Unpredictability Highlights Pro Boxing at the Arnold Classic

Draws.  Questionable decisions.  Lightning-fast knockouts.  With a very large representation of Midwest boxers, this all made for a highly entertaining fight card on Saturday, March 2, at the Voinovich Center in Columbus, Ohio, during the Arnold Classic Sports Festival.

Hosting so many pugilists not only from all over the United States but also internationally sets up for an unpredictable night naturally.  The only predictable fight was for the World Boxing Organization Oriental Heavyweight Championship, whose champion will earn a shot at the World Title sooner than later.

The night started with a lightweight contest between Jahmal Dyer (8-1, 5 KOs) of Baltimore, Maryland and Carlos Dixon (7-0, 4 KOs) of Louisville, Kentucky.  Dyer had the advantage in the earlier rounds, bloodying Dixon and gaining control of the fight. Dixon tried to get inside Dyer, managing to fend the more compact Dyer off throughout the middle rounds.  Round Six began with a furious show from both fighters who tried to give everything they had, hoping to catch one another slipping. Dyer threw every punch he wanted, bloodying Dixon again; however, Dixon proved to be a tough out by defending and counter-punching in crucial spots.  Dixon’s effort was not enough, as Dyer won by unanimous decision.

Next was a heavyweight bout with an international flavor.  Ed Fountain (12-4, 5 TKOs), hailing from St. Louis, Missouri met Auckland, New Zealand native Hemi “The Heat” Ahio (13-0, 9 KOs).  Ahio is not a physically defined as Fountain, who looks like chiseled granite, but, often in boxing, looks can be deceiving.  Surprisingly quick and with plenty of power, Ahio landed two left hooks that Fountain respected the entire rest of the fight. Fountain responded in kind to Ahio at the end of the first round.  Both fighters became more aggressive in the middle rounds. Ahio had a difficult time getting inside of Fountain, and when he did, Fountain, at one point, acknowledged Ahio by laughing off Ahio’s efforts.  Ahio proved the more patient fighter, as he was willing to chip away at the granite, eventually wearing down Fountain for the TKO in the seventh.

Heavyweights Ed Fountain (left) and Hemi “The Heat” Ahio (right) face off against each other. Credit: Steve Casalinuovo of Big Sports Bulletin

A second heavyweight bout followed this one as Donovan Dennis, hailing from Cleveland, Ohio and fighting out of Davenport, Iowa (12-3, 10 KOs) fought against Stephan “Big Shot” Shaw (10-0, 7 KOs) from St. Louis, Missouri.  Shaw showed some quickness for a big man, but Dennis was able to counter everything Shaw threw at him. Dennis dominated the first two rounds by keeping the powerful Shaw at bay while tagging the big man inside with a few stiff jabs from either hand.   After a massive left hook, Dennis seemed to be in control. Sensing this, Shaw immediately clinched up, ending the round. Dennis may have smelled victory too soon. In the third round, Shaw rolled away from Dennis’ lefts and countered with big right hook that staggered the taller Dennis.  Before anyone knew it, Stephan “Big Shot” Shaw hoisted both his sons in victory via third round TKO.

The heavyweight parade continued with Rob “Sizzle” Simms (8-2, 2 TKOs) from Saginaw, Michigan versus George Arias (12-0, 4 TKOs) from the Bronx, New York. The fight was fast and furious from the jump, with Arias looking stronger and quicker than the less than sizzling Simms. Simms caught Arias with some crisp jabs, but Arias came back with some good body shots. Simms showed he was not intimidated by the power of the “Big Man from The Boogie Down” by channeling his best Sugar Ray Leonard impersonation. Simms had good power, but Arias remained unfazed. These two went back-and-forth throughout the entire fight; however, Simms’ conditioning –or lack thereof– was his downfall.  Simms sizzled out as Arias won the match by majority decision.

Taking a break from the heavyweights, the card posted a contest between two super middleweights.  Chris “The Last Chapter” Chatman (15-10, 5 KOs) from Chicago, Illinois went against Isaiah “Z Wop” Steen (12-0, 10 KOs).  Both fighters brought it, but Steen seemed the more athletic of the two. Both men punched and counter-punched each other well.  Steen effectively avoided Chapman’s overhand rights and fired back with left hooks to Chapman’s body. Steen raised his level and attacked Chapman’s head enough to knock Chapman’s mouthpiece out.  Steen controlled the entire bout, landing jabs and crosses on Chapman’s head and body. Hilariously, Chapman tried to go “Super Saiyan” in order to fire himself up, but it did no good. Steen sent a well-placed left to a charging Chapman’s chin, knocking him down for a TKO in the sixth round.

