Matias overcomes rough start, stops Ponce in 5th to win vacant 140 title
Jamal James returns from long layoff for lopsided decision; Elvis Rodriguez scores two knockdowns to score close win
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Subriel Matias looked shell-shocked after the first round during which Jeremias Ponce took immediate control and overwhelmed him with punches in their vacant IBF junior welterweight title fight on Saturday night.
Ponce set a torrid pace but he could not sustain the massive punch output, nor could he stand up to the considerable thunder in Matias’ fists.
Matias got himself together in the second round, began to land with regularity and, after dropping Ponce in the final seconds of the fifth round, Ponce trainer Alberto Zacarias stopped the fight in the corner.
The surprising call brought an end to what had been a firefight in the main event of a Premier Boxing Champions tripleheader on Showtime before a sold-out crowd of about 4,700 at The Armory in Minneapolis.
“I'm on cloud nine right now,” Matias said through an interpreter. “I don't think I've woken up from this dream. Maybe I can tell you how it feels tomorrow, but right now, it’s a dream come true.”
During the pre-fight buildup, both fighters said they would go for a knockout and they did just that in an effort to win one of the three 140-pound belts that undisputed champion Josh Taylor vacated or was stripped of last year in order to pursue a different fight rather than face Ponce, his IBF mandatory challenger.
It did not look good for Matias early one as Ponce wasted no time going right at him at the opening bell. He took it Matias for the entire first round with an avalanche of punches and then decided to stand in his corner between rounds rather than rest on a stool.
“I’m calm because I worked really for 10 months in gym. I came here to win. There was nothing to worry about,” Matias said about his rough start. “I’m a guy that for the first four rounds, I’m very tentative.”
Ponce (30-1, 20 KOs), 26, of Argentina, landed 28 of 96 punches in the opening round, according to CompuBox statistics, and had made the decision to fight Matias on the inside and go punch-for-punch with the bigger hitter. It proved to be a major mistake.
“In the first round I came out to try to get him but he’s a tough fighter and I knew this fight was going to be a very tough fight,” Ponce said through an interpreter.
Matias (19-1, 19 KOs), 30, of Puerto Rico, regrouped and picked things up dramatically in the second round as they stood toe to toe in the middle of the ring and banged it out with Matias hurting Ponce with a left hook at one point.
The non-stop action continued but Matias slowly but surely gained control. He rocked Matias with a powerful left hook in the final seconds of the fourth round.
As the fifth round wound down, Matias put together a six-punch flurry that included a solid right to the chin and a short left to the body that sent Ponce sprawling to he mat. He came to rest against the bottom ring rope, but got to his rear end and then to his feet by the count of eight from referee Mark Nelson.
“He’s a strong fighter and he did hit me with that shot and I went down,” Ponce said. “I lost my stability a little bit. I did recoup but it was just too late.”
When the fight resumed only five seconds remained in the round and Matias landed a few more punches, but Ponce, who was fighting in the United States for the first time, made it to the bell. However, after a few seconds on his stool, Zararias decided to stop the fight.
“I’m fine. The first thing is I am in great health,” Ponce said. “My corner knows me better than me and it’s better to take the precaution a minute earlier than a minute late, but I wanted to continue. I thought it was definitely even but in this kind of fight one punch ends it and that’s what happened.”
Matias led 48-46 on all three scorecards at the time of the stoppage.
“What I wanted to do was knock him out,” Matias said. “I wanted to knock him out in the sixth round, so it was a surprise they stopped the fight. In the fifth round, I knew he was hurt. He was going backwards so I’m like a lion looking for the feast — and I found it.”
According to CompuBox, Matias landed 137 of 398 punches (34 percent) and Ponce landed 111 of 405 (27 percent).
While Ponce said he would like a rematch that is highly unlikely. Matias would like to unify titles and said his first choice would be square off with WBC titlist Regis Prograis.
“Regis Prograis, I’m coming for you,” Matias said. “I’m the world champion now. I promise that I’m coming to hurt you. Prograis likes to talk the talk, but I have that same mentality. Let’s see who prevails. I want him to see that there are people crazier than him in this sport.”
James routs Palmetta
In the co-feature, former WBA “regular” welterweight titlist and Minneapolis native Jamal James ended the longest layoff of his career to win a unanimous decision victory in a hard-fought but one-sided bout with southpaw Alberto Palmetta.
