The undefeated Leo adds the growing legend of Albuquerque by becoming their latest world champion with an impressive victory Saturday night on a scintillating SHOWTIME triple-header.
Angelo Leo has a sense of boxing history, especially when it comes to his hometown of Albuquerque, New Mexico. He was a starry-eyed kid looking up to local legends like Johnny Tapia and Danny Romero.
It had been 18 years, when Leo was eight years old, since anyone from Albuquerque wore a world title belt.
All of that changed Saturday night on SHOWTIME Championship Boxing.
Leo, 26, joined special company and broke that drought by winning the vacant WBO World Junior Featherweight title with a 12-round unanimous decision over Tramaine Williams at the crowd-less Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, Connecticut.
Leo (20-0, 9 KOs) was originally scheduled to face Stephen Fulton, but when the Philadelphia product tested positive for COVID-19 on Wednesday, Williams, who was on the undercard, received a lifelong opportunity by stepping up to the main event. He was game but Leo simply wanted it more.
Judges Glenn Feldman and Don Trella each saw it 118-110 while Don Ackerman had it 117-111.
“It feels surreal,” Leo said. “The first few rounds I was feeling him out, getting his timing and getting the feel of him. I felt him kind of loosening up and breaking down. That’s when I started putting the pressure on him a little more every round.
“The key factor was the body work and the pressure.”
In the end, Leo’s body attack was too much for “The Mighty Midget.”
Williams (19-1, 6 KOs) got off to a strong start, his 5-foot-4 southpaw frame crouched low to avoid the incoming as he fired a hard jab and occasional lefts behind it.
Beginning in the third, Leo slowly began taking over, roughing up the smaller Williams inside and punishing him to the body.
That’s when Leo began pulling away. His dogged body punishment began taking a toll on Williams, 27, who is from nearby New Haven, Connecticut.
Leo dominated the second half of the fight, showing versatility, aggression, a high workrate and a commitment to working the body. A new face has emerged in the stacked 122-pound division.
“We have four champions from Albuquerque (Holly Holm, Romero, Tapia) and now me,” Leo said. “I think I made history there.”
Ra’eese “The Beast” Aleem proves he’s a player at 122
Ra’eese “The Beast” Aleem wanted his chance. It didn’t matter who it was against, either. When Stephen Fulton dropped out of the main event after testing positive for COVID-19 on Wednesday, Tramaine Williams, Aleem’s original opponent, moved into the main event.
Williams’ replacement was Marcus Bates, a former opponent who Aleem beat two years ago by unanimous decision.
This time, Aleem (17-0, 11 KOs) outdid himself, stopping Bates (11-2, 8 KOs) at 2:18 of the 10th in a scheduled 12-round WBA super bantamweight title eliminator.
“It did help me facing Bates again only because I knew some of his tendencies, but that was still a while ago,” Aleem said. “He’s a top fighter so he could have come at me a number of different ways. I was just prepared.
In the opening round, the 30-year-old Aleem and Bates went at each other. But there was one theme that was evident early on: Aleem would be the stalker, controlling the middle of the ring, while Bates danced around him.
Midway through the third, Aleem, from Las Vegas, sat more on his punches, which carried more impact. Aleem landed a good left hook. He followed a strong third with a stronger fourth, cutting off escape routes and punishing the 26-year-old Bates with a solid right. In the last :30, Aleem stung Bates with a left uppercut.
Through four, it appeared evident Aleem was in control, as his triple jab set up right hands and left uppercuts.
In the sixth, Bates, from Washington, D.C., tried coming forward. He jabbed well at the outset of the round, but Aleem quickly regained control by working various angles and closing in on Bates again.
After seven, Aleem appeared well ahead, possibly throwing a shutout over Bates. In the eighth, Aleem dropped a left to Bates’ body. By the end of the round, Bates was in the corner and his body language said he was listing.
In the latter portion of the ninth, Bates began shaking his right hand. With Aleem exerting his dominance, and Bates’ right hand possibly being injured, it was time to end it.
“I didn’t know his hand was hurt,” Aleem said. “I thought he was just shaking it just to try to get me to look at it and distract me. I didn’t worry about it.”
Referee Gary Rosato told Bates he would have one more round between the ninth and 10th rounds. The 10th saw a repeat of the previous nine rounds, and Rosato wisely stepped forward and called it at 2:18 of the 10th.
Joe George stuns Marcos Escudero with a ninth-round KO
An empty arena carries a special sound effect. From the snorting, grunting fightes throwing punches, to the resounding thud a knockout brings when someone hits the canvas.
A Joe George left uppercut was the instrument that provided the resonating crash.
In the first fight of the night, a rematch from a November bout that saw George win by a controversial split-decision, he landed a vicious left uppercut on the jaw that knocked out Marcos Escudero at :29 of the ninth round of a scheduled 10-round light heavyweight fight.
“I was setting him up with the jab to the body, I had him leaning over a little,” George said. “I was shooting the right uppercut, some landed and some didn’t. I wanted him to get comfortable and relaxed, and that’s exactly what he did. He was relaxed and I slipped over and just shot it. He gave it to me and I had to take it. It put him down.
“The result is self-explanatory. I don’t have to say nothing. I’m willing to fight whoever next. One fight at a time and I’ll be prepared for whatever’s on the way.”
At the time of the knockout, judges Don Trella (79-73) and Steve Weisfeld (77-75) each had Escudero up, while judge Tom Carusone somehow saw it 79-73 for George. Showtime’s unofficial ringside judge Steve Farhood also had Escudero up, 78-74, giving George the first and eighth rounds.
George (11-0, 7 KOs) began strong. Within the first few seconds, George lunged in with a wide left hook. As he did in the previous fight, Escudero (10-2, 9 KOs) came forward and pressed George with activity.
In the last minute of the second, Escudero landed several punishing body shots, and it was the 27-year-old Argentinian who once again was taking the fight to George. By the seventh, Escudero, who appeared to be winning, kept the heat on George, backing up the 31-year-old from Houston, Texas.
Sensing he was behind and fighting with urgency, George attacked Escudero with combinations in the opening minute of the eighth. It wasn’t long for Escudero to turn the tenor of the round back in his favor with a barrage of shots that forced George into a corner with his guard up high.
Down on the scorecards, George set up the left uppercut beautifully, throwing a right, which Escudero ducked, and George countered with a punishing left uppercut. Escudero’s eyes were rolled back before his head hit the canvas.
Up until the knockout, Escudero had been ahead. He had outlanded George, 127 to 89 in total punches, and had connected on 45 body shots to George’s 28. But one punch erased all of those numbers—while keeping George’s slate clean and erasing any doubt about their first meeting.
For a closer look at Leo vs Williams, check out our fight night page.
- Leo vs Williams