TACOMA’S CHAMP Gavronski wins belt after wild finish

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It was a fight that looked like it was going to go the full 10 rounds. Instead, round eight ended with a shocking trip, a bum foot for Andrew Hernandez and a championship belt for Tacoma’s Mike “Imagine Me” Gavronski (top-right). The 175-pound matchup between Kian Heidari and Cameron Sevilla-Rivera (second-left) was a perfect example of a fighter easing up and letting his opponent back into it. (second-right) Jorge Linares had all sorts of unorthodox punches and spins in his fight against Austin Springer. (third-left) Eduardo Torres and Steven Villalobos fought to a draw. We’d love to see a rematch. (third-right) Tacoma’s Andre Keys took care of business against Sean Gee and lifted his record to 5-1-0. (bottom) Promoter Brian Halquist, Mike Gavronski and manager Sam Ditusa. Photos by Ernie Sapiro Photography

If you stick around the “fight game” long enough, you’re bound to witness something you haven’t seen before. This was definitely the case when Tacoma’s own Mike “Imagine Me” Gavronski faced Andrew Hernandez for the WBA-NABA super middleweight championship belt at Battle at the Boat 113. A packed house at the Emerald Queen Casino on Saturday, Nov. 18, bore witness to one of the stranger endings you’ll ever see in a title fight.

Luckily for Grit City fight fans, the hometown kid would come through with the win and hoist the championship belt in front of a large throng of well-wishers. However, the contest would end in controversy like nothing this writer has ever seen in person, or on television.

Normally, we begin our boxing recaps with the opening fights and work our way to the main event. This time around, there’s no way we can tell the rest of the story without getting to the big bout first.

The fight was going to be a huge one for Gavronski. Not only was it for a North American championship belt, but it would cement his return as an acknowledged contender, following a defeat the last time he fought for the belt in November of 2015. Since then, the slugger from Tacoma’s Hilltop neighborhood had claimed victory in four consecutive bouts, and was looking as sharp as ever.

It took two years of success to get back to a point of redemption for Gavronski. Considering that Gavronski is 31 years old, a loss could have delivered a mighty blow to his ability to advance up the boxing ranks both nationally and internationally. A higher ranking brings along better fights and more earning potential. This isn’t exactly rocket science here.

Currently, Gavronski is ranked as the sixth best super middleweight in the United States, and 33rd around the globe. This is pretty close to where he was before taking a loss two years ago that had some fight fans wondering if he was going to put the gloves back on and make another run at a piece of glory.

When Gavronski made his way to and entered the ring to face Hernandez, the air in the EQC Showroom was as electric as I’ve ever felt it. The hometown crowd was loud and ready for their man to take care of business. Meanwhile, Hernandez stood in the opposite corner looking determined and downright scary.

There was going to be no feeling out process with the two combatants. It was straight to business from the opening bell, and the action was tight. While this writer may be a longtime fight fan, he’s certainly not qualified to judge a high-stakes boxing match. That being said, a running tally of who we thought was the victor of each round is par for the course. Both fighters would say that they were owning the fight and whipping each other, but these eyes saw a succession of rounds that were so close that my decision was accompanied by the thought of ‘well, I’ve got to choose one or the other.’

Hernandez looked sharp early as he was successful in finding a rhythm and worked his jab repeatedly throughout much of the fight. It looked as though Gavronski’s timing was thrown off when that left hand would snap out and connect with his face. To counter, Gavronski went to work on Hernandez’ body, while mixing in an occassional jab to go along with some stinging straight rights.

After four rounds, I had the fight all equal. Both fighters were giving as good as they got and this bout had the looks of one that may very well go the full 10 rounds.

After a solid fifth round for Gavronski, Hernandez was still dishing out a mean jab in the sixth and seventh rounds and I felt he may have taken each by the closest of margins. By the end of the seventh, Hernandez also appeared to be losing a little bit of his gas. Meanwhile, even though he was cut over his left eye, Gavronski was looking fresh and ready for more.

The eighth round continued this trend. Gavronski seemed to be surging, while Hernandez was just a quarter-step slower than he was earlier in the contest. The punches weren’t coming as rapidly and he wasn’t moving around as lightly as before. I thought it was easily a winning round for Gavronski, and then the round ended in the most unfortunate way I have seen from ringside.

Just prior to the bell, both fighters began to clinch and Hernandez was moving backward. As the bell rang, Gavronski’s left foot whipped out behind Hernandez’ right, and the veteran fighter from Goodyear, Ariz. fell backward to the canvas, where he would stay. At first, it wasn’t clear as to what was hurt, as Hernandez just lay there, looking as though he was catching his breath after a hard-fought eighth round. When he refused to get up off of the canvas, it became clear that he was having some sort of trouble with his right foot.

After being helped to the corner stool, Hernandez was given five minutes to recover. Meanwhile, the ringside doctor was looking at his foot. As the seconds turned into minutes, it was becoming clear that Hernandez was not going to be continuing in this championship bout. The crowd at the Emerald Queen was bursting at the seems with indignation. They couldn’t believe the fight was going to end this way, and neither could this writer.

The referee would then confer with ringside officials and it was decided that it was an unintentional foul and the bout would go to the scorecards. Two judges scored the bout 78-74 for Gavronski, while the third judge scored it 77-75 for Hernandez. The crowd erupted in cheers and applause, even though they still seemed dumbfounded by the crazy events that had just transpired. Hernandez’ camp was visibly upset and their fighter would leave the ring with an air-cast surrounding his ankle. Later on Instagram, Hernandez would claim that he had broken two bones in his foot.

There was certainly a large degree of bad blood and feelings in the air between the two camps following the fight. If there was ever to be a rematch, it would be just about as intense as you could imagine.

In the semi main event, Tacoma’s Andre Keys outpointed Sean Gee to run his professional record to 5-1-0. In the fight prior to that, Eduardo Torres and Steven Villalobos battled to a very entertaining draw that put the first blemish on Villalobos’ previous 6-0-0 record. A rematch of this fight would go over well with fight fans.

Action on the undercard was solid. Nico McFarland would earn his first professional victory in six fights after stopping Keith Wolf in the third round with a flurry. Cameron Sevilla-Rivera looked as though he had Kian Heidari where he wanted him in the first two rounds of their 175-pound bout, but the longer Heidari bounced back in the final two rounds to earn a well-deserved draw. Jorge Linares would run his record to 2-0-0 after stopping newcomer Austin Springer in the third round.

Battle at the Boat 114 is scheduled for Saturday, Jan. 12.

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