February of 2023 may be the best month of boxing I’ve seen in my adult life, and it kept right on giving in Florida tonight with a Richard Vansiclen vs Manuel Gallegos main event on ProBox TV. Things went from 0-100 in mere seconds, with both men fighting like they had flights to catch and hadn’t anticipated the four openers would all go distance. Generally, we spotlight the most active and interesting exchanges in a fight for our recaps, but this whole fight was a see-saw affair where power shots were landing constantly and my unofficial scorecard never had the fighters more than a round apart.
It’s a shame that “Spiteful” has become a humorous cliche from UK broadcasts, because it’s the perfect word to describe the approach from both sides in this one. Gallegos (19-1-1, 16 KO) fought like he took every punch as a personal insult, throwing angry hooks at every opportunity. As for Vansiclen (13-0-1, 6 KO), he showed some bad intentions of his own. When Gallegos lost his mouthpiece midway through the 4th, Vansiclen went after him like he was on commission with a local dentist, swarming and popping Gallegos to the face until a break finally allowed the referee to pause the action and replace the mouthpiece.
The second half of the fight was less frenetic than the first, in that it slowed from constant action to occasional breaks between blood-pumping back-and-forth violence. Vansiclen looked a little fatigued first, and tried to use movement to maintain a little distance. But, it didn’t work often or last long when it did. Gallegos seemed tired in the last round or two, but also rallied and never surrendered a minute of the fight.
Official scores were two draw cards of 95-95, with the third 96-94 in favor of Gallegos. Anything a round or two either way was perfectly reasonable, and the majority draw we got was ideal. No one lost this fight, and now there’s a compelling reason to put these men right back in the ring together as soon as possible.
This didn’t have the knockdowns or the damage to get into the conversation for Fight of the Year, particularly in a year that’s already blessed us with so many thrilling battles. And, credit to the ProBox broadcast team for never once saying the words “Fight of the Year.” Goldberg, Algieri, and Malignaggi showed a restraint we wouldn’t have heard on other broadcast outlets, where we’d have spent nine and a half rounds getting force-fed the idea that THIS WAS THE FIGHT OF THE YEAR UNFOLDING RIGHT BEFORE OUR VERY EYES.
It wasn’t, but it was a textbook Fight of the Year of the Week. Another great one to add to the 2023 list, and yet another fun ProBox main event. I’d give you more highlights if we had them, but the whole fight is well worth your attention. Run it back, please.
Darrelle Valsaint UD-6 Lucas de Abreu
The chief support saw Darrelle Valsaint remain undefeated, but not without some oddball controversy after the final bell.
Valsaint (7-0, 5 KO) started well, but powerful Brazilian Lucas de Abreu had him fighting off the back foot and against the ropes after that. De Abreu (14-3, 11 KO) had increasing success in the middle rounds as he locked in Valsaint’s timing, with Valsaint resorting to an odd-angled style with limited effectiveness.
Valsaint seemed to score a knockdown in the last minute of the 5th, but the referee was vindicated on replay for waving it off. He didn’t get the bonus point, but Valsaint did seem to get a little juice out of the exchange, fighting the rest of the round with a tenacity and intensity that was largely absent prior.
Tempers got heated after the fight. Or, rather, after the end of the 6th round from de Abreu’s perspective, because he seemed to think he was in an 8 round fight. He had to be pulled away from the Valsaint corner, and someone hopped up on the apron to wave some papers in his face to try and settle the issue.
De Abreu didn’t come to the middle of the ring for the decision announcement, but it proved irrelevant since Valsaint wound up getting his hand raised on scores of 59-55, 59-55, and 58-56.
Najee Lopez UD-6 Cristian Rios
Najee Lopez was fighting for the first time in almost a year, but didn’t have any rust to shake off in a start-to-finish controlling performance. He couldn’t stop Cristian Rios, a guy that’s gone the distance with serious power punchers like David Lemieux without ever losing by knockout, but Lopez (6-0, 5 KO) did sweep every round on all cards.
Rios (23-17-3, 7 KO) lived up to his reputation for durability, but never really threatened Lopez, who fought smart, disciplined, and seized opportunities without ever trying to force a knockout. Rios overextended his arm at the end of the 4th, but continued without lingering issues. Lopez caught him early in the 5th and had him in trouble on the ropes, but the savvy and sturdy Rios stayed on his feet.
Lopez looked just as capable at light heavyweight as he did at cruiser and heavyweight. Commentary mentioned an expectation that he’ll move down yet again to super middleweight… I look forward to him winning a world title at super flyweight sometime in mid-2025.
Marques Valle UD-6 Jarrod Tennant
Marques Valle had never gone past two rounds before tonight. Not only did Jarrod Tennant hang in to see round 3, he took Valle all the way to the final bell in by far the sternest test he’s faced as a pro.
Valle (8-0, 6 KO) started out marching forward and pushing for another early knockout. Tennant (8-2, 4 KO) may not have the number of pro fights to qualify as a seasoned veteran, but the 37 year old had the experience to ride through it, and started finding gaps to counter. He didn’t seem to have the power to make Valle back off, but he did put Valle on a more patient, deliberate pace.
Scores were 60-54, 60-54, and 59-55 in favor of Valle, who once again looked active and entertaining. It remains to be seen how his style will carry over against higher level opponents, but it’s certainly pleasant television right now.
Derek Cintron UD-4 Dario Guerrero
A successful debut for Derek Cintron, who won a unanimous decision against a tougher test than most fighters take on in their first professional outings.
Cintron (1-0) looked very calm and smooth from the start, while Dario Guerrero came out a bit stiff, and had an odd habit of leaning forward with his face pointed at the canvas while winging big, looping punches like a freestyle swimmer.
Guerrero (1-3-1) found some success in the middle rounds, though, and seemed to pull a little trick by switching from lefty to righty in the 4th and final round. He looked more natural in the orthodox stance, but got clipped hard by Cintron and switched back for the last minute of the fight.
Cintron won on 39-37, 39-37, and 40-36 cards, and moves on as a seasoned, undefeated pro fighter. Guerrero suffers his third loss, but he’s a Harvard graduate, so he should have fallback opportunities most fighters don’t if he decides to take a different path.