Sunday, December 19, 2010

"Sweet Dream" Kliewer Shines with win over Bonsante

Mark Connor
© copyright Mark Connor, 2010

Anthony Bonsante vs. Bobby kliewer

Kliewer started fast, moving and jabbing and landing probably ten good punches, dominating the first round. He was able to time and counter Bonsante’s wide combinations. Kliewer knocked Bonsante down with a quick combination early in the second as Bonsante already appeared out of shape and tired. A straight right hand dropped him suddenly again. Bonsante lost a 10-7 round and went back to the corner appearing desperate.

Bonsante came out swinging and missing with more wild punches that Kliewer made him pay for in the third. Bonsante straightened out his right hand midway through the round, landing a total of three of them by the time the bell rang, and taking control for the first time in the fight. Bonsante won the fourth round also, but Kliewer did land a good right hand that effected him near the end. What remained to be seen was whether kliewer was conditioned well enough to cope with Bonsante’s years of experience and skill. Bonsante knocked Kliewer down in the fifth round with a hook off the break, but in frustration during the next clinch he picked kliewer up and threw him down, losing a point. Then Kliewer knocked him down, making it a 10-9 round for Kliewer. Kliewer appeared to have the sixth round, landing more punches than Bonsante. In the seventh Kliewer landed a good left and a good right uppercut early. He’d been trying to land that right uppercut all night. He kept moving, catching Bonsante with punches as he came in. An accidental butt cut Kliewer under his left eye. Inside Kliewer continued rights to the body while attempting to land the right uppercut to the head. Kliewer clearly seemed to have the seventh round. Kliewer kept on the move and landed the majority of punches with combinations at the end of the tenth and final round.

The clear winner was Kliewer. One judge scored it inexplicably for Bonsante, so Kliewer scored a split decision victory. Boxers and Writers Magazine’s unofficial score was 78-72, Kliewer.

Wilshaun Boxley vs. John Jackson

Minneapolis’ Wilshaun Boxley brought a 6-7-0 record with 4 KOs into a lightweight fight against an experienced John Jackson, 15-1-0, 13 KOs, of Miami FL. This fight was probably the best display of skill all night. The fight started with Boxley taking good combinations from Jackson, but Boxley found his rhythm and drew Jackson into it with excellent footwork, then turned it on at the end of the first to apparently win the round. He was dominated in the second but still competitive, and he continued to maintain a slight edge in the third. It was close through the middle rounds. Boxley was visibly hurt in round 6, taking solid combinations to the body and head, but came on in the latter portion of the round. Boxers and Writers Magazine gave most of the rounds to Boxley, but each one was close enough for Jackson to make his case. Denny Nelson and John Mariano had it 57-57 and Dale Jackson had it 58-57 for Jackson, yielding a majority draw.

Antwun Robertson vs. Brad Patraw
(For Robertson’s Minnesota State Bantamweight Championship)

Patraw took control from beginning, attacking the body and catching him with hard hooks upstairs, opening up further against the ropes. Robertson landed a big right hand in the second, then a big jab he forced Patraw into with skillful footwork. He landed a good left hook, a couple of more damaging jabs and a right hand that were all power shots with effective movement, taking the round on the Boxers and Writers Magazine scorecard. In the third round Patraw came back with a body and head attack, Robertson still moving and covering a lot. Although Robertson landed a couple of good uppercuts and a good right hand, Patraw dominated the round and appeared to be taking a toll on him. Patraw won the fourth round with pure pressure. Robinson landed a good short left hook inside in the last minute, but did not follow through. Then he landed a strong overhand right on two occasions, the second one visibly slowing Patraw, but Patraw still applied enough pressure to win the round. Although Patraw visibly slowed while loading up with power shots, he still dominated the round and every time Robinson landed a decent shot Patraw had an answer. Robinson appeared slightly hurt and tired near the end of the round. Patraw continued control in the final round and finished strong in an easy victory and an admirable recovery from his knockout loss to Vicente Alfaro. Patraw now will look to advance his career as the new Minnesota State Bantamweight Champion.

Tony Lee vs. David Laque

This lightweight fight is only the second in Lee’s career after his professional debut in December last year. Lee began finding his right hand midway through the first round, landing many combinations. Laque took them well and did land a few shots, but the round was clearly Lee’s. In the second Lee opened up with the jab and continued landing effective combinations, but although he won the round Laque weathered it well and also landed a perfectly timed left hand that knocked Lee’s mouthpiece out. Lee continued with the same effort, but halfway through the round Laque proved he was there to fight. Lee tired a bit as his nose began bleeding, and although Lee won the round he took some serious left uppercuts and right hooks to the head. Laque stood toe to toe with Lee, backed him up ant made him fight in the fourth round. Lee was visibly tired, as was Laque, but Laque obviously got the better of the round Going into the decision the Boxers and Writers Magazine view was 39-37 for Lee, but the third round had been close enough to make one wonder. It’s a mystery how all three judges scored the fight 40-36 rather than 39-37 for Lee.

Donny Tierney vs. Bobby Butters, Jr.
After beginning his career last summer with a TKO loss in St. Paul, Minneapolis’ Bobby Butters, Jr. entered this junior middleweight fight determined to get his first win. But Tierney survived an early body onslaught in the first to take the round with superior combinations and movement. He opened the second round with a commanding jab and body and head combinations as Butters attacked the body and occasionally landed effective head shots, Tierney always finishing with a little more. Tierney continued controlling the fight in the third round with an effective jab, and although Butters threw numerous punches, too many of them were wide shots only landing on the arms. Tierney also always answered with damaging blows whenever Butters was successful. Although Tierney did the same for the first half of the fourth round, he got caught in a corner and went down from a Butters combination to the head. Butters unfortunately hit him twice when he was down, to which Tierney responded by jumping up to hit Butters with a right hand. The referee should have taken a point from Butters. After taking the 8 count Tierney covered a bit and fought back. Unfortunately the judges got it wrong. Nelson and Mariano had it 40-35 Butters, and Dale Jackson had it more accurately at 38-37 Butters. Boxers and Writers had it 38-37, Tierney.

