Richardson Hitchins of Brooklyn (17-0, 7 KOs) was dialed in from the opening bell, stuck to his game plan and outboxed Jose Zepeda La Puenta, California (37-4, 28 KOs) with surprising ease. Hitchins gets the unanimous decision by scores of 120-108 twice and 119-109. Hitchins takes home the WBC Silver and defends the WBO/NABO and IBF North American super-lightweight titles.
“To be honest with you, I think my performance was a nine,” said Hitchens following the win. “I was always taught to hit and not get hit. Zepeda hits hard, and he’s a veteran. I felt I could have been a lot more exciting, but today was a growth experience.” Hitchins thanked his team, saying “Brooklyn baby, we did it again!”
Hitchins Defangs the Dangerous Zepeda
Normally an offensive machine, Jose Zepeda had little to offer Richardson Hitchins. Photo: Ed Mulholland/Matchroom.
Hitchins describes himself as a math problem his opponents can’t solve. His fundamental skills are polished to a fine shine, working behind terrific jab, using feints and exceptional position in the ring, and responsible defense making him hard to find and harder to hit. Round after round, Hitchins walked to the corner adding to the lopsided scorecard.
By the eighth round, Hitchins had the fight so well in hand he started showing off a bit, taunting Zepeda who seemed powerless to do anything about it. This is a fighter who’s been in some of the most entertaining wars of the past few years, including his Fight of the Year in 2020 against Ivan Baranchyk.
Zepeda grew sluggish and demoralized at being so soundly outmaneuvered by Hitchins as the fight went to the final rounds.
There were two accidental headbutts, with Zepeda suffering a cut in the seventh round on the top of his head, and a second clash in the tenth round. Zepeda visibly gave up, going through the motions to get to the final bell.
Hitchins said his corner urged him to close the show, but he wasn’t having it. “They were telling me to pick it up and take it to him. I could tell Zepeda was trying to set up certain shots. I felt his power from round one. He has a big left.
“I just wanted to dominate every round. I saw he was bleeding. I hurt him but he kept his poker face. I didn’t want to run in and take any chances,” explained Hitchins.
Hitchins Hopes to Test Himself Against Top Names
There was no doubt Richardson Hitchins would have his hand raised at the end of his fight with Jose Zepeda. Photo: Ed Mulholland/Matchroom.
Hitchins knows he can breeze to a victory on the cards winning every round. He does what he can to make up for the lack of thrills with his trash talk outside the ring. He’s a nightmare for the top names in a competitive division, and he wants them all.
“Next – whoever, it don’t matter. You got Devin Haney and Regis (Prograis) coming up next. Hopefully we get the winner of that. If not, definitely Teo (Teofimo Lopez Jr.) and me in Brooklyn in 2024. We’ll keep getting experienced and going to come knocking at these champions’ door.”
Hitchins joins the ranks of highly skilled, defensively slick Americans including Haney and Shakur Stevenson, all influenced by the Mayweather School. They’ve learned their lessons well. Now it’s time for the boxing equivalent of a winner take all math decathlon.
Conor Benn Returns In Florida
Conor Benn navigated his first fight at 154 pounds against a determined Rodolfo Orozco: Photo: Ed Mulholland/Matchroom.
Conor Benn of Ilford, England (22-0, 14 KOs) made his return to the ring in Orlando in his first fight at 154 pounds. He was a late addition under the radar to the Matchroom Boxing card. Promoter Eddie Hearn hopes to rehabilitate Benn’s reputation with some “out of town” appearances while his license is suspended in the UK. Thanks, Florida.
Benn faced a durable Rodolfo Orozco of Sinaloa, Mexico (32-4-3, 24 KOs) who demonstrated classic Mexican-style offense, forcing Benn to go all ten rounds for a decision win. Scores were 99-91 X 2 and 96-94. Orozco had never been stopped, and he walked through what appeared to be hard body shots and right hooks. The Mexican didn’t back down and came straight at Benn, making it a fun fight that seemed more competitive than the scorecards.
Rodolfo Orozco proved durable against Conor Benn in Benn’s first fight at super welterweight Saturday. Photo: Ed Mulholland/Matchroom.
“We didn’t want a walk in the park. We wanted the rounds,” said Benn. Benn gave credit to his first Mexican opponent for his toughness. Orozco had never been stopped before. “He’s a true Mexican,” said Benn. Benn said he learned the fighters at super welterweight take shots better and denied his performance was due to ring rust.
What the fight didn’t do was resolve much about Benn. He has been out of the ring 18 months after testing positive for performance-enhancing drugs by British authorities. He can’t get licensed to fight in the UK, but Florida was obliging. Surprise.
