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Lion Fight 37: “Smokin’” Jo defends against a legend; First cruiserweight title awarded

Keemaan Diop, left, versus Trevor Ragin at Lion Fight 37
Keemaan Diop, left, versus Trevor Ragin at Lion Fight 37 on July 28 at Foxwoods Resort and Casino.
Photo by Nicola Faraone
By Brian Woodman Jr.

(July 28--Mashantucket, CT) Jo “Smokin’ Jo” Nattawut (63-7-2) successfully defended his super welterweight belt against Petchtanong Banchamek (345-52-1), a fighter described by many as a living legend, during the main event at Lion Fight 37 -- a Muay Thai event held at Foxwoods Resort and Casino. Former MMA fighter Chip Moraza-Pollard (5-0) of Plymouth, MA and Paul Banasiak (5-1) of East Hartford competed during the co-main event that evening for Lion Fight’s first cruiserweight title belt.
Many observers commented afterwards that it was one of Lion Fight’s best events.
   Nattawut, who fights out of Atlanta and currently holds the organizations middleweight belt as well, earned a hard-won unanimous decision victory after five rounds with all three judges scoring the close fight 48-47. 
   Both fighters assumed more traditional Muay Thai postures when they engaged and threw lots of kicks, although Nattawut used more Boxing. The Bangkok-based challenger caught some of Nattawut’s kicks during the first round, which ended in mid-clinch.
   There was ore clinching and kicking exchanges during the second round, which ended with the fighters trading low kicks. But the challenger began to punch more during the third round, which ended with a flurried exchange of heavy kicking, and threw Nattawut during the fourth round after catching one of his kicks before landing on top of him -- a feat he repeated during the final round. There were more punches traded as the fight progressed, but it was marked more by kicks.
   The fight appeared so close to many audience members and media that some commented whether the challenger actually won the fight.

Soap Am, left, throws a punch at Danbury's Geoffrey Then on July 28 at Foxwoods.
Soap Am, left, throws a punch at Danbury's Geoffrey Then on July 28 at Foxwoods.
Photo by Nicola Faraone
   Moraza-Pollard won the other title fight by unanimous decision, with one judge scoring the bout 48-46 and the other two awarding 49-45. Both fighters cautiously traded punches during the first round, with Moraza-Pollard maintaining a precise distance while exploring Banasiak’s defenses with high punches and lower leg kicks. Banasiak used his height and reach advantage while attempting to maintain distance between himself and Moraza-Pollard throughout the fight. Both fighters clinched ad exchanged strikes during the second and third round with the pace gradually increasing -- Moraza-Pollard tried to close he distance as the fight progressed, supplementing his efforts with lower leg kicks, while Banasiak seemed to favor high kicks. Banasiak appeared fatigued during the fourth round as Moraza-Pollard used more punching combinations. Moraza-Pollard chased a wobbly Banasiak during the fifth round, actually felling him with a high side kick to the face -- the fight ended as Banasiak rose before the referee could count him out.
   Welterweight Keemaan Diop (1-0) defeated Trevor Ragin (1-1) by TKO during the first professional bout of the evening. Ragin, who ate flying knees and elbows, was bleeding from his nose when the first rounded ended. Diop worked Ragin’s legs during the second round and visibly hobbled him - referee Dan Miragliotta waved the fight off at 1:15.
   The main card opened with a super lightweight bout between Soap Am (3-1-1) of Cambridge, MA and Geoffrey Then (1-1) of Danbury, CT. Then defeated Am by unanimous decision, pinning him against the ropes during the clinch for much of he fight. Am landed some solid shots in the second and used kicking to maintain distance during the fourth, flipping Then at one point during the latter frame. But Then kicked Am’s legs out from under hi twice and generally dominated the striking exchanges.
   The next fight was a heavyweight bout between Lewis Rumsey of Williamsport, PA and Boston’s Steve Walker -- both of whom were making their professional debuts. Walker earned a TKO victory after he barraged Rumsey with a variety of strikes -- referee Brian Minor practically pushed Walker away from Rumsey as he waved the fight off at 2:04 in the first round.
   A lightweight bout, was similarly expedient. Eric Rocha (4-3) of Toronto knocked down Alexander Olave (4-4) Fairfax, VA three times during the first round. The third time was the charm courtesy of an elbow to the head. The fight ended by TKO at :45.
   Amine Ballafrikh (9-4) of Sterling, VA defeated Johnny Lindor (2-1) of Miami in the lightweight bout that followed. Although the fighters went back-and-fort during the first round, Ballafrikh seemed more assured. He kicked Lindor and tossed him twice during the second round. Ballafrikh generally dominated Lindor with lower kicks during the third round -- the referee waved the fight off at 2:23 when Lindor slipped and fell after missing with two flying elbows.

Pat Kirby, left, tries to defend against a kick from Mike Colon.
Pat Kirby, left, tries to defend against a kick from Mike Colon.
Photo by Nicola Faraone
The amateur results are as follows:

Super welterweight: Harry Milliken defeats Slawek Gubernat by unanimous decision.
Super middleweight: Pat Kirby defeats Mike Colon by unanimous decision

Super welterweight: Jurrel Laronal defeats Matt Brady by unanimous decision.