By Nathan Mayberg
MONTICELLO January 17, 2006 An estimated crowd of over 1,000 people gave a standing ovation following the eight-round finale between defending New York State Lightweight Champion Freddy Soto and Jose Cruz at Friday nights six-bout professional boxing card at Monticello Raceway.
The standing-room only crowd was enthusiastic throughout the six fights and appeared thrilled with the boxing, which ended with Soto of the Bronx, losing a unanimous decision to the impressive Cruz, who hails from Rochester. However, Sotos title was not on the line for the fight.
In addition, several prolific boxers were in attendance and posed together inside the ring for photographs. Former middleweight and light heavyweight champion Iran Barkley, the only boxer to defeat Tommy Hearns twice, joined former local champions Leona Brown (three-time ladies champ), Tracy Patterson, Lou Savarese, New Jersey Boxing Hall of Fame enshrinee Bobby Cassidy and Belfast heavyweight Beil Sinclair in the ring for photos and applause.
Former junior welterweight champion Billy Costello judged five fights on the card but did not pose for photos inside the ring.
Cruz was a devastating puncher, who nearly knocked out the stubborn Soto with multiple face and head shots. Both fighters came out swinging from the bell with Cruz reminding some of legendary boxer Tommy Hearns, in the way he took and returned punches. From the beginning of the bout, Cruz appeared to have an edge with his big overhand rights. In the early going, the two did not concern themselves with defensive technique that much, as they went blow for blow and both fighters connected with strong punches.
In the third round, Soto moved ahead of Cruz in the match when he cut open Cruzs right eye, drawing blood on both men. But his advantage was short-lived. Cruz overtook a tiring Soto in the following rounds.
Cruz connected at a high rate with powerful hits to the head and face of Soto. Cruz threw uppercuts and combinations at Soto, which surprisingly did not take him down.
By the final rounds of the fight, Sotos hands had little left in them. His punches were weak and ineffective. But in the final seconds, he threw a barrage of punches towards Cruz, which excited the crowd and earned the two pugilists a standing ovation. The unanimous decision by the judges gave the win to Cruz, a Columbian native, who improved his record to 10-2-1 with 6 knockouts.
Soto dropped to 8-2-2 with 5 KOs.
Afterwards, Cruz called the battle a strong fight. I fought a good opponent. I had good preparation and a clear mind.
He said he works out everyday by running, doing push-ups and calisthenics. He said he doesnt lift weights..
The second most exciting match of the night was clearly the eight-round middleweight showdown between the Polish-native Pawel Wolak of Rockaway, New Jersey and Clarence Taylor of Delaware. Wolak won a unanimous decision by relentlessly attacking the body of Taylor with heavy blows to his sides and rib cage.
Wolaks tremendous body attack, which recalled an older style of fighting, overcame a cut he suffered near his right eye at the hands of Taylor. After Wolak was cut, Taylor became more aggressive, as the two engaged in shot for shot action, with hard head blows being delivered by both.
Between fights, Barkley took a couple minutes to speak of his glory days and the state of boxing today. He said he was not allowed to hold on to his title as long as todays champions are. Back then, he was forced to defend his title every month. In contrast, he said todays boxers can pick and choose who they face more easily.
Costello, who suffered only two defeats in his impressive 42-bout career, also talked about boxing after the fight. Costello defeated former champions Saoul Mamby, Leroy Haley and Juan Laporte over his career. His only defeats came at the hands of the legendary Alexis Arguello and Lonnie Lightning Smith, who defeated him for the title in 1985.
Costello said todays fighters did not match up to those of yesteryear, including his own era. He said they lacked the fundamentals and were not properly trained. He said their preparation was lacking and they made many mistakes.
The former champ called the late Hall of Fame boxer Sugar Ray Robinson the greatest fighter he had ever seen. He said Robinson was an advanced boxer for his time. Robinson won all of his amateur fights (about 90) before going pro. Robinson fought more than 300 times in his career and was 134-3 after his first retirement in 1955. His wins included legendary matches against Hall of Famers Jake LaMotta, Carmen Basilio, Henry Armstrong, Kid Gavilian, Rocky Graziano, Gene Fullmer and Fritzie Zivic.
Costello said Robinson was more of a boxer, while he called himself more of a puncher. Costello said his best punch was his left hook. He considers Bernard Hopkins and Ricardo Lopez to be two of the greatest fighters over the last 15 years.
In the opening fight of Friday nights card, middleweight Jose Rodriguez of New York City kept his undefeated record by punishing Esteban Cordova of Rochester in a four- round unanimous decision.
Rodriguez improved to 4-0 with 1 KO, while Cordova slipped to 3-3-0, 2 KOs.
In the other events Friday night, the undefeated heavyweight Carlos Sanchez of Washington Heights, knocked out an overmatched Ouafa Jindyeh of Brooklyn, who was making his pro debut. Sanchez delivered a left hook to the ribs of Jindyeh in the second round. The shot forced Jindyeh to remain on the mat for several minutes as he was attended to by doctors.
However, Jindyeh eventually walked off and appeared to be fine.
In a matchup of two junior middleweights making their second professional start without a win, Dwayne Hall of Rochester picked up a unanimous decision over Mike Ruiz of Freeport. Although things began about even, Hall dominated the second half of the match and nearly knocked out Ruiz with some tough punches that sent Ruiz stumbling backwards.
The fourth fight was between junior middleweights Adam Czacher of Coram and Geovany Diaz of the Bronx, who was making his debut. Czacher was clearly the more experienced fighter and finished with a flurry of shots over Diaz. Czacher picked up his first win in his third fight by unanimous decision.
Cliff Ehrlich, Vice President of Empire Resorts, said these are exciting fights.
There is a lot of action, he added. The people were happy. Nothing electrifies the crowd more than a fight.
More boxing is expected in the future at Monticello Raceway. The next card is set for April and an outdoor boxing card is scheduled to be held this summer at the raceway.
One of the main draws of Friday nights card had to be cancelled. A womens fight between Jaime McGrath of Long Island, who is the undefeated former national and international amateur womans champion in the 112-pound weight class, and Marisol Miranda (2-4) of Fort Lauderdale, Fla. could not be held because Miranda failed a physical earlier last week, according to promoter Bob Duffy.
Duffy said he flew in Miranda but did not expect her to fail the physical. He apologized to the crowd, as did New York State Athletic Commission Chairman Ron Stevens.