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Hometown knockouts

Freeman, Bryant lead parade of early stoppages at Wilson Fight Night

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While the customary three ringside judges dutifully attended to their posts during Wilson Fight Night on Saturday, their presence proved to be a mere formality in the return of professional boxing to Wilson.

As part of the first-ever card for Wilson-based Top Catz Boxing, hometown fighters Austin “Babyface Assassin” Bryant and Jamar “Da Truth” Freeman satisfied the sellout crowd at Bill Ellis Convention Center with a pair of early knockouts in the co-main event.

None of the 10 scheduled bouts went the distance as Bryant improved to 3-0 with three knockouts with a second-round stoppage of Concord’s Akeen Brown. Freeman, in improving to 4-0 within the confines of Wilson, took out replacement opponent Miguel Queliz with a well-timed body shot in the opening round.

Queliz was a replacement for Pablo Velez Jr., who pulled out of the Freeman fight after cracking a rib in training camp.

The night wasn’t devoid of celebrity guests, with former University of North Carolina and NBA star Rasheed Wallace garnering a ringside seat. Also among those getting recognition from the crowd was Don Turner, trainer of former heavyweight champion Evander Holyfield. Turner currently resides near New Bern.

PREDICTION REALIZED

In the pre-fight press conference, Bryant, a 19-year-old product of Hunt High, predicted that his scuffle with Brown would last about a round and a half.

By design or otherwise, he was right.

Bryant struggled getting inside to land his patented body punches in the early stages, instead trading with an opponent in Brown (0-2) who was more than happy to exchange punches in the middle of the ring.

However, by the start of the second round, Bryant began finding holes in Brown’ defense. Bryant exchanged a flurry of blows with his opponent and worked inside to the body. Yet instead of a body shot to crumple Brown, it was a left hook to the head that crumpled him and sent him to the canvas.

“I knew he was going to be a somewhat tough opponent,” Bryant said. “He ain’t no walkover, so I didn’t treat it like that. I train for everybody like a world championship fight.”

After exchanging flurries with Brown and finally dropping him to the canvas, Bryant took the time to stand over his opposition for a moment before finally being set to a neutral corner by referee Al Coley.

“I didn’t want him to go down,” Bryant said. “I didn’t want him to go down too soon because I trained too hard for it. But, it is what it is. I’m ready for the next guy.”

Trainer Leroy Gray’s prognostication came to fruition as well with a second-round knockout. Gray opined in the pre-fight press conference that there was a possibility Brown might get a “ham sandwich and a cup of coffee” in the second.

“Everybody saw it,” Gray said. “It came right and came left, then the left hook was the ham sandwich.”

Bryant, along with Freeman, plans to fight on the second Top Catz card, which will be held April 27 at the Durham Armory. Opponents have yet to be determined at this stage.

“The body’s wide open,” Bryant reviewed. “So usually when you go for the body, the head will come. Then you do body, head, body, head.”

Added Gray: “I’ve known once they got on the inside, (Bryant) always hurts all opponents. That’s the way we train and what we do.”

SOUTHPAW NO WORRY

When Queliz stepped in to take the fight after Velez withdrew, the Freeman camp immediately had to begin preparations for a left-hander.

No problem in easily racking up knockout No. 8 of his career.

Freeman (15-5-2) wasted little time putting his veteran ring wiles on display, controlling the distance and methodically picking off Queliz (6-4-1) with his jab. The Puerto Rican never posed a threat to Freeman in the 95 seconds of action, with the hometown fighter finally getting inside and landing a right hand to the body that put Queliz on both knees. Referee Donnie Jessup administered the count of 10, sending Freeman and the appreciative crowd into celebration. Yet with the fight ending on a shot with which Queliz easily left himself exposed, Freeman didn’t get the opportunity to fully loosen up, saying that the plan was to give Queliz a beating over the course of two or three rounds.

“We had a hard training camp,” Freeman said. “The fight was easy. I was surprised he walked right into that shot. It was a shot straight to the solar plexus.”

Defending the home turf was a priority for Freeman in winning his fourth professional fight in Wilson.

“We can’t lose at home,” he said. “There ain’t no way — not with the love we get here.”

When Freeman was asked if this win would lead to another attempt to get a healthy Velez in the ring, Freeman quickly struck down the notion of taking on his former sparring partner.

“He’s done pulled out of the fight three times,” Freeman said of Velez. “We’re not fighting him. We’re looking past him, because he don’t want to fight. He’s scared of me. I used to beat him up in the gym, and he don’t want to fight with no headgear on. He don’t want to fight me; he’s scared.”

THE UNDERCARD

The eight other fights on the card followed a similar script as the co-main event. Of the two bouts that reached a full two rounds, a fighter was unable to answer the bell for the third round.

In the heavyweight division, Top Catz fighter Jo-El Caudle engaged in a spirited exchange with ring veteran Dennis McKinney, with both fighters landing quality shots over the first two rounds. McKinney cleanly landed an uppercut in the second round that rocked Caudle’s head back. But in the second round, McKinney voluntarily went to a knee without being punched, allowing Coley to begin the count.

Before the third round, McKinney was unable to answer the bell, giving Caudle his sixth win without a loss and his fifth knockout.

Super flyweight Dylan Price won his debut by knockout Wilson’s Malcolm Speight a mere 61 seconds into the first round. Making matters worse for the Wilsonian was a tooth that ejected from his mouth on the fight-ending right hand.

Marko Bailey (3-0) knocked down Washington, D.C.’s Deandre Walker three times in the first two rounds of their lightweight bout — including one in the final 10 seconds — before Walker declined to come out for the third round.

Donnie Marshall reached 2-0 in the junior middleweight ranks, defeating Wilson’s Damian Archer when Archer suffered a shoulder injury with 59 seconds left in the opening round.

Flashing a precise southpaw jab that had no trouble penetrating poor defense, Anthony Sonnier won his light welterweight debut by outclassing Rocky Mount’s Tavares Owens. Owens was felled by a pair of stiff left hands in the second round before Coley stopped the fight on a third knockdown 1:27 into the second round.

In the largest fight of the evening, Coby Madison reached 5-0 after dispatching 320-pound Wilson fighter Lamarco Ellis. Ellis attempted to turn the fight into a brawl in close quarters, but Madison backed him into a corner and wailed away with merciless body shots before Coley intervened at 2:02 of the first round.

Kingdamon Antoine of Las Vegas, Nev. reached 5-0 with a first-round stoppage of Pinetops’ Justin Cantres, while welterweight Jonathan Baxter of Washington, DC made good on an early ingress to the ring to begin the night.

Baxter stepped between the ropes before the ring announcer could even finish warming up the crowd. However, the laser-like focus resulted in Baxter knocking out Wilson’s Terrance Moore in a scant 1:28.

jlewis@wilsontimes.com | 265-7807 | Twitter: @JimmyLewisWT

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