As Rogers Mtagwa prepares for another big fight in January, our own Ted Sares looks back at his breakout fight from 2008 against Tomas Villa.
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Rogers "The Tiger" Mtagwa is no longer flying under the radar thanks to his game showing against Juan Manuel Lopez in Madison Square Garden on October 10, 2009. By now, his gutsy performance in that one has been well documented. However, aficionados knew he was a tough hombre who lives and fights out of Philadelphia by way of Tanzania. With a deceptive record of 26-13-2, he has been a road warrior of sorts going up against tough competition in such diverse locales as Kampala, Uganda, Kenya, Indiana, South Carolina and several bouts at the Blue Horizon in Philadelphia. When he waxed Artyom Simonyan in 2006, fans began taking note and a close MD loss to rugged Martin Honorio in Cicero, Illinois did nothing to dispel the perceived talents of 'The "Tiger."
Tomas Villa (2008)
However, it was his fight with Tomas "El Norteno" Villa at the Casino Del Sol in Tucson, Arizona that caught my attention. This war gave new meaning to the words "fury" and "courage." Mtagwa and Mexican warrior Villa (20-6-4) engaged in almost ten rounds of wild ebb and flow savagery.
The first round was one of pure fury in which both engaged in felonious assault and battery and the crowd was up and roaring in disbelief when the bell rang. Villa's punches were shorter and sharper; Mtagwa's were wider but seemed to be more menacing. Both landed numerous times. This continued in rounds two and three.
In the fourth, Villa decked the Tanzanian with a sneaky right uppercut, but referee Rocky Burke missed it and called it a slip. Rogers then came back at the end of the round with a series of neck snappers. The fifth featured great body work by Villa including a rare triple hook ala Micky Ward. He also landed a number of jolting uppercuts that had the crowd ooohing and aaahing and chanting "Villa, Villa." In the sixth, Villa continued his assault, but then Mtagwa suddenly opened up with a number of flush rights that stunned his opponent and likely won the round for him.
Mtagwa, whose face was now badly swollen, tired badly in the seventh and went down twice on slips--one of which easily could have been ruled a knockdown. "Norteno" was now coming on and almost floored Mtagwa in the eight with a crunching left hook that landed flush at the bell. Finally, he caught up with and staggered the courageous Tanzania early in the ninth with roundhouse punches and then decked him with two molar rattling rights that should have ended the fight right there and then. Somehow, someway, the "Tiger" did a gut check and survived the round after absorbing incredible punishment. He even was able to counter with some sharp punches of his own; perhaps signaling what was to come in the next and last round.
Mtagwa slowly went to his corner at the bell and Referee Burke gave him a long and hard look. While both fighters were swollen around the face, Villa was much the fresher. In fact, he raised his hands in premature triumph before the start of the last round acknowledging to the friendly crowd that he was poised to soon end matters decisively and to their anticipated satisfaction.
But "The Tiger" had other ideas. As the bell sounded, he immediately caught Villa with a crunching right that sent him down hard. He then chased the shocked and stunned Villa across the ring like a madman chasing his victim launching a series of looping punches most of which seemed to land. After throwing about fifty of these wild unanswered shots, "El Norteno" again went down from a final malefic right. Miraculously, he too was able to get up, but Mtagwa quickly closed the show with one well-leveraged right at the 1.20 mark that sent the valiant Mexican crashing into the ropes for the third and final time in one of the wildest brawls you will ever hope to see.
Yes, this fan-friendly guy from Tanzania can rock and roll; anyone who underestimates him does so at his distinct peril.