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Prospects From Pechanga

Prospects From Pechanga: Greg Cohen Promotions Hits SoCal for a Night of Fights

By Loot, Boxing Handicapper, Lootmeister.com

On Friday, August 5 from Pechanga Casino in Temecula, California, promoter Greg Cohen showcased some young talent from his growing stable, with some local boxers also fighting on the card. The 8-bout card was well-received by the raucous crowd, with fans from San Diego, Riverside, and Los Angeles County packing the Grand Ballroom at the sprawling resort, about 60 miles north of San Diego.

Brant Bashes Fitzpatrick!

The gem of the card was almost unquestionably 25-year old middleweight contender Rob Brant, an undefeated St. Paul, Minnesota product. Some of us are always leery about fighters from Minnesota, being that there has never been a really good fighter to come out of the land of 10,000 lakes in most of our lifetimes. Making Brant different is his stellar amateur pedigree, which is littered with under and over 18 national titles, including a National Golden Gloves title at 178 pounds in 2010.

At 159.2, Brant looked supremely well-conditioned and competent in moving to 21-0 (14 KOs) in a third-round TKO over Cleveland's Chris "Ghost" Fitzpatrick, 157.4. Brant opened with a steady diet of jabs on his opponent, which seemed to flummox the Cleveland product. Fitzgerald couldn't get much started with the stick in his face, as Brant operated fluidly and moved around the ring effortlessly.

In the second round, Brant started mixing in a few different approaches—leading with the right hand and sometimes the hook. Fitzgerald looked unable to launch an attack with Brant always cutting him off at the pass. And the few times when Fitzgerald attempted to lash out, he was punished with counters. Later in the second, Brant hit paydirt, with a hook wobbling Fitzgerald, before a right hand dumped him on the canvas. Fitzpatrick got up. A Brant flurry before the bell almost finished the job, but Fitzgerald made it out of the stanza. But just barely.

In the third round, the writing seemed to be on the wall with there being no way Fitzpatrick was going to see the fourth. This is where Brant showed another layer of his growing professionalism, patiently setting up shots on his beleaguered adversary. Brant began probing with hooks and one such punch connected solidly on Fitzgerald, sending him sprawling to the deck for the final time, with Brant notching the third-round TKO at the 1:18 mark. Fitzgerald fell to 15-5 (4 KOs).

First the bad news: It's not easy to truly gauge a fighter's overall worth when the opponent doesn't offer a proper test. All parties involved were likely expecting a better version of Fitzgerald, who is now nose-diving with 5 losses in 6 fights after a 14-0 start. He wasn't really able to provide good work for Brant, though the rising St. Paul contender's far-greater skills and firepower had a lot to do with that. We have to remember that when an opponent looks subpar, the winner of the fight deserves some credit for that. And Brant really didn't allow Fitzpatrick to find his way into the fight, where lesser fighters may have.

The good news far outweighs the bad. Brant has that certain look of quality. It can be hard to put a finger on exactly, but it goes beyond typical cited traits like power and speed, though he definitely has those attributes, as well. There is a kind of naturalness and fluidity to his work. He has an overlying air of solidity—the kind of guy you can picture holding up in a long and difficult fight. He is highly-concentrated and serious about his approach, while remaining relaxed in veteran fashion.

Normally when looking at up-and-comers and attempting to forecast their chances at the highest levels, you will see some potential flaws. Brant has the kind of overall game that could translate at the top echelons of the sport. A former national Golden Gloves champ at 178 pounds, he has nice size for a 160-pounder. His jab is legit and he can sling it out there with good authority, as it really had Fitzpatrick in knots. His punches are thrown with great variety and unpredictability.

You never really know until you know. Beating Chris Fitzgerald is hardly just cause to sound the bells to alert 160-pounders that a new guy is in town. At the same time, even if a young Ken Griffey, Jr. were to hit off a tee, you'd have been able to see his talent. As of right now, Brant not have that ultra-compelling superior trait that makes you want to see him fight a guy like Gennady Golovkin, he would seem to fit in right with just about anybody else in the division. Word is there could be a fight down the line with titleholder Danny Jacobs. Brant would certainly be tested, particularly in the area of his punch-resistance, but who's to say his overall solidness wouldn't trouble a guy like Jacobs who still has a lot of holes in his game?

