Through four rounds, the vacant WBO junior featherweight title fight between Angelo Leo and Tramaine Williams was looking even, and it was a question of whose style and strengths would take over in the remaining rounds.
From there, it was pretty much all Angelo Leo, who claimed the 122-pound strap recently vacated by Emanuel Navarrete with a relentless body attack, sucking Williams into his fight and sapping his energy and ability to fight back as the fight wore on.
Leo (20-0, 9 KO) won on scores of 117-111, 118-110, and 118-110. Bad Left Hook scored the fight 117-111 and 118-110 for Leo.
The 26-year-old Leo, a Mayweather Promotions fighter originally from Albuquerque, was originally supposed to face the much more highly-regarded Stephen Fulton Jr, but Fulton failed a coronavirus test earlier this week, and Williams was bumped to the main event.
Williams (19-1, 6 KO) had some backers and even closed as a slight favorite, perhaps largely due to him being a southpaw and Leo having not trained for a southpaw, but past the early rounds he just couldn’t get anything going, as Leo bullied him and banged away at the body, handing the 27-year-old from New Haven, Conn., his first professional defeat.
It’s obviously a big win for Leo as he can now say he’s champion of the world, but there is still plenty to prove in a 122-pound division that is opening up with Navarrete and Isaac Dogboe both having moved up, and WBC titleholder Rey Vargas reportedly considering doing the same.
It’s now quite possible that Leo will still face Fulton (18-0, 8 KO) next time out, as this was a medical thing and nothing more than that, and it’s not as if Fulton will be losing his standing or anything. That will be a big test still; most expected Fulton would beat Leo, as the Philly fighter is very technically sound with an excellent jab, and simply a better fighter than Williams.
But end of the day, Angelo Leo has won his first world title, and he was solid in doing so, making his opponent fight his fight, and getting the job done round after round.
Ra’eese Aleem TKO-10 Marcus Bates
Aleem was meant to fight Williams, but when Fulton had the COVID positive, Williams got bumped up, and standby fighter Bates was tagged in for a rematch with Aleem. They met in 2018, with Aleem winning a wide eight-round decision.
Aleem (17-0, 11 KO) wasn’t totally dominating here for most of the fight, but he was winning the rounds — I had him winning all nine that got completed, Wil had him winning eight of nine — and in full control, particularly because Bates (11-2-1, 8 KO) fried his right arm or hand at some point toward the end. Between the ninth and 10th rounds, in fact, referee Gary Rosato warned that he was thinking of stopping the fight, and Bates’ corner seemed to want to pull him, but Bates wanted to continue.
He got that shot, but the 30-year-old Aleem kept landing, and Bates, 26, finally just couldn’t take the pain anymore, turning away, eating a left hook, and Rosato had to step in. They should have just stopped it between the rounds, but we got what we got. Aleem appeared to have punched Bates in the right arm, which if on purpose was pretty ruthless, but, I mean, it’s legal, and it’s a fight. No different than targeting a cut, really.
This was a WBA eliminator at 122 pounds, so Aleem is now at some place in line for some type of title shot, probably Brandon Figueroa Jr’s secondary “world” title, which is the one that people always call “regular” although nowhere in the official listings is it referred to as “regular.”
Joe George TKO-9 Marcos Escudero
These two had a controversial split decision that went to George last November on ShoBox. This one was headed to the cards, it seemed, then it wasn’t, and it was an eerily similar fight in some ways.
Though George stayed off the ropes way more this time than last, he was getting out-worked and out-landed by the busier, more relentless Escudero. Last time out, Escudero did get clipped and hurt pretty bad in the ninth round.
This time, Escudero got sent to Mercury via uppercut in the ninth round. No controversy. Joe George (11-0, 7 KO) knocked his man out this time around.
At 31, George is still kind of questionable — too old to be a “prospect,” really, so if he wants to make waves at 175 he wants to get on it now, and there’s a long ways between Marcos Escudero and the true contenders. But George has now put Escudero (10-2, 9 KO) fully behind him, so the time to get going is now.
Scores at the time of stoppage were 77-75 and 79-73 for Escudero, and an absurd 79-73 George card from judge Tom Carusone. BLH had the fight 78-74 Escudero on two separate cards.
“I was setting him up with the jab to the body, I had him leaning over a little. I was shooting the right uppercut, some landed and some didn’t,” George said. “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.”