It was a night to remember for USA Knockouts at the Eldorado Hotel and Casino in Reno, Nevada, as they recorded their first win of the season with a hard-fought victory over the visiting German Eagles. This highly entertaining World Series of Boxing (WSB) Group B encounter saw Shawn Simpson, Clarence Joseph and Paul Koon III all star for the American team, putting on a really good show for the spectators.
The action got underway with the Bantamweight (50-54kg) contest between promising American teenager Simpson and the Eagles’ in-form orthodox fighter Veaceslav Gojan. It was pretty evenly matched, compared to when these two had met earlier this season when the explosive Moldovan had dominated the fight, with Simpson providing stiff resistance against the 29-year-old 2008 Olympic Games bronze medallist early attacks, catching him with some crisp shots on the counter. Simpson was extremely motivated by the vocal support and showed good hand speed and after seemingly landing with the cleaner shots in the earlier stages, survived a late rally from his rival to claim the win by split decision.
It then began at a frenetic pace in the Lightweight (57-61kg) bout as German 20-year-old Kastriot Sopa quickly imposed himself on proceedings with that long jab and hard hooks putting the Knockouts’ Eric Fowler on the back foot right from the off. Sopa was also dominant in the second, landing a couple of good right hands and some piercing uppercuts that drew some loud cheers in the packed venue. The speed and shot selection of the Eagles orthodox fighter saw Fowler take some punishment in rounds three and four but the American still managed to stay competitive. A big right hand followed by some big combinations in the fifth confirmed Sopa’s dominance as he recorded his second victory of the season in style.
There was hardly anything to choose between the two boxers in the Middleweight (68-73kg) clash as the Knockout’s 30-year-old Joseph and Germany’sStefan Härtel went head-to-head. The American was bright and on his toes right from the onset, working the body of his rival with some good shots, before some good one-two combinations over the top had him edging round two. Joseph’s endeavour surprised his rival, with those body shots a really effective weapon which constantly put the German under pressure. Härtel never really came to life and although he landed with some good punches in the latter stages, it was the American who delivered with another split decision victory for the Knockouts.
In the final bout of the night, 26-year-old American Heavyweight (91+kg) Koon boxed well in the first two rounds of his fight with the Eagles’ Philip Grüner, snapping that jab well before throwing some good hooks to the body to dictate the early exchanges. Koon was enjoying himself, showboating, switching stance and landing some good punches in the third. The intensity was raised even further in the fourth with Grüner landing some hard left hooks and giving the American a bloody nose. Koon landed a sweet right in the fifth to spark a big finish from the two boxers in the closing stages, making it a real entertaining fight to watch. In the end, Koon better shot selection gave him the nod from the judges as he also took it by split decision.
With 24-year-old German Kevin Künzel unable to take to the ring, fan favourite Kennedy Katende was given a walk-over in the Light Heavyweight (80-85kg) contest, giving the Knockouts a 4-1 win over the German Eagles.
The USA next box the Ukraine Otamans at the Yost Theater on Thursday 21 February with Germany hosting the British Lionhearts at the Kuppelsaal Congress Centrum two days later.