By Phil Doherty
Photos: Sam Cohen and Reynaldo Sanchez
WBA #1-ranked welterweight contender Brad “King” Solomon (17-0, 7 KOs) built his undefeated record on an uncanny ability to change his style according to the opponent across from him. Last night at the Seminole Hard Rock in Hollywood FL, Solomon defended his WBA International title against fellow counter punching opponent Demetrius “The Gladiator” Hopkins (30-2-1, 11 KOs).
During the promotion leading up to the bout, Hopkins called Solomon a “wanna-be Roy Jones”. Just prior to the fight, Solomon addressed it from his dressing room: “He wanna be his uncle (Bernard Hopkins) and you know back in the day, when they both was in they prime, Roy and Bernard, you know who won. So if I wanna be a whatever he wanna say. He trying to be his uncle, but he aint his uncle so I’m gonna show him better than I can tell him in the ring.”
Styles make fights and having two defensive-minded combatants might have made for slow, painful TV during the ESPN2 broadcast Friday Night Fight main event.
No problem for the “King” as he switched to a more aggressive boxer/puncher mode to dictate the pace and in the process transform himself from contender to rightful world title challenger. Solomon repeatedly tested the “beard” of his more experienced, yet similarly unshaven foe. Judges recognized Solomon’s ring generalship and busier work rate to award him a 10-round unanimous decision victory with scores of 97-93 and 99-91 (twice).
The first round witnessed the two men witnessing each other and not much more as the unspoken question of “who will lead” begged an answer. Solomon provided that answer at the beginning of the second round with an overhand right to counter Hopkins’s jab. Jumping in behind single shots, Solomon dug left and right hooks to Hopkins’s midsection once in range. Hopkins responded by clinching and the two proceeded to in-fight until referee Tommy Kimmons separated them.
It was a pattern repeated throughout the bout as Solomon jumped in; sometimes causing a clash of heads, which prompted complaints from Hopkins and his corner. Hopkins initiated repeated clinches from which he could try to score against the busier, more agile and aggressive Solomon.
The fifth round began with a furious exchange from both men as Hopkins tried to catch Solomon with straight rights to the body and counter hooks upstairs. Solomon breathed heavily, leveraging his excellent conditioning to move and score two big left hooks to close the stanza. The sixth round saw Solomon loading up his shots as Hopkins backed to the ropes. Solomon fired big overhand rights and left hooks mixed with rapid 3-punch combinations to force “DHop” to clinch once again.
Hopkins seemed able to time Solomon coming in during the eight round with quick “one-twos” and clean overhand rights but the frequency didn’t match Solomon’s and the “King” continued to move forward. Hopkins attempted to slow Solomon’s assault with body shots in the ninth; however Solomon’s superior speed and last-minute flurries won him many of these engagements.
Solomon slowed the attack slightly in the tenth and final round, but still took opportunities to potshot Hopkins with lead left hooks and straight rights, including a wickedly fast two punch combo to close the show.
Hopkins conceded little to Solomon’s style as he left the ring, continuing to complain of the repeated incidental clash of heads created by Solomon’s in and out technique.
Solomon explained: “I thought he was gonna stay in there and fight, but he ran so he knew I was coming. He thought I was gonna be the boxer tonight but he ran, he fought a good fight. But he knew I was coming to knock him out so he was alert. I was trying to box him and get him on the inside of my punches, but he started holding and getting inside. He was just holding on too much. He didn’t want to fight.”
Asked for his future plans, Solomon answered: “I want to fight for a world title man; I’m tired of these little meals in the ring. I’m ready to eat big. I want a full meal. I want to get full, man.”
Former Olympic bantamweight gold medalist Yan Barthelemy of Cuba (12-2, 4 KOs) found a worthy last-minute opponent in Dominican fighter Francis Ruiz (9-4, 4 KOs) during the ESPN-televised 10 round co-main event. Barthelemy spent his entire training camp preparing to face heavy-handed Californian Chris Avalos (18-1, 15 KOs)but found himself without an opponent during last Tuesday’s press conference due to an alleged injury to one of Avalos’s hands.
The southpaw Barthelemy maintained a constant aggressive attack firing right hooks and straight left hands to Ruiz’s body and head. However, Ruiz earned a moral victory as well as Barthelemy’s respect with his own rapid left hooks and right hands.
Unfortunately for the Dominican, Barthelemy’s power and chin proved superior as he consistently walked through Ruiz’s punches to land his own. Yan is the experienced elder brother of the fighting Barthelemy clan which includes Rances and Leduan. His experience paid off in the third round as he dropped Ruiz with a strong right hook. Bravely beating the standing eight count, Ruiz fought hard to the bell.
Although outclassed in skill, Ruiz demonstrated heart and fire as he followed Barthelemy to the corner at the end of the fourth- giving the Cuban an earful and forcing referee Tellis Assimenios to escort him back to his own corner.
Barthelemy continued to widen his margin on the judges’ cards and the bruise under Ruiz’s left eye with his savage right hooks. Two big right hooks in the final round left Ruiz slightly wobbly and a rarely-seen bolo punch also scored from the Cuban. Judges scores were 98-91, 97-92 and a slightly unfair 100-89.
Atlanta-based heavyweight Cedric “The Bos” Boswell (34-1, 26 KOs) earned the vacant NABA belt along with his opponent’s WBC Latino and IBF Intercontinental titles by defeating former WBC world heavyweight champion Oliver “The Atomic Bull” McCall (55-11, 37 KOs).
McCall emotionally entered the ring and circled it plaintively looking out at the crowd. By contrast, Boswell stepped into the ring with an intense, focused demeanor as he stared down McCall in the corner.
Boswell leveraged lead left hooks, jabs to the body as well as repeated one-two’s upstairs to dictate the pace against the constantly advancing “Atomic Bull”.
McCall fired a decent but infrequent jab attempting to set up big right hands throughout the action. Boswell’s superior footwork helped him elude any real danger during the rare moments McCall’s heavy hands scored.
Judges scored the bout 99-91, 99-92 and 98-92 for Boswell, who desires to stay active and earn a world title opportunity for the first time in his seventeen year career.
In other undercard action, local Haitian-American heavyweight Dieuly “The Untamed Beast” Aristilde (8-4, 1 KO) notched a unanimous decision victory over Lujan Henderson (2-5, 1 KO). Although outweighed by almost sixty pounds and shorter by a foot, Aristilde controlled the pace behind right hooks to Henderson’s ample midsection and head. Scores were 39-37, and 40-36 (twice).
Fellow local heavyweight Erik “The Viking” Leander (10-1, 7 KOs) crushed Albert Jimenez (5-4, 5 KOs) with a huge right hand to end their brief but exciting fight at just 1:20 of the first round. All of “The Viking’s” knockouts have now come in the first round. The stoppage caused the large and vocal crowd to erupt in cheering.
The final two bouts of the evening featuring Cuban heavyweight Yasmay Consuegra and Kronk gym light middleweight Domonique Dolton were scratched due to time constraints.