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Wednesday, Feb. 28, 2024
The Observer

Bengal Bouts: Perez becomes 3-time champ

Perez narrowly defeated Sullivan by split decision in this highly anticipated match-up of reigning champions that certainly lived up to its billing as the "fight of the night".

"I felt pain. My lungs were burning and it hurt a lot," said Perez, a junior who has now won titles at 130, 140 and 149 pounds. "It was definitely my toughest fight ever. He did what he had to do to win the fight, but it was just my night. I can't describe it in words; all the hard work just paid off."

The smaller, quicker Perez established an early advantage, landing the fight's first few shots with a couple of big right hooks. Sullivan responded, connecting on a few left-right combos that put Perez on the defensive but didn't appear to rattle him.

"He's a hard kid to fight, and he probably took me out of my fight [plan] a little bit because of how quick and strong he is," Sullivan said. "I thought I could shed his punches just with my hands, so I didn't move as much and stayed more relaxed than I probably should have."

Once the fight ended, not only did the fighters share an embrace (as is common between two boxers who have trained together for several months), but Sullivan also walked over to Perez's corner as the scores were being tabulated in another demonstration of the respect between two of the tournament's top performers.

"The kid's an awesome kid and an awesome fighter," Sullivan said. "Once you're done in the ring and everything's settled, it's just cool to share a moment with a kid who you've trained so hard with and have just gone through a war with."

But still, despite all the pair's mutual admiration, there's no denying Sullivan's disappointment.

"It's devastating to lose something that I've poured so much into," he said. "That fight, it hurts to lose something like that because you keep thinking about all the little things you could have done differently that might have changed [the outcome].

"Maybe in 20 years I'll look back and it'll be a positive experience, but man, it hurts right now."

130: Chris Izzaguire def. Matthew Conti

In a very fast-paced opening fight, senior veteran Izzaguirre was able to hold off freshman Conti in the finals, picking up a split decision victory. Conti came out aggressively with quick punches right off the bat, but the fight was eventually slowed by a number of wrap ups in the first round, and neither established a clear advantage.

"I was a bit worried," Izzaguirre said of the decision. "You only remember being hit, not hitting the other guy."

Conti came out strong in the second, landing a good combo against the ropes to start. However, Izzaguirre was able to counter, coming out and landing a couple of strong right hooks throughout the second and third round. .

"I kept telling myself, 'This is my last fight, this is my last chance to prove it,'" Izzaguirre said.

138: Chris Hartstein def. Bobby Powers

Hartstein used a fast start and a strong finish to defeat Powers, a novice boxer .

"At the end, he was getting tired, so I was able to counter his jabs with straight rights over the top," said Hartstein, who lost in the finals as a freshman a year ago. "That's how I won the fight."

As he did throughout the tournament, Hartstein began the fight on the offensive, going right at the taller Powers. A left jab-right hook combo sent Powers stumbling back in the first 10 seconds, but the freshman responded by landing several blows to keep it close.

In the second round, Powers was able to pick his spots, taking advantage of Hartstein's aggressiveness and using his reach to land jabs as Hartstein went for the knockout with a few big right hooks.

The third turned into a wrestling match as both fighters showed their fatigue by being content to go for the wrap-up instead of the big blow. The fast-paced first round caught up to both boxers, and even when Hartstein went on the offensive, he used Powers' body to brace himself. Still, only Hartstein was able to mount any attack whatsoever, and it gave him enough points to win in a split decision.

"I was alright [going into the fight], and I was more nervous last year," Hartstein said. "Going into the third, my corner said I had to win the round, and I came out strong and did it."

146: Tim Thayer def. Mark Costanzo

Continuing what he has done throughout the tournament, Tim Thayer was able to effectively use his right power punches against Mark Costanzo. Thayer rode the strategy to a unanimous victory.

"I got a little aggressive with [the right hand] going for the knockout," said Thayer. "But I was able to bounce back in the third round."

It was a match that showed contrasting styles. Costanzo had the edge in speed and agility, while Thayer showed the advantage in power. Thayer was able to land his right hand often enough to cause a standing eight count for Costanzo. But Costanzo was able to counter right back, cornering Thayer and landing punches at the end of the second.

155: Alex Gonzalez def. Mark Bennett

Alex Gonzalez only had one fight leading up to his final bout against Mark Bennett. Some would think the extra rest would be an advantage for him, but Gonzalez didn't think so.

"Everyone had a week off anyway," said Gonzalez, referring to the week of spring break that landed between the preliminary rounds and the semifinals. "The biggest thing was that I had a lot of spars coming in [during practice]"

Because of that, Gonzalez was able to overcome his lack of ring time and cruised to a unanimous win over Bennett. After an even first frame, Gonzalez went on the offensive in the second round, knocking Bennett's headgear loose and giving him a bloody nose. He landed numerous right hooks throughout the late second and early third round. More uppercuts from Gonzalez in the third led to multiple standing eight counts and all but sealed the win for Gonzalez.

157: Jim Devereaux def. Jordan Bucci

Round one started off as a little bit of a dance, with both fighters feeling each other out. Bucci was able to get close a couple of times and land a few punches to the body.

Round two saw a flurry of attacks from Bucci, which Devereaux was able to fight off with his superior reach. Devereaux countered with a few combinations to Bucci's head.

The third round saw both fighters taking the offensive with the hopes of taking control and earning the decision.

