Dan Rafael: Boxcino

Monroe ready to step up against Vera

January, 15, 2015
Jan 15
Willie Monroe Jr. convincingly won all three of his bouts en route to winning the 2014 Boxcino middleweight tournament -- unanimous decisions against Donatas Bondorovas (six rounds in February), Vitaliy Kopylenko (8 rounds in April) and Brandon Adams in the final (10 rounds in May).

As solid as those victories were, none came against a well-known opponent. But when Monroe fights for the first time since winning the Boxcino tournament, he will be taking a step up in the level of the competition he has faced: battle-tested Bryan Vera.

Vera has split a pair of fights with Andy Lee (who later won a world title) and beaten former junior middleweight titlist Sergio Mora, and although Vera lost two decisions to Julio Cesar Chavez Jr., the first result was highly controversial.

In other words, Monroe is taking on a very good and experienced fighter when they meet in a 10-round bout on this week’s “Friday Night Fights” (ESPN2, 9 p.m. ET) at the Turning Stone Resort Casino in Verona, New York.

"This fight is a step up," Monroe said.

Monroe (18-1, 6 KOs), a 28-year-old southpaw from Rochester, New York, is aware of the experience Vera has and understands that if he wants to move closer to facing elite competition and perhaps earning a title shot, it’s a fight that he needs to win.

"We are looking forward to the fight with Bryan Vera. We have a great deal of respect for Bryan and his style of fighting,” Monroe said. “He is a world class fighter and if Willie Monroe Jr. deserves to be at the top of the middleweight division, come (Friday) we will defeat Bryan Vera.

"Vera has fought a lot of top contenders. A fight like this will show the boxing world that I belong at the top of the middleweight division.”

Said Damien Walton, Monroe’s manager, “I think Willie is very motivated and in great shape for this fight. I think he's got his work cut out for him in Bryan Vera.”

Officially, Vera (23-8, 14 KOs), 33, of Austin, Texas, has lost his last two fights, both to Chavez, but he also suffered a sixth-round knockout to Gabriel Rosado in August in a Big Knockout Boxing bout, which does not officially appear on his record because if was fought in a “pit” instead of a ring.

So Vera knows how important a win is also. He doesn’t want to be officially 0-3 in his last three bouts and 0-4 in reality.

"This is another opportunity to reinvent myself like I have done many times before,” Vera said. “I'm coming prepared and focused to get the job done. All business here. Coming to work Be prepared to see me do what has to be done. Look forward to another exciting fight.”

Boxcino returns for 2015

December, 27, 2014
Boxcino will be back on ESPN2’s “Friday Night Fights” this season.

After a pair of fun and exciting eight-man, single-elimination tournaments in the lightweight and middleweight divisions last season -- Petr Petrov knocked out Fernando Carcamo in the eighth round to win the 135-pound tournament, and Willie Monroe Jr. won a 10-round decision over Brandon Adams to win it all at 160 -- promoter Artie Pelullo’s Banner Promotions and ESPN2 have two more tournaments on tap for the 2015 season.

The participants in the new tournaments are still to be finalized, but they will be contested in the junior middleweight and heavyweight divisions.

The junior middleweight tournament is scheduled to kick off with six-round quarterfinal bouts Feb. 13 at the Mohegan Sun resort in Uncasville, Connecticut.

"We are excited to be coming to the Mohegan Sun to kick off Boxcino 2015," Pelullo said in announcing the junior middleweight quarterfinals. “Last year's tournament was very successful, and we look forward to having the first round of junior middleweights at Mohegan Sun. There have been many classic fights at the Mohegan Sun, and on Feb. 13, we plan on adding to the great tradition."

The scheduled six-round heavyweight quarterfinals will follow on Feb. 20 at the Turning Stone Resort in Verona, New York.

The eight-round semifinal bouts at junior middleweight will take place April 3 at a venue to be determined, and the heavyweight semis are April 10, also at a site to be announced.

On May 22 -- site TBA -- tournament champions will be crowned in both divisions with scheduled 10-round fights.

Monroe to face Vera on FNF

December, 1, 2014
Willie Monroe Jr., winner of ESPN’s 2014 Boxcino middleweight tournament, got a new opponent for his Jan. 16 fight on ESPN2’s “Friday Night Fights.”

