Lightweight Lightning Lives Up to Its Billing

Boxing fans got what they came for last Saturday night

When it comes to boxing, two names come to mind, Jesus Chavez and James “Mandingo” Kirkland, but on Saturday night at the Frank Erwin Center Austin was introduced to the Lightweight division in what was one of the most action-packed fight cards of the year. Lightweight Lightning, as the card was billed, definitely lived up to its name and even if it did start out like frozen molasses, hopefully it will encourage more promoters to bring their fights to the city of Austin.

As my wife and I entered the Frank Erwin Center we found out that our tickets were in the nosebleed section, not that it mattered much since the first five fights were so boring the round-card girls were getting more cheers than the boxers in the ring. Of course you can’t really blame the fans; boxing matches are one of the few places other than a strip club where you can see a woman wearing a bikini and high heels. If you don't believe me just try asking your girlfriend to throw on a pair of heels the next time you go to the beach and see what happens.

After the fifth fight mercifully ended in a no decision, visions of a wasting a c-note on a series of boring-ass hug fests were starting to linger. Luckily for Golden Boy Promotions and the fans, in the sixth fight lightweight prospect Adrien Broner broke the monotony by knocking out Angel Rodriguez in spectacular fashion. The best part was that Broner’s knockout invigorated the restless crowd and also signaled the end of the nontelevised portion of the fight card. Why did that matter? Well if you’re like me and have never been to a televised fight, the best way to describe the difference between the televised and nontelevised portions is to imagine if you went to a Spurs game and were forced to watch local pick-up players play for two straight hours before the NBA players came on the court to play.

As an added bonus to finally witnessing the first knockout of the evening, fans in the nosebleed seats were invited to come down and fill up the stands behind the ring so that the arena looked full for the pay-per-view telecast. I can’t even begin to tell you how cool this was, because in a matter of minutes our view went from watching a couple of ants battle in a matchbox, to basically being close enough to see the blood and sweat flying off the fighters' faces.

This was a good thing because the seventh fight between Julio Diaz and Rolando Reyes had everything that I look for in a fight. Two legitimate contenders, two fighters who are more interested in kicking ass than looking pretty, and of course a knockout! It took a while for the action to get started and the fans let the fighters know by booing them like it was amateur night at the Apollo, but in the fifth round Reyes caught Diaz with a vicious counter that crushed the former champ like an empty beer can.

The eighth fight between the 2004 Olympic Silver Medal winner Vicente Escobedo and 38-year-old veteran Carlos Hernandez was just an all-out brawl. Ecobedo dropped Hernandez in each of the first two rounds, but Hernandez battled back and even knocked Escobedo down in the seventh round. Replays showed that Hernandez had stepped on Escobedo’s foot but the crowd didn’t care because the fight was just too exciting. In the end Escobedo won the fight, but in going the distance Hernandez showed the kind of heart that legends are made of.

Up next was the Katsidis vs. Chavez fight. When Austin-based Jesus Chavez came out of his dressing room the Frank Erwin Center absolutely exploded. It was like a rock star had taken the stage as the fans stood and cheered for the local hero. Katsidis, for his part, played the role of villain well coming out to boos in his trademark (and dorky) Spartan warrior helmet. Once the theatrics were finished Chavez and Katsidis traded haymakers for four straight rounds before a cut from an accidental head butt opened up a gash in Chavez’s hairline. From that point on Chavez fought desperately to take out Katsidis but the Australian fighter was just too fast and too strong. Chavez battled valiantly, but after the seventh round Katsidis' punches had taken their toll and his corner alerted the referee that he was unable to continue. It was a fitting end for Chavez who announced his retirement from boxing after the fight ending a career that featured world titles in the junior lightweight and lightweight divisions.

After the Chavez fight it felt like all of the air had been taken out of the arena and the disappointed Austin fans seemed ready to call it a night. But then Edwin Valero and Antonio Pitalua entered the ring to fight for the world lightweight title and we all caught our 10th wind. Anytime you get to witness a fight that features a fighter (Valero) that looks like a former member of Menudo gone bad and another fighter (Pitalua) that looks like one of the villains from Miami Vice (the Eighties version), you have to be excited, right? Both fighters were known as knockout artists, but it was Valero that proved to be the bigger badass when he flattened Pitalua with a flush left hand that left the fighter struggling to find his feet. Pitalua managed to beat the count, but he would’ve been better advised to stay on the mat as Valero dropped him twice more before the referee mercifully called an end to the fight in the second round.

Valero’s devastating knockout was a fitting end to an amazing boxing card that lived up to the billing of “Lightweight Lightning." Hopefully Golden Boy Promotions will return to Austin and give boxing fans a repeat performance, soon.

A note to readers: Bold and uncensored, The Austin Chronicle has been Austin’s independent news source for almost 40 years, expressing the community’s political and environmental concerns and supporting its active cultural scene. Now more than ever, we need your support to continue supplying Austin with independent, free press. If real news is important to you, please consider making a donation of $5, $10 or whatever you can afford, to help keep our journalism on stands.

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