It's A Hino/Troy Finale

By Barbara Pinnella

Hino Ehikamenor and Troy Ross were able to outbox their opponents on this weeks’ Contender, setting up the clash between them at Foxwoods next week to determine the Season Four Contender Champion. Both fights went the distance, and both were won by unanimous decisions.

Ross fought first, and faced off against A.K. Laleye. During the tournament we really haven’t seen a lot of Ross. That’s because he has finished off his opponents quickly – in round two of his first fight against Lawrence Tauasa, and in the first round against Felix Cora, Jr. in his second. While he made it obvious that he had all the tools, it could still be a guessing game as to whether he would weaken having to go all five rounds.

For any of those who might have wondered, Troy put all that to rest. He fought hard and strong, and in the end all of the judges saw the fight the same; 50-45. But Ross’ victory did not take anything away from A.K. He stood toe to toe with Ross and was not intimidated. While he began to wear his emotions on his sleeve, he was determined to stay tough, and I’m sure he gained more respect from his peers. “The AK 47 jammed tonight,” he later said. “But I’ll be back.”

A.K. Laleye Scott Duncan photo

When I spoke with A.K. and Rico today, l wanted to know a little bit about all three of their fights. First was A.K., and in his first fight, Erick Vega called him out. “I didn’t appreciate him calling me out,” he told me, “but he’s a big puncher, so I had to go in there and box him, I just couldn’t stand there and trade with him. I had a chance of getting hurt if I just stood there and traded with him. I had to fight him a little differently and stay away from him.”

His second fight was with Alfredo Escalera, Jr. “There really wasn’t much that was difficult with Alfredo. He thought I was going to move and box like I did in the Vega fight. Instead, I went on the inside and put the pressure on him, and let all the air out of his tires,” he laughed, “and put him on flat!”

In the semi-finals he had to face the tough Ross, and I asked A.K. if there were any surprises in that fight. “I didn’t expect him to be so strong. Troy Ross is an extremely strong kid and he hits very hard. So I didn’t think he was going to be that strong, I thought I was going to wear him down a little earlier.

“Five rounds is just too short to wear him down,” he continued. “A guy like Troy, you need 12 rounds for a guy like that. He’s very strong and he’s very crafty. So I tried my best to wear him down, but he was just too strong for five rounds. 

“But I was proud that I got to showcase my skills,” he continued. “I thank The Contender and all the people involved. I knew any time they give me a chance to fight on TV, there’s going to be fireworks.”

Those fireworks will continue for another week, as A.K. will face Rico on the undercard next Wednesday. “Rico has a lot of experience. He has seen me fight, so he knows what to prepare for. He’s going to be ready, and he’s going to throw a lot of fast punches and try to box me from the outside, and throw a LOT of punches.

“The difference in this fight is going to be who throws the most punches. Rico’s very fast; he’s probably the fastest guy on the show. Besides me,” he added with a laugh. “I’m going to come in and throw a lot of punches. I’m not going to be using my defense; I’m going to be throwing punches. My offense will be my defense in this fight. I’m going to try to overwhelm him, and break him down. But he’s going to be ready. He’s a crafty veteran.”

This fight will be eight rounds. I asked A.K. if he liked that better. “Yeah, I like that better, but man, eight rounds is a long time,” he said, laughing. “But I like it better. We’ll get a chance to get the fans their moneys worth, and it will be a very good fight.”

The second fight pitted Hino against Rico Hoye. Again, another strong fight here. Probably the most negative thing to say about this fight was that Hoye, by his own admission, waited too long to pull the trigger. The crowd was solidly behind him, but by the last round he needed a knockout to pull out the victory, and that was not to be. This fight was another UD, with scores of 50-45, 48-47, and 49-46 for “Hollywood” Hino.

Rico Hoye Scott Duncan photo

As I did with A.K., I wanted to get impressions of Hoye’s other fights he had during the tournament. His first fight was with Mike Alexander. “Mike was a very crafty fighter especially for someone who wasn’t that experienced. He’s only been boxing for three or four years. For me it actually was a difficult fight, just because I had been off for at least a good 18 months. So my timing was off, I couldn’t catch a rhythm.”

Rico continued. “Mike boxed very well the first couple of rounds. But I think with me, my experience took over and I knew that I had to put the pressure on him. I pretty much wore him out. He fatigued the third or fourth round.” 

Fight number two for Hoye was with Joell Godfrey, who was brought back when Ryan Coyne had to leave the tournament due to injury. “I had a good rapport with him, and we became close. But I brought Joell back because he jumped out there early and fought Felix, and I didn’t think he was prepared. He didn’t get to really show what he was capable of doing. But if I didn’t think I could win the fight I probably wouldn’t have brought him back.

“Joell’s a very slick fighter, someone who, with the right guidance, could go a long way in the Cruiserweight division, and eventually move up to Heavyweight. Actually, he was out here with me training for about a month.”

And what about his dance partner for the semi-finals, Hino? “I thought it was a very good fight, and a lot closer than the one judge had it, that 50-45. I’m a 10, 12-round fighter and didn’t get warmed up until the third round. Hino stole some early rounds. But I give him credit. He’s a slick fighter, and a lot faster than what I anticipated. He was a lot more crafty than what I gave him credit for, so I tip my hat to Hino. He fought a heck of a fight, and he came out with the W.”

When I spoke with John Bray, we discussed how hard it was for fighters and trainers alike to try to step up in such a short period of time and work together. “I was excited to work with John,” Rico told me.. “we just didn’t have enough time to work together. But his teaching style is actually very similar to what my coach teaches. I’m a boxer, I’m not much of a brawler or slugger. John wanted me to go back and use my boxing abilities, but my timing was off. A couple of mental errors and I came out on the losing end.

“But I’m looking forward to the 25th, and hopefully you’ll see some big things from me. I spoke to A.K. the other day and he asked me what I was doing, and I’m like, ‘Dude, I’m getting ready for you, ‘cause I know you’re going to try to bring the heat.’ He’s a good fighter, and he’s going to give it his all.” 

Both A.K. and Rico enjoyed their time spent with The Contender. “I really liked it,” A.K. told me. “They treated us very well. The Contender people were very professional, and I don’t know any other promoter in this world that would take 16 unknown guys and try to make them household names. It was a very good experience for me. That’s the break I’ve been looking for. All the fights were hard. To all the fighters out there, if you’re thinking of going on The Contender, please be prepared, because all the fights are hard, all of them are good fighters, and any of those guys can knock you out at any time.”

As for Hoye, the show brought back his passion for boxing. “In some ways, The Contender kind of revitalized my career. It made me love boxing again. I had a bad taste in my mouth with the sport – just the business side. But the show made me appreciate what I do and the opportunities that I have. So all in all, I had a great experience.”

So we have two super fights to look forward to next Wednesday night. Hino against Troy should be a really match-up between two good fighters. And of course the fight between Rico and A.K. I believe there are three or four other fights on the card as well, but the powers that be have not yet tipped their hand on those matches.

A big thank you to A.K. and Rico, and GOOD LUCK TO ALL!!


Be safe and God Bless,

Viva La Raza,