NEOSHO, Mo. — Marcus Oliveira hadn’t fought in two years, so it’s safe to say the veteran pugilist needed a little time to shake off the ring rust.
And while Oliveira may have gotten off to a slow start, he definitely finished strong.
In control from the start, Oliveira (27-5-1, 22 KOs) recorded a fifth-round technical knockout against Justin Ridgway (9-3) in the cruiserweight main event at “Rumble in the Heartland” on Saturday night inside a packed Neosho Civic Center.
“I hadn’t fought in awhile, but I felt good,” said Oliveira, who has fought professionally since 2006. “I knew it might take a few rounds for my skills to show, but it was exciting.”
The action-packed event, held by Skip Stewart Promotions, featured professional and amateur boxing matches, along with a few mixed martial arts bouts.
Oliveira, a Native American who fights out of Mayetta, Kansas, is an ex-world title challenger. Oliveira fought for the WBA light heavyweight championship in 2013, suffering a loss by decision.
Ridgway, a local fan favorite who fights out of Springfield, entered the night having won five straight fights. It was also Ridgway’s first bout in nearly two years.
Oliveira landed several pulverizing body shots during the first three rounds.
After a strong fourth round in which he picked up the pace and used a variety of punches, Oliveira ended the fight in the fifth.
A left hook to the body sent Ridgway down, but the fight continued. Moments later though, a right hand to the head had Ridgway down on the mat again. At that point, the fight was waved off by the referee.
Oliveira, who had lost his last four fights, said he was pleased with his performance.
“I usually go to the body early and I usually go to the body a lot,” Oliveira said. “I wasn’t getting discouraged when the ref kept saying some of them were low. I didn’t feel like they were low. I’m happy I was able to end it in the fifth.”
Ridgway had local trainer Dallas Cook in his corner.
“Marcus is a very tough fighter and he’s fought some big names and a lot of quality guys,” said Cook, who operates Heartland Boxing Gym in Galena, Kansas. “I think those body shots took a toll on Justin tonight.”
OTHER PRO BOUTS
Joe Carriker (3-1-2) suffered his first pro boxing loss, as Kevin Johnson (1-0) of Wichita, Kansas, made an impressive debut at 195 pounds.
A southpaw, Johnson won by first-round TKO after a right hook to the body stopped Carriker, who trains with Cook at Heartland Boxing Gym.
“Joe fought a strong guy and got caught,” Cook said. “That’s just part of the game.”
In an entertaining super featherweight clash, David Perez (3-0) of Tulsa won by majority decision over Luis Galaviz (2-2) of Fayetteville, Arkansas, after four rounds.
During the fight, an accidental headbutt caused a nasty cut to the head of Galaviz, originally resulting in a no-contest ruling. After some consideration, the fight instead went to the judges scorecards.
Also, Jake Robinson (4-2-1) of Lee’s Summit earned a second-round TKO against the debuting Martino Grandelious of Springfield in a welterweight clash.
The Neosho Civic Center also hosted a boxing event in April of 2019.
“I was really excited to see this crowd tonight,” Cook said. “Everyone was cheering and you could tell everyone was having a really good time.”
BOLLIN’S WIN HIGHLIGHTS AMATEUR BOUTS
Joplin High School graduate Maddie Bollin continues to impress inside the squared circle.
In an amateur women’s boxing match, Bollin earned a unanimous decision over Eliana Nichols after three rounds.
Competing at 120 pounds, Bollin was in control from the start.
“It was a good fight,” Bollin said. “She was a tough girl. It wasn’t an easy opponent. I think I can pick it up a little bit more next time. But overall, my punches were landing and I think my head movement was good. I enjoyed it.”
“I thought Maddie fought real well,” Cook said. “She hadn’t fought in a while. But she landed a lot of nice, clean shots. I was pretty happy.”
Bollin will compete at the Kansas City Golden Gloves tourney in early July before the national Golden Gloves event is held in Tulsa in August.
Those events are simply the next step in Bollin’s boxing journey.
“I plan on going as long as I can,” Bollin said.
Another of Cook’s Heartland Boxing Gym fighters came out victorious during the undercard, as Neosho native Jacob Fry earned a decision over Reggie Shaw at 185 pounds.
The back and forth clash was a crowd-pleaser.
“I was proud of Jacob,” Cook said. “That was one of the best fights of the night. Jacob’s just a good all-around athlete. He looked strong.”
Fry played football and wrestled at Neosho High School.
Also, Xander Kimball defeated Marshall Potter by decision at 145 pounds.
“Marshall fought a tough kid but he did real good,” Cook said. “I was really happy with my amateurs. All of them fought hard and did their best and that’s all I ask of them.”
Jesse Wright, Gaven Long and Heather Kimball won MMA bouts.
Wright forced his opponent to tap out, Long won by TKO due to strikes, while Kimball won by unanimous decision.