Frontline diary: Split decision

Paul Zanon
07/08/2018 8:39pm

Photos Željko Šunjić

Paul Zanon reports from an outdoor fight card with a difference in Croatia in a bill topped and promoted by heavyweight Mark de Mori...

1The irony was there were no ‘Split decisions’! The ten-fight bill, hosted at the Marina Frapa Resort, Rogoznica, in Split, Croatia on Saturday 4 August left very little to the judges to decide.

First up was a heavyweight clash between Marko Vucevics from Croatia and Aleksandar Ranisavljevic from Serbia. Despite having a significant height advantage, Ranisavljevic’s stiff upright style did him no favours. Vucevics feigned jabs to the head, followed by straight rights to the Serbian’s stomach, causing him to drop his guard. On doing so, Ranisavljevic was open to a big overhand right, which was in fact the first blow to put the Serbian on the canvas for an eight count.

One minute later a left hook to the head had Ranisavljevic back down, then straight after rising from the count for the second time, Vucevics concluded the contest in the first round, with another overhand right. It’s worth noting that Vucevics is Mark de Mori’s principal sparring partner.

Second up was an all-Croatian cruiserweight contest 11between Abel Pesut and Josip Jalusic. Neither fighter possessed one-punch knockout power and, unfortunately, Jalusic had to pull out due to a cited forearm injury at the end of the first session. TKO for Pesut.

The next contest was a heavyweight clash between Jacek Cristoph Piatek from Poland and Sejfula Berisa from Serbia. With a major height and size difference, I thought Berisa would struggle, but the moment the bell went, the 36-year-old demonstrated incredible footwork, a high level of technical proficiency and a game attitude. The gun-shy Pole was looking for that one big shot, but Berisa’s style was suffocating him.

Into the second round, and after throwing a looping left hook, Berisa tore a muscle in his left shoulder. The self-proclaimed ‘Gypsy King,’ was intent on going out on his shield and threw everything he had at Piatek. Unfortunately, this included after breaks, before the referee indicated to box on. After repeating this a number of times, the referee had no option, but to disqualify Berisa. A shame, as it was developing into a good scrap.

After the fight, I caught up with the Serbian and asked: ‘You have incredible hand speed, footwork and technical skills. How many amateur fights did you have?’

Berisa replied, ‘Over 400 and I was captain for the Serbian national squad.' That made sense!

The next contest was at cruiserweight between Australian Ben Wrotniak and Aleksandar Aleksic from Serbia. From the opening bell, the supremely confident Aussie, who currently resides in London, unleashed hell. Aleksic, unable to continue after a barrage of punches, granted Wrotniak a stoppage victory inside one minute.

What happened next was a first for me. Moments after the conclusion of the Wrotniak vs Aleksic contest, there was a rumble of thunder, a crack of lighting and an almighty rain storm at the open-air venue. Power cuts, inches of water, the works. The hundreds in attendance looked at each other shrugging, wondering if the contests would continue.

Thankfully after an hour we were ready for the fifth contest. The irony is the event was called, ‘Oluja U Frapi,’ which translated from Croatian means, ‘Storm in Frapa.’ Next year I’d like to recommend the organisers call the event ‘Uninterrupted sun in Frapa.’

The next two fighters to grace the now dampened canvas were Nico Venetis from Germany and Slobodan Kubica from Bosnia and Herzegovina. The two lightweights produced an absolute barnburner. From the first bell, both fighters were exchanging a lot of leather, with Kubica the more vulnerable in his attacks, leaving himself open to counter punches.

The pace was furious, with one fighter looking out of gas one minute and the other on the brink of a stoppage, to the exact opposite happening a minute later. In round four, Venetis produced the punch which, in my opinion, won him the fight. A perfectly placed left hook to the body had Kubica writhing in agony on the canvas. His cornerman, none other than seasoned boxing guru Sejfula Berisa, started screaming to Kubica and banging on the canvas, telling him to get up.

And get up he did; to a well earned round of applause.

Venetis fancied the job in the fifth round and was perhaps a little over eager, being deducted a point for hitting after the break, but he was winning the round anyway, so it didn’t affect the advantage which his knockdown provided. With an all-out dogfight in the sixth round, the contest proved to be the only one to last the distance and what a cracker it was. Venetis won a points victory, but hats off to both fighters for leaving it all in the ring.

The next contest was at heavyweight between Ante Verunica from Croatia and Luka Stajic from Serbia. Verunica was the busier from the outset and had Stajic down twice in the second round, the latter knockdown being right on the bell. Unable to continue, Verunica picked up a worthy victory.

From heavyweight to light heavyweight. The next bout was between Sebastian Stallinger from Germany and Aleksandar Jankovic. Too big and too strong for the Serbian, Stallinger outgunned his opponent with no return and forced three knockdowns in the first round. With the referee having seen enough, Stallinger secured a quick victory before the second session even started.

Back to heavyweight, we had the immensely popular Ivica Perkovic from Croatia, against Milos Dovesen from Bosnia and Herzegovina. After a cagey first minute from both fighters, Perkovic unleashed a very heavy-handed right hook to the body of his opponent, concluding the contest right there.

The penultimate contest of the evening was between England’s very own Lee Jones and Croatia’s Sinisa Kondic. Cruiserweight Jones has a hell of a backstory, which has included battling cancer after being given a ten per cent chance of survival and coming back to fight in the professional boxing game.

From the first bell, Jones worked well behind the jab and [occasionally!] listened to instructions from former seasoned pro Max Maxwell, who was working his corner. Kondic didn’t come to roll over and was a game opponent, willing to trade on the outside and the inside, looking to cause Jones problems.

Through some lovely counter work and very accurate punching, Jones was three up on my scorecards going into the fourth. Unfortunately for Kondic, he was unable to come out for the fourth session and Jones was declared the winner by TKO.

The last contest of the evening was between two affable and endearing characters. Mark de Mori, who was making his debut as a boxing promoter in Croatia and the former Hungarian heavyweight champion, Zoltan Csala.

From the get go, De Mori was working behind a lightning fast jab and using his reach and height advantage to good effect, keeping Csala from entering into the danger zone. Despite a game attempt from Csala to trade at the end of the first, come the second round, Se Mori detonated a left hook to Csala’s chin, which had him on the canvas beyond the ten count. Thankfully, he was OK and up on his feet within a minute.

All in a very entertaining night of boxing at a great venue!

A big thanks to Mark de Mori, Domagoj Grgic [Marketing Director of the Marina Frapa Resort, Rogoznica] and Ana Matulic, for making Boxing Monthly so welcome in Croatia.