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LINCOLN --- For Thomas Falowo, the drive from his front door in Pawtucket to the Twin River Event Center is less than 10 minutes.
But on Thursday night, the Manfredoâs Gym middleweight felt like he took a long flight to Texas to battle the Lone Star Stateâs Samuel Clarkson in a marquee six-round showdown of unbeaten prospects.
In a fight that saw Falowo rule the first three rounds and drop Clarkson to the canvas with a sharp left in the first round, it was Clarkson, from Cedar Hill, Texas, who escaped with a shocking split-decision triumph that angered Falowo and his corner and left the standing-room-only crowd at the Twin River Event Center upset and stunned.
After that fight was in the books and Falowo (6-1, 4 KOs) put an exclamation point on the fight with a strong showing in the final round, both fighters went to the center of the ring to hear the judgesâ verdict.
When it was announced that the bout was a split decision, Falowo raised his eyebrows in astonishment. And when the announcement came that two of the judges, Eddie Scungio and Glen Feldman, gave Clarkson four of the final five rounds and declared Clarkson the winner by 57-56 scores, Falowo let out a piercing scream and stomped the canvas with both of his fists in anger.
Falowoâs trainer, Peter Manfredo Sr., stormed across the ring and screamed at Scungio and Feldman, and the large throng of local fans who were rooting for Falowo to win showered the arena with boos and profanity.
âI honestly thought I won that fight,â added Falowo. âThere are fighters that lose fights, but still think that they won the fight, but I honestly thought I won this fight. I thought I won more rounds that he did, and with the knockdown, I donât know how he won that fight.â
Falowoâs best rounds were the first three and the sixth. In the opening round, he sent an off-balanced Clarkson to the mat with 35 seconds left, and early in the second, he landed a sharp right that left a gash under Clarksonâs left eye.
âAnd in the last round, I was just throwing my jab and I felt like I threw more punches and controlled the ring,â added Falowo, who was a 58-55 winner on judge Clark Sammartinoâs card. âI donât know. It almost feels like we fought in his hometown and the judges gave him the win there.â
Clarkson, who raised his record to 5-0 (4 KOs), but entering the fight, fought four boxers who has a combined record of 4-17-2, clearly had his best rounds in the fourth and fifth rounds.
In the fourth, Clarkson caught Falowo with some of his best shots of the fight, including a hard right in the final seconds that briefly dazed Falowo, and with 40 seconds left in the fifth, he unleashed an impressive flurry of punches that pinned Falowo against the ropes.
â(Clarksonâs) good,â offered Falowo. âIâll take nothing away from him. Heâs very strong, he could box, heâs a little flashy, and he talks a little trash. But I thought I won this fight. But that doesnât matter. The judges thought I lost and thatâs what happened.â
While Falowo was obviously bitter and downcast, he promised to put the loss in his rearview mirror and set his sights on getting back to the gym as early as Monday afternoon and training toward what he hopes is a mid-July fight on the next CES card.
âIâll be right back,â he admitted. âIâm taking no days off. I want another fight very soon, and the next person I fight is going to pay. Theyâre going to get it.â
The news also wasnât good for the other Blackstone Valley fighter on the card, Woonsocket super middleweight Joe Gardner, in his four-round showdown with Julio Garcia, a native of Rincon, Puerto Rico who is trained by former two-time WBA world heavyweight champion John Ruiz at Ruizâs Quietman Sports Gym in Medford, Mass.
Low blows turned out to be the theme of the final three rounds of this bout. Garcia dealt them, Gardner received them, and the end result was an unpopular unanimous-decision victory by Garcia (by 40-34, 39-35, and 39-35 scores) that left Gardner, his corner, and his supporters seething.
The opening round was a spirited one that saw Garcia (5-3, 3 KOs) start out strong, but Gardner (8-5-1) finish it stronger. The Woonsocket Boxing Club fighter landed a handful of quality shots to Garciaâs head in the last minute to win the round on two of the judgesâ cards.
But less than a minute into the second round, Garcia hit Gardner with a low blow well beneath his belt that dropped Gardner to the canvas on both knees. Instead of receiving a warning by the referee, Garcia was pointed to a neutral corner as Gardner did his best to shake off the pain and gather himself.
