Friday, September 22, 2023  |



Xander Zayas drops, shuts out Ronald Cruz over 8; Bruce Carrington scores stoppage

Photo by Mikey Williams/Top Rank Inc via Getty Images
Fighters Network

NEW YORK — Xander Zayas may have missed out on co-headlining a card on the weekend of last year’s Puerto Rican Day Parade in New York, but the 20-year-old from San Juan, Puerto Rico finally got his chance on Saturday night at The Theater at Madison Square Garden.

The developing prospect didn’t waste the shot as he entertained the crowd with an eight-round unanimous decision win over Ronald Cruz of Los Angeles. The scores were 80-71 across the board for the junior middleweight bout, which opened up the ESPN-televised portion of the Josh Taylor vs. Teofimo Lopez-headlined card.

“Thank you to all my Puerto Rican fans and to everyone that came out. This is a dream come true. I’m very happy to have fought during Puerto Rican Day Parade weekend. He was a tough guy. I was hitting him with everything. He didn’t want to go down,” said Zayas (16-0, 10 knockouts).

Zayas, who had to withdraw from last year’s card due to a viral infection, opened the bout in explosive fashion, dropping Cruz (18-3-1, 12 KOs) with a right hand. Zayas looked keen to score a first round stoppage, hurting Cruz with another hook before the end of the round.

Realizing he couldn’t compete with Zayas’ speed or output, Cruz began pressuring with his hands up, making Zayas work in an attempt to tire him out.

Zayas accepted the invitation to throw at Cruz, mixing in combinations between the guard and underneath the elbow, with the payoff punch being right hands down the pipe.

Cruz began to make his move in the fifth round, increasing his output as Zayas began to settle in for the long haul. Cruz was able to land a few right hands to the head, but never did much to turn the fight.

Zayas erased any doubt about the direction of the fight in the seventh as he put together combinations that rocked Cruz and had referee Steve Willis following the action closely.

The win was the first fight for Cruz, who hadn’t fought since defeating Alexis Salazar by an eight round decision on the undercard of Teofimo Lopez’s last bout against Sandor Martin. The loss is the second straight for Cruz, 31, who was coming off a ten-round unanimous decision lost to Damian Sosa last August.

Shu-Shu scores final round stoppage

After seven rounds of one-sided action, it looked like Bruce Carrington just wouldn’t be able to get rid of the durable Luis Porozo. Porozo had only been stopped twice in his six defeats – both of which were at lightweight – and was standing up to the non-stop onslaught of the 26-year-old featherweight prospect.

Many fighters would be content with a shutout decision, but not Carrington. The Brooklyn native continued to pour on the punishment, wobbling the 32-year-old from Santo Domingo, Ecuador, forcing a referee stoppage at the 2:17 mark of the eighth and final round.

Carrington (8-0, 5 KOs) put on a combination punching exhibition against the durable Porozo (16-7, 9 KOs), landing uppercuts with both hands, banging the body and pivoting to create new punching angles.

The fight was the second eight-round assignment for Carrington, who turned pro in September of 2021.

Sometimes you land and you land and your opponent just won’t go away. In that case, you just have to box and pile up the points.

That’s the lesson that Damian Knyba learned in his eight-round bout against Helaman Olguin. Knyba, a towering 6’7” heavyweight from Bydgoszcz, Poland, won a convincing eight-round unanimous decision over the 39-year-old Mexican American by scores of 79-73 on all cards.

Damian Knyba (L) lands a hook on Helaman Olguin (R). Photo by Mikey Williams/Top Rank Inc via Getty Images

Knyba, who is trained by former light heavyweight contender Shaun George, broke through his opponent’s southpaw guard in round four, bloodying his nose and landing a sustained barrage of right hands that would have folded most of his previous opponents. Knyba made the adjustment of starting his attacks to the substantial midsection of Olguin in the fifth round, freezing him along the ropes to land his right hands to the chin. Olguin was showing courage – perhaps too much courage – as the ringside doctor observed him before the start of the sixth, signaling that the fight could be ended prematurely.

A better performance in the sixth earned Olguin another round. Knyba continued to box his way to a decision, with both showing the other respect at the final bell.

Knyba is managed by Lukasz Kownacki, the brother of popular heavyweight Adam Kownacki, and signed a promotional deal with Top Rank earlier this year.

The Puerto Rican Day Parade in New York may be scheduled for Sunday, but Boricua pride was in the air on Saturday night at The Theater at Madison Square Garden.

The Zayas-Cruz bout wasn’t the only all-Puerto Rico fight on the card. In a close bout which could have gone either way, Omar Rosario (11-0, 3 KOs) of Caguas, Puerto Rico won a unanimous decision by the slimmest of margins, outpointing Jan Carlos Rivera (8-2, 6 KOs) of Philadelphia by way of Vieques, Puerto Rico by the scores of 77-75 on all three cards in their eight-round junior welterweight bout.

In the show’s opener, Henry Lebron (18-0, 10 KOs) of Aguadilla, Puerto Rico scored two knockdowns of Carlos Ramos (17-3, 10 KOs) of Madrid, Spain by way of Guayquil, Ecuador to win a unanimous decision by the scores of 98-90 on two cards and 97-91 on the third.

The most underwhelming outcome of the card came just before the main card began as two-time title challenger Robson Conceicao (17-2, 8 KOs) of Brazil had to settle for an unsavory no decision against Nicolas Polanco (20-2, 11 KOs) of Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic.

The action was just heating up in the second round when the two clashed heads unintentionally, sending Polanco writhing to the canvas. Polanco seemed to be milking the inadvertent blow, with the ringside doctor ruling that he couldn’t continue. Conceicao was hoping to get a much-needed win after losing two of his last three bouts to Shakur Stevenson and Oscar Valdez.