Monroe (18-1, 6 KOs) will face fan favorite Bryan Vera (23-9, 14 KOs), who signed for the fight on Sunday.

Monroe was originally slated to face prospect Antoine Douglas (16-0-1, 10 KOs), but the fight was not signed and Douglas withdrew to take another fight.

Vera has lost his last two official boxing matches, both to Julio Cesar Chavez Jr., the first via controversial decision in September 2013 and by clear decision in the March 1 rematch. Vera also suffered a sixth-round knockout to Gabriel Rosado in August in the Big Knockout Boxing pay-per-view main event, in which they fought in a “pit” in a fight that did not count on their official records.

The card will take place at the Turning Stone Resort Casino in Verona, New York, and also feature Petr Petrov, who won the 2014 Boxcino lightweight tournament. Petrov does not have an opponent yet.

Gatica looks to shine in Boxcino

April, 17, 2014

The Boxcino middleweight tournament rolls on this week with the semifinals of the eight-man tournament on “Friday Night Fights” (ESPN2, 9 ET).

Vitalii Kopylenko (23-0, 13 KOs) of Ukraine takes on Willie Monroe Jr. (16-1, 6 KOs) of Rochester, N.Y., in one half of the bracket and Brandon Adams (13-0, 9 KOs) faces Raymond Gatica (14-2, 9 KOs) in the other half at Turning Stone Resort and Casino in Verona, N.Y. Each fight is scheduled for eight rounds and the winners will meet in the final on May 23, also at Turning Stone, but in a 10-round fight.

Gatica, 29, of Austin, Texas, was largely unknown before the tournament started but he looked good knocking out previously undefeated Sena Agbeko in the fourth round in the Feb. 28 quarterfinals.

Gatica is hoping to carry the success over into the semifinals against Adams, 24, of Los Angeles, who advanced with his own fourth-round knockout of Daniel Edouard.

"I felt I was a little sloppy (against Agbeko) but it came down to who would throw the harder punches," Gatica said. “My training for this fight is going well and I am getting in shape. I will be in better condition and we are working on my technique. Brandon is a good fight for me. He is worthy with good skills. He is strong and in good shape. I am glad to be fighting him."

If you ask Gatica, he believes the semifinal match is worthy of being the final.

"It could be us in the finals but that's the way tournament shook out,” Gatica said. “I see myself winning the whole thing, but I am taking this one fight at a time. It is exciting and I believe I will be in the final. (Fans) have liked my fights and have got great feedback on the concept of Boxcino. It gets people to fight and not be protected.”

The Boxcino lightweight tournament final is also on the May 23 card and will match Petr Petrov (34-4-2, 15 KOs) against Fernando Carcamo (17-5, 13 KOs).

Pelullo hopes Boxcino yields star

February, 19, 2014
The first of promoter Artie Pelullo's two eight-man Boxcino tournaments begins on this week's edition of "Friday Night Fights" (ESPN2, 9 p.m. ET) at the Edgewater Casino in Laughlin, Nev.

First up will be the lightweight quarterfinals with these six-round bouts: Yakubu Amidu (21-4-2, 19 KOs) vs. Chris Rudd (12-1, 8 KOs), Fedor Papazov (14-0, 9 KOs) vs. Petr Petrov (32-4-2, 15 KOs), Miguel Gonzalez (22-3, 16 KOs) vs. Miguel Angel Mendoza (21-2-2, 21 KOs) and Fernando Carcamo (15-5, 12 KOs) vs. Samuel Neequaye (21-0, 15 KOs).

The middleweight tournament kicks off with quarterfinals on Feb. 28 at Harrah's Horseshoe Casino in Hammond, Ind., with these matches: Donatas Bondorovas (18-4-1, 6 KOs) vs. Willie Monroe Jr. (15-1, 6 KOs), Cerresso Fort (17-2-1, 11 KOs) vs. Vitalii Kopylenko (22-0, 12 KOs), Brandon Adams (12-0, 7 KOs) vs. Daniel Edouard (23-4-2, 12 KOs) and Raymond Gatica (13-1, 7 KOs) vs. Sena Agbeko (15-0, 15 KOs).

