Contender Four, Week Nine, Round Two -
AK Shoots Down Escalera

By Barbara Pinnella

The second fight of the second round found Alfredo Escalera, Jr. fighting AK Laleye. But as usual, some other goings-on took place before that.

You might remember that in his fight with Tim Flamos, Ryan Coyne suffered a cut over his right eye. It was stitched up, but it was to be later determined whether or not he could continue in the tournament. After being re-examined by the doctor, the injury had gotten worse, and it was recommended to him that he not fight.

Escalera had a little talk with Coyne the night before. “I told him, ‘Look, you came over here undefeated, if you decide to go home, you’re leaving undefeated. They’re going to be gunning for your cut. It’s in your best interest to not have a fight stopped because of a cut that was caused by something else, and not by a cut during that fight. If that opens up and they stop the fight, you’re going to feel real crappy.’”

With Coyne out of the tournament, it was necessary to bring back one of the other fighters who had originally lost their first fight. Only three men were medically cleared to fight, Mike Alexander, Joell Godfrey, and Erick Vega. It quickly became between Alexander and Godfrey. Deon Elam, Laleye, and Escalera thought that Mike earned a shot back, while Troy Ross and Rico Hoye opt for Joell.

Hino Ehikhamenor wouldn’t say. Instead, he basically left it up to Hoye to pick his own opponent. All the others then switch their pick to Godfrey. All that is, except Alfredo. He took exception to Rico wanting to fight the weakest fighter who, according to all, would be Joell. After Escalera and Hoye exchange some heated words, accompanied by some pushing and shoving, the decision to bring back Godfrey is finalized.

At last it was time for Escalera and Laleye to make their way to the ring to see who would move on to the semi-finals. The first round was full of action, mainly from Alfredo. He was connecting with his jabs more often than AK, and looked well prepared. The second round could have gone either way, but Laleye seemed to come back a little bit stronger than Escalera in this one.

“I felt the first two rounds I did alright,” Alfredo later told me. “I kind of lost my head going into the third – maybe a lot of anxiety. I didn’t feel I had any reason to question my conditioning going into the fight. I knew I had done everything possible for a fighter to do, I did all my roadwork, I trained hard, and I ate right.”

But something happened, and in the last two rounds things changed dramatically. Escalera, who had looked so fit in the beginning of the fight, began to look tired, very tired. A trainer will sometimes tell his fighter that his opponent is tired to help pump him up. But when trainer Tommy Brooks told AK to look across the ring, that Alfredo was done, it was the truth.

AK himself looked a bit tired, but at the same time he became the aggressor. His body shots and blows to the head were doing their job, and there was no question who was landing the most punches. Escalera managed to withstand the fourth round, but couldn’t last the fifth. The knockout for Laleye came at 1:51 of that round.

So what contributed to bringing Alfredo down? The loss of Coyne to the tournament, along with the fact that Felix Cora, Jr. lost his fight the previous week, put Escalera on an island, as it were. Even though there were no more teams per se, other than Alfredo, all those left on the show had been members of the Gold Team, and they were sticking together. He had an incident with Hoye the day before over Rico’s decision to bring back Godfrey. He fought on emotion rather than game plan.

“That fight outside the ring the night before prevented me from getting a good sleep,” he told me. “There was nobody in my room, there was nobody to calm me down. On any other occasion there would be a trainer to talk to, or you could pick up the phone and cal a friend; I could call my brother. I couldn’t do that in this situation.

“In the condition I was in I shouldn’t have gotten tired in five rounds, and I got tired in two rounds. It just wasn’t my night. It happens to fighters. That should have been an easy night for me, but it didn’t happen that way. He came with a clear head, on top of his game, and he fought the fight he needed to fight to win. I can’t take that from him.”

On the whole he thought his experience was great. “It probably would have been better if we had been in the U.S. Because of the time difference I wasn’t able to contact my daughter the whole time I was there. Nobody was available for me (or anyone else) to do anything with anybody back home, so that was just really tough.”

He mentioned that he didn’t go over to Singapore to make friends, so I wondered if he kept in touch with any of the other fighters. “Oh, definitely. I still keep I touch with Hino pretty regularly. I’m trying to go down and meet up with him and do training with him. I talk to Ryan every other day or so.”

He had some final words for everybody. “I want everybody to know that what they saw last night on the show is definitely not the real Alfredo Escalera. I’m a way better fighter than that, it wasn’t my night, and I had an off night. I’ll be ready to step it up and bring it to the next one, whoever I fight. I want an impressive stoppage in the next fight. If not, just an impressive fight. I want to leave people talking about it for the next couple of weeks, how impressive that fight was.”

Next week there is another doubleheader. We will see Elam going against Hino and Hoye will face the replacement for Coyne, Godfrey.

Be safe and God Bless,

Viva La Raza,