It started innocuously enough; lightly regarded televised opener of a “Top Rank Boxing on ESPN” tripleheader, live from the Chesapeake Energy Arena in Oklahoma City, OK. But by the end of the telecast the only fight that mattered the evening of Saturday, June 30th was Alex Saucedo’s bloody war with Lenny Zappavigna.
For what it’s worth, undefeated WBO supermiddleweight champion, Gilberto Ramirez, successfully defended his title against Roamer Alexis Angulo in the main event. Ramirez is the first man of Mexican descent to win a world title at 168 pounds. In the co-main, Robson Conceicao, gold medalist at the 2016 Olympics (the first Brazilian boxer to ever do so), wiped his ass with the hapless Gavino Guaman. That said, two decent performances paled in comparison and was forced to take a back seat to the certified show stealer, Alex Saucedo (28-0, 18 KO’s) vs. Lenny Zappavigna (37-4, 27 KO’s).
Saucedo, from Oklahoma City, is the mandatory for the 140-pound WBO strap, held by the recently crowned Maurice Hooker. He’s also trained by Abel Sanchez, sparred a few rounds with 147-pound killer, Errol Spence, Jr., and lived to tell about it. Australia’s Lenny Z was brought in as a litmus test of sorts, having faced a name fighter or three, most notably former titlist, Sergey Lipinets. He’s also bolstered his status at Freddie Roach’s Wild Card Gym in California, as did Saucedo.
In hindsight, the phone booth sized ring foreshadowed the action to come. Saucedo boxes responsibly or attempts to do so at least; he leads with a left jab, which he throws at varying speeds and can easily turn into left hooks and uppercuts to the head/body. The problem is, Saucedo’s very heavy on his front foot, which leads to him remaining in punching position longer than preferred, susceptible to return fire. Zappavigna was able to exploit this early, making his presence known with jabs, body-shots and sneaky counters. Saucedo did a tad more work with his lefty stick, hooks and uppercuts, leaving Lenny Z bleeding from the right eye after round 2.
Just as Zappavigna appeared to stun his foe, Saucedo dropped him with a looping counter right in the middle of his grill. Lenny Z was visibly hurt, yet up by the count of 8 and quickly back to competing on even terms. By the end of the 3rd, Z was connecting with hooks from either hand and hard lead rights. He worked in chopping right crosses and uppercuts in the 4th, when a pair of winging hooks staggered Saucedo badly. A follow-up flurry snapped Saucedo’s head front, back and side to side, and a big left hook made his knees dip. On very unsteady legs, eating head shots, Saucedo now had blood pouring from his own right eye; droplets even wound up on the lens of the camera, a fitting touch to the television broadcast.
Saucedo seized control in the 5th and began peppering Zappavigna with hard 1-2’s, damaging Lenny Z’s facial features even further. Smartly, Saucedo kept his right glove up to block incoming left hooks, and clinched/pivoted his way from harm. Before long, Zappavigna’s face deteriorated into a crimson mask, cuts over the right and under his left eye, bruising under his right and the left completely swollen shut. Unable to penetrate Saucedo’s jab and defense, Zappavigna’s corner smartly halted the bloodbath in the middle of the 7th.
Roughly half way thru, there’s been some entertaining scraps in 2018; Jarrett Hurd-Erislandy Lara, Deonty Wilder-Luis Ortiz and Adrien Broner-Jessie Vargas to name a few. Saucedo-Zappavigna easily surpasses those affairs and sits alone at the top of the “Fight of the Year” list, until proven otherwise. Blood, guts, heart, knockdowns, abrupt shifts in momentum, it had it all.