A few weeks back I caught an interview on DAZN discussing Ring City USA and recommended it. NBC Sports is back in the business of boxing and looking to fill a void left behind by the end of HBO Boxing After Dark and ESPN Friday Night Fights. ESPN’s Ben Baby also took notice of this series and its impact on saving the “boxing’s middleclass” the club scene that develops suspects into prospects and builds up longshots. I like that this series is taking an idea that is not new but is not trying to be flashy at the same time. There is something about this no frills bubble era boxing with no crowds and the sounds of the blows and breathing of the tired fighters that has a primal effect enhancing the brutality of fighting. The card took places in the parking lot of the Wild Card Gym in Los Angeles, California and it had an interesting atmosphere. They had the backdrop of the gym and the surrounding area as its setting and they used projectors to display replays and graphics. On a side note, it was funny hearing the honking horns and screeching brakes of cars on Santa Monica Boulevard in the background of the fighting. On a positive note, the broadcast team was very good with HBO veteran and multiple sport commentator Bob Papa and active fighter Shawn Porter doing the main calling along with writer Brian Campbell.
What transpired in the ring was a mixed bag, yes the three broadcasted bouts were knockouts and fans love knockouts, the fights were not all that competitive. The aim for the program was to have competitive matchmaking and while the fights did not transpire that way the fights on paper looked competitive. The main event featured O’Shaquie Foster and Miguel Roman who are ranked number seven and number nine in the WBC rankings at 130 lbs. The 17-2 Foster entered the ring with youth on his side, a solid height and reach advantage and was certainly the faster man. Roman brought seventy-five career fights and seventeen years of professional experience into the ring and a a six pound weight advantage after the second day weigh in. Oddly enough, it was Foster who looked like the bigger man and he was the boss in this fight from start to finish. He send Roman to the canvas with a flush right hand cross that had a delayed reaction from Roman. Roman took a knee to recover and though he took his count he barely made it out of the round. If Foster elected to target the body more it is likely he could have ended matters in the first three minutes. Also, he switched southpaw at the moment he had Roman in danger and while it is impressive to see a guy fight so well out of both stances it did not seem tactically right with a wounded fighter.
Foster went on to control the contest winning seven of the eight completed rounds on the way to a ninth round technical knockout. Foster had thrown an effective left hook all night and finally landed a flush one on Roman who did not see it coming. Miguel took his eight count and rose to his feet but Jack Reiss did not let the fight go on much longer. Roman had shelled up and was on the retreat when the fight was waved off and though he did not protest the stoppage was a little early. I respect the safety of the fighters and the fight was over from a strategic stand point but the stoppage was unsatisfying. Foster showed a lot of good tools in the ring; he had an accurate right hand, could fight well as a southpaw against a veteran operator, moved very well and could fight inside. At times he stood in with Roman at Roman’s range and just out maneuvered him with intelligent hand fighting to get his hands inside and score while remaining protected. Some of the rounds where Foster elected to stand in with Roman were competitive like the fifth, seventh, and eighth rounds. In fact I scored the eighth round to Roman and Steve Smoger as the unofficial TV judge gave one other round to Roman as well. Despite getting hit to the body and Roman working hard inside it was Foster who always seemed to be landing the more impactful shots throughout the contest.
I am not sure where the WBC will move Foster to in their rankings but the WBC rankings are very tough at the top. 37-1 Miguel Berchelt is longest reigning title holder in the division and ranked number one by the RING. In the tops three are former champions Oscar Valdez, Shakur Stevenson and Carl Frampton. I don’t think he is there yet with those fighters and those guys all fight for Top Rank on ESPN so it likely all four will face off in some sort of round robin scenario before Foster ever gets a shot. Foster is currently unranked in the other three organizations. Tevin Farmer is ranked near him in the WBC at eighth and a win over Farmer could put him in the rankings of the IBF. I’m not sure if Farmer would take that sort of fight at this stage.
