October’s boxing action kicks off Saturday with a key bout between junior welterweight contenders Jose Zepeda and Ivan Baranchyk, which headlines the latest card from Top Rank Boxing’s bubble at the MGM Grand Convention Center in Las Vegas.
Baranchyk (20-1, 13 KOs), a former IBF junior welterweight world titlist, suffered the only loss of his career at the hands of Josh Taylor in the World Boxing Super Series semifinals in May 2019. Baranchyk suffered a rib injury that postponed the fight against Zepeda (32-2, 25 KOs) from its initial June date.
Zepeda, who has won two fights in a row including a July outing in the Top Rank bubble, is likewise looking to elevate his status in a competitive division. His two career losses have come in world title fights, including a razor-thin majority-decision defeat at the hands of Jose Ramirez in February 2019.
The winner of Baranchyk-Zepeda will be keeping a close eye on the potential title unification bout between Taylor and Ramirez that could come late this year or in early 2021.
In the co-main event, undefeated 20-year-old lightweight prospect Gabriel Flores Jr. (18-0, 6 KOs) returns for his second fight inside the bubble. The Stockton-born standout will take on Ryan Kielczweski (30-4, 11 KOs), as Flores fights for the second time inside the Top Rank bubble, after a June victory over Josec Ruiz.
There’s also a heavyweight clash between prospect Guido Vianello (7-0, 7 KOs) and Kingsley Ibeh (5-1, 4 KOs). Both are returning to action inside the Top Rank bubble — Vianello for the second time and Ibeh for the third. This fight was initially set to take place in July but was postponed when Ibeh returned a positive test for COVID-19.
Follow along live throughout the night as Steve Kim breaks down all of the action.
Junior welterweights: Jose Zepeda def. Ivan Baranchyk by fifth-round KO
Full recap to come…
Flores dominates action in unanimous decision win over Kielczweski
Boxing intelligently and strategically over 10 rounds, junior lightweight prospect Gabe Flores Jr. remained undefeated with a clear-cut unanimous decision victory over veteran Ryan Kielczewski. The bout didn’t have much in the way of two-way action or sustained exchanges, but was instead highlighted by the skills of the 20-year-old Flores.
All three judges had Flores up big, by scores of 100-90, 99-91 and 98-92.
In the first round, a counter left hook from Kielczewski momentarily stunned Flores, a native of Stockton. But Flores (19-0, 6 KOs) was quickly able to regain tactical control of the bout by moving around the ring and picking his spots offensively. Over the nine rounds that followed, Kielczewski landed an occasional punch, but never mounted a consistent attack.
This fight had a familiar pattern for those who have seen Flores fight before. Flores is a well-schooled technician, but doesn’t have much in the way of knockout power; throughout the fight, Flores was moving and boxing, and Kielczewski wasn’t able to do much in return.
Through 10 rounds, Flores threw 476 punches and landed 127. Kielczewski landed 73 out of 325 punches thrown.
Vianello salvages draw against Ibeh
He was cut, bruised and bloodied, but heavyweight hopeful Guido Vianello was able to stave off the first defeat of his professional career against the raw but hard-hitting Kingsley Ibeh. After six rounds, two judges had this fight scored 57-57, while the third had it 59-55 for Ibeh.
While this fight was a dead heat on the scorecards, it felt like a victory for the heavy-handed Ibeh (5-1-1, 4 KOs), who makes up for a lack of technique and pure precision with strength and power. Early on, Ibeh cut Vianello over the left eye with a jab, and this was no minor nick; it was a significant gash, and it began bleeding profusely.
Time and time again, Ibeh was able to stun Vianello (7-0-1, 7 KOs) with his wide punches. Vianello was buzzed several times by Ibeh, who was making his third appearance inside the Top Rank bubble. Vianello was able to rally a bit late as Ibeh got tired, but Vianello never did enough to truly turn the momentum of this bout.
