Since its inception in early 2022, “Rhode Wars” is designed to serve as a proving ground for the next generation of CES stars looking to join the list of past greats such as Vinny Paz and Peter Manfredo Jr. as well as current stars like Jamaine Ortiz.
The ring is a truth machine, and the series is meant to weed out the true prospects from those who have more work to do in the gym. Rhode Wars IV was no exception. The show featured the CES debuts of two recent signings from legendary fighting families, the development of several New England prospects, and the pro debuts of two of Rhode Island’s own fighters.
The event did not disappoint, as the bouts were evenly matched to the delight of the fans who came to support their local favorites at the packed Historic Park Theater in Cranston on a rainy Saturday night.
Paulino annihilates Perez
In the main event of the evening, New London, CT’s Alejandro “El Abusador” Paulino stopped Colombia’s Jonathan Perez in the sixth and final round of a lightweight bout to improve his record to 13-0 with 11 knockouts.
‘El Abusador’ was in control of the bout from the opening bell, nearly dropping Perez with a left hook in the opening stanza. A subsequent right to the body caused Perez’s gloves to touch the canvas, but referee Joey Lupino ruled it a slip. Paulino continued landing at will in round 2, when a right to the head finally dropped Perez, who mustered up the will to beat the count and survive the round.
The knockdown appeared to wake up the Colombian, who responded in round 3 with several right hands of his own. The shots did little to discourage Paulino, as the New Londoner returned to his dominant ways in rounds 4 and 5, stunning Perez repeatedly with laser straight right hands that left a welt under the Colombian’s left eye.
Paulino continued looking for the knockout in round 6, and he finally found the opportunity he was seeking as he trapped Perez against the ropes and landed a combination that dropped the Colombian to the canvas. Perez got up, but this time Paulino put a final exclamation on the night, ending matters with a follow up attack that caused referee Ricky Gonzalez to halt the bout at 2:20 of the round. With the loss, Perez falls to 40-37 with 32 KOs.
Mascarenhas makes triumphant return
In the co-feature, Wilson Mascarenhas shut out Ghana’s Benjamin Lamptey in a 6 round welterweight contest. All three judges scored the bout 60-54 for the New Bedford resident.
‘Ill Will’ thrilled the raucous crowd, which included Saturday Night Live’s Kenan Thompson, with his smooth boxing and rapid-fire combinations. Many fans wondered whether Mascarenhas would show any ill effects from a stabbing he suffered shortly after his last outing in March 2022 that kept him out of the ring for 18 months.
The New Bedford resident was able to quell any concerns in round 1, patiently working behind an educated jab and appearing to be the sharper of the two pugilists.
Wilson dominated rounds 2 and 3, landing crisp combinations to the head and body of the mostly upright and stationary Lamptey. The Accra native looked to counter, but he was never able to mount much of an attack against the quicker Mascarenhas.
With the crowd chanting “Ill Will,” the Portugal native upped the ante in rounds 4 and 5, walking Lamptey down with a stiff jab and firing combinations whenever his opponent’s back touched the ropes. Mascarenhas moved the fight to the inside in round 6, ripping short hooks to the body and rights to the head as the bout came to a close. With the win, Mascarenhas improves to 7-1 (2 KOs) while Lamptey drops to 13-10-2 (9 KOs).
Walsh decisions Williams in a War
In the fight of the night, Brockton’s Kevin Walsh outlasted Orlando, Florida’s Marcello Williams over 6 rounds in a lightweight war. The bout was a contrast in styles, as the sharper Walsh was forced to trade early and often with the wild and persistent Williams.
Williams pressured Walsh from the opening bell, launching haymakers to the head of the patient Walsh, who responded with a big uppercut midway through the round. The fighters traded heavy leather in round 2, with Walsh sharply countering the Brazilian’s wild advances.
Williams landed a left hook and an uppercut in round 3, but a big right hand from Walsh briefly halted his momentum. Walsh wisely chose to box in round 4, but the relentless Brazilian caught him with a right hand that forced the Brockton native to fire back with a left uppercut and right hand at the bell.