Either way, with Rob "Bravo" Brant, we look to have a serious 160-pound contender in our midst.

Halili Humbles Odamattey!

In the co-feature, Skender Halili, 153.2, moved his mark to 11-1 (11 KOs) with an easy first-round KO against squat and puffy Ghanaian trialhorse Ben Odamattey, who falls to 16-15-3 (9 KOs). Odamattey also clocked in at 153.2. It wasn't Odamattey's night against the hard-hitting Kosovo native based in Ft. Worth, Texas. Skender opened with heavy shots, which soon had Odamattey, who resembles former Ghanaian great Azumah Nelson, in great peril. Combinations short-circuited Odamattey with the same affect as 38 jack and cokes. When another couple of swats had Odamattey doing another shimmy, referee Ray Corona called a halt at the 1:17 mark of the first round. Having been a dependable test for other top fighters, it was a bit surprising how quickly Odamattey folded, but that had a lot to do with the legitimately heavy hands of the affable Halili.

Killic Folds up Fenderson!

Former World Amateur champion Cem "The Gem" Killic, 169, fighting out of Sherman Heights via Germany reminded us all about how the first round is often a feeling-out process in boxing. In the first round of his bout with Las Vegas' 1-0 Jerhed Fenderson, 164.6, there was little to separate the two combatants. Looking for something special in Killic in that first round turned up little evidence of a future contender. Then came the second round…

In the second stanza, Killic ratcheted up the intensity exponentially. His punch variety came out and suddenly, the vague effectiveness of Fenderson went sailing out the window. Killic let his hands go and the entire fight changed on a dime. Soon, a sense of understated trickiness combined with high intensity had Fenderson struggling to keep his nose above the water line. Killic showcased every punch in the arsenal in a diversified attack that took Fenderson right out of the fight. After the referee stopped it in the second after a Killic left dropped his opponent, Fenderson was in his corner trying to make sense of what happened. From the first round to the second round was night and day and he simply couldn't make sense of it. With the win, Killic moves to 6-0 with 3 knockouts. Definitely a kid worth watching.

Hawkins Schools Gee!

In the televised opener of the CBS Sports portion of the show, fans got to see an interesting welterweight prospect out of Baltimore, as Malik "Iceman" Hawkins, 147, scored a 4-round unanimous decision over Portland's Sean Gee, 145.6. Scores were 40-36 across the board for the now 9-0 (7 KOs) Hawkins, who has the look of a classy welterweight prospect. Despite Gee's now 3-5 mark, he's a tough guy who can make a fighter like Hawkins work hard. What he did was allow Hawkins to show the full scope of his ample skill-set.

Hawkins features a balanced attack, as he leads with right hands, hooks, and of course, a ramrod jab. His punches uncoil with a high level of suddenness. The 6-foot Hawkins is adept at catching opponents coming in, as he did with Gee repeatedly in their 4-rounder. When Gee launched an attack, we saw Hawkins rolling with the punches and using his legs to get out of trouble.

Hawkins began to achieve some increased separation from Gee in the last two rounds. The left hook Hawkins was wielding to the body with such good affect started coming up to Gee's head, as Hawkins craftily diversified his offense mid-fight. The swashbuckling attacks of Gee became more muted and even when he did connect, Hawkins showed no ill affects. The body-shots from Hawkins were whipping whacks that deprived Gee of his venom. If it were a 6-rounder, Hawkins would have likely gotten a stoppage. As it were, it goes down as a unanimous decision for Hawkins, who can really use the work with 5 of his 9 fights ending in the first round.

O'Quinn Edges Quiroz!

The first bout of the evening featured a scrappy 4-round bantamweight contest with Detroit prospect Jarico O'Quinn earning a close decision over Oceanside scrapper Jonathon "Johnny Boy" Quiroz. All 3 judges had it 39-37 for O'Quinn. The decision may have gone to O'Quinn, 116.4, but Quiroz, also 116.4, may have won the fight. Not that it was a bad decision, but Quiroz was the only one able to hurt his opponent.