“I’ve been through hell and back,” said Benn. He thanked American fans for welcoming him but added “Britain’s my home. It’s only right I fight there sooner rather than later.” We leave this quote for readers to process without comment.
Ryan Routs McCaskill But Settles for a Split Draw
Sandy Ryan (left) was denied the victory she deserved after an assured performance against Jessica McCaskill. A rematch is in order. Photo: Ed Mulholland/Matchroom.
The outcome was so out of line in the fight between unified welterweight champion Jessica McCaskill of Chicago (12-3-1, 5 KOs) and Sandy Ryan of Derby, England (6-1-1, 2 KOs), even the crowd in Florida booed. In an all-action fight where Ryan was the clear aggressor and hurt McCaskill in multiple rounds, judges scored it a split draw. Each woman picked up a 97-93 card, and the third was 95 even. McCaskill retains the WBA, WBC, WBO, IBO, and Ring Magazine titles.
Ryan showed she was completely unafraid of the champion and was willing to rough it up if necessary. She controlled distance, positioning McCaskill while deploying skilled body shots, uppercuts and hooks. McCaskill was forced to protect herself with her elbows in tight. McCaskill is a counterpuncher who always fights better in the second half, but failed to gain ground.
Neither Jessica McCaskill or Sandy Ryan were happy when their bout ended in a split draw. Photo: Ed Mulholland/Matchroom.
“Nobody wants a draw,” said McCaskill. “I don’t even know how to feel about it. We talked about maybe doing it again. A lot of female boxers don’t like her and don’t respect her, but I like Sandy.” McCaskill said her opponent trained hard for the fight because she knew what she was up against. “I’m really leaving my mark on female boxing. I feel like I made the smarter moves, yet. I feel like I made her miss. I should have got the split. She feels the same way.”
Ryan acknowledged the Orlando fans for supporting her. “Thank you, everybody, we’ve got to run it back. Jess seems happy to run it back. I thought I was going to be unified champion tonight, but it’s boxing isn’t it? I’m happy with a rematch.”
Austin Williams Defeats Veteran Steve Rolls
Austin Williams passed the test against veteran Steve Rolls at the Grand Sierra Ballroom at the Caribe Royale Hotel in Orlando, Florida. Photo: Ed Mulholland/Matchroom.
Austin “Ammo” Williams of Houston (15-0, 10 KOs) put in ten rounds of work against veteran Steve Rolls of Toronto (22-3, 12 KOs), coming away with a unanimous decision win by scores of 97-93 on all cards. Williams picks up the WBA International and IBF North American middleweight titles.
Both men raised their hands at the end of the fight, demonstrating its competitive nature. Rolls had his moments and was duly credited the rounds he won. Williams worked well to the body, but Rolls has been in with tough customers and kept Williams honest by smothering punches and landing good shots of his own.
Williams has raw power but he’s learning it isn’t always enough. Williams did find the target with a good left hook. Now he needs to learn to put together combinations and know when to unload on his opponents when the opportunity presents itself.
Undercard Results from Orlando
Light heavyweight propsect Khalil Coe bulldozed Kenmon Evans in one round. Photo: Ed Mulholland/Matchroom.
Super lightweight Orestes Velazquez of Miami (8-0, 7 KOs) scored a TKO win with a finishing flurry against Mohamed Soumaoro of Montreal (13-2, 6 KOs). Soumaoro wasn’t able to avoid the incoming fire from the Cuban-born Velasquez but was still on his feet when the referee stopped the fight, a bit quickly in the eyes of some.
Light heavyweight prospect Khalil “Big Stepper” Coe of Jersey City, NJ (7-0-1, 5 KOs) dispatched Kenmon Evans of Florida (10-2-1, 3 KOs) at 1:21 of the second round. Coe dropped Evans first with a left hook. He attacked the body to set up headshots, and as Evans turned to avoid them, he took a few toward the back of the head and an eye poke which didn’t help his cause. Coe explained his approach to the taller fighter. “The only way to slow that down is to attack the body and make him stationary.”
Super welterweight Jeovanny Estela of Orlando (14-0, 5 KOs) only needed two minutes to get the TKO win over Luis Carabello Ramos of Puerto Rico (6-3-1, 6 KOs).
Jasmine Artiga (left) delivered an entertaining effort against Josefina Vega. Photo: Ed Mulholland/Matchroom.
Super flyweight Jasmine Artiga of Tampa, (11-0-1, 5 KOs) scored a knockdown and won a unanimous decision shutout by 80-71 on all three cards over Josefina Vega of Ecuador (9-7, 4 KOs).