Wayne State University hosts thrilling evening in inaugural ‘Big Time Boxing USA’ series

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DETROITWayne State University hosted its first professional boxing venue Tuesday night for Salita Promotions’ inaugural “Big Time Boxing USA” series, which featured high-action fights from start to finish.

The night opened with Inkster native Da’Velle Smith (now 8-0, 6KOs) facing Rolando Wenceslao Mansilla (now 19-14-1, 9 KOs) in a six-round middleweight bout.

Fighting out of Kronk Boxing Gym, Smith draws comparisons to Detroit boxing legend Thomas (The Hitman) Hearns, and it’s easy to see why.

Da’Velle Smith throwing punches at Rolando Wenceslao Mabsilla. (Photographed by Adam J. Dewey/Salita Promotions) (ALL RIGHTS RESERVED)

Smith flashed a quick jab and power throughout the six-round bout. Mansilla was a game opponent, but Smith quickly established himself as the superior boxer, landing powerful combinations to the head and body.

Smith coasted to victory via unanimous decision, with his opponent barely making a mark on him. Two judges scored it 60-54, and one scored it 59-55.

The next bout saw undefeated Grand Rapids native and USA Olympic Team Captain Joseph Hicks Jr. (now 10-0, 7 KOs) against Ricardo Ruben Villalba (now 20-11-1, 8 KOs) in a super welterweight matchup.

Hicks Jr. opened the first round calmly by jabbing and circling as Villalba was being aggressive on offense.

Hicks Jr. picked up the pace in the second round, firing combinations at the start of the round. He found success catching Villalba in between punch exchanges.

Joeseph Hicks Jr. landing a body shot on Ricardo Ruben Villalba. (Photographed by Adam J. Dewey/Salita Promotions) (WDIV)

In the third round, Hicks Jr. found his rhythm punching in combinations to the head and body. Hicks Jr. dropped Villalba with a body shot in the third round and finished the fight in the fourth round with a left hook to the body.

USBA Light Heavyweight Champion Ali Izmailov (now 12-0, 8KOs) faced Britton Norwood (now 13-5, 10 KOs) in a 10-round bout that preceded the main event. Originally from Russia and now residing in Detroit, Izmailov easily broke Norwood down in four rounds.

Ali Izmailov and Dmitriy Salita after KO win against Britton Norwood. (Photographed by Adam J. Dewey/Salita Promotions) (WDIV)

Izmailov started the fight composed, not throwing many punches and feeling his opponent out. That feel-out process didn’t last long, as Izmailov dropped Norwood with a straight right to the body at the end of the second round.

Izmailov put Norwood on the canvas once again with another body shot in the fourth round. Norwood showed heart, trying to weather the storm, but his corner stopped the fight in the fourth round as another barrage of punches was coming.

The night of boxing climaxed with a highly anticipated Flint-Detroit showdown between Flints’ USBA Super Welterweight Champion Ardreal “Bossman” Holmes Jr. (now 15-0, 6 KOs) and Detroit’s Marlon Harrington (now 10-2, 9 KOs).

Harrington opened the fight as the aggressor, trying to find optimal punching range. Holmes Jr. was very mobile and used good footwork to quell Harrington’s aggression.

Ardreal Holmes Jr. after KO victory over Marlon Harrington. (Photographed by Adam J. Dewey/ Salita Promotions) (WDIV)

The first round was a feel-out round, but the second round was the opposite. Holmes Jr. put Harrington on the canvas with a big left hand. Harrington got up but was quickly dropped again by a Holmes Jr. right hook. Harrington showed heart, standing on his feet with wobbly legs.

Holmes finished the fight with another right hook to the head that dropped Harrington, and the referee stopped the fight. Holmes Jr. retained his USBA Super Welterweight championship and quieted the pro-Harrington crowd with an impressive performance.

The night of boxing didn’t end with the main event as a featherweight swing bout between Pontiac native Camaran Pankey (now 9-1,4 KOs) and Mexico native Juan Hernandez Martinez (now 3-3-2) served as an exciting epilogue to an already stacked night of boxing. It was the perfect clash of styles, with Pankey as the boxer and Martinez as the puncher.

Camaran Pankey jabbing Juan Hernandez Martinez. (Photographed by Adam J. Dewey/ Salita Promotions) (WDIV)

Martinez started the fight at a high pace and found success backing Pankey into a corner through the first three rounds. Martinez dropped Pankey in the third round after relentless combinations to the head and body.

Pankey displayed heart and fought back hard at the end of the round. Through the fourth and fifth rounds, Pankey found his rhythm using movement to set up clean shots. Martinez slowed down as Pankey started to pick up the pace.

In the final round, the fighters went toe to toe, exchanging punches for nearly the entire round at a frenetic pace. The fight went to the judges’ scorecards, and all three judges scored the bout a 57-56 victory for Martinez. The knockdown in the third was the difference.

A bout between undefeated Grand Rapids native Joshua Pagan and undefeated Detroit native Dwane Taylor was canceled due to Taylor getting an injury leading up to the fight.

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