Bengal Bouts: 180-pounds — Heavyweights: Experience pays off for Criniti with 3rd title
By: CHRIS FEDERICO
Assistant Sports Editor
In what many expected to be the top fight of the championship round, senior Mark "Bright Lights, Big City" Criniti won a split-decision victory over classmate Matt Sarb to win the 180-pound title Friday night. The two survived a hail of punches from each other for three rounds, but in the end the experience of three-time champion Criniti paid off over the first-year fighter and football walk-on Sarb.
"I definitely think my experience helped, especially with someone like Matt who is a first-year fighter," Criniti said. "Anytime you fight someone who's maybe not a better fighter or more athletic, but has the experience of four years, it will make a difference and I think that was one of the advantages I had over Matt more than athletic ability."
Sarb came out in the first round true to past form, attempting to overwhelm Criniti with a flurry of punches, but Criniti's experience allowed him to shake off the attack and return with some punches of his own.
In the second round, Criniti appeared to take control of the match, as the referee temporarily stopped the fight with a standing eight-count on Sarb.
In the final round, Sarb made a final appeal for the title, coming out of the corner extremely aggressive and throwing many punches at Criniti. The technique was successful; he got a standing-eight count on the defending champion, but the attempt seemed to come too late for the judges.
"I felt pretty comfortable with the first two rounds, in that I scored on some good punches there," Criniti said. "Matt made it pretty close in the third round, but I felt pretty comfortable about my first two. But sometimes you can see a fight one way and the judges might score it differently."
The first-year competitor Sarb was pleased with his performance in the Bouts, even though he did not get the title.
"I was glad to get as far as I did in my first year," Sarb said. "I went a long way in the six weeks of training from where I was. I'm just happy for Mark. He's put his heart and soul into this for the past four years and it paid off for him."
A substantial contingent of supporters chanting "Brandl! Brandl!" were not enough to lead the senior Kevin "Hardcore" Brandl to victory over junior John Lynk. In the end, the aggressive style of Lynk proved to be too much for the elder Brandl to withstand in the 190-pound title fight as Lynk won a unanimous decision for the championship.
The fight appeared pretty even after the first round with both fighters throwing many punches but failing to gain any significant advantage over the other. In the second, Lynk began to put Brandl on the run landing several punches and combinations.
The younger Lynk all but put the fight away in the final round, getting the referee to stop the fight twice to administer a pair of standing eight-counts on Brandl. The first came on a knockdown that sent the senior to the canvas.
In the final fight of the 2002 Bengal Bouts, law student Carlos Abeyeta used a significant size advantage to earn a split decision victory over sophomore Stefan Borovina.
"I think [Abeyeta's] weight advantage helped a lot in the eyes of the judges," Borovina said. "When he would hit me it would be more noticeable because I would move back more than when I hit him because he was so much bigger than me. With the scoring, all punches that are landed count the same, but his looked like they had more of an effect even though I hit him just as much and even made his nose bleed."
Abeyeta, the defending champion in the heavyweight division, took the early advantage in the fight, knocking Borovina to the canvas with a solid blow. The younger Borovina proved he would not lay down, however, retaliating with several strong combos of his own in that opening round.
After a rather mild second round, Borovina came out of the corner strong in the third, hoping to earn the decision with a final surge. Abeyeta ended the threat, however, with a solid hit that caused the referee to send the two fighters to their corners.
All Sports Stories for Monday, March 4, 2002