Both fighters down as Soto edges Labri at Foxwoods

RINGSIDE 03/06/2018

Junior middleweights Edwin Soto and Salim Labri staged an epic battle in Saturday’s main event at Foxwoods Resort Casino’s Fox Theater with Soto narrowly escaping defeat to earn the split-decision victory. 

Both fights hit the canvas over the course of eight action-packed rounds, but the New Haven, Conn., veteran Soto (13-2-2) finished strong and survived a major scare in the closing seconds to earn his fourth consecutive win since returning to the ring in 2017.

Larbi (20-10-2), 32-fight vet from Brooklyn, N.Y., dropped Soto in the opening round to gain the early advantage, but Soto showcased his resiliency, storming back in the middle rounds to build a slight edge before dropped his opponent with two hard right hands in the sixth. Larbi went through the ropes, but made it back to his feet and survived the remainder of the round before stemming the tide with a strong effort in the seventh.

The Brooklyn slugger actually dominated the eighth and final round, rocking Soto in the closing seconds and nearly earning a stoppage with a wild series of flurries, but Soto hung on long enough to survive the bell. Judge Don Trella, who scored it 75-74 in favor of Soto, actually awarded Larbi a 10-8 score in the eighth due to his strong finish. Judge Glen Feldman scored it 76-74 in favor of Larbi with Larbi winning four of the final five rounds sandwiched around the knockdown. Richard Flaherty gave it to Soto, 76-74, the difference being the second through sixth rounds, all of which he scored in favor of the winner.

The win for Soto was his second of the year. He opened 2018 with a knockout win over Ray Oliveira Jr. in Rhode Island and is now unbeaten following his return from a two-year layoff in 2017.

Michigan’s Robert Simms (7-2) scored the upset of the night in the co-feature, stunning red-hot heavyweight prospect Juiseppe Cusumano (14-2) in a 59-55, 58-56, 58-56 unanimous decision win.

Cusumano entered on a 13-fight win streak with almost twice as much experience and a five-inch height advantage, but Simms stole the show with the biggest win of his career.

Simms simply proved to be too elusive, utilizing his looping, overhand right to score early and often while slipping in and out of trouble, rarely staying in one spot too long, which gave Cusumano no time to land his signature combinations to wear down his opponents.

The faster-than-expected Simms won the first three rounds on all three scorecards before Cusumano finally snapped out his funk toward the end, but it was too little, too late. Simms not only executed the perfect game plan while taking Cusumano’s best shots, he won the crowd over at Foxwoods, celebrating his victory to a raucous ovation.

Returning to Foxwoods for the first time since August, New Haven’s Jimmy Williams (15-1-1) got back in the win column with a 60-53, 60-53, 60-53 unanimous decision win over the game Christian Aguirre (7-2) of Salt Lake City, Utah.

The wild, hard-charging Aguirre came out firing early, but also drew two warnings from referee Arthur Mercante Jr. for hitting during the break and lost a point in the final round for decking Williams with a left hook during another break in the action in the sixth. Beyond that, it was all Williams, who adjusted to Aguirre’s awkward, unorthodox style to earn a much-needed win following his first career loss in April.

Fighting in her home state for the first time since 2013, female bantamweight Marcia Agripino (2-1-1) of nearby Ledyard won a hard-fought 38-38, 39-37, 39-37 majority decision against California’s Kailyn Hansen (0-2). Agripino was the aggressor early, taking the first two rounds to establish a comfortable pace before Hansen fought back to win the third. Agripino closed the show in the fourth, earning the round on two of the three judges’ cards for the narrow victory.

Weslaco, Tex., middleweight Alexis Gaytan (4-0) scored the second biggest upset of the night on the undercard, dominating previously-unbeaten Worcester, Mass., native Kendrick Ball Jr. (9-1-2) in a 59-53, 58-54, 59-53 unanimous-decision win, sending Ball Jr. to the canvas twice in six rounds.

A relative unknown on the New England circuit, the 23-year-old Gaytan only had three fights under his belt entering Saturday and hadn’t fought since August, but showed no signs of rust against the taller, more experience Ball. The bout opened with both fighters trying to establish the jab until Gaytan sidestepped a right hand from his opponent and caught him with a short left that sent him crashing to the canvas.

Ball Jr. recovered and fought back in the second round, closing with a flurry to even the bout, but Gaytan rocked him again with an uppercut in the third and controlled the pace the rest of the way, scoring another knockdown in the fifth to seal the win. Ball Jr. had moments where it appeared he’d turn the tide in his favor until Gaytan’s superior hand speed stopped him in his tracks. The Worcester native had won his previous five bouts entering the weekend.

New Haven super middleweight Elvis Figueroa (5-0) remained undefeated in a back-and-forth battle with Leandro Da Silva (1-2) of Sao Paolo, Brazil. A former eight-time UFC veteran, Da Silva entered fresh off his first career win as a boxer in May, but the amateur standout Figueroa was too much to handle, winning by scores of 40-36 and 39-37 twice.

Figueroa rocked his opponent early, forcing Da Silva to spent the majority of the first round holding on to buy a few extra seconds, but once he warmed up and found his rhythm, he put on a show for the fans, occasionally dancing around the ring and taunting his opponent. In the end, Figueroa got the last laugh with his second win of 2018 and first with CES Boxing.

Lightweights Carlos Marrero (0-2-1) of Bridgeport, Conn., and Newark’s Jonathan Rojas (0-1-1) each entered Saturday’s bout in search of their first career win, but fought to a majority draw in a wildly-entertaining opening bout. Judge Flaherty scored the bout 39-37 in favor of Rojas while Peter Hary and Feldman had it 38-38.

Rojas led on the cards after three, working effectively to the body to set up a vicious, right uppercut, one which stunned Marrero and knocked his mouthpiece to the canvas twice in the third round. The controversial fourth round turned out to be the difference. Flaherty scored it in favor of Rojas, but Marrero earned the nod on Hary and Feldman’s cards to pull out the draw.