On the undercard Eduardo Hernandez defeated Eduardo Garza by third round knockout. Hernandez is also inside the top ten of the WBC at 130 lbs. and can also serve as a possible foe for Foster as they both climb the ranks. Hernandez showed a very impressive right uppercut. “Thunder” Garza likes to load up on his shots and Hernandez showed him a lot of respect to start the fight. By the end of the opening round a right uppercut hurt Garza and had him covering up and on the retreat. In between rounds Garza’s corner worked on his eye as it was starting to swell from underneath already. Garza came out aggressively in the second round but tried taking some steam off his punches to throw in combination. He threw a hard left hook that backed Hernandez off. He spent more time in this round on the front foot and had Hernandez trapped several times. However, Garza began to load up again which led to him telegraphing his punches, getting timed and missing. Because of this, Garza was not able to apply sufficient pressure or keep Hernandez trapped. Hernandez scored with a right cross and two uppercuts that snapped Garza’s head back. Garza got back inside but Hernandez had good inside hand control and scored a counter hook with his back to the ropes. With ten seconds to go Hernandez scored with a flush right hand that did damage.
Garza’s right eye was showing damage and he had a small abrasion over his nose. After a patient round the mouth piece came out for Hernandez. After the break in the action Hernandez just jumped on Garza and ended the fight. Two well placed left hooks to the body sent Garza to a knee where he took his ten count. With the victory Hernandez improves to 30-1 with 27 KO’s and claimed his first victory of 2020 and his second win following his upset loss to Roger Gutierrez in 2019. Garza fell to 15-3-2 with 8 KO’s ending his three year and ten fight unbeaten run.
The first bout on the broadcast saw two streaking Mexican lightweights battle it out in their US debuts. William Zepeda scored his twelfth consecutive knockout to move to 22-0 with 20 KO’s by ending a five year eleven bout unbeaten streak by Robert Ramirez. Ramirez falls to 23-2-1 16 KO’s after putting up a brave performance where he was ultimately worn down and stopped. The towel came in late in the fifth round as Zepeda began to pummel Ramirez along the ropes. Ramirez won the first round on my card and as competitive until the third round when Zepeda took over. Zepeda was an explosives southpaw who led more often with his left hand first. Round one was a tactical three minutes where the taller and longer Ramirez had the advantage. Near the end of the second round Zepeda began to create angles that allowed him to set up his punches and inflect damage. It started with his right hook to the head that he set up by stepping outside of Ramirez’s jab. Late in the round he landed a flush left cross that backed Ramirez off.
The third round started off with about sixty seconds of exchanges as both men just decided to let their hands go. After a brief pause Zepeda began to back Ramirez up for the rest of the round and this is where the tide shifted. Zepeda began to double his jab and lunge in with his left cross. He also started to sweep his right hook more around the guard and score with the punch as a lead. The fourth round started at a much slower pace and saw Zepeda continue to push his advantage this time scoring with alternating hooks. Ramirez’s punches began to lose snap as he arms them out there in an attempt to keep Zepeda off. Ramirez threw and uppercut from too far out and ate a right hook that had him hurt. Zepeda began to double his left hand two the head and chest until the bell sounded. Zepeda had used a left to the body to open the right hook to the head in the two previous rounds. In the fifth he took the same left but brought it to the head and shocked Ramirez before pounding him with a right hook. Seeing the effectiveness he went back to straight left body-right hook and then straight left head-right hook and repeated this reverse 1-2 combination formula until the towel came in. I was very impressed with Zepeda as a well balanced and explosive southpaw.
Overall I liked Ring City USA, I think the intention is there and I think the method is there. They have a card coming up next Thursday, December 3rd and it is another well matched card. With the fragmentation of boxing and boxing’s standing as a mainstream sport I cannot say for certain how far this series can go. They only have three scheduled events so that makes me a little weary of how long term this formula is but everything started somewhere. I also will add that Bob Papa and Shawn Porter play off each other very well as a commentary team. I think Shawn added good technical insight from a fighter’s perspective and I think Papa directed the conversation in ways that kept the commentary interesting. Instead of cheerleading the favorite or going off on side tangents they discussed the fight at different levels. Even though Smoger was scoring for the broadcast, Papa would often say how he had it and Porter would voice his disagreement if he had a round a different way. Rather than merely explain what Foster was doing well and why, Porter would go into tactical and technical explanations of what Roman would need to do to get back into the fight. I think Porter gave good, calm insight without over injecting himself into the broadcast. Besides hearing the car noises in the background I was not too fond of the projector work to preview and replay the action. I’m no television broadcasting expert and have no idea what the costs involved are but it felt like the previews could have been done in a studio like how Teddy Atlas used to do it. The projector with the spotlights made it tough to see the projections they were trying to breakdown. Nitpicky maybe, but I may not be the only one who noticed.Check it out if you can and tune in next Thursday.