Thirty seconds after action resumed, Garcia sent Gardner to the canvas again, but this time with a strong right to the side of Gardnerâs face. Gardner ended up getting back on his feet, but shortly later, he got tagged with another punch beneath his belt that went unnoticed.
And that wouldnât be the last illegal punch. Garcia soon landed another, and another, andâŠ
âI got hit with at least eight low blows,â said Gardner. âNot once did the ref warm him. When I went down the first time, the ref said something to him in Spanish and giggled with him. After that, he never warned him for low blows.
â[Garcia] must have thought, âOkay, âIâll just keep doing it. If [my punches] go low, they go low.â I took more shots in my thighs, my private parts, and in the back of my head than I took in the face.â
Gardner came back with a strong third round, and early in the final round, he got a bit of revenge when he landed a vicious right that left a gash underneath Garciaâs left eye.
But Garcia shook it off and came back with a solid finish to the round, and in the process, he tagged Gardner with another low shot in the corner of the ring that sent Gardner to the canvas with 30 seconds left in the fight and was ruled a knockdown.
âHe was really aggressive, you have to give him that,â said Gardner. âBut he was sloppy. He was a guy I should have beaten. If the referee would have at least warned him earlier, he would have stopped throwing those wild shots to my [private parts].
âIâm very unhappy with the refereeing,â Gardner continued. âEven [Classic Entertainment & Sports, Inc. president) Jimmy Burchfield was mad at the ref. He yelled, âWhat the hell kind of reffing is that?â â
While those two fights were among the most talked about among the 10 that made up CESâs âUp For Grabsâ event on its new Thursday Night Fight Series, the duel that fans were anxious to see was the super middleweight showdown between Providence rivals Vladine Biosse and Joe âThe K.O. Kidâ Spina.
The eight-round main event was for Biosseâs New England championship and bragging rights in the capitol city, and Biosse managed to defend his belt with an unanimous-decision victory, winning by scores of 78-74, 78-74, 79-73.
Biosse, a former University of Rhode Island football standout who boasts a strong backing of fans in Pawtucket and Central Falls, improved to 13-1-1 (6 KOs) with an impressive showing in his toughest fight to date.
Biosse outworked Spina (26-3-2, 18 KOs) from start to finish and was never in trouble. He landed his share of hard punches that most fans expected Spina to throw over the course of the night, but did sparingly.
In another fight of local interest, Southâs Attleboroâs Rich Gingras, who is the owner and head trainer of the Fight2Fitness health club on Blackstone Avenue in Pawtucket, suffered an upset loss to Terrance Smith Jr. of Oklahoma City, Okla.
Gingras (11-3, 7 KOs), who was a star on âThe Contenderâ reality TV series, suffered a bloody gash above his left eye in the second round of his fight with Smith (8-13-2, 5 KOs) and was unable to answer the bell for the third, as the ringside physician was forced to stop the fight.
In the other bouts featuring Rhode Island fighters, longtime North Providence fan favorite and super middleweight Richard âBobo The Bullâ Starnino fell to 9-8-2 in the four-round co-feature, as he suffered an unanimous-decision loss to Harwich, Mass.âs Paul Gonsalves (4-2, 3 KOs) by scores of 40-37, 39-37, and 39-37.
In a four-round light heavyweight battle, Providenceâs Alex Amparo improved to 4-0 with an unanimous-decision triumph over Cranstonâs Luis Felix, who took the fight late Wednesday after Amparoâs original opponent backed out. The scores were 40-36, 40-36, and 39-37.
Manfredoâs Gym female bantamweight Shelito Vincent of Providence upped her record to 3-0 by dominating the pro debut of Carmen Cruz of Fort Myers, Fla. and cruising to an unanimous-decision victory that saw her claim 40-36 victories on all three cards.
And Providence super lightweight Alan Beeman (0-2) was unable to spoil the pro debut of former three-time Golden Gloves champion Zack Ramsey of Springfield, Mass. Ramsey used two overhand rights 37 seconds into the third round to knock out Beeman.
The event was dedicated to the memory of Jason Pisano, a former wheelchair marathoner from West Warwick who passed away earlier this month at the age of 40. Pisano, who completed 52 marathons, including this past Boston Marathon, in his wheelchair, was inducted into the CES Ring Of Honor.