The bout continued to follow this pattern in round 5, with Walsh landing the crisper punches early on and Williams weathering the storm to land heavy shots in the second half of each round.
Sensing that the fight was up for grabs, Walsh came out firing in round 6, finally staggering an exhausted Williams with a left hook to the head. The fighters again engaged in a back-and-forth war until the final bell. The judges scored the fight 59-55 (2x) and 58-56 for Walsh, who improved his perfect record to 9-0 with 4 KOs as the unrelenting Williams dropped to 4-18-1.
One Legend continues, the other stalls as Duran Jr. decisions Florez and Hagler Jr. suffers a knockout defeat
Alcibiade “Robert” Duran Jr. (12-3, 9 KOs) impressed fans in his CES debut, pounding out a 6-round unanimous decision win over Colombian Luis Florez (26-27, 21 KOs) in a 6 round junior middleweight showdown.
With mentor Vinny Paz looking on, the son of the legendary “Hands of Stone,” landed at will against the sturdy Florez, switching between orthodox and southpaw stances throughout the contest.
Duran came out as a southpaw in round 1, focusing on Florez’s body and countering well to the head. A 3-punch combination staggered Florez in round 2, and Duran continued to land heavy shots to the Colombian’s head and body.
Duran, who fights out of Pedro Diaz’s ‘Mundo Boxing’ gym in Florida, threw the proverbial kitchen sink at Florez, walking the Colombian down and nailing him with heavy left hooks and right hands in rounds 3 and 4.
The game Florez took the punches well, but he was unable to mount a significant assault of his own. Scores were 60-54 (2x) and 59-55. After the fight, Duran stated that he’d like to drop down to the welterweight division, where he feels most comfortable.
Leonardo Ledeira (3-8, 3 KOs) can tell his future grandchildren that he once beat the grandson of a legend, as the Revere, MA resident spoiled James Hagler Jr.’s (3-2, 1 KO) CES debut in a 4 round light heavyweight bout.
Hagler Jr. hurt Ledeira to the head in round 2, but the Brazilian responded in round 3 with a ferocious body assault that badly hurt the Atlanta native.
Hagler Jr., who lost over 30 pounds in training camp for this bout, did his best to weather the storm, but a final left hook to the body dropped him for the full 10 count and the bout was called at 1:08 of the round.
“I had to lose too much weight ahead of this fight, and it took a toll on my body,” said a disappointed Hagler Jr. “I’d like to come back quickly to make up for this loss.”
In her pro debut, Melanie Costa (1-0) destroyed England’s Daisy Preston (0-6-1) in round 2 of a 4 round featherweight bout. The Providence native swarmed Preston from the opening bell, ripping shots to Brit’s midsection as she pressured her taller opponent. Costa ended matters in round 2, landing a series of heavy shots that crumbled Preston to the canvas. The bout was called off at 1:32 of the round.
North Providence’s Michael DiDino (1-0) also made his professional debut a successful one, winning a competitive 4 round decision over Joel Young (0-2) in a lightweight bout. The pugilists traded combinations throughout the first and second rounds, with the Southpaw DiDino landing the sharper blows. A right hook appeared to hurt Young in round 3, but the Beltsville, Maryland native was able to tie up long enough to clear his head. The fighters fought on the inside in round 4, with Young pressuring DiDino, who was cut by an accidental headbutt. After 4 rounds, scores were 39-37 (2x) and 40-36 for the North Providence native.
In the opening bout of the night, Springfield, MA’s Calixto Cruz (2-0) shut out Scotland’s Kevin Traynor (1-2, 1 KO) over 4 rounds in a welterweight matchup. Traynor looked to pressure Cruz in rounds 1 and 2. He was able to trap Cruz along the ropes on a few occasions, but the Springfield native effectively fought his way out or spun Traynor to avoid any significant damage. After a competitive first 2 rounds, Cruz began to focus on Traynor’s body in round 3, jabbing to the body before launching right hands to the head. Calixto’s higher workrate was the difference in the bout, as he consistently landed combinations to the head and body while the Scotsman was limited to single shots. Scores were 40-36 (3x).