In his third professional fight welterweight Jamal James of Minneapolis won by 1st round TKO over Ryan Gronvold. It was an obvious mismatch that did nothing for James’ development, given his amateur career of hundreds of matches with very few losses and a national ranking. Of his three opponents so far, the most noteworthy is southpaw Justin Danforth, 6-15 of Mahnomen, MN, whom James defeated by third round TKO in a professional debut last May.

In a clear case of overmatching, bantamweight Jonathon Perez of Minneapolis won his professional debut when he knocked Randy Ronchi of Superior, WI down three times.

Monday, December 13, 2010

As "The Fighter" premiers, Savage boxing coach John Rafuse Remembers his fight with "Irish" Micky Ward

Mark Connor
© Copyright 2010, Mark

On December 17 Paramount Pictures presentation of “The Fighter” based on the biography of professional boxer ‘Irish’ Micky Ward will premier in the Twin Cities metropolitan area. While St. Paul and Minneapolis area fight fans and movie enthusiasts enjoy the drama, few may know that a local boxing trainer gave Ward one of the toughest battles of his early career.

John Rafuse battled Ward to the end of an 8 round fight in a sold out Lowell Auditorium on August 29, 1986. A native of Malden Massachusetts, a Boston area town not far from Ward’s native Lowell, Rafuse (who on his mother’s side is just as Irish as Ward) began boxing at age 19 and fought a total of ten years, eight of them professionally. His professional career lasted from April 1983 to August 1991.

“I don’t think I lost the fight,” Rafuse remembers. “I ain’t gonna tell ya I beat him, but I don’t’ think I lost.”

In the book the film is based on, Rafuse is mentioned from pages 55 through 60, as well as on pages 97 and 98. The fight was broadcast on ESPN sports network, and it was an exciting event for fans in the area. Al Bernstein’s ringside commentary is quoted in “Irish Thunder” and it is very favorable to both fighters.

Later Rafuse sparred with Ward before fighting Harold Brazier for the North American Boxing Federation (NABF) Light Welterweight title in 1988. He lost a 12 round unanimous decision to Brazier on September 2 of that year, and Ward also lost a unanimous decision to Brazier on April 26, 1990 in a fight for the IBF Intercontinental title. As Ward went on to challenge some big name fighters, including a legendary three fight series with Light Welterweight Champion Arturo Gatti, Rafuse fought some big names himself and also trained with future hall of fame fighters.

In 1987 Rafuse flew to Houston, Texas to spar with Vinnie Pazienza, who was preparing for the first of his three fight rivalry for the World Lightweight Championship against Greg Haugen. On the undercard of that fight Rafuse won an 8 round split decision over Haugen’s sparring partner, Javier Suazo. While in Houston, Rafuse explains that he ended up sparring with a slew of fighters training under Lou Douva, including World Champions and Gold Medalists Meldrick Taylor, Pernel ‘Sweet Pea’ Whitaker, and Mark Breland. He also Sparred many times with John John Molina, and sparred with Frankie Warren and Johnny ‘Bump City’ Bumpus. While Bumpus never won a world title, he was one of the most successful U.S. amateur boxers of the late 1970s and an accomplished professional on the world class level. Rafuse acknowledges that, while he did not fight for a world championship title, there is satisfaction in having trained and sparred with such an elite group of fighters. Although he didn’t spar with him, Rafuse says legendary Olympian and Heavyweight Champion Evander Holyfield also trained at the Houston facility when he was there, and he was happy to be in the presence of such greatness.

Planning to attend a sneak preview on Wednesday, December 15 of ‘The Fighter,’ which is produced by and stars Mark Wahlberg as Micky Ward and co-stars Christian Bale as Ward’s brother, Dickie Eklund, Rafuse was unsure of whether his fight with Ward would be prominently mentioned. But he had good feelings to share about Ward anyway.

“I got all the respect in the world for the kid,” he said; “I really like Micky and he stuck around long enough to make some money, and God bless him.”

Rafuse, whose nickname was ‘Rapid’ because of his fast hands, became quite the accomplished professional boxer, particularly for a man who had little amateur experience. He didn’t start till age 19 and by the time he turned professional at 21 he remembers having less than 20 amateur fights. But besides his match with Ward he fought 12 rounds with World Champion Brazier, made it to the 4th round before losing by TKO to José Luis Ramirez (a World Champion whose final record is 99 wins, 6 losses), and lost a 10 round decision to eventual IBF Light Welterweight Champion Jake Rodriguez. He really learned boxing as a professional, being tough enough and strong enough to compete with the world class. He had been a wrestler through high school, and so it is no surprise that he was an excellent athlete or that the rough physical style of his life left him with a bum elbow that never healed properly after being broken in childhood. So he retired from boxing after winning a split decision over José Hiram Torres in a welterweight fight on August 23, 1991. Now a union carpenter in Minnesota, he continues teaching amateur boxing to teenagers in Savage, and teaching professional Mixed Martial Artists how to punch.

“I tell them, nine out of ten fights end up on the ground,” Rafuse explains, “but ten out of ten start on your feet.”