While it wasn’t the largest fight card ever rolled out for a boxing match at the Emerald Queen Casino, the level of intensity at the Battle at the Boat 116 easily made up for the smallish six-bout fight bill on Saturday, June 9. With local favorites and some newcomers entering the ring, the night offered up some heart-stopping action that will be remembered for quite some time.
To top it all off, the main event would pit two undefeated fighters against each other. Unless the two boxers fought to a 10-round draw, one of them was going to leave the EQC with the first blemish on their professional resume.
One of the most exciting fighters to enter the ring in recent years for the Battle at the Boat series has been southpaw Giovanni Cabrera Mioletti. The fighter known as “Gio” to fans and foes alike has sent each one of his opponents on their way with a loss. The lightning-quick hands and throwback style that is reminiscent of fighters from the 1950s has quickly earned the 129-pounder a growing fan base here in the Puget Sound.
If the trend continues, Gio could begin making a splash on the national stage in the not-too-distant future.
Facing the 11-0 Gio would be undefeated Elijah Pierce from Oklahoma City. With seven knockouts powering his 8-0 record, Pierce was easily the scariest fighter that Gio has faced yet in his career. A loss for either fighter was going to be a significant setback.
The EQC showroom was abuzz by the time the fighters entered the ring. Gio’s signature deadpan, almost smirking look was quite different from Pierce’s business-like glare. From the outset, it felt as though both of these fighters knew that they were in for the fight of their young lives.
Scheduled for 10 rounds, the fight looked as though it could be a short one at the end of the first round. After nearly three minutes of trading punches right out of the gate, Gio would catch Pierce with a left hook that landed behind his right ear. Without even a wobble, Pierce dropped to the canvas like a sack of wrenches. After regaining his feet, the round came to a close, and it couldn’t have been better timing for Pierce.
The second round saw Gio get the better of his opponent. However, it wasn’t a landslide. Pierce was getting some powerful shots through Gio’s defense, and with knockout power at his disposal, it made each big hit seem as though it was even heavier. By the third round, the fight had seemed to even out a bit, with Pierce possibly stealing the three-minute stanza.
By the fourth round, Gio was scoring points with combinations, while Pierce was settling for solid shots here and there. After five rounds, we had Gio leading four rounds to one, but the actual fight was incredibly close. Gio may have won the rounds, but he was starting to take some serious punishment.
The sixth round felt like a draw, even though one of the fighters would earn the win on the judges’ cards. Gio now had developed a small cut underneath his right eye, but his deadpan appearance remained unchanged. It was all business from his end, and there didn’t appear to be any additional pressing to try and alter the course of the fight.
Both fighters really let loose in the seventh round, with Pierce landing some big shots. It appeared that Pierce had two types of punches in his arsenal. Most of the time, Pierce would fire off solid, quick shots that had little to no effect on Gio. However, there were times when Pierce would deliver crushing blows that had a much-higher degree of ferocity. These were the shots that were keeping him in the fight, and getting Gio’s attention.
Another close round in the eighth had the crowd on the edge of their seats. As a fight fan, this was the sort of fight that I could watch over and over again several times. For those who can find the beauty in the sport known as the “sweet science,” this was the one worthy of the price of admission.
By the ninth round, Pierce had a mouse growing underneath his right eye. It didn’t seem to slow him down any, as he went inside and outside with Gio with some solid punishment. Meanwhile, the crowd favorite just kept on delivering winning rounds. Pierce may have had the ability, but he wasn’t able to land as many punches compared to Gio, and that was going to be his downfall at the end of the fight.
The fighters let it all hang out in the 10th round. Pierce was going for the fight-saving knockout, while Gio continued to pepper him with combinations. When the final bell tolled, the crowd was on its feet, giving the fighters a well-deserved standing ovation.
As expected from the action, the judges awarded Gio a unanimous decision, with two judges scoring the fight 97-92, and a third scoring it 100-89. This writer is still scratching his head over the latter judge’s scoring, but that is boxing in a nutshell. You never know how the person next to you is taking in the action.
The fight night began with a pair of newcomers making their squared-circle debut. Brent Knopp and AJ Weber have both spent much time in the cage for mixed martial arts bouts, but this would be their first for a boxing match. It proved to be a quick affair, as Weber sent Knopp to the canvas twice in the first minute of the bout. With Knopp’s eyes rather googly, his corner threw in the towel as the referee was administering a standing eight count.
The second fight saw the debut of Bryce Gonzales, as he faced 2-0 Cris Reyes. The newcomer looked ready for action with a solid first round. However, Reyes would catch Gonzales with a right hook on two separate occasions that sent the 139-pounder to the mat. Having tasted success in the first round, Reyes came after Gonzales in the second and amped-up the punishment. After a standing-eight count, following a partial knockdown, Reyes connected with a right hook that had Gonzales seeing stars. The referee stepped in and stopped the fight, saving Gonzales from what was sure to be a beating.
The third bout of the night was a solid affair between Jorge Linares and Antonio Neal. The 140-pound bout would go the entire five rounds with Linares scoring a unanimous decision. The win pushed Linares to 4-1-0 as a professional, and the 22-year old looks like he may have a future in the ring.
There was a bit of an upset in the fourth bout. Isaiah Najera was stunned by a left hook from Sebastian Baltazar in the first round of their 122-pound fight, and seemed to be playing catch-up from that point on. When the four-rounder went to the judge’s cards, Baltazar would walk away with a split-decision victory. Much like the prior fight, this showdown deserves a rematch in the near future.
Steven Villalobos brought a 7-0-1 record into his 152-pound bout with Jose Leon in the second featured bout of the night. After getting a feel for his opponent early in the first round, he began to unload on his opponent. Leon wasn’t prepared for the onslaught. After receiving a flurry of 14 punches in his own corner, Leon was saved by the referee who stepped in and stopped the fight. Had things progressed, it was going to be quite ugly for Leon, and probably dangerous.
Battle at the Boat 117 will take place on Saturday, Sept. 8, at the Emerald Queen Casino.