|Jesse Duran throws a right hook that bounces off of Carlo Rodriguez’s head. VVN/Travis Guy|
|Joseph Freundenreich (left) throws a jab. VVN/Travis Guy|
After five rounds of back-and-forth action, the final bout of Golden Cobra Center of Fitness' South Mountain Showdown II capped off an exciting night of fights for the Cottonwood gym.
"It was great. It was a fun night," said Golden Cobra owner Richard Williams. "All the fights were awesome, they were matched great ... it was a wonderful night."
Leading up to the main event, there were a slew of boxing and kickboxing exhibitions that showcased the bright future of kickboxing in the U.S. When the exhibitions were over, it was time for the four International Kickboxing Federation (IKF) sanctioned bouts.
Six of the eight competitors on the IKF fights were from Arizona, with the other two traveling all the way from New Mexico to participate. Golden Cobra was represented on two of those fights, going 1-for-1.
The first IKF match featured a "mini-cobra," the team name for Golden Cobra's younger fighters. Joseph Freundenreich, 10-years-old, squared off against Flagstaff's Marco Santiago. Joseph won a split decision, 29-28, 28-29, 30-28.
Joseph came out strong, and while closely matched by his opponent, and was the sharper, and more active fighter of the two.
The other fighter that was representing Golden Cobra, 18-year-old Jesse Duran, was in the main event of the evening, fighting against Carlo Rodriguez for the South Mountain regional super welterweight belt.
"He's turning into a very young, he's going to be a very young, successful man," said Williams about Duran, who he has been helping teach and train for the past three years. "He didn't win the belt tonight but he's going to be a very successful man in life. He's got the heart and he's got the desire. I'm sad he didn't win, but I'm still proud of him. He fought his heart out. It was five brutal rounds."
The Mingus Union senior came out strong in the first round, throwing heavy combinations that would have put a normal person out, but Carlo was able to fight through the shots and make it out of the first round.
"That guy's power [surprised me] when he was tired," Carlo said. "I was tired and I was hitting him as hard as I could, but when that guy would hit, Jesus, that guy can hit."
The New Mexico native began to pick up the pace in the second round, landing more shots than Duran, but the Golden Cobra fighter shocked Carlo with his power by landing the stronger punches. There were many times through the fight when it looked as if Carlo was about to be knocked out, but was able to persevere. Carlo also got credited for a knock down in the second, though it looked as if the Cottonwood fighter may have slipped, but later in the fight, did earn a standing 8-count against the Cottonwood fighter.
"Jesse fought his heart out; I just think he lost gas," Williams said. "He lost gas and that two-round 8-count is what got him. It was an awesome fight. Those kids fought their hearts out."
The third through fifth rounds of the fight were much of the same, Carlo staying the more active fighter while Duran was dealing more damage. As the fight progressed into championship rounds, both fighters pushed themselves, physically and mentally, to put their stamp on the fight.
"[I thought to myself] keep my body going and try my hardest to box a little bit and try not to stop," Duran said.
Going into the final round, Carlo thought to himself, "man, I hope I [xyxyxyx] win this fight.
"I was thinking, 'man, I really have to push this round. If not, there's no guarantee I'm going to win, so I have to give it my all.'"
The crowd was so loud that the coaches could not give their fighters instructions, forcing both fighters to leave everything they had in the ring.
When the final bell rang, the judges' scorecards were collected and the points were tallied. In the end, the judges felt that Carlo did enough to win the fight, awarding him the unanimous decision win with scores of 49-46 and 48-46X2.
After the fight, Duran was up-front about his performance and was not surprised by anything the Judgment MMA fighter threw at him.
"Nope, [I wasn't surprised]. It was just me being stupid and not doing what I was supposed to do," Duran said.
Going into the fight, Duran had thought that it would be his last for the time being, but the outcome of the fight made him change his mind.
"Yeah, this is definitely not, I'm definitely going to have another one ... [I have to] work harder, get better and rematch him."
Before the main event, there was a special tribute by the IKF for gym owner Richard Williams. Williams was invited in the ring with his family and he was honored by the IKF for being the state representative for the federation, and the only IKF approved promoter in Arizona, and for all of the work he has put into helping the kickboxing community. To add to that, trainer Guillermo Briseno and wife Danica presented Williams with a plaque, thanking him for all of the time and energy he has put into the gym and developing his students.
"It's for the kids, it's all about the kids," Williams said. "Its not about the money, its about the kids and keeping them off the streets and doing positive things. I've been doing this all my life, it's a dream, and the dream keeps flowing and now it's going to flow for the mini-cobras, and all my grandsons."
Even though his South Mountain Showdown II has come and gone, Williams does not have too much time to rest, he will be holding another show on June 8.
"All these fights tonight ... everybody [did good], everything was great, I'm really proud," Williams said. "It was a great night for my family, for my blood family, it was a great night for my gym family, it was a great night for the fight family, because we put on a good show for them and they're going to be ready for the next one, Down and Dirty III, June 8 at Steve Coury Automotive."