PROVIDENCE, R.I. (June 1st, 2017) — While the main event championship showdown between reigning title-holder Greg Vendetti and challenger Khiary Gray next week at Twin River Casino promises to deliver fireworks in the junior middleweight division, the undercard of CES Boxing’s Friday, June 9th, 2017Pay Per View showcase could steal the spotlight.
Next Friday’s 10-fight card, promoted in association with Boston-based promotion Murphys Boxing, features three of the region’s busiest, most successful fighters facing their toughest test to date in front of an expected worldwide PPV audience on FITE TV.
Among the most noteworthy preliminary bouts is a six-round junior middleweight rematch between battle-tested New Bedford, Mass., vet Ray Oliveira Jr. (7-1, 1 KO) and the dangerous Jose Rivera (3-1, 3 KOs) of Hartford, Conn., who face one another for the second time just four months following their epic duel in February.
Oliveira, then 6-0, won by majority decision with judges Glenn Feldman and Don Trella scoring the bout in favor of Oliveira. Clark Sammartino had it a draw, 57-57.
The hard-hitting Rivera, who dabbled in mixed martial arts as an amateur before making the full-time switch to boxing, credit Oliveira for his durability, but felt he should’ve gotten the nod the first time around.
“I was the one landing all the punches,” Rivera said. “I felt like I outboxed him, I connected the most punches and most of the punches I landed were big, clean punches.
“He just managed to take the power.”
While Oliveira lost his last bout, another majority decision, this time to Maine’s Casey Kramlich, Rivera enters next Friday fresh off an exciting knockout win over New Yorker Marcus Beckford, courtesy of a thunderous, right uppercut in the fourth round that caught Beckford square on the chin and sent the 12-fight vet crashing to the canvas.
Next week’s rematch with Oliveira, like most of Oliveira’s fights, promises toe-to-toe action with both sides likely grabbing the momentum from one another at various points throughout the night.
“I made him miss a lot the first time and the punches he hit me with were mostly to my arms as I blocked 80 percent of them,” Rivera said. “Don’t get me wrong, he’s a good, aggressive fighter and he sure as hell comes to fight just like I do. At the end of the day, it was an awesome fight and I learned a lot from it. The rematch will be a must-watch fight.”
Staying true to his word, Oliveira continues to move forward, even on the heels of a tough loss in April. The son of New Bedford legend “Sucra” Ray Oliveira, the 26-year-old junior middleweight prospect has carved his own path as one of the tougher challengers in his weight class; next Friday will be his fifth fight in the last 11 months against opponents with a combined record of 16-2-1. He expects more of the same June 9th.
“As I’ve told people before, I’m not a big fan of rematches. It isn’t in my best interest to fight the same people over and over, but, once again, he called me out,” Oliveira said. “He wanted the first fight and now he wants the rematch.
“He feels the decision was unjust, but I completely won that fight. Last time, I was a little impatient. I really wanted the knockout. I was a little mad I got called out by someone with a lesser record, so I wanted to knock him out and prove a point. It didn’t happen. I was going for it too much. That’s why it didn’t come.
“This time, I’ll relax more and take my time. If I’m a little more patient and put my punched together, I can probably get the knockout. I like Jose. We talked afer the first fight. He’s a hard-working kid, but this is business. Next Friday, I’m going to take care of business. This is nothing I haven’t seen before.”
Perhaps the only fighter in New England busier than Oliveira, middleweight Kendrick Ball Jr. (6-0-2, 5 KOs) of Worcester, Mass., returns next Friday for the third time in 2017 and the ninth time since turning pro 13 months ago in a six-round showdown against fellow undefeated middleweight and Bloomfield, N.J., policeman Godson Noel (6-0-1, 4 KOs).
Eight weeks ago, Ball earned his second consecutive win and fifth career knockout when he stopped the game Zachary Christy, a decorated U.S. Air Force vet and Rhode Island native, in the fifth round of a scheduled six-round fight.
