Junior lightweight Jason Sosa relentlessly pounded Haskell Lydell Rhodes to the body and scored three knockdowns in a dominating seventh-round knockout victory in the main event of the Top Rank Boxing on ESPN+ card on Saturday at the Liacouras Center in Philadelphia.
Sosa, from nearby Camden, New Jersey, and the favorite of the crowd of 1,723, won in impressive fashion in a fight that was elevated from the co-feature to the main event on Monday, after former two-division world titlist Carl Frampton suffered a broken left hand in a freak non-boxing accident, forcing his fight with Emmanuel Dominguez to be canceled.
"We're pretty satisfied. We did everything we were supposed to do tonight," Sosa said. "There's room for improvement, but we feel great, and we feel like we're a top contender once again. I never left."
It was a rough fight waged mostly on the inside, where Sosa (23-3-4, 16 KOs), 31, a former secondary junior lightweight world titleholder, got the better of the action throughout the fight, as he landed his share of head shots but really concentrated on breaking Rhodes down to the body. Rhodes showed a big heart but did little other than take the punches, hold, wrestle and try to tie Sosa up.
Sosa lashed Rhodes to the midsection and flanks with abandon in the third round before connecting with uppercuts later in the round.
By the fourth round, Rhodes looked like he was there just to survive against Sosa, the bigger puncher and more aggressive man.
Sosa scored two knockdowns in the fifth round, with the first coming when he nailed Rhodes with a left hook to the head that dropped him flat on his back. Rhodes slammed his head on the mat on the knockdown but showed determination to survive. His legs were very unsteady as he tried to hold on for dear life. Sosa continued to pound him with both hands, eventually sending him to all fours with an overhand right with about 10 seconds left in the round.
Sosa snapped Rhodes' head back with his jab in the sixth round, during which an accidental head butt opened a cut over Sosa's left eye. But even with blood dripping down the side of his face, Sosa continued to attack Rhodes, continually pounding him to the body.
Early in the seventh round, Sosa landed a short left uppercut for the third knockdown of the fight. Rhodes (27-4-1, 13 KOs), 31, of Las Vegas, looked finished, but the fight continued, at least for a little while longer.
As Sosa continued to land punches, Rhodes trainer Danny Garcia stepped up onto the ring apron and called for the fight to be stopped. Referee Benjy Esteves obliged and waved it off at 1 minute, 8 seconds. It was the first stoppage loss of Rhodes' career.
According to CompuBox statistics, Sosa landed 145 of 383 punches (38%), including landing 55 body shots. Rhodes landed just 44 of 257 blows (17%). Sosa outlanded Rhodes 71-6 over the final three rounds.
Sosa won his third fight in a row since back-to-back losses in 2017, a ninth-round knockout challenging then-junior lightweight world champion Vasiliy Lomachenko followed by a controversial majority decision loss to former two-division titlist Yuriorkis Gamboa.
Now Sosa is hoping to land another shot at a world title, which could happen, especially given how deep Top Rank is at 130 pounds, where it promotes titleholders Miguel Berchelt and Jamel Herring.
"I need a title," Sosa said. "I want to call out Berchelt and get that WBC belt. Don't forget about me. I'm here. I ain't going nowhere. I'm a warrior, baby. I come to fight, and I put on good fights. The fans see me and appreciate me. I come out every night and do it for them."
Gonzales stuns Cuban Olympic star Ramirez
In a massive upset, featherweight Adan Gonzales, the hand-picked opponent, scored a first-round knockdown and went on to win a well-deserved split decision over heralded two-time Cuban Olympic gold medalist Robeisy Ramirez, who was making his much anticipated professional debut.
Gonzales won by scores of 40-35 and 39-36 on two scorecards, while one judge surprisingly had it 38-37 for Ramirez.
Gonzales took it to Ramirez from the outset. He shockingly dropped Ramirez with a left hand to the head seconds into the fight and continued to have success for the rest of the round, including nailing Ramirez with an uppercut in a back-and-forth round.
Ramirez rarely jabbed, continually pulled straight back from punches, got nailed repeatedly and showed very little urgency even in the final round of a fight that was clearly not going his way.
"When they announced a split decision, I knew I better have won that fight, or something would have seriously been wrong," Gonzales said. "I attacked him from the start, and I got the win. You ain't seen the last of me."
When ring announcer Jimmy Lennon read the scorecards and Gonzales (5-2-2, 2 KOs), 22, of Denver, was declared the winner, he did a back flip while Ramirez immediately left the ring in a stunning scene.
Ramirez spoke later in his dressing room and said he thought he won the fight.
"I think I won the fight. The first round, they called it a knockdown. I thought it was a slip," he said through an interpreter. "I went down, and I wasn't hurt. It was a flash thing. He really didn't hit me with anything significant. I feel like I won the fight. I feel my punches were cleaner punches. They landed cleanly. His were landing on the guard, the elbow. They weren't clean. I feel they got it wrong."
A few moments later, however, Ramirez admitted that it was a poor performance.
"I feel that it was a bad showing on my first pro fight to take a loss," he said. "Obviously, this will stymie my career. Have to go back to the drawing board and make a better showing."
According to CompuBox, Gonzales landed 43 of 262 punches (16%), and Ramirez landed 51 of 161 (32%).
Ramirez (0-1), 25, a southpaw who fights out of Gulfport, Florida, won the flyweight gold medal in 2012 and the bantamweight gold medal in 2016 and was viewed by many as a future star in the pro ranks. He left the Cuban national team during a training camp in Mexico last year and eventually defected before signing with Top Rank earlier this year.
Ramirez, who began boxing at age 10, also won gold at the 2011 and 2013 Pan American Games, the 2014 Central American and Caribbean Games, the 2010 Youth Olympic Games and the 2010 Youth World Boxing Championships. He won his weight class in the Cuban national amateur championships in 2011, 2012, 2014, 2015 and 2017.
Berlanga scores another first-round KO
Puerto Rican-born, New York-based middleweight prospect Edgar Berlanga scored his 12th consecutive first-round knockout to begin his professional career as he blitzed Gregory Trenel.
Trenel (11-5-2, 3 KOs), 28, of France, who came into the fight having won two fights in a row, had never been stopped in his defeats, but Berlanga (12-0, 12 KOs), 22, had no problems taking him apart and doing so quickly.
With a little over a minute left in the round, Berlanga landed a left behind the ear that knocked him down. When the fight resumed, Berlanga teed off on him, smashing him with body and head shots. He had Trenel in trouble, and when he rocked him with a right uppercut, referee Benjiy Esteves jumped in and waved off the fight at 2 minutes, 24 seconds.
"Just repetition. Follow the game plan for each and every fight and execute," Berlanga said in describing his approach to the fight. "[Trenel] took a good shot. The ref called a good call. I want to go to the second round. It's boxing. You can't always have what you want. Eventually, I'll go those rounds when the competition steps up."