For Vianello, Saturday’s effort showed that he might be more suspect than prospect. On the other side, Ibeh showed that he’s a solid test for any young heavyweight.
Ragan controls Moraga, cruises to decision win
In his second professional bout, featherweight Duke Ragan was taken the four-round distance by John Moraga and boxed his way to a rather dull decision. The fight was lacking in any real drama or entertainment, but it was never in doubt, as Ragan pitched a shutout, winning 40-36 on all three cards.
On Aug. 22, Ragan (2-0, 1 KOs) scored a first-round knockout of Luis Alvarado in eye-opening fashion. On Saturday, he was more or less content to just stick behind his jab and box his way through this bout. Moraga (1-2, 1 KOs), who unsuccessfully challenged Demetrious Johnson for the UFC flyweight championship in 2013, returned to boxing from MMA for his second pro bout since 2012. Moraga took this fight on three days’ notice. While he never really threatened Ragan, he did prove to be durable.
Gonzalez edges Marrero in four-round slugfest
In a solid junior lightweight contest between two Puerto Rican boxers, Frevian Gonzalez and Carlos Marrero III battled over four competitive rounds. But the cleaner and more effective work came from Gonzalez, who won by majority decision with judges scoring the fight 38-38, 40-36 and 40-36.
Gonzalez (4-0, 1 KOs) was the steady aggressor throughout this bout, switching frequently to a left-handed stance as he moved inside. Gonzalez’s work was consistent as he went to work to the body of Marrero (2-4-1) with both hands. But to his credit, while he didn’t match the offensive output of Gonzalez, Marrero never showed any signs of backing down.
The superior work rate and steadiness of Gonzalez ultimately carried the day.
Heavyweight Sipe needs less than a minute to TKO Barnes in pro debut
It was a short bout between heavyweights Mitchell Sipe and Jimmy Barnes, who wasted no time in throwing the hardest punches they could muster at one another. It was quickly clear that Sipe’s were landing harder, and it didn’t take long for Sipe to earn a result — a first-round TKO in just 43 seconds.
Sipe (1-0, 1 KOs) was making his pro debut, and at 248.9 pounds he was significantly outweighed by Barnes (1-1, 1 KO), who came in at 290.6. But as they exchanged punches early on, Sipe’s salvos hurt Barnes and sent him down in the early seconds of this contest.
After getting up, the two men continued to trade haymakers, and just like their earlier exchange, Barnes was buzzed again. Referee Robert Hoyle stepped in and quickly made the decision to stop the fight in its earliest stages.
Brady surges late, wins pro debut with late TKO of Karyah
Featherweight Haven Brady Jr. made a successful pro debut, as he scored a fourth-round TKO of Gorwar Karyah. It was an awkward and ugly affair at times, with Brady penalized a point for low blows in the second round after multiple warnings and Karyah docked one himself for excessive holding two rounds later.
But eventually the overall skills of Brady took over, and he began to break through the clutching and holding of Karyah (2-2, 2 KOs). In the fourth round, Brady began to land more hard right hands that hurt Karyah, who early on had proved to be an elusive target
As Brady settled in during the fourth round, he began striking Karyah repeatedly while Karyah’s back was on the ropes. Eventually, it was too much in the eyes of referee Russell Mora, who called a halt to the action at 2:27 of Round 4.
Mariano scores quick TKO of Reed
In the opening bout of the night at the MGM Grand Conference Center, welterweight JJ Mariano made quick work of Matthew Reed, stopping him in under 90 seconds in Round 1.
Reed (1-1, 1 KOs), who came in a couple of pounds over the weight limit on Friday afternoon, was struck by a left hook as he stepped inside. Reed hit the canvas, and as he rose, he was on shaky legs. Mariano (3-0, 2 KOs) peppered Mariano with quick punches that further dazed Reed.
At that point, referee Robert Hoyle waved off the fight at 1:27.