Despite Ball’s eight-inch height advantage, the fight was still up for grabs down the stretch; the shorter Christy closed the gap by fighting effectively on the inside and led on one scorecard entering the fifth, but Ball — a notorious slow starter — turned up the intensity following a pep talk from his father, Kendrick Ball, between rounds and finished Christy with a trio of left hooks upstairs, scoring the knockout at the 1:19 mark.
The 24-year-old Ball faces an undefeated opponent for the fourth time next week with Noel looking to rebound from the only blemish on his record, a draw against 43-fight vet Antonio Fernandes in May of 2016.
Also making his climb as one of New England’s most watched fighters of 2017, Providence, R.I., lightweight Anthony Marsella Jr. (4-0, 2 KOs) returns to action next Friday in the first six-round fight of his promising career when he faces Dallas vet Abraham Torres (3-1, 1 KO).
Marsella fights for the first time since February when he scored a dominant, unanimous decision win over 16-fight vet Francisco Medel. The resilient Torres has rebounded nicely from a loss in his pro debut with three consecutive wins, including victories over the unbeaten Antonio Castillo in February of 2016. He returned a year later, battling to a draw with undefeated Edward Vasquez in Dallas, a fight he nearly ended in the opening round courtesy of a staggering right hand, but the outcome was later changed to a no contest, keeping Torres’ win streak alive.
“Stepping into my first six-round fight,” Marsella said, “my opponent is on a win streak that I’m putting to an end June 9th.”
Torres’ team remains confident; the popular, 28-year-old lightweight has a strong following in his hometown and a reputation as a hard-working, come-forward fighter. Torres’ trainer and manager, Julio DeLeon, warned the Marsella camp, “They picked the wrong fight.”
Stacking the deck even further, CES Boxing and Murphys Boxing teamed to bring Twin River fight fans a dynamic main event and co-feature for next Friday’s PPV extravaganza. Gray (14-2, 11 KOs), promoted by CES, and Vendetti (14-2-1, 10 KOs), promoted by Murphys founder Ken Casey, the founder of Celtic punk band the Dropkick Murphys, have been on one another’s radar for the past year and a half, a rivalry that intensified when Vendetti captured the vacant New England Junior Middleweight Title in May of 2016.
Eleven months later, the two 154-pound contenders face one another in next week’s eight-round main event with both Vendetti’s title and 10-fight win streak on the line.
Rounding out the June 9th doubleheader, Murphys prospect Mark DeLuca (18-0, 12 KOs) of Whitman, Mass., puts his unbeaten record on the line against the dangerous Chris Chatman (14-6-1, 5 KOs) of Chicago in the eight-round co-feature. Chatman has become a New England fan-favorite in recent years with wins over regional standouts Thomas Falowo and Vladine Biosse and makes his ninth Twin River Casino appearance next Friday and fifth in a row since April of 2015.
In another hotly-contested regional showdown, New London, Conn., junior welterweight Cristobal Marrero (4-0, 2 KOs) faces fellow unbeaten Miguel Ortiz (2-0, 2 KOs) of Springfield, Mass., in a four-round bout. Both fought in April with Marrero edging Sidney Maccow by majority decision and Ortiz upending previously unbeaten prospect Jonathan Figueroa on the scorecards by unanimous decision.
The June 9th card also features the Rhode Island and Twin River debut of CES’ newest protégé, 6-foot-5 Italian heavyweight Juiseppe Cusumano (10-1, 8 KOs) of Norfolk, Va. The 29-year-old Cusumano will face Wilmington, Del., native Dan Biddle (9-6, 5 KOs) in a six-round bout. Providence, R.I., super featherweight Michael Valentin makes his professional debut in a separate four-round bout against Kevin De Freitas of Somerville, Mass., who also makes his debut.
Salem, Mass., junior welterweight Matt Doherty (6-3-1, 4 KOs), fresh off a big knockout win over Julio Perez in February, faces Providence’s Cido Hoff (1-1-1) in a four-round bout, and Pawtucket, R.I, featherweight Ricky Delossantos (1-0) battles Orange, N.J., native Malcolm Simms (0-0-1), also in a four-round bout.