Bengal Bouts: 125-pounds — 160-pounds: Newburg outlasts McMahon, captures title
By: PAUL CAMARATA
Even in skill but varied in style, 125-pound title contenders Shawn Newburg and Jason McMahon provided the crowd with an intriguing opening to the Friday night Finals. The brawny McMahon came out aggressively in the first round, jabbing his way around the ring in pursuit of a tussle. Newburg would not be drawn into a brawl, however, moving smoothly around the perimeter of the ring and attacking only when he had an ideal opportunity.
Again in the second round, Newburg used his active feet to move away from McMahon's snappy jab. McMahon continued to chase in search of a slugfest, while Newburg used his active feet to take advantage of the entire ring. Along the way he stopped to drop a combination or toss out a right hand, but it was his lower body that dictated the action.
McMahon was aggressive in the beginning of the third round, pulling Newburg against the ropes and into the corner. The second seeded senior did not relent and did manage to land punches, but never enough to slow the jittery Newburg.
Despite absorbing punches and never completely deterring McMahon, Newburg stayed faithful to this his strengths and was awarded the 125-pound title in a split-decision victory.
T.J. D'Agostino also entered his championship fight knowing that to earn a victory he would have to stay true to his advantage. Perhaps the lankiest fighter in his weight class, the sophomore D'Agostino employed his reach advantage over senior Matt Fumagalli and jabbed his way to the 135-pound title.
D'Agostino rushed eagerly into the center of the ring after the opening bell sounded, quickly finding his jab and following it with several strong rights to Fumagalli's head. Despite absorbing the heavy blows, Fumagalli continually sprang up and into D'Agostino, landing a quick right hook that pushed the taller fighter back. Moving well, Fumagalli tried to work the fight into the corners, where he landed clusters of punches to his opponent's midsection and head.
The taller D'Agostino seemed to gain momentum as the second round began, while Fumagalli was forced to expend energy fending off punches from above. He continued to counterpunch, but all the while was under the burden of D'Agostino's larger frame. After receiving one standing eight count in the first round, Fumagalli got two more in the second round. In the meantime D'Agostino continued fighting downhill, landing more punches as Fumagalli tired. The top-seeded senior got caught in the corner shortly after the final round began, prompting the referee to issue Fumagalli a fourth standing eight count, which stopped the fight by rule. Nineteen seconds into the third round, the third-seeded D'Agostino had earned his first championship.
In the championship match, Jemar Tisby finally had the chance to face an opponent who was more on his level of height and reach. While Andrew Harms, the junior captain, is slightly taller than Tisby, it was his unmoving stance in the center of the ring that helped Harms deflect punches and set up his offense. Fighting from flat but steadfast feet, Harms kept throwing his long jab until it landed on Tisby's face.
But the speedy senior was undaunted, delivering body shots in the center of the ring while waiting for a chance to throw his jab and overhand right combination. Harms and Tisby traded combinations in the second round and when the third bell rang the match seemed deadlocked. Tisby delivered a right to his opponent's face, and then began working closer to his target than he had all night.
Still absorbing powerful rights from Harms and visibly tired, Tisby would not stop. He continued to lean in close and alternate shots to the body and head. In perhaps the most evenly fought contest of the night, Tisby edged out a split-decision victory. While the result brought heartbreak to one fighter's face and joy to the other's, those at ringside agreed that in the end, only a few punches decided who wore what expression.
In his last ever appearance as a Notre Dame boxer, senior captain Brock Heckmann looked to complete his quest for a second title. Arguably the most complete fighter in the tournament, Heckmann won a unanimous decision over scrappy southpaw John Nowak on Friday night.
A sophomore who had captured the second seed in the bracket, Nowak fought with energy and resolve until Heckmann's power and technique simply proved unstoppable.
Nowak opened with his best round by far as he threw the roundhouse left hook that had worked so well for him in earlier fights. While several of the punches landed, Nowak never demonstrated a jab adequate enough to slow Heckmann's advances. Just as in his earlier fights, Heckmann controlled the spacing and angles to neutralize his opponent's strengths. Rather than clinching when Nowak got close, Heckmann used a right hook that swooped up and into the southpaw's body. His feet bouncing and moving laterally, Heckmann landed a huge left- hand blow near the end of the second round as Nowak continued to lower his head.
Looking fresh as the third round elapsed, Heckmann stayed on the offensive with his jab while dodging the wild hands of Nowak, who left nothing in reserve in the final round. Waging against Heckmann's punches, Nowak consumed all of his energy throwing his left hand. It was not enough to stop Heckmann, who was later named the most outstanding boxer of this year's Bengal Bouts.
Freshman Mark DeSplinter came into the first round of his championship match looking defensive. Facing senior Chris Kitalong, the division's top seed, the gangly DeSplinter appeared primed to avoid Kitalong's range and quickness and then counterpunch to keep the fight close.
As the fight progressed, however, that strategy became necessary as DeSplinter was able to fight his own way. With no fear even when he was trapped on the ropes in the first round, DeSplinter fought out of every tight space.
The second round opened with a bevy of wild punches from both fighters, who eventually went toe-to-toe in the center of the ring. Without the grace he had shown in earlier fights, Kitalong continually took jabs from DeSplinter.
DeSplinter improved as the fight went on, both moving and punching more in the third round than he had in the first. The freshman DeSplinter won a split decision thanks to his adjustment and the mental resolve to conquer his bracket one match at a time.
All Sports Stories for Monday, March 4, 2002