By Lindy Lindell at ringside
Photo by Bob Ryder
July 23, Royal Oak Music Hall, Royal Oak, MI: In what must be regarded as a career best performance, super-middleweight Daryl Cunningham, 20-2, turned on the power in the third round and blew away the once tough vet, Anton Echols, now 32-14-4. Echols collapsed under heavy fire and failed to make the count after absorbing a standing-eight earlier in the round.
After a non-descript first two rounds (with Cunningham winning), southpaw Cunningham landed a heavy right, driving Echols into the ropes; after the ref gave the Iowa boxer a standing-eight, Cunningham was all over Echols, landing a series of heavy punches, obliging Echols to pitch face forward. Echols made an effort to rise, but was clearly out of it as he was counted out. After the fight, Echols admitted that Cunningham had done what others, such as Roy Jones, had failed to do: knock him out. For Cunningham, he wins a belt that few knew about, the American International Boxing Association Championship. More important, his followers turned out in force and created a level of high-octane enthusiasm that had the small venue rocking.
In a much-anticipated matchup of welterweights, Vernon Paris, who might be said to be the Motor City’s best chance of producing a local draw, again struggled (he looked to be gassed in his previous two bouts after three rounds). In Courtney Burton, from across state in Benton Harbor, Paris seemed to have the perfect opponent. Burton had been stopped at least three times on television, had been relatively inactive of late, and was not the possessor of a big punch. After a pick-‘em first, Paris controlled rounds two and three, and then unloaded his heaviest artillery in round four; he backed Burton into a corner and seemed to have him in a bit of trouble; he was at least stunned as Paris poured it on.
But Burton survived and the effort seemed to exhaust Paris, as he spent much of the rest of the fight with his arms down. One of his fans yelled, “Will you please raise your hands!” Burton controlled the rest of the eight-round fight, backing his man against the ropes, a position that Paris sometimes fought off of well, but only erratically; Paris managed to rally, almost as if in desperation, in the final round, and he made that round close. The judges, who might have been accused of some partisanship, had it very close, though one could hardly argue the 77-75 and 77-76 scores for Paris. However, Frank Barbarich could have mailed it in, declaring Paris the 78-74 winner. I had it 77-76, Burton.
Paris also had the benefit of some loose, wet tape that kept coming unhinged during the fight, necessitating four stoppages in the action over the last four rounds and allowing Paris desperately-needed respites of up to a minute each. Referee Frank Garza admitted that he was “very close” to taking a point in this hotly-contested match, a fight that was taxing, with complaints on both sides for roughhousing. Burton was wrestled to the floor twice and Paris complained several times that Burton was leading unnecessarily with his head. Paris finished the fight with a bruised face, but an undefeated log of 22-0 intact; Burton is 22-7. This fight, too, generated a lot of enthusiasm. Had the music been any louder, the fillings in one’s teeth may have come unglued.
A third eight-rounder, and this another AIBA title affair at middleweight, Mt. Clemens’ Alex Hloros, 14-2-2, dominated tough veteran Ray Darden, 11-23-1, Detroit. Darden didn’t seem to “wake up” until the 7th, when he found himself floored and hopelessly behind; he tried to rally, and though his punches were delivered much the straighter than Hloros’ mostly roundhouse arcs, little force was generated. This was the final fight of the evening and the enthusiasm for Hlores was at a very high level; his followers clustered around the ring and continued to revel in the experience for many minutes thereafter.
The undercard: Heavyweight Rich Power (12-0), Royal Oak, deserves more than the inept Michael Moncrief (3-8), splashing him to the canvas twice in a TKO1; Demar Singleton, a 4-0 Toledo supermiddle, easily struck down an out-of-shape Cameron Allen, 1-4; Kronk’s Dominque Dolton (7-0) easily spilled an overmated Jeremiah Jones, with two knockdowns en-route to a TKO2; Canton’s Lane Staal bested the oft-beat Guy Packer; and the less said about the heavyweight encounter between Todd Welcome and Alex Otero, the better. It was a “bout” that was declared a no-contest when Otero fell and was unable to continue.
The undercard aside, I do not remember a boxing show at the club level that generated such a high level of decibel-count noise—and genuine enthusiasm expressed by the crowd who came to cheer their heroes on.