Rogers Mtagwa vs. Juan “JuanMa”
Like Something Out Of The Movies
By Tim Donaldson
Photos: "Sugar" Ray Bailey
Philadelphia might only be Rogers Mtagwa’s adopted home, but
he seems to have something in common with Philadelphia’s
most famous, although fictional, fighter. I almost hate to
do it, and I am sure you see it coming. However, the
comparison is too great to deny. Mtagwa’s fight against
JuanMa was like something out of a Rocky movie.
The most obvious comparison is that Mtagwa was clearly the
underdog. No one really gave him a shot at winning this
fight. Before the fight, talking to members of the press, it
was clear that everyone thought JuanMa would end this fight
no later than the eighth round. Anything beyond that, they
argued, would call into question his status as a champion.
Besides, look at Mtagwa’s record, 25 wins, 12 losses, and 2
draws. He doesn’t even belong in the same ring as JuanMa.
The outcome of the fight seemed obvious to all of them.
Them? I have to admit that the outcome of the fight seemed
obvious to me too.
However, someone forgot to tell Mtagwa. His performance
clearly showed that he believed that he could win this
As early as the first round, you could see that Mtagwa came
to fight. He started the fight chasing JuanMa around the
ring. Unfortunately, he slipped, which shifted the momentum
back to JuanMa. Now I don’t want to take anything away from
JuanMa. He is a great fighter, and he was showing it as
early as the first round. He seemed a little more cautious,
but he was landing some good shots.
But like Rocky, Mtagwa seemed to be able to take any
punishment that JuanMa dished out. In the third round,
JuanMa landed a hard shot on the chin of Mtagwa, a shot that
would have taken a lot of lesser fighters down. Mtagwa
refused to not only fall but also to keep his distance. He
just kept coming. In the fourth round, Mtagwa fell while
throwing a punch. In the fifth, he was down on one knee from
the right hand of JuanMa. Through the same rounds, JuanMa
stayed elusive, proving to be a hard target for Mtagwa. And
JuanMa was easily landing more than Mtagwa.
But something started to happen in the seventh round. Mtagwa
was still chasing JuanMa, but he was starting to connect
more of his shots. JuanMa, on the other hand, was starting
to slow down. At times, he almost seemed surprised at what
was happening. And it was then, that JuanMa started to look
very tired, breathing deeply between rounds. I am sure he
sensed it. JuanMa came out in the eighth round with a clear
purpose, to end the fight. Mtagwa once again battled back.
The round ended with an all out brawl. And the crowd that
came to see JuanMa win this easy fight was on its feet.
In the ninth round, it looked as though Mtagwa might
actually do it. In the middle of the round, he had a brief
chance to knock out JuanMa. However, JuanMa, being a true
champion, hung on. He started the tenth round with a flurry
of punches against Mtagwa. Mtagwa landed a hard punch to
face of JuanMa to stop the attack.
The eleventh round, JuanMa once again seemed to sense the
urgency. He sprinted across the ring to where Mtagwa was
standing. The round was back and forth. Mtagwa landed hard
shots on the head of JuanMa, at one point. Then, JuanMa
backed Mtagwa across the ring. Mtagwa was looking shaky but
had enough energy to keep up his attack on JuanMa. JuanMa
looked stunned but again survived the round.
JuanMa came out in the twelfth round shaky. Mtagwa was
controlling this round. JuanMa was having trouble connecting
his punches, and he would hold onto Mtagwa to stop his
attack. JuanMa even fell on Mtagwa, pushing him through the
ropes. But JuanMa never went down.
At the end of the fight JuanMa looked ready to collapse in
his corner. Mtagwa went to the edge of the ring and faced
the crowd. The crowd that was overwhelmingly there for
JuanMa cheered. And even though they were happy that JuanMa
won the decision, they booed Bob Arum when he said that
there would be no rematch.