K.O. High Boxing brings another exciting pugilistic spectacle to Valley College.
By Kevin Buckles Jr., Editor-At-Large
A red corner, velvet red loafers, and a little red “Flav” all highlighted a red carpet event held Saturday night in Valley College’s South Gym.
For the second time over the course of a year, K.O. High Boxing and promoter Marvin Columbus chose Valley as their venue for another boxing extravaganza. The night was hosted by actor Obba Babatundé (“How High,” “Life,”) and featured eight bouts, awards, giveaways, world and national champion boxers, celebrity appearances, and a crowd of nearly 1,000.
“Valley College is the best place to host shows like this, it’s right in the center of the Valley,” said Columbus. “This was one of our best shows, everybody had a good time.”
The ten, three-round bouts—six of which were won by the boxer in the red corner of the ring— included: a female fight (both national champions), two antsy and aggressive eight-year-old boxers going head to head, a TKO delivered by Muhammad Ali’s grandson, Nico Ali Walsh, and the main event featuring Valley’s own, Emilio Rodriquez.
Rodriquez, 23, was the main event for the second straight year, winning both times; the super middleweight defeated Albert Leydan in a unanimous decision Saturday after three rounds of action, nearly a year to the day after defeating McArio Del Castillo in a TKO at Valley’s first-ever boxing event in front of dozens of his family and friends.
“It builds me up, and gets me a little anxious,” said Rodriquez of his large gathering of supporters at his fight. “But I’m grateful for all of the love and support, this was a great environment.”
The 23-year-old’s bout versus Leydan was much more competitive this go round than last year’s. The two frequently exchanged blows towards the ends of the rounds, with Rodriquez edging out Leydan in precision and accuracy. Rodriquez eventually began landing his combos more consistently, as his strong right hooks paid dividends in his 14th win of his amateur career to only two losses.
“It was a great fight,” Rodriquez said. “For me, it’s all mental, and I work so hard before the fight so I don’t have to think too much during it. Work hard to fight easy.”
As Columbus did last year, he introduced celebrities in attendance in between bouts last year; first up was rapper and reality star Flavor Flav, donning an all-red hat, bright red sneakers, and of course, wearing a signature red clock around his neck.
Following Flavor Flav was a good friend of Derrick Watkins, better known as Fonzworth Bentley. Bentley, donning his usual dapper attire, including red velvet loafers, briefly addressed the crowd, encouraging those to continue pursuing their dreams, as well as mentioning projects he’s recently worked on: writing credits on Kanye West’s new album, “The Life of Pablo,” and a role in “Think Like A Man Too.”
Other celebs in attendance were: Percussionists Sheila E., and brother Peter Michael Escovedo (also biological father of Nicole Richie), 2016 USA Olympic Boxing alternate Rahim Gonzales, a number of well-known boxing trainers, and several members of the Ali family.
The Ali’s certainly weren’t disappointed as the 15-year-old, already built like a future heavyweight, dominated his fight versus Joaquin Sulleven.
The first round of the match saw Sulleven as the aggressor, but as the second round began, Ali’s lefthand reach and jab became more and more devastating. The jab set up a combo that sent Ali’s right undercut onto Sulleven’s face that knocked him into a Tim Tebow-like praying position, marking the beginning of the end. Shortly after regaining his balance, Sulleven was fooled again by Ali’s left jab, as he was knocked down for good with a strong right hook to the jaw.
The final knockdown was so vigorous, Flavor Flav nearly jumped into the ring himself out of excitement.
In a special done by Bleacher Report Studios last spring on Nico and his older brother Biaggio, their mother Rashida Ali Walsh spoke on Nico and his similarities to her father, Muhammad.
“Nico is built like my father, he is a big kid… he is a heavyweight for sure,” Walsh told Bleacher Report. “He has a lot of my daddy in him in that he’s just not going to let anyone knock him down.”
Luckily for Nico, a TKO gene was passed down to him from his grandfather as well.
Following the fight, Columbus, a former professional dancer who toured with Midnight Starr, the SOS, the Gap Bands and others in the ‘80’s, reinforced that he would love to bring a boxing event to Valley on a biannual basis now.
“Oh yeah, we’ll definitely be back in September,” said Columbus. “I love Valley College man. I wish that more Valley College students would come out to support our events at their school next time, but I’m excited man.”