Saturday, September 12, ESPN+ broadcasted from the “bubble” at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas, Nevada. There were three fights on the Top Rank main card: Jorge Ramos vs. Aleem Jumakhonov, followed by Joet Gonzalez vs Miguel Marriaga, with the main event being Egidijus Kavaliouskas against Mikael Zewski.
Egidijus Kavaliouskas(21-1-1, 17KOs), otherwise known as “The Mean Machine”, was looking to prove that he deserved to be mentioned when people talk about the depth and talent of the welterweight division. His TKO loss to Terence “Bud” Crawford(36-0, 27KOs) featured unprecedented success when he not only landed more punches than anyone previously, but in the eyes of the public, knocked “Bud” down, though it was officially ruled a slip. Mikael Zewski (34-1, 23KOs) was making his first trip from Canada to the U.S. since taking his only loss, also in Vegas, five years ago. Though he was perceived as the underdog, Zewski came in as number seven in the WBO rankings, while Kavaliouskas wasn’t even ranked in the top ten. Both fighters were known to have serious punching power.
The fight began with both fighters finding their respective rhythms relatively quickly but keeping the first round close. “Mean Machine”, an orthodox fighter, found a place for his neck-snapping jab late in the second round due to Zewski, also orthodox, having the tendency to keep his left hand relatively low. At about the same time Zewski made it apparent that he was going to try to work the body early. This trend continued through the third round. Round four started off at around the same pace, but about one minute in, both men began trading wide and powerful shots. At this time it seemed like we were all in for a banger, but this outburst died down and the pace slowed towards the end of the round.
It was round five that we began to see a bit of separation between the two. Kavaliouskas was landing his jab at will and began to change levels, going down to Zewski’s body. At some point around the two-minute mark, “Mean Machine” landed a left hook to the body that drew a reaction from Zewski. It was a subtle straightening up of the stance and quick inhale, but that was enough to catch Kavaliouskas’ attention and encourage him.
Round six, and most of seven, consisted of Kavaliouskas turning up the pressure with the jab and the body shots, with Zewski rallying for short, but successful, flurries of output. Even during his successes, you could see Zewski’s new game plan of moving and staying outside to avoid Kavaliouskas’ devastating bodywork. Throughout the fight so far, “Mean Machine” would occasionally dip down and attempt a counter right uppercut with varying success. It was this punch that caught the chin of Zewski on the way in, in the last ten seconds of the seventh, sending Zewski reeling backward. “Mean Machine”, as he’s shown a tendency to do, hit the on-switch. A relentless barrage of power punches by Kavaliouskas knocked Zewski into the ropes and, at the final bell of the seventh round, onto the floor. It was counted as an official knockdown and referee Kenny Bayless gave the ten-count. Though Zewski was obviously hurt, he was able to get up at nine and return to his corner. This only delayed the inevitable, as immediately after the first bell of the eighth, Kavaliouskas threw a four-punch combination. The final shot of this combo, a right hook, landed cleanly on the chin of Zewski, sending him to the canvas. Seeing Zewski had had enough, Bayless called the fight off immediately. This win was not necessarily proof that Kavaliouskas belongs in the top five of the welterweight division, but it did showcase his killer instinct and ability to finish. He might not become a household name any time soon, but Egidijus “Mean Machine” Kavaliouskas will indeed be a fun fighter to continue to watch.
The co-main feature of the evening was Joet Gonzalez(23-1, 14KOs) against, an always formidable, Miguel Marriaga(29-3, 25KOs) in a ten-round bout for the WBO intercontinental title. This was Gonzalez’s come-back fight after losing, by what most would call a shut-out, against Shakur Stevenson(14-0, 8KOs). In an attempt to move forward after such a loss, Joet didn’t want to take an “easy touch” in his return. Miguel Marriaga has shown time and time again that he is both resilient and capable, losing only to the very best. This would be Marriaga’s fourth shot at the featherweight title, and this night, he planned to bring it home.
Both men, orthodox fighters, set a fast pace for the first of ten rounds. Mariagga used his quick hands and tried to utilize bodywork and Gonzalez generally placed his punches well throwing an educated overhand right. Both fighters looked good all through rounds two and three. Marriaga was doing most of the pressing forward initially, but Gonzalez had an uptick of offense in the third, resulting in a contested back and forth in the center of the ring. In round four, Marriaga had continuous output, but Joet sharpened his defense. Gonzalez began firing off more crisp one-two combinations between Marriaga’s punches, which Miguel was unable to block or evade. The next two rounds were more of the same, but with Gonzalez moving forward and appearing to break away in the sixth. Marriaga was aware of this turning of the tide and began to fight with more offensive desperation in the seventh round. Joet showed a very solid and tight defense, but did not relent with the forward momentum and pressure he had set earlier in the fight. Marriaga began to use his feet and move around the ring, though this movement only proved to tire Miguel faster than before. In round eight, it was apparent that Marriaga had no answer for Gonzalez. At this point Gonzalez was boxing intelligently, continuing to land the one-two, along with more varied punches, almost at will. The referee, Robert Hoyle, was heard telling Miguel to “show me something” making it known that he was considering stopping the fight. This was just what Miguel needed to hear, as round nine began, with Marriaga turning it up and starting to box with vigor. Gonzalez had less opportunity for offense, but did throw when he found an opening. With less than a minute left, a small cut appeared below Joet’s right eye.
Round ten began with Miguel throwing combos, but Gonzalez’s tight defense left little opportunity for the punches to land flush. Somewhere in those combinations by Miguel, Joet’s cut opened more and blood became easily visible across his face. This cut did not affect Gonzalez in any significant way as he continued to keep his defense tight, and his offense did not suffer. About halfway through, Marriaga was still giving his best effort but it was apparent that he was worn out and was incapable of landing a redeeming knockout punch. Joet Gonzalez won the bout by unanimous decision, showing that he can still compete with the top guys of the division, and is resolute in his quest for a featherweight world title.
The first of the three main fights was between Jorge Ramos(7-2-1, 4KOs) and Aleem Jumakhonov (8-3-2, 4KOs). Ramos is tall for the featherweight division, being 5’10” compared to Aleem’s 5’7”. One would think Ramos would have used his height and length to his advantage, but he has always preferred to fight on the inside. Saturday was no exception. Jumakhanov had no qualms with Ramos’ plan and both fighters seemed perfectly comfortable in the “phone booth”. Jumakhanov was showing great variety in his speed and his power, keeping Ramos guessing as to which punches to be weary of. Ramos was holding his own on the inside for the first two rounds, but in the third, Jumakhanov landed a right hook that crumpled Ramos. Ramos was cognizant of his surroundings and looked to his corner for instruction. As Kenny Bayless got to eight of the ten-count, you could tell what instructions those were “stay down”. Jumakhanov won the fight by knockout.