NIAGARA FALLS — The number of pre-sold tickets in conjunction with a no-refund policy (fans could exchange tickets for a future fight down the road) pretty much meant Niagara Falls Conference and Events Center wouldn’t be a ghost town for the first professional boxing card in nearly four years in the Cataract City.
Still, seeing Niagara Falls’ Nick Casal mingling with fans around ringside instead of giving them reason to cheer for him in the ring wasn’t the purpose of this evening. It was supposed to be a celebration of local boxing, proof that it’s alive and well and has a future – specifically Casal, who’s still looking forward to fighting for the first time since he was viciously attacked with a crowbar in May 2012.
What folks wound up learning is that maybe the area does have a future in the sport outside of Casal, Buffalo’s Lionell Thompson and Amherst’s Vincent Arroyo.
Greg Brady delivered that lesson when he made sure the crowd left the Conference and Events Center happy after witnessing the biggest win of his young cruiserweight career.
Brady made it five knockouts in row but Thursday’s may be the most impressive as he dealt Joel Shojgreen the first loss of his career. Brady won via TKO at 2 minutes, 25 seconds of the second round, proving that he can give as good as he can take it.
Brady (5-1, 5 KOs) rebounded from an early knockdown in the round to knock down Shojgreen (8-1) twice much to the delight of the fans – a good contingent being family and friends of Brady.
“I told you Greg was the truth,” said trainer Ross Thompson, responding to folks who thought he was crazy for accepting the fight with Shojgreen. “We’re all about bringing a future world champion to Buffalo.”
Brady found himself thrust into the main event after both co-feature bouts featuring Casal and Arroyo got scrapped because their opponents flunked their pre-fight physicals.
The fact both world-class fighters who have participated in big time events were on the card resulted in nearly 3,000 tickets being sold, according to promoter Mercedes Vazquez-Simmons. An estimated 1,800 of them showed up.
Brady didn’t look out of place in his first main event.
After being knocked down by a combination early in the second round, Brady shook it off and started to assert himself against Shojgreen. He first floored Shojgreen with a right. Later in the round, he connected with another right while forcing his opponent to backpedal. His foe wound up on the seat of his pants in the corner after the flurry, prompting the referee to stop the fight – even though Shojgreen looked more stunned the fight was being stopped than dazed and confused.
“Tonight was the easiest because the referee saved him,” said Thompson of the consecutive KOs by Brady. “He put the other guys to sleep.”
“I was a little nervous. I had to get the jitters out,” the 26-year-old Brady said.
“I was very confident that I was going to knock him out. I wasn’t worried about his power. I got knocked down. That was more surprise to me than anything. It didn’t hurt. I felt there was an urgency to knock him out.”
On having the chance to be in a main event this early in his career, Brady said: “It means a lot. … I definitely appreciate everything” Vazquez-Simmons has done “for me. It feels real good winning at home.”
Milos Pantelic (7-0, 6 KOs), a Buffalo cruiserweight via Serbia via Toronto, remained unbeaten in his career as he stopped Mike Bissett (5-5) at 2:41 of the fourth round. Pantelic is being promoted by Allan Tremblay and backed by Try-It Distributing and the old Team Mesi camp. He too rebounded from an early knockdown to win.
“This is a good lesson for him,” Tremblay said. “He needed to face some adversity. To get off the mat against a big banger like that shows the heart of a champion.”
Featherweight Jake Ventry of Niagara Falls had a debut to forget as he was put to sleep by his foe, Jesus Gonzalez, at 1:43 of the first round.
Ventry appeared to be knocked down early in the fight during a breakup. Ventry said his knee never touched the mat even though it appeared it did to those at ringside and to Gonzalez (2-4, 2 KOs), who has more than 100 amateur fights on his resume.
The referee did not issue an eight count. Ventry was expecting the ref to at least check his gloves after the near knockdown, which the ref did not do. Gonzalez noticed he had a free path at Ventry and pounced.
A body shot and right later put Ventry to sleep for a couple of minutes.
“I didn’t even feel the punch,” the 18-year-old Ventry said. “I thought I was only down for a split second and I popped back up but that wasn’t the case.”
Buffalo’s Michael Jackson’s debut is on hold as his foe, North Tonawanda’s Carl Davis, failed to make weight. Michelle Cook (1-0-1) won via decision over Ivanna Coleman (0-5), and Emanuel Colon (4-0) also beat light welterweight Andre Byrd (2-1) via unanimous decision.