Road to Glory
Special to The Recorder/Taylor Hallman
Sonya Lamonakis follows through on a stiff right to Tanzee “Sweet Tea” Daniels’ head Saturday night at MGM Grand at Foxwoods in Mashantucket, Conn. Purchase photo reprints »
She looked very much like someone who had just gone six rounds, but as Sonya Lamonakis emerged from the MGM Grand boxing ring at Foxwoods Saturday night, she did so with her unbeaten record intact.
DiBella Entertainment promoted Saturday’s eight-fight card as “The Road to Glory,” which featured a number of up-and-coming fighters as well as some more-established ones. HBO broadcast the final three fights worldwide on its “Boxing After Dark” series, complete with announcer Max Kellerman and famous boxing judge Harold Lederman on hand. Lamonakis, the Turners Falls native who now lives in Brooklyn, was on the non-televised undercard that night in a women’s heavyweight bout.
The card and venue being what it was, it of course meant a road trip for my brother Todd and me. We arrived in Mashantucket, Conn., at 2 p.m. Saturday, parked in the self-park garage and headed toward the casino. We were passed on our way into the casino by a number of people on their way out, us with smiles and hopes, them wearing frowns of disappointment. Such is typically the case in casino garages, I imagine.
The next three hours were spent near a craps table and in the race book and, with my wallet a little lighter, we grabbed a burger at Cedar’s Steakhouse prior to the fight.
We arrived back at the MGM Theater just before 6:30 p.m. and made our way inside, the first fight of the night just getting under way between two pugilists I’ve never heard of. The theater was still only lightly populated at the time, but began filling up as the opening fight went the full eight rounds, with a South African light heavyweight by the name of Isaac Chilemba pulling out unanimous 80-72 victories on all three scorecards.
The conclusion of that bout was followed by the entrance music for Tanzee Daniels, who came out with a small entourage and wearing a boxing robe that said “Sweet Tea” on the back.
My brother and I were not too far back from the ring, parked on the left side looking at the ring from our seats. We were sitting just a few rows back of Lamonakis’ parents, Sharon and Stephen, and surrounded by many more of her supporters. Todd and I were in row EE, seats 5 and 7 (seats go up by two for some reason), and we were joined to our left by Joe Kosewicz and his friend Lauren Bizzotto, both Lamonakis supporters. Kosewicz said his mother lives just down the street from Sharon and Stephen Lamonakis. Now living in Worcester, he and Bizzotto made the trip south and got in just prior to Lamonakis coming out.
With Calvin Harris’ “Let’s Go” blaring, Lamonakis came out to cheers from her fans, many of them waving the small Greek flags passed out by her mom. Lamonakis’ robe read “The Scholar” on the back, her boxing nickname due to her being a full-time teacher as well.
The six-round fight got under way and was highly entertaining. Both fighters came out firing in the first round. Lamonakis was more the aggressor and landed an uppercut that was probably the best punch of the round. While the fight was not broadcast on television, HBO had its cameras rolling for a closed circuit showing and even flashed Lederman’s scorecard following the first round, which he awarded to Lamonakis.
The second and third rounds were back-and-forth, with both fighters landing their share of punches. Lederman gave both rounds to Lamonakis on his card, but Daniels managed to do some damage in both, which only seemed to ignite Lamonakis.
The fourth round was dominated by Lamonakis, who landed a big left at one point and continued throwing left-right combinations throughout. The fifth round saw both fighters stand toe-to-toe trading punches, but I had Lamonakis winning it. The sixth-and-final round started with Lamonakis appearing to hurt Daniels, but Daniels took control of the round and began landing some solid blows. Lamonakis weathered the barrage, and the fight ended, sending it to the scorecards of the three judges. I had scored the fight five rounds to one in favor of Lamonakis, while Lederman’s scorecard flashed up on the screen with six rounds to none, also in her favor.
When the judges’ scorecards had been tallied, ring announcer David Diamante stepped to the middle of the ring. Diamante, who also serves as the voice of the New Jersey Nets and has a gig as the voice behind NBC Sports Network’s highlight show “The Lights,” wears long dreadlocks and has loud, baritone pipes. Diamante’s announcement began by saying that one judge scored the bout 57-57, while the other two scored it 59-55 in favor of, and still unbeaten, Sonya “The Scholar” Lamonakis.
The major decision moved Turners Falls’ finest to 7-0-2 as a pro. Daniels fell to 4-2-1 overall, with both of her losses coming at the hands — or should I say fists — of Lamonakis. Next up for Lamonakis is a trip to Queensland, Australia, on Dec. 21. There, she’ll fight undefeated Lisa Marie Vizaniari for the WBF female heavyweight title.
The final three undercard bouts were entertaining, especially the bout between Framingham super lightweight Danny O’Connor, who is managed by Dropkick Murphys band founder and lead singer, Kenny Casey. O’Connor entered the ring with a bagpipe player in tow, and gave his supporters what they wanted when he stopped opponent Josh Sosa in the third round.
O’Connor’s bout marked the end of the undercards, and we had to wait about 30 minutes until, at 9:30 p.m., HBO came on live for the final three “Main Events.”
The first of the three got the raucous crowd on its feet as Canadian Antonin Decarie knocked out previously undefeated Alex Perez in the seventh round of their welterweight bout with a highlight-reel right cross after lining up a staggered Decarie. Perez got back up following the knockdown, but Decarie began unloading on him until referee Danny Schiavone stepped in and called the match.
A number of the Lamonakis supporters had left by that time, opening up seats in front of us. One of those seats was taken by Steve Derouen, a former boxer who now serves as a trainer at Cappiello Brothers Boxing and Fitness Gym in Brockton. My brother and I spoke with Derouen throughout the Decarie fight and right through Vic Darchinyan’s super bantamweight upset of previously undefeated Luis Orlando in the second of the three main event bouts.
Derouen, who said he fought as an amateur (23-3 record) and briefly as a pro (3-0), said that he had actually served as a referee for the main attraction of the night, Edwin Rodriguez, when Rodriguez was still an amateur fighting out of Worcester.
He was likely smiling in the eighth round of Rodriguez’ fight. That’s when the fighter moved to 22-0 with a TKO over previously undefeated Jason Escalera, ending an entertaining night.
A great night of boxing in the books, we grabbed a hot dog at a small stand set up just outside the arena, and made the trip home, pulling into the driveway just after 2 a.m. Our day trip will go down in the books as a solid knockout.
Jason Butynski is a Greenfield native and Recorder sportswriter. His email address is email@example.com.