22/04/2024

(L to R) - Jason Whateley, Ender Luces, Liam Pope and Erik Sokolov stole the show at Tasman Fighters' Next Gen - Photos: Tasman Fighters/Facebook

A brilliant Super Featherweight bout capped off Tasman Fighters' 'Next Gen' card, while a devastating uppercut and a pair of Super Bantamweights made their mark.

Billed as a showcase of some of Australia’s best and brightest prospects, Tasman Fighters’ ‘Next Gen’ card did not fall short of that aim.

In fact, the main event between prodigious talents, Dana Coolwell and Venezuala’s Ender Luces was almost overshadowed by the performances of their rising contemporaries.

From huge knockouts to back and forth match ups, a number of fighters acquitted themselves in fine fashion. Moreover, their outings at the Fortitude Music Hall showed a readiness to take the next step in their progressing careers.

Without further deliberation, here are the five talking points from the event.

Venezuelan Luces takes youth title in gruelling Coolwell encounter

In Australian boxing circles, little was known about Ender Luces (17-0, 14 KOs) before he made his way to Brisbane.

Despite boasting a knockout fueled undefeated record, an air of mystique surrounded the 22 year old in the lead up to his IBF Youth Super Featherweight title bout with surging Australian Dana Coolwell (7-2, 5 KOs).

All of his fights, until that point, had come in his native Venezuala and like Coolwell, he was yet to be tested by an International opponent of similar calibre.

The same cannot be said of the pair following their gruelling back and forth main event. Both fighters truly had moments of brilliance across the collective 10 rounds, each displaying their class and want to take the title.

As a result, an incredibly close fight eventuated, one that went the way of Luces via split decision (96-94, 97-93, 93-97).

Despite landing a sharp right hand counter multiple times, Coolwell consistently found himself on the recieving end of Luces’ southpaw straight.

For evidence, look no further than round seven.

After wobbling ‘El Tigre’ in the stanza’s first half, the former Australian champion was soon backed up with a hard left.

In all, the split decision is reflective of a brilliant fight. With so many rounds proving incredibly difficult to score, it should come as no surprise that each judge saw proceedings differently.

Immediately after results were read, calls for a rematch were made by the fighters and commentators alike. If anything like the first, a second meeting between the duo would be cause for further celebration.

“Thank you, brother” – Battle of undefeateds turns into war of attrition

Rarely do we see match ups like the Super Bantamweight masterpiece between Erik Sokolov (4-0, 2 KOs) and Liam Pope (3-1).

Both combatants entered their 10 round Australian title fight with bright careers seemingly ahead of them, undefeated through three fights each. In most circumstances, such a fight between two intriguing prospects would not be made.

Time and again, we have seen young fighters prefering to take challenges that are percieved to be easier.

Yet Sokolov and Pope bucked the trend, laying everything on the line in pursuit of glory. The pair also threw caution to the wind in doing so.

Exchange after exchange, each fighter was unrelenting in their approach. For every right hand hand landed to the body by Pope, ‘The Viking’ fired back with damaging hooks and straights.

Ultimately, it was Sokolov who pulled away slightly to take a split decision (94-96, 96-94, 96-95) and the belt. Gruelling contests like this do not have losers though, it is said. Instead two competitors enriched by the contest emerge, both gaining commericial appeal and in-ring experience.

This was a fact highlighted by the post-fight speech of the Ukrainian-born victor.

“I am proud to be able to share the ring with a fighter like you,” Sokolov said of Pope.

“I really appreciate your hard work and I know both of us, we are both winners.

“We both won. Thank you, brother.”

When the final bell rings on 2022, expect Sokolov vs Pope to be on the shortlist for Australian fight of the year.

More Boxing News:

‘I’m ready to take the test’: Ben Horn set to dive head first into Australian title fight

Moloney brothers prevail in US bouts

Garside vs Matet: Five talking points

‘Warrior’ Whateley returns with thunderous uppercut

On the topic of this year’s award winners, we may have a clubhouse leader for knockout of the year.

Having spent the past 10 months away from the ring, Jason Whateley (10-0, 9 KOs) returned in emphatic fashion against Fiji’s Savenaca Naliva (14-4-1, 11 KOs). With the IBF Pan Pacific Cruiserweight title on the line, the 2016 Olympian delivered a devastating right uppercut to end the contest in the second round.

The fight was far from one way traffic, however.

Naliva proved elusive in the first, dipping with jabs to the body that were followed by scoring overhand rights. On several occasions, the wide, looping punches rocked the Victorian back.

Although this tactic resulted in success, it would ultimately bring about his downfall.

As Naliva once again changed levels, Whateley uncorked a punch that sent his opponent to the canvas for a sustained period of time.

The win marks an important point in the career of the 31 year old. Still undefeated through 10 fights, Whateley will now look to take a step up in competition and plot a rise through the global Cruiserweight rankings.

One and done for Mikhailovich, Zerafa vs Hardman winner next?

Ted Cofie may have surmised it best on commentary when he said, “this wasnt’t a one round fight, it was a one punch fight.”

A powerful straight right hand was all that 24 year old Andrei Mikhailovich (17-0, 10 KOs) needed to defeat veteran southpaw King Davidson (20-4, 13 KOs). In what was essentially the first punch to connect of the fight, the Russian-born Kiwi landed a picture perfect blow.

While Davidson made it back to his feet, he was clealry on wobbly legs. This left the referee no choice but to end the contest.

Not one to waste the opportunity, Mikhailovich made waves with his post-fight speech by calling out the winner of the April 20 grudge match between Michael Zerafa (29-4, 18 KOs) and Issac Hardman (12-0, 10 KOs).

Should such a meeting occur, fireworks can certainly be expected.

Pampellone triumphant in Australian debut

Ladies and gentlemen, meet Jerome Pampellone (11-0, 6 KOs).

In his 10 bouts leading up to the event, the 25 year old had generated a significant amount of buzz in his native Auckland. Through repeated heavy punches and bruising combinations, the Light Heavyweight proved that the hype was warranted.

Fighting across the ditch for the first time, Pampellone was tasked with the ultra tough Lucas Miller (8-5-2, 3 KOs). Faced with such a durable opponent, the Kiwi still turned in a near flawless performance on the way to a unanimous 10 round decision (99-90, 100-89 x 2).

Wherever the fight went, ‘The Panther’ showed both ability and comfort.

After being wobbled and dropped in the second, Miller made a smart adjustment by taking the fight to the inside. While he had some initial success, Pampellone soon took over with accurate, damaging shots.

In fact, the power of the New Zealander was reflected by a right hand that left Miller stumbling to his stool at the end of the ninth.

Overall, the dominant performance from Pampellone might only be a glimpse of what Australian boxing fans can expect in the near future.

For all of the results from Tasman Fighters’ Next Gen card, click here.

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