Stepping up for one more title defense after knocking out Issouf Kinda in August, Williams (15-0-1) returned Saturday on his birthday in the headliner of CES Boxing’s 12-fight card at Twin River and remained unbeaten, defeating game challenger Juan Rodriguez Jr. (13-5) of New Jersey by unanimous decision, 98-91, 97-92, 96-93.
A second-round knockdown established the pace for Williams, whose wife gave birth to twin boys less than two weeks before fight night. Rodriguez enjoyed a brief surge in the third and fourth rounds, apparently getting his second wind after the knockdown, but Williams dominated the latter half of the fight, taking rounds five through nine on two of three scorecards to build a comfortable lead.
Fighting for the third time since, Sicilian heavyweight Juiseppe Cusumano (13-1, 11 KOs) continued his east-coast reign of terror in the co-feature, stopping game challenger Matt McKinney (5-3-2) of Oceanside, Calif., at the 2:41 mark of the second round. Cusumano sent McKinney to the canvas four times, twice in each round, before referee Johnny Callas stopped the bout.
Cusumano has won 11 in a row and each of his last three by knockout within the first two rounds, including another dominant performance less than three weeks ago on the last CES Boxing card in August.
Making his fifth Twin River appearance, Providence lightweight Anthony Marsella Jr. (6-0, 3 KOs) remained undefeated in his most impressive performance to date, stopping Mexican challenger Israel Rojas (12-19) at 1:47 of the fourth round. Marsella Jr. sent Rojas to the canvas in the closing seconds of the third and twice more in the fourth before referee Joey Lupino waved it off.
Coming off his first career loss back in April, New Bedford, Mass., native Ray Oliveira Jr. (8-1) got back in the win column, narrowly defeating New Haven’s David Wilson (5-2-1) by split decision, 58-56, 55-59, 58-56.
Judges Eddie Scuncio and Robin Taylor scored the bout in favor of Oliveira while Ken Ezzo gave Wilson each of the first four rounds and the sixth and final round. Wilson started strong, also winning two of the first three rounds on Scuncio and Taylor’s scorecards, but Oliveira came on strong down the stretch to earn his first win since February.
Stealing the show on the preliminary card, female bantamweights Marcia Agripino (1-1-1) of Groton, Conn., and New Yorker Federica Bianco (3-1) fought four entertaining, back-and-forth rounds with Bianco earning the unanimous decision win, 39-37, 39-37, 40-36. The fight was much closer than the scores indicated, but Bianco was the aggressor, establishing a feverish pace from the opening bell and refusing to let up at any point. Agripino, fighting for the first time since 2013, brought the same energy, but Bianco was slightly more accurate with her exchanges, leading her to third win as a pro and first since May of 2016.
Making his 10th appearance since turning pro last May, Worcester’s Kendrick Ball Jr. (8-0-2) remained unbeaten, trading blows for six rounds with the dangerous Pablo Velez (7-2-1) of Durham, N.C., en route to a 60-54 shutout on all three scorecards. The taller, leaner Ball Jr. used his reach to keep Velez at a distance, but also stayed busy on the inside, unafraid to exchange with his opponent while outworking him consistently within close range. The win highlighted Ball Jr.’s 25th birthday celebration, which commences Sunday.
In another back-and-forth regional showdown, Stoughton, Mass., welterweight Travis Demko (5-1) narrowly defeated Marqus Bates (2-2) of nearby Taunton by split decision, 39-37, 37-39, 39-37. Judges Wayne Lima and Taylor scored it in favor of Demko while Scuncio gave Bates the nod. Each fighter had his moments, but Demko hurt Bates in the second and had him on the ropes again in the third. Taylor and Lima each gave Demko the first three rounds while Scuncio scored rounds one, three and four in favor of Bates.
Fighting for the second time in three weeks, Worcester lightweight Jamaine Ortiz (6-0, 4 KOs) looked dominant as ever, stopping the game Darnell Pettis (1-6) of Cleveland, who failed to answer the bell for the fourth and final round. Pettis hung in for three rounds, taking Ortiz’s best, but after a brutal third round, Pettis was done for the night and Ortiz earned his fourth win of the year and second since August.
Living up to his nickname, “Bling Bling,” Providence super featherweight Michael Valentin (2-0) kept his unbeaten record intact with a hard-fought win over debut Henry Garcia (0-1) of New Bedford. Garcia never stopped coming forward, but Valentin’s quick hands set the tone early, and the 18-year-old Providence native scored a big knockdown in the second round to open up a comfortable lead on the scorecards en route to a 39-36, 40-35, 40-35 unanimous decision win.
In a battle of pro debut cruiserweights from Worcester, fighting out of rival gyms, Rafiel Nyakoko (1-0, 1 KO) earned the knockout win over Jake Paradise (0-1) at the 2:36 mark of the second round. Nyakoko controlled the pace in the opening round and then staggered Paradise with a hard right midway through the second. Paradise tried to hold on to buy some time, but Nyakoko used his reach to establish his distance and finished Paradise for a good with a flurry of punches along the ropes, prompting Lupino to stop the bout. Also in preliminary action, Worcester’s Philip Davis (1-1) earned his first career victory in the featherweight division over Providence’s Phil Dudley (1-1), 39-36 on all three scorecards, and featherweight Ricky Delossantos (3-0) of Providence remained unbeaten with his third win of 2017, beating Lowell’s Jonathan Perez (2-2-2), 40-36 on all three cards.