Pickering Casino baptized with explosive five-bout boxing card


Published January 30, 2023 at 9:23 am

Sukhdeep Singh and Victor Ionescu Photo Glenn Hendry

The first major event at Pickering Casino Resort – the “Vegas of the north” – went off with a bang Saturday with a five-bout card at the newly opened arena that saw all five local favourites come away with victories.

Unbeaten Ajax welterweight Sukhdeep Singh Chakria brought his 13-0 record to the ring to fight Victor Ionascu, a Romania who fights out of Germany, in the main event and while Singh was the aggressor through much of the fight his penchant for looking for the knockout allowed Ionascu (now 11-3) to stay in the fight.

Singh, the Canadian Middleweight Champion, dropped Ionescu with a straight right in the first for an eight-count but bobbed and weaved looking for a KO for most of the next seven rounds while Ionescu – a dangerous fighter who fought for the European Super Welterweight Championship last June – gathered confidence and counterpunched effectively.

Singh continued to press and landed some hard shots that hurt Ionescu in the ninth and tenth rounds but, much like his last fight against tough Italian Xhuljo Vrenozi in September at Brampton’s CAA Centre, had to settle for a unanimous decision to push his record to 14-0.

Brandon ‘Bad Boy’ Cook, another fan favourite from nearby Ajax, won his fight in more dramatic fashion, stopping Richard Holmes of Jamaica (now 19-13) in the sixth of a scheduled 10-round middleweight fight.

The knockout was the fourth time Holmes went down but the first time that counted as he hit the floor in the third in what was deemed a slip by referee Donovan Boucher (a former Canadian and Commonwealth champion in his boxing days) and again in the fourth when Cook wrestled him to the mat.

Boucher, who was kept busy breaking up clinches in a fight full of bad intentions, gave Holmes an extended break at the end of the fourth after Cook, who had started pressuring Holmes with a series of punches to the head and body, came in too low and sent Holmes to the canvas in obvious discomfort.

After the re-start Cook continued to stalk Holmes and eventually finished him with a combination that forced Boucher to put and to the proceedings at 2:04 of the sixth.

Cook, who fought Mexican superstar Jamie Munguia for the WBO super welterweight title in Las Vegas in 2018, is now 24-2.

Canadian Super Lightweight Champion Mark Smithers of Barrie improved his unbeaten record to 10-0 with a hard fought unanimous decision over a very willing Jorge Amaya Diaz of Mexico (now 7-5).

Smithers respected Diaz’s power and fought cautiously through much of the match as the Mexican fighter was swinging for the fences but was the aggressor for most of the match and strung together some hard combinations in the fifth and had Diaz in trouble in the eighth.

Diaz stayed in the fight and counter-punched effectively and while Smither was the clear choice for the win, the scorecard showing the local boy winning all eight rounds showed a bit of hometown bias.

The other two fights on the card were over almost before they started. Six-foot-seven former Jamaican Olympic heavyweight Ricardo Brown dispatched Cruz Duran in just 56 seconds to improve to 6-0 while Melinda Watpool, who began her storied amateur career in Ajax, improved her professional record to 2-0 with a win over an over-matched Sofia Cervantes of Mexico, who offered no defence whatsoever, forcing the referee to stop the fight after just 47 seconds.

United Boxing promoter Tyler Buxton was full of praise for the venue and for the event, which sold out quickly and attracted a well-heeled crowd scattered with boxing celebrities.

“I loved it. Everyone was saying to me it feels like the Vegas of the north,” Buxton enthused at ringside after the final bout. “There was great feedback from all the fans.”

(Two other undercard bouts originally scheduled for the evening had to be cancelled because of a cut in training and a failed medical.)

Buxton has not ended his relationship with Brampton and the CAA Centre, however, as the next United Boxing card will be held at the Brampton arena February 25 with unbeaten fighters Josh Wagner (Orangeville) and Joshua Frazer (Brampton) as co-headliners.

Melinda Watpool, Sukhdeep Singh and Brandon Cook Photo Christopher Katsarov, Canadian Press



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