The final heavyweight match was the main event, and the shortest.  The World Boxing Organization’s Oriental Heavyweight Championship was on the line between challenger Newfel Ouatah (16-2, 9 KOs), from Lyon, France and champion Junior Fa (16-0, 12 KOs) from Papakura, New Zealand.  Fa went to work early on the taller Ouatah. These athletic fighters came to work. Fa moved forward all round, being a little too aggressive with a right to the back of the head of Ouatah during a referee break.  Fa continued the onslaught, knocking Ouatah down three times, the third coming via a hard right cross. Fa’s relentlessness paid off as he defeated Ouatah by TKO in the first. Fa showed that it will only be a short matter of time until he will be contending for the World Title; he is a boxing star.

Two local competitors went after each other in the middleweight division as Ben Schlater (4-1-2, TKO) from Lewisburg, Ohio fought Travis Jerig (3-3) from Zanesville, Ohio. Schlater came out firing with haymakers until Jerig had enough and started to clinch. The second and third rounds were very even, with no fighter gaining an advantage. In the last round, Schlater came with some heavy shots, but Jerig was able to counter-punch well enough.  The bout ended in a draw.

The most shocking knockout of the evening came from a boxer in his debut. Rolando Vargas (0-0) from Milwaukee, Wisconsin took on Tamarcus Smith (2-1, 2 KOs) from Meridian, Mississippi.  This fight was shorter than this paragraph, as Vargas moved in with solid body shots and actually reached the taller Smith’s chin.  Vargas snuck inside Smith, tagging him with a knockout left.

Former Mixed Martial Arts fighter and local hero from Columbus, Alfred Leisure (2-0, KO), fought Lynchburg, Tennessee native Jessi Hackett (1-1) in a welterweight fight. Leisure immediately flashed a left hook that staggered Hackett. Leisure was all over the more compact Hackett, overpowering him with lefts and rights. Three knockdowns later, Leisure scored the duke via TKO in the first round in front of his hometown crowd.

The Cruiserweight division saw two more Central Ohio pugilists. Cody Herbert (0-0), native of Sydney, Ohio went up against another local Chris Minor (0-1-1).  Minor’s plan was defense against the wind-up swinger Herbert. Herbert was briefly able to solve Minor’s defense with two left hooks in the corner.  Both men landed head shots on each other, but nothing was effective. A left-right combination from Minor in the second round had Herbert bleeding from his nose.  The throwback pugilist did not let that deter him as he kept coming after Minor, posting Minor in the corner with some strong shots to end the round. Round three saw Herbert literally come out swinging, even putting Minor in trouble.  Minor played off most of the damage, but it was obvious Herbert had an effect on him in this round. In the final round, Herbert again came out swinging, but, this time, Minor was able to cut Herbert above his eye with some stiff left jabs.  Both fighters battled mid-ring until right before the end of the round when Herbert cornered Minor just before the bell. Minor won by a split decision, much to the audible groan from an entertained audience.

In other action, Alante Green (3-0) defeated Anthony Trotter (3-3), and Skender Halili (16-2) beat Gorjan Slaveski (5-0, 3 KOs).  

Columbus, OH fan favorite Jamie Walker (9-1-1, 3 KOs) fought for the vacant World Boxing Association-North American Boxing Association super welterweight title in a highly anticipated 10-round battle against Dan Karpency (8-2, 4 KOs), of Adah, Pennsylvania.  Walker, known as “The Pitbull” worked valiantly against his foe, Karpency, who is from a family of boxers. The two men fought an evenly matched bout, using the first rounds to feel each other out. In the early rounds, Karpency came to bang, but Walker was content to fend off with defense and clinches.  In Round four, Walker was the aggressor, and, this time, with one flurry at the end of the round as an exception, it was Karpency who employed defense. Round six saw good close-quarters boxing. Karpency came with two solid left hooks, yet Walker was able to work out of that trouble. The surprisingly divided crowd began to hype their favorite fighter at the beginning of the eighth round.  This seemed to work, as Walker snuck in some good head shots while Karpency counter-punched his way out of the predicament. Walker was looking to end the fight with some murderous shots, but Karpency was able to survive into the ninth. The ninth round was very entertaining with Walker putting some chinks in Karpency’s armor with some good jabs. Both fighters turned it on at the end and throughout the Tenth Round; however, neither fighter was able to damage the other significantly enough to gain an advantage.

The fight ended in a draw, deflating both competitors.  After the fight, Walker was overheard discussing his disappointment with the outcome.  “We tied, and that sucks,” the demoralized fighter remarked. The WBA-NABA Middleweight Championship will remain vacant.

Despite all the disappointments and draws, the card was highly entertaining.  DiBella Entertainment should be lauded for organizing an evenly matched, competitive card. Boxing definitely carried forward the spirit of the Arnold Classic with a mix of international and local fighters performing on a grand stage.  Most of the charm of the Arnold Classic is to be able to see these athletes grow into stars. Rising stars like Hemi Ahio and Junior Fa in the heavyweight division ensured that international boxing will have a bright future.

To learn more about DiBella Entertainment, go here.

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