But as the new tournaments, which will cover five "Friday Night Fights" cards through the May 23 finals, are set to begin, it should be remembered that this is the second edition of Boxcino, even though many years have past since the last version.

The original was back in 1997, when Pelullo initially sold the concept to ESPN2.

"Seventeen years ago, I was 41 years old and I was trying to figure a way to find fighters to advance my business," said Pelullo, whose Banner Promotions has thrived in the years since. "I came up with an idea to do a tournament. That tournament consisted of four weight divisions and eight countries.

"I was fortunate to find several fighters that went on to make a good living in boxing. One of the fighters we thought that would become a big star was J.C. Candelo."

Candelo went on to have a solid career and fought for a junior middleweight world title in 2003, losing a decision to a prime Winky Wright. Candelo has not been a factor for years and his career may have come to an end in December when he was knocked out by former middleweight champion Jermain Taylor in the seventh round of an utterly one-sided fight. But Boxcino launched him to becoming a 154-pounder contender for several years.

But one fighter emerged from the original Boxcino to become a major star and significant world champion, Acelino "Popo" Freitas of Brazil. Freitas, who wound up with a contract with Showtime, unified two junior lightweight world titles (beating a prime Joel Casamayor) and twice won versions of the lightweight world title while engaging in some high-profile and exciting fights. He remains close with Pelullo to this day.

"Out of all the fighters, there was a young kid from Brazil named Acelino 'Popo' Freitas," Pelullo recalled. "He was 9-0 with nine knockouts [when Boxcino began]. He went on to a record of 39-2 with 33 knockouts and he won four world titles. Freitas has one of the highest knockout percentages in history and he defended [his junior lightweight title] 10 times. He turned out to be my most successful fighter to date. I now promote his nephew, Vitor Jones de Olivera."

Pelullo hopes that he can find another Freitas, or even a Candelo, in the field of fighters who will participate in the 2014 tournaments.

"I am hoping that Boxcino 2014 will find us some young fighters that we can take their careers to the top of the sport," Pelullo said. "I believe that within this crop of young fighters there could be a few of them that will take their careers to the very top of boxing."

Boxcino pairings unveiled on FNF

January, 31, 2014
The pairings for the two eight-man Boxcino 2014 tournaments were unveiled on this week's "Friday Night Fights" on ESPN2.

The lightweight tournament kicks off with six-round quarterfinal bouts on Feb. 21 at the Edgewater Hotel & Casino in Laughlin, Nev.:

•  Chris Rudd (12-1, 8 KOs) vs. Yakubu Amidu (22-4-1, 18 KOs).
•  Fedor Papazov (14-0, 9 KOs) vs. Petr Petrov (32-4-2, 15 KOs)
•  Miguel Gonzalez (22-3, 16 KOs) vs. Miguel Angel Mendoza (21-2-2, 21 KOs).
•  Fernando Carcamo (15-5, 12 KOs) vs. Samuel Neequaye (21-0, 15 KOs).

The March 28 semifinals are eight-round bouts at the 4 Bears Casino & Lodge in New Town, S.D. The Rudd-Amidu winner will meet the Papazov-Petrov winner and the Gonzalez-Mendoza winner fights the Carcamo-Neequaye victor.

In the middleweight tournament, which begins Feb. 28 at Harrah's Horseshoe Casino in Hammond, Ind., the pairings look like this:

•  Donatas Bondorovas (18-4-1, 6 KOs) vs. Willie Monroe Jr. (15-1, 6 KOs).
•  Cerresso Fort (17-2-1, 11 KOs) vs. Vitalii Kopylenko (22-0, 12 KOs) of Ukraine.
•  Brandon Adams (12-0, 7 KOs) vs. Daniel Edouard (23-4-2, 12 KOs).
•  Raymond Gatica (13-1, 7 KOs) vs. Sena Agbeko (15-0, 15 KOs)

The middleweight semifinals are April 18 at the Turning Resort & Casino in Verona, N.Y., and will feature the Bondorovas-Monroe winner against the Fort-Kopylenko winner and the Adams-Edouard winner against the Gatica-Agbeko winner.

The finals, which will be scheduled for 10-round bouts, will take place on the same card on May 23 at Turning Stone.