calling him " the white hope," which is a foolish thing, but surely in the seventh of this eight-rounder González proved that white guys can be headhunters too. At the end of the night González, never the sort of fighter who causes you to say "wow!," was possessed of an 18-2-1 professional record. The thing is, the few times he hasn't won have been his matches with men on the fringes of world championship quality.
The night's second bout had Alfonso Mosquera pounding on Colombian Jairo Siris, twice flooring him in three rounds until the referee stopped the fight.
In the opening contest Renán "Bam Bam" Acosta took an easy unanimous decision over Colombian Edison Jiménez. And actually, although this was just the opening fight in a night where the shining star fought last, Acosta will get his title shot before Moreno does. He's scheduled to fight for the WBA featherweight crown in Jakarta in July.
The next big date on the national boxing calendar is May 20, when Roberto "La Araña" Vásquez defends his WBA junior flyweight crown against Venezuela's Noel Arambulet at ATLAPA. There won't be any free TV coverage of this event, only pay-per-view, a novel thing for Panama. Get your tickets, which range in price from $8 general admission to $60 ringside, in advance at Audiofoto.