The talent edge goes to O'Quinn, but he had his hands full with the dogged Quiroz, now 6-4 (1 KO). The slick boxing of O'Quinn allowed him to have an early edge, but he was rattled more than once by the overhand right of Quiroz. It was a punch that kept connecting on the all-too-available O'Quinn and a better fighter than Quiroz could have done a lot more business.

O'Quinn, now 3-0 (2 KOs), was easy to find over the top for Quiroz. If O'Quinn wants his other considerable talents to help make him something worthwhile in this sport, he will need to address his boxing posture. He's entirely too straight-up, with his noggin protruding up into the air like an exposed lollipop. Marked under the right eye, O'Quinn was able to brave through the stormy passage, but the decision was pretty much up in the air by the end of a crowd-pleasing 4 rounds. He deserves credit for coming across the country to beat a good local kid in Quiroz who had a good amateur career, but the wiry O'Quinn has some work to do.

Davis Outlasts Fowler

The fight of the night and where the matchmaker really earned his pay was in the lightweight battle between first-time pros Will Davis of Sacramento and Las Vegas' Erick Fowler. Davis, 133.8, and Fowler, 132.8 put on a show that had those in attendance whipped into a veritable frenzy throughout their 4-rounder. It was like a mini-Raging Bull, with Davis playing Sugar Ray Robinson to Fowler's Jake LaMotta. Davis would pelt Fowler with shots, before Fowler would come roaring back with a fury. Back and forth it went…

Fans were spellbound, almost like they were watching a movie. The ceiling kept getting redefined, as the two sluggers kept finding a new fever-pitch higher than the previous one. By the end of the third, Davis looked to creating a little separation, as Fowler's returns started showing less velocity. In the 4th, yet another Davis salvo seemed to crack through what was left of Fowler's considerable powers of resistance, as he sprawled to the canvas and the ref stopped it.

At face value, the stoppage may have seemed premature, But this is where people should give kudos to referees who show heightened powers of observation. Fowler could have continued, but ref Tony Crebs saw what some of us may not have been able to see—that Fowler had too many guts for his own good. Fowler, trained by legendary trainer Jesse Reid, had started to show the ravaging affects of being in a war and had almost-imperceptibly crossed into that territory where fighters can get hurt. Nice job by Crebs. And most assuredly—a great job by Will Davis and Erick Fowler. Rematch, anyone?

The balance of the card was filled with local Temecula boys, each of whom are looking to make their mark on the sport. Beyond the talent in the ring was the support they were given by an electric crowd, who really poured on the noise to support the two local products.

Adujo Wins Debut!

First up was Temecula's debuting 18-year old Danny Adujo, 113.4, as he won by TKO in the first round over Israel Hernandez, now 1-3-1. Adujo wasted no time whatsoever in getting his man out of there, as Hernandez, 114.8, quickly found himself swarmed by the high-energy offense of the baby-faced Adujo. Hernandez looked old enough to be Adujo's father and was quickly shown the door. It will be interesting to see Adujo as he rises up the ranks. He is now 1-0 (1 KO).

Meza Tops Naranjo!

The closer featured another Temecula product in Roberto Meza, 124.6, as he won a unanimous decision over 4 rounds against Jose Fabian Naranjo, also 124.6. Meza struggled in finding a rhythm in the early-going, eventually finding his footing to move to 3-0 (1 KO), with Naranjo falling to 3-3-1.

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All in all, it was a highly-entertaining card of fights—a tremendous evening of fisticuffs. The card delivered on what it promised—to showcase a nice handful of up-and-comers. In particular, I am very interested in the career trajectory of main-event winner Rob Brant, as he looks to be a legitimate and well-rounded contender in the talent-rich waters of 160 pounds. Skender Halili is a good prospect with very heavy hands and his career will be fun to see unfold. And I think promoter Greg Cohen may have a doozy on his hands with welterweight prospect Malik Hawkins. And we'd all be well-served to keep an eye on Cem Killic, who also impressed on this night. See ya' next time at the fights!

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