The judges scored it 99-91, 98-98 and 98-92 for crowd favorite James, who was in fighting for the first time since losing his 147-pound belt by ninth-round knockout to Radzhab Butaev in October 2021.
James said he felt the impact of the long layoff, during which he came down with Covid-19.
“I’m pretty sure everybody can see that layoff affected me,” James said. “I had a lot of rust in me. My legs weren’t sharp, my punches weren’t sharp, but I’m glad I was able to get in there. I liked that because it’s pushing me mentally and it made me step up to the occasion. … I just wasn’t coming off as sharp as I should’ve been.”
Still, the taller and longer James (28-2, 12 KOs), 34, was in control for most of the fight thanks to a good variety of punching. He landed many combinations, right hands and body shots.
He really picked up his attack in the seventh round. He landed several hard right hands in a dominating round, although Palmetta came alive in the late going as they engaged in an extended exchange that fired up the fans.
“I definitely felt like I won the fight but I believe I could’ve done much better,” James said. “I know that I’m a lot sharper. I know that my endurance is a lot stronger. I just had a lot of time off and my body is still getting back in shape.
“I know I can be a champion again because I was a champion before. I have to stay focused. Stay in the gym and back and study this fight and step it up.”
Palmetta (18-2, 13 KOs), 32, a 2016 Olympian from Argentina, got in a hard right hand that backed James up midway through the ninth round but he could never landed the hard shot he needed to change the fight.
Palmetta had his 12-fight winning streak end.
“I thought it was an even fight, that I was the aggressor throughout against a former world champion, a taller opponent with longer reach than me,” Palmetta said through an interpreter. “I also like to counter, but I ratcheted up the pressure in the second half of the fight. I’ll be back. I’ll be a world champion one day.”
According to CompuBox, James landed 193 of 728 punches (27 percent), including connecting on 68 body shots, and Palmetta landed 111 of 541 (21 percent). James outlanded him in eight of the 10 rounds.
Rodriguez outpoints Adorno
Junior welterweight Elvis Rodriguez scored two knockdowns en route to a majority decision win over Joseph Adorno in a fight between two former highly regarded prospects who did not live up to the hype.
Rodriguez won 97-91 and 95-93 on two scorecards while one judge had it 94-94. Rodriguez pulled ahead in the second half of a fight that featured very little action.
The biggest moment came with about a minute left in the seventh round when Rodriguez (14-1-1, 12 KOs), 27, a southpaw from the Dominican Republic, landed a tremendous right hook that staggered Adorno. His knees buckled and he stayed upright but only for a few more seconds. That is because Rodriguez followed up with several more shots that finally dropped Adorno into the ropes.
“I hadn’t fought in a long time. I had a long layoff,” Rodriguez, who hadn’t fought for 11 months, said through an interpreter. “I was a little rusty but once I found my hook, I found my distance. I thought I had him once I landed that right hook, but he got up. He’s a warrior and a good fighter. The seventh round was huge. That’s when I truly started to win this fight. I have to give credit to Adorno for being savvy and knowing how to keep his distance before then.”
Adorno (17-2-2, 14 KOs), 23, of Allentown, Pennsylvania, beat the count and they exchanged punches in the final seconds of the round.
Referee Jon Schorle credited Rodriguez with another knockdown in late in the 10th round when he snuck in a left hand during a flurry and Adorno went down. He complained it was a slip. Showtime’s replays showed that he appeared to go down mainly from losing his footing on the wet canvas in the corner.
Adorno was ticked off by the scoring.
“I thought the judges were blind. I can't get a win with these judges,” Adorno said. “I don't know how you see the fight 97-91. I thought I won every round except the ones he dropped me. I had the jab in his face and was snapping him to the body. He couldn't do anything. No way he won seven rounds. I thought 95-95 was OK because of the two knockdowns.”
Photos: Esther Lin/Showtime
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Gee the great fights just keep coming this year that was great fight while it lasted
Strange juxtaposition between two fights a week apart. Wood’s corner saw him as vulnerable to serious damage after a stunning knockdown - and he was - vs yesterday when Ponce’s corner said their man could not continue *after* the round. I for one have more questions about the stoppage yesterday. Ponce looked like he could have continued and it makes me think he actually made the decision. Barring the announcement of some type of injury, I’ll be left with that impression