By Rohit Bhatia
On Saturday, June 10th, we stepped into the most iconic stadium in the World, the revolutionary Madison Square Garden, to watch the co-main events Xander Zayas vs. Ronald Cruz and Teofimo Lopez vs. Josh Taylor. With Puerto Rican Day the next day, we walked through the same halls, so many famous people walked, with Puerto Rican flags everywhere and the atmosphere buzzing. We entered the arena and instantly felt the building's electricity run through our bodies.
We took our seats and waited for the first fight, Xander Zayas. First comes out Ronald Cruz, and then suddenly, a calmness ensued over the theatre, and silence sat for just a second before Xander's walk-out music blasted from every corner, and the crowd erupted.
Xander Zayas, an up-and-coming star in the sport, faced off against Ronald Cruz in a matchup that promised fireworks. Xander's unique skillset and undeniable talent, despite being 20 years old, he's had 15 fights and 15 wins; he was poised, calm, and finessed to make it his 16th win. Cruz holds a reputation for being a tough and durable fighter and was not going to give in easily. Cruz aimed to prove his age, and his experience would trump Xander's tenacity and youth.
As the first bell went and round one kicked off, it was evident that this would be a long-fought battle. You could tell Xander took control of the fight from the onset, but Cruz was not giving in. As the final bell rang, we all awaited the answer we knew we would hear - by unanimous decision, the winner was Xander Zayas!
The next fight on the card, the main event, and the fight everyone was waiting for - Teofimo Lopez vs. Josh Taylor. Taylor was the clear favourite going into the night. Both walk-ins were incredible; everyone in the sold-out theatre was on their feet, screaming at the top of their lungs.
As round one began, it was clear this would be a showdown until the last second. In the first few rounds, it was punch for punch, pound for pound, but as we hit mid-way into the fight, Lopez unleashed a devastating left hook that sent shockwaves through the entire arena; the tides were clearly turning. Teofimo was delivering major punch after major punch, and it was evident he was there to win. With so much chatter leading up to the fight about Teofimo's ability to win, he was there to prove any and everyone who didn't believe wrong.
As every round progressed, his quick reflexes continued to push Taylor further and further behind.
As the final bell rang and this fight ended, Teofimo's mastery of this sport was evident. He left spectators in awe. As the scorecards were read, 115-113, 115-113, 117-111, it was unanimously decided that Teofimo Lopez was the new winner of the junior welterweight title.
Fight night in the Garden, a fight night to remember.