In their first home event since November, Nevada boxing shined in front of the Reno crowd. With six fighters on the 10-bout card, the Wolf Pack boxers were the biggest spectacle of the night, and did not disappoint. Nevada won five of their six fights on the night.
150-pound newbie Jimmy Verdi started off the night for Nevada. In his first career fight, Verdi won in a third-round decision over Rogelio Soto-Mendoza of Utah. The first two rounds of the match were close but Verdi had the upper hand throughout. In the final round, Verdi seemed to capitalize on Soto-Mendoza’s lack of stamina, making his victory a decisive one.
During the fight, club president Nate Strother talked — while also recording the fight for Verdi on his phone — about how first time boxers usually perform. “All the new guys get a bunch of nerves when they go in,” Strother said. “But after that first punch, it all goes away.”
Verdi, almost verbatim, echoed Strother’s comments, saying he felt less nervous after the ringing of the opening bell. In his first match he relied on the wisdom of the coaches to help him.
“My coaches kept on telling me my right hand is my best tool. To keep on jabbing to get the distance down and then throw that right hand,” Verdi said.
In the second fight for Nevada, Andy Shao faced off against Francois Benoit of Navy. In the 180-pound matchup, Shao was overmatched by the U.S. Naval Academy fighter. Shao was knocked down in the first round but recovered and lasted until the end of the round. The second round wasn’t much better for him. Shao faced a barrage of punches from Benoit, which led to coach Pat Jefferson throwing in the towel from the corner. Shao got TKO’d 1:15 into the second round for Nevada’s only loss on the night.
In one of the closest fights of the night, Nevada’s Dillon Manguin faced off against Hitoshi Oue of Navy. The 145-pound Manguin went blow for blow with Oue in the first round. In the second round, Manguin landed a heap of body shots wearing down his opponent. In the third and final round, Manguin landed more than just body blows, with hits to the head. The extra punches are what edged Manguin to a third-round decision victory. Manguin’s ring awareness is what he felt led him to victory.
“I felt great. You know, just moving around, listening to the corner,” Manguin said. “I was focused on keeping my fight and my pace. I just try to stay calm. The more fights I get the more calm I feel inside and take the pressure off.”
After the Manguin fight, the event entered its intermission, where former national champions were recognized.
Nevada’s Davis Ault was the Wolf Pack’s first fighter up after the intermission. Ault, to no surprise, got the biggest applaud before his fight with his grandfather sitting at one of the ringside tables. Ault enjoyed the energy from the crowd saying it was the atmosphere was amazing and there’s nothing like it. Ault fought Washington’s Kiel Hicks in a 142-pound bout and the fight was electric from the beginning. Both fighters had high energy as the entire crowd seemed to be on the edge of their feet. Hicks was warned by the referee twice for shots to the back of the head in the opening round, but settled back down for the rest of the fight.
After two more rounds of competitive boxing, both fighters went back to their corners. Ault received a standing ovation from the crowd before the final decision had even come out. The crowd would continue to celebrate as Ault was announced the winner of the bout. With the win, Ault keeps his record at a spotless 3-0. After the fight, Ault had much praised for Hicks.
“The fight itself was pure competitiveness. He was a hell of a fighter; threw hard and was in shape. Nothing but respect for him. I’m sure I’ll be seeing him in a future tournament because he was a great fighter,” Ault said.
In Nevada’s penultimate fight, 185-pound Danny Rich fought against Navy’s Biron McNeely. Rich and McNeely went at it for three hard-fought rounds. With fans shouting “Danny, Danny, Danny,” Rich went on to win another decision for Nevada.
The night’s main event featured previously mentioned Nate Strother, who was pitted against Alex Olajide in another head-to-head matchup of Nevada versus Navy. Strother came out strong, dominating the first round. The second round was even more feisty as the ref had to pull Olajide from Strother when he was on the ropes. The battle continued and was left up to yet another decision. Strother won the fight, capping off the night with Nevada’s fifth win — and third head-to-head against Navy. .
As one of Nevada’s most experience boxers, Strother felt like he could have done better.
“It was a little too close. I should have blown him away more than I did,” Strother said.
Nevada looks to take their winning momentum into their next event — which will be the last event before regionals take place in Los Angeles in March.
Darion Strugs can be reached at email@example.com and on Twitter @dstrugs.