Ringside Report by Paolo Consiglio
Photos: Renata Romagnoli and Eugenio Spallazzi/www.boxenet.it
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Giacobbe Fragomeni’s magnificent display of courage and determination will long be remembered by the Italian boxing fraternity as a dramatic surge in the championship rounds allowed him to earn a draw to retain the WBC cruiserweight title yesterday evening in Rome at the Gran Teatro but Krzysztof Wlodarczyk looked a bit unlucky not to get the nod of the judges.
The turning point of one of the most remarkable fights held in Italy in late years was the ninth round. With the bout even on the scorecards, Fragomeni (26-1-1, 10 KOs) suddenly seemed to wilt under the Pole’s pressure, looking on the verge of being stopped after going down twice, the first time courtesy of a crushing left hook, the second time under a barrage of punches.
On the second occasion British referee Ian John-Lewis elected not to count, due to a parting right hand thrown by Wlodarczyk (41-2-1, 31 KOs) with the Italian on his knees. The questionable call allowed Fragomeni to get precious extra seconds. It also meant the challenger won the round by a 10-8 margin instead of 10-7. A one point difference which ultimately turned out to be decisive as judge Richard James Davies scored the bout 116-112 for Wlodarczyk, Robin Dolpierre had it 114-113 for Fragomeni and Esa Lehtosaari scored it a 114-114 draw. Fightnews.com had Wlodarczyk a close but clear winner (115-112).
The controversial episode must not detract from Fragomeni’s brave performance as the 39-year old Italian somehow found the energies to mount a rally in the championship rounds that was nothing short of astonishing. Urged by his corner and by the crowd’s vociferous cheers, the champion kept fighting and kept trying to win, right to the bitter end, ending the bout on a high note and somehow turning around what looked a completely lost cause only a handful of minutes before.
The bout lived up to and maybe surpassed expectations: an all-action, shifts-of-fortune sizzler which reflected greatly on both contestants.
Making the maiden defence of the title won last October in Milan against Rudolf Kraj, Fragomeni had his usual slow start. Wlodarczyk clearly won the first two rounds, outworking the Italian and keeping him at bay with his reach advantage but just when he looked on the verge of taking full command of the proceedings, the champion came right back at him boring his way inside and banging away with two and three-punch comnbinations. After four rounds were completed Wlodarczyk had a two point lead on one scorecard (39-37) while the other two judges had it dead even.
The challenger gained momentum in the mid-rounds forcing Fragomeni to retreat with his crisp and more accurate punches. The 39-year old Italian spent too much time against the ropes neglecting to use his underrated jab to break the challenger’s rhythm. Fragomeni unloaded barrages of punches whenever Wlodarczyk was seeking to increase the pressure but the Pole remained pretty much in charge of the action. Still, after eight rounds were completed, the outcome was in the balance as the scorecards were announced as follows: 78-75 Wlodarczyk, 77-76 Fragomeni and 76-76.
The two knockdowns of the ninth round seemed to seal the victory for the former IBF titlist but the referee’s questionable call, along with Fragomeni’s championship heart and determination, would change the direction and ultimately the outcome of this stirring clash. Unlucky as he might be, Wlodarczyk was outworked and outhustled by Fragomeni down the stretch and despite the age discrepancy in his favour (12 years) looked the wearier of the two at the final bell. A rematch would be the only logical course of action to dispel any doubts but it looks very unlikely as a clash of veterans against 37-year old mandatory challenger Herbie Hide looms on the horizon for the Italian champion.
On the undercard of a show staged by Salvatore Cherchi’s OPI2000, WBC junior flyweight mandatory challenger Adrian Hernandez (15-1-1, 11 KOs) outpointed countryman Abel Ochoa (13-13, 9 KOs) over six thoroughly entertaining rounds, offering another classy performance on the Italian soil after the appearance made last October on the Fragomeni-Kray show. Also, local superwelter Emanuele Della Rosa (20-0, 8 KOs) and light welter Vittorio Oi (11-1-1 3 KOs) scored six-round decisions over Sebastien Spengler (14-9-2, 4 KOs) of France and Sento Martinez (4-11- 3, 3 KOs) of Spain, respectively.
In other action, middleweight Emanuele Blandamura (9-0, 3 KOs) stopped Ferenc Olah (9-12-2, 2 KOs) of Hungary in two rounds, southpaw cruiserweight Artur Szpilka (4-0, 2 KOs) of Poland easily outpointed trialhorse Zoltan Kallai (10-14-7, 3 KOs) over four and finally, light- heavy Andrea Moretti (3-0, 1 KOs) and cruiser Mirko Larghetti (2-0) outpointed Mihaly Kratki (5-24-3) and Sandor Balogh (1-11-2, 1 KOs), both from Hungary, also in four rounds.