THE Italian boxing commission – the Federazione Pugilistica Italiana – and promoter Davide Buccioni put on back-to-back shows at the PalaVespucci in Rome on Saturday night.

The first half of the evening saw Italia Thunder take on the Colombia Heroicos in a World Series of Boxing quarter-final first leg. The Thunder had qualified by finishing second in their group behind the British Lionhearts while the Heroicos have been one of the revelations of the season so far, winning five out of six matches in their group, which included a victory over defending champions and competition monsters Cuba Domadores.

The interesting-looking opening bout at 49kg between Italy’s promising Federico Serra and the Heroicos’ Olympic silver medallist Yuberjen Martinez lasted just eighty-five seconds. Serra winced and stopped fighting after damaging his right hand during the opening skirmishes. After speaking to the ringside doctor it was decided he could not fight on. With this win Martinez consolidates his position at the top of the individual rankings at light flyweight. Meanwhile Serra will hope to be fit for June’s European Championships in the Ukraine.

Francesco Grandelli brought the Italians back on even terms with a 49-46 and 48-47 (twice) victory over Jhon Martinez at 56kg. Grandelli’s pro experience – he has a 7-1-1 record – came in handy as he mixed his tactics to outhustle his one-paced opponent. Martinez looked capable and landed the occasional classy single shot but Grandelli was just too canny and busy. The home fighter was not particularly fluid or flashy but he had an array of tricks: he would move, change angles, switch stance and sometimes bully the Colombian up close. Grandelli has now won two out of two in the WSB and he has been one of the pleasant surprises of the Italian campaign so far.

The Heroicos’ lanky 64kg representative Brayam Rico came in with a grave face and a 100% knockout record as a pro (he has six wins and one defeat) but he was no match for Sebastian Mendizabal, who put on a near perfect display over five rounds to win by 49-45 on all three cards (with a point deducted for use of the shoulder). Rico stalked all fight but he never got to grips with his quarry’s tactic of mixing seeming-retreat with sudden swift attacks. Time and again Mendizabal would lure him into range before springing his trap and spinning away back out of range.

Just over a month ago Dmytro Mytrofonov fought against Italia Thunder. Here the WSB veteran (12 wins and 3 defeats coming in) found himself representing the Italians after a transfer from Morocco Atlas Lions. The former European bronze medallist and two-time Ukrainian champion is an astute addition to the Thunder squad, as he demonstrated by applying relentless pressure to outpoint the touted Jorge Vivas (48-47, 48-47, 46-49) in their 75kg bout. Vivas was a Pan-American games silver medallist and had reached the last 16 in the Rio Olympics but Mytrofonov’s siege engine approach meant the Colombian largely struggled to find the space and timing for his explosive counter-punching. That win gave the Italians a 3-1 lead.

The final fight of the tie saw the vastly-experienced Deivis Julio easily outpoint late substitute Amin Ettesami to reduce the Italians’ first leg advantage to a slender 3-2. Ettesami came in at the last minute to replace the Thunder captain, Clemente Russo, who had been cut in training. The difference in sharpness and experience was telling as the 37-year old Julio swept every round for each of the judges. Julio’s win could prove crucial when the two teams meet in Colombia for the second leg on Friday.

The WSB action was followed by a six-fight professional card headlined by a twelve-rounder between veteran Adriano ‘Sweet Pain’ Nicchi and Felice ‘Angel Face’ Moncelli.

boxing round up

Nicchi has been a familiar face on the Italian scene for the past ten years, building a 24-4-2 (11) record coming into this fight. He held the Italian light middle title for a couple of years at the start of the decade and was overpowered by Sergey Rabchenko for the European title back in 2013. Moncelli is thirteen years the younger at twenty-three but has already had twenty-two fights. He’s a dangerous fighter who can appear pedestrian and predictable at times but has decent power, is a good finisher and usually catches up with his opponent in the end.

Though the fight promised a good blend of styles between the slow, rumbling pressure of Moncelli and the loose long range sniping of the gritty Nicchi, it never really caught fire.

The pattern of the fight saw Nicchi circling, arms down and chin high, pot-shotting on the ever-advancing Moncelli. The older man from Tuscany was busier and sharper but not always accurate. Moncelli’s work was more eye-catching but also more infrequent.

The tenth was the clearest, most dramatic of the fight as Moncelli finally managed to shake Nicchi and put him under sustained pressure. Nicchi seemed to recover well over the final two rounds and do enough to perhaps merit a close decision win (Boxing News had him winning 115-114). However the judges saw it differently, seeing Moncelli as the winner by scores of 116-113, 115-113 and 115-114.

Moncelli is now 17-4-1 (5) and is steadily improving after going 4-3-1 in his first eight fights.

In the most exciting fight of the night light welter Luca Papola overcame a knockdown in the first thirty seconds to come back and stop Lasha Ardoteli of Georgia in the fourth.

The frenzied first round was one of the best of the year so far in Italy. Papola went down heavily from a counter right before roaring back and almost stopping Ardoteli at the end of the round. For a good half-minute this was pure Russian roulette as both men went into pure caveman mode trying to finish the other. Both continued to land good shots in the subsequent rounds but from the second onwards it became clear that Papola’s punches were having a much more marked effect. After being on the verge of halting Ardoteli in the third, a Papola left hook and follow-up flurry eventually got the job done after two minutes of the fourth. The Italian now has two wins out of two while Ardoteli falls to 0-3.

Roman featherweight Mauro Forte maintained his unbeaten record with a competitive six-round points win over the tough and aggressive Glauco Cappella. Forte, now 6-0-1 (1), impressed with his varied and refined repertoire. He’s developing very well technically but it remains to be seen if he has enough power to earn the respect of higher calibre opponents.

At light heavyweight Davide Faraci easily outpointed the smaller but more experienced Jozsef Racz of Hungary. Faraci, though technically sound and possessing some weight on his punches, was a little too sparing and predictable in his work to ever have the visitor in any difficulty.  Faraci moves to 4-0 (2). Racz fights around Europe almost every month and he has become adept at giving away very little in the ring – in his 7-16-1 record he has been stopped just twice.

In two cruiserweight fights on the bill Gabriele Guainella outpointed Christian Scognamiglio to go to 2-0 while Luca D’Ortenzi outscored Semen Levin to up his record to 5-0.