"Winning my division of the Bengal Bouts feels great," Devereaux said. "It mainly took a lot exercise and a focus on the fundamentals that the captains teach all year that enabled me to be successful. The final was a very close match, but I was able to use my left to stay out of trouble. Bucci came hard all two minutes of each round and it was a fun match."

161: Dan Rodgers def. Matt Hopke

Dan Rodgers was able to overcome his fatigue and finish strong in order to gain a unanimous victory over Matt Hopke. Hopke came in with the advantage, being both tall and left-handed and it was expected that Hopke could keep Rodgers away because of that. However, an even first with a lot of energy and movement left both fighters gasping for air late in the second round.

With both fighters noticeably tired, Rodgers was able to slip underneath Hopke's punches in the third and get close to the lanky lefty. He landed enough punches in the third to take clear control of the fight and cruise the rest of the way to victory.

166: Joseph Meares def. Charlie Gough

Meares began the fight with some powerful rights to the side of Gough's head. Gough attempted to use his jab to keep Meares at arms length. Meares connected on a vicious right hook to Gough's head, which had Gough stunned.

Once the fight recommenced, Meares backed Gough up to the ropes with a flurry of fists and knocked him down. Gough kept telling the referee that he wanted to continue, but the referee refused and then ended the fight a minute and a half into the round.

"Winning a championship in the Bengal Bouts is such an honor," Meares said. "I've never seen harder work ethics in my life, and I've been around a lot of sports and many great athletes. I have to give a lot of credit to Charlie as well, the ref was ready to stop the fight but he kept saying 'Let me go. Let me go.' I was really impressed by that, I'd hope that in the same situation I would have half the guts he showed on Friday night."

170: Bernardo Garcia def. Ben O'Brien

Freshman Bernardo Garcia was able to fend off veteran Ben O'Brien to come out on top in a unanimous decision. Garcia's main weapon was a punch not often seen by the amateurs in Bengal Bouts - the uppercut.

"Actually, I came into the fight not thinking that I was going to throw any uppercuts," said Garcia. "It opened up, so I used it."

Throughout the fight, Garcia was able to land his uppercut anytime O'Brien came in close. O'Brien attempted to counter by throwing quicker, straighter punches later in the fight, but he could never find a consistent counter that could stop Garcia from throwing the uppercut.

O'Brien made a comeback attempt in the third, but the early lead of Garcia was too much to overcome in the end.

170: Mike Lee def. Andres Villalba

Lee came right at Villalba, trying to surprise him with some quick combinations out of the gates. Villalba countered by landing several blows on Lee's body, as he began to back down Villalba into the corner. The second round began with a flurry from both fighters, with Villalba taking the brunt of it. Villalba was momentarily stunned while the ref made sure he could continue.

Lee stayed on the offensive and backed Villalba into the ropes, knocking him to his knees. Villalba continued to absorb punishment until the end of the round.

The third round saw Lee continue to attack, with Villalba countering with a few combinations. Things slowed down towards the end of the round with both fighters tiring.

"It was an unbelievable honor to win in a program as outstanding and rewarding as Bengal Bouts," Lee said. "Andres is a great fighter with fast, strong punches and a great all-around guy. It was weird going into the ring with a good friend like that, but I caught him with a few punches that made him dizzy and knocked him off his game-plan."

189: Alex Lough def. Leo Rubinkowski

Similar to the 161 finals, the 189 final match featured a tall lefthander, Leo Rubinkowski, against a shorter right-hander, Alex Lough. Much like in the 161 finals, the short righty won in a unanimous decision, despite his disadvantages.

"I knew he was going to be tough since he is so tall and left handed," Lough said.

"I was able to stay out of his range and block most of his punches and then get inside and land combos," Lough said.

Throughout the fight, Lough was able to use his power advantage and push Rubinkowski into the corner and against the ropes. But, Rubinkowski was generally able to fight his way out of trouble without too much damage.

The fight appeared about even until the late third, where Lough backed Rubinkowski against the ropes one final time and landed a big combination ending with a strong right hand.

206: Andrew Lorenz def. Pat Burns

The fight began with Lorenz coming out fast and attacking Burns with all he had. Burns absorbed the punishment, waiting for Lorenz to tire. Lorenz took Burns to the ropes twice before Burns started to counterattack, landing several blows to Lorenz's head.

Round two saw things slow down and both fighters settled in. Lorenz took Burns to the ropes multiple times again, but Burns continued to make him pay the price for every step. Both fighters continue to land solid hooks to the opponent's head.

The end of the fight consisted of both fighters attempting to gain some last minute points by landing a few punches. Showing fatigue, both fighters began to lean against each other as the final bell rang, but the damage was already done, and Lorenz picked up the decision.

"I was a little bit more under control than Andrew [Lorenz] was," Burns said.

"He landed a lot more punches than I did. He didn't fall into a pattern and there was nothing for me to exploit. He just out-fought me."

Heavyweight: Will Bourroughs def. Kevin Crepeau

Bourroughs came into the heavyweight finals with two victories under his belt, both by knockout. Though freshman Kevin Crepeau did not end up on the mat, the referee stopped the fight in the third round, giving the match and the championship to Burroughs.

"I was able to catch a rhythm. I exploited his punches and hit him pretty hard," said Burroughs.

Crepeau, a talented rookie, simply could not match up to the size or power of Burroughs, a law school student. Crepeau was able to counter some of Burroughs' combinations early on, but as the fight wore on, Burroughs was able to land his big right power hand. He caused a number of standing eight counts, and after the third, the referee decided that Crepeau could not continue and gave the win to Burroughs.