Almost daily, Haitians receive bad news from their homeland. Kidnappings, assassinations, coups d’etat, hurricanes, flooding, earthquakes, and COVID-19 dominate the headlines. It seems the world’s first Black republic, born from a successful slave revolution, just can’t “catch a break,” as the saying goes.
So when a Haitian athlete shines on the world stage, that is a “break” every Haitian can savor. The occasion came on Sat., May 28, 2022, when a female boxer from Haiti, Jaica Pavilus (3-5-1, 0KOs), was likely brought in as an opponent to pad the record of the previously undefeated Mia Ellis (4-1, 3KOs) in the female Bantamweight Division.
From the opening bell, Jaica showed she was not following the proverbial script of just being a body that showed up for a payday. Jaica used good defense, boxed beautifully, and even scored a knockdown over Ellis, the heavily-favored fighter. Underdog Jaica played out the hand she was dealt with gusto, imposing her will on Ellis. Everything Ellis tried to do in the match, Jaica did better. At the fight’s end, it was clear that Jaica would be declared the winner in front of a sold-out crowd at Brooklyn’s Barclays Center. Haitians who watch Jaica’s victory on YouTube (the fight was in the untelevised part of the Showtime event) will be inspired by her great performance, which uplifts Haiti.
The evening’s main event – Gervonta “Tank” Davis versus Rolando “Rolly” Romero – lived up to its hype. The Barclays Center was sold out, setting an attendance record. As I scanned the arena, there didn’t appear to be an empty seat in the house. There were celebrities, hardcore boxing fans, and many who appeared to be the “average Joe” whom the fight promoters had successfully sold the idea that this is a fight that they just had to witness.
Rolly came down the aisle to the sound of Prince’s “When Doves Cry.” When it was Tank’s turn to walk to the ring, the ovation he received made it clear that he was the crowd’s favorite. If Tank wasn’t listed as coming from Baltimore, one might have thought the WBA (regular) Lightweight champion was from New York.
As the fight started, it went back and forth, with Rolly on the offensive, stalking his prey. Champion Tank looked to counter-punch and set up his shots. Rolly landed many of his punches and scored well. Tank started off slow and was on the defensive. After five rounds of action, the scoring appeared to split. Officially, one judge scored the fight 3-2 rounds for Rolly, while the other two judges had it 3-2 rounds for Davis. No matter who was winning, it was an exciting fight but clearly was not going the full 12 rounds.
In the sixth round, Tank dropped Rolly with a perfect, well-timed counter left hook when Rolly was throwing shots at Tank, who was on the ropes. Rolly beat the count, but the referee waved the fight off as Rolly appeared to be unsteady on his feet.
The stoppage came at 2:39 into the sixth round. Tank celebrated in Rolly’s corner, while Rolly quickly left the ring, opting not to be interviewed. Tank showed great composure and the calm of a real champion.
At the post-fight press conference, Rolly was asked by a reporter what he would like to do next. He said that he wants an immediate rematch with Davis. When told about Rolly’s desire, Tank Davis replied that the way he knocked down Rolly shows there is no need for a rematch, but he did not rule out the possibility.
Contractually, the Rolly fight was Tank’s last with his promotional team. When his promoter was asked to discuss Tank’s contract, he declined but did state that he is Tank’s promoter. There is a pool of fighters that will give Tank a big payday such as Ryan Garcia, Shakur Stevenson, Vasyl Lomencko, and the winner of Kambosos-Haney. Those fights are not likely to be made easily or at all because each of those fighters have a different promoter than Tank. If Tank opts to leave his promotional team, those fights become more likely. Let’s see what Tank does.
Undercard from Barclays
In the co-feature of the night, WBA (regular) Middleweight (160 lbs.) Champion Erislandy Lara ( 29-3-3, 17KOs) of Cuba showed that he is still a major player in that division at age 39 by successfully defending his title. He methodically picked his shots and counter-punched his way to victory over the game Garry O’Sullivan (31-5, 21KOs). Lara scored a knockdown in the fourth round. If not for the bell signaling the round’s end, Lara may have scored a TKO. O’Sullivan bounced back and mounted a respectable defense in the fifth and sixth rounds, but Lara was still systemically taking O’Sullivan apart. Round 7 mirrored the fourth; again, Lara almost stopped O’Sullivan, who was saved by Round 7’s closing bell. Before the eighth round, the ringside physician briefly assessed O’Sullivan, deeming him fit to continue fighting. Lara went back to work and continued scoring at will until the referee had seen enough and waved off the fight as O’Sullivan was being totally outclassed. The fight ended in a TKO at 23 seconds into the eighth round.
For readers not familiar with Lara, he lost a split decision to Canelo back in 2014. Some observers thought that Lara actually won that fight. It will be interesting to see who fights Lara next. A fight between stable-mate WBC Middleweight champion Jermall Charlo makes sense, as they fight for the same promotion team.
In a 10-round bout in the Junior Middleweight Division, rising contender Jesus Ramos improved his record to 19-0,15KOs with a unanimous decision victory over Luke Santamaria, who now drops to 13-3-2, 7KOS. The judges’ scores were 98-92 and 97-93 x2.
In the first televised bout of the Showtime Pay-Per-View telecast, Super Featherweight Eduardo Ramírez of Mexico (27-2-3-2NC,12KOs) scored a majority decision against Luis Meléndez of Puerto Rico (17-2,13KOs) after 10 rounds. One judge had it 95-95 even, while the other two judges scored it 96-94 and 98-92 for Ramirez. The site Philboxing.com scored the bout 95-95, a draw.
In the Junior Middleweight Division, Luis Arias (20-3-1, 9KOs) scored a unanimous decision victory over Jimmy Williams (18-8-2, 6KOs). The three judges’ scores were 99-91.
Hot, up-and-coming prospect, welterweight Jalil Hackett (4-0, 3KOs), scored a spectacular TKO in the second round over José Belloso (4-1, 4KOs). The time was 2:19.
In a six-round welterweight bout, Adrian Benton (7-0, 4KOs) earned a decision victory over Jose Antonio Meza (8-7, 2KOs).
New York Welterweight Arnold Gonzalez remained undefeated (10-0, 5KOs ) in front of his hometown fans by defeating Tracey McGruder (6-3, 4KOs) via split decision after six rounds.
Ralph Rimpell can be reached at Rluvsboxing@aol.com