The heat was on last night at "Knockout Night at the D," in and out of the ring, thoroughly entertaining another sold-out crowd at the outdoor Downtown Las Vegas Events Center.
On a stacked card that had fans on their feet all night, Canadian Steve "The Dragon" Claggett (24-4-1, 16 KOs) upset Emmanuel "Renegade" Robles (15-1-1, 5 KOs) in the main event, promoted in association with Bobby D Presents, but it was Neeco "The Rooster" Macias (13-0, 7 KOs) who stole the show in the co-feature.
Claggett, fighting out of Calgary, Canada, dropped down one weight class. Coming off a disputed 10-round decision loss to Chris van Heerden this past April, also at the Downtown Las Vegas Event Center, Claggett won a 10-round majority decision (98-92, 98-92, 94-96) tonight for the vacant North American Boxing Association (NABA) welterweight title. His expert body work allowed him to dictate the pace of the boxing match.
"This is a long time coming, Claggett admitted. "I took the loss (vs. van Heerden) in stride, vowing to go back to the gym and make changes. I went down to 140 and it was the right decision. I'm stronger. I I really worked hard.
"I landed a couple of shots that hurt him noticeably. He's tough. Robles is a champion in the making. I have a lot of respect for him. This is my life. It (his loss to van Heerden) fueled me. The fire's back in me. I love fighting in Las Vegas."
The co-feature showcased a pair undefeated junior middleweights and from the opening bell it was a real firefight. Macias forced Rolando "Rola" Garza (9-1, 6 KOs), a 3-time Mexican National amateur champion, to fight his fight. Macias' aggressive style, always coming forward, throwing punches from every conceivable angle, ruled the coop.
Garza got caught up in the action and paid for it, although the score after was 39-37, 39-37 for Macias, 39-37 for Garza, entering the fifth and final round. Macia's constant pressure controlled the action, wearing down Garza, and paid dividends as he dropped Garza in the fifth. Referee Jay Nady had seen enough, halting the fight at that point as much due to the damage Garza had suffered in the first four rounds as the knockdown.
A rising star was born in Macia, who captured the vacant WBC United States junior middleweight championship. "It's conditioning, a lot of work," Macias explained the reason for his non-stop action before crowing loudly in the ring. "I stuck to the game plan. I knew he'd come to fight with a lot of skill to out-box me and get points. My game plan was throw a lot of upper cuts and punches from every angle. It was all about throwing combinations.
"He had a lot pf power, so I used defense to block punches. In the last round, I put punches together. I think the fight was stopped a little early and he could have kept going, but I didn't see what he saw, and the referee was looking out for the fighters so we can fight another day."
In the television opener, flashy Las Vegas welterweight Jeremy "J-Flash" Nichols (6-0, 2 KOs) kept rolling, winning a 4-round unanimous decision over Steve Belmontes (2-1, O KOs). Nichols outworked his opponent, consistently beating Belmontes to the punch with his superior quickness.
"I think it could have been a little flashier," Nichols admitted. "But give it up to my opponent, he came to fight. With more than 100 amateur fights, he could take a punch but he kept coming. My goal was to take everything from him and make him fight my fight. His hands were a little slower and he took a lot of good body shots and counters."
Idaho junior flyweight Marina "Rocky" Ramirez (40-36, 40-36, 40-36) pitched a 4-round shutout, defeating Rachel "The Black Widow" Sazoff (0-2) by scores of 40-36 across the board. "I landed a lot of shots," Ramirez noted. "I respect her, she was tough. The game plan worked and we got the win."
Twenty-year-old Randy Moreno (4-0, 3 KOs) turned in the best performance of his young career, stopping Australian junior lightweight "12" Gaige Ireland (2-1-2, 2 KOs) in the third round. Moreno fights with the poise of a much older fighter, effectively counter punching from the opening bell. "It feels great," Moreno commented. "I wouldn't be here today if it wasn't for Gil Martinez (head trainer). He is notorious for his training methods and it's paid off. I've been with him 10 years. Fighting here at home means the world to me."
Undefeated lightweight prospect Ismail "Sharp Shooter" Muwendo, fighting out of Minneapolis by way of his native Uganda, improved to 18-0 (12 KOs), taking a one-sided six-round unanimous decision from Eliseo Cruz (9-2-1, 6 KOs). "I think I did well, I was out of the ring a long time," Muwendo commented. He's a tough guy who was ready."
Las Vegas favorite Max "Baby Face Assassin" Ornelas (4-0, 2 KOs) remained unbeaten by way of a 4-round unanimous decision over Jonathan "Johnny Boy" Quiorz (6-5, 1 KO). "I was confident (of winning the decision," the 18-year-old Ornelas said. "I was out-boxing him. I love fighting here. I have a lot of support from family and friends; I'm motivated when I hear them."
The "Knockout Night at the D" series, presented by the D Las Vegas and Downtown Las Vegas Events Center, is promoted by Roy Jones Jr. (RJJ) Boxing Promotions. Hall Of Fame announcers
Jim "J.R." Ross and Al Bernstein called the action from ringside on CBS Sports Network in North America and internationally via ESPN.