Late Friday night at the Coast ballroom in Langley, Sarah Pucek stood in the middle of the ring, bloodied, a little battered, but definitely not beaten.
Blood painted Pucek’s orange and white trunks with speckles of red, a reminder of the 10-round war she had with Montreal’s Lucia Larcinese.
Victory helped ease whatever fatigue and pain she was feeling.
In her hometown, Pucek stood with belts slung over both shoulders, after winning a closely contested split decision in a much-anticipated rematch between the two featherweight fighters.
The main event of Clash at the Cascades 44 met all the hype, and boxing history was made, said Pucek’s longtime trainer and manager Dave Allison.
The Canadian featherweight champion, Pucek of Fort Langley edged out Larcinese to not only keep her Canadian title but also the vacant Commonwealth championship.
The bout started with Pucek dominating the early rounds, in Allison’s opinion.
“In fact, after five rounds, Larcinese was cut and looked beat,” he added.
In the sixth round, Larcinese showed she is one of the toughest competitors in women’s boxing.
She staged a comeback that turned what was a one-sided affair into a competitive fight.
Rounds six through 10 went back and forth.
“Pucek controlled the fight but Larcinese made it tough,” Allison said.
Larcinese was warned for head butting and as a result of the head butt, Pucek was cut in the seventh round, Allison noted.
After 10 rounds, two of the judges’ scores were 99-91 and 96-94 for Pucek. The third judge had it 95-95.
The bout went in the books as a split decision for Pucek
“I think the first seven rounds went really well for me,” Pucek said. “I boxed well, moved well, and I was patient. The last three rounds, as I got tired, I chased her cut too much. The last three rounds were a little sloppier but the crowd liked it. She definitely brought it.”
Pucek said the two bonded after the bout while they were in the dressing room, getting their faces stitched up.
“We were cracking jokes at each other,” Pucek chuckled. “She had to get more stitches, so I win.”
Pucek now owns both the Canadian and Commonwealth championships – and the distinction of being the first woman to hold the oldest title in boxing.
“For Larcinese it may be retirement after a solid career,” Allison said. “For Pucek it is a couple of weeks off then a planned fight for November.”
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Pucek felt equal parts relief and satisfaction after a fine performance.
“Partially, you are kind of scared going into it because your ego is on the line, and the place was packed,” she said. “It’s easier going out of town where nobody knows you. I’m going to enjoy the victory and get back to training normally for a while.”
Allison says he was happy with his fighter’s performance. “She was off for three-plus years and this is only her second fight back. She is regaining her timing and confidence. You still have not seen the best of her yet.”
Pucek is in line to challenge for a world title in 2017, noted Allison.
The current world featherweight champion, Jelena Mrdjenovich, is scheduled to defend her title in France next month.
She has stated she will defend twice more before retiring.
“We expect to her 2017 defence [to be] against Sarah Pucek,” Allison said.
Pucek may appear back at the Cascades in November, said Allison, “however we are also looking at the Emerald Queen in Tacoma.”
Pucek started her career at the Emerald Queen and was an attraction at the now famous boxing venue, Allison said.
Pucek’s record is 7-2-1 and she has never lost a featherweight bout – her two losses and the draw were lightweight fights, two weight divisions above her natural weight.
One cracker of an undercard
Although the attention of Clash at the Cascades 44 was the pro main event, the amateur undercard was a sizzler.
The main event of the amateur side of the card was a B.C. welterweight title match between former champion Josh Wright of Ocean City Boxing and City champion Randy Hollett of Sunshine Coast Boxing Club.
The bout was very close, although in Allison’s opinion, “there was no doubt of the winner.”
“Hollett showed very well and showed he deserves to challenge elite level fighters such as Wright,” said Allison, who promoted and organized the event.
The semi main on the amateur card was a clash involving undefeated middleweight Cole Hamel – who holds the City title at 160 pounds.
Hamel was awarded the Walters award as the outstanding fighter of 2015 and trains at White Rock’s Ocean City.
He was stepping up to challenge City super middleweight champion Brendon Kim of Surrey’s Port Kells Boxing Club.
It was a very tough and close match that saw Kim prevail with a split decision.
In a much anticipated rematch, Carlson Gracie boxer Tyson Gemby of Maple Ridge took on Surrey’s Cody Robertson of WKX.
It was a very competitive match with a split decision favouring Robertson.
The opening bout was a lightweight contest between Jacob George of North Burnaby Boxing and Elroy Fruto of Richmond’s POWD Boxing Club.
The nod went to Fruto via unanimous decision.
Allison said the show “was a step up due to the quality of the fights and the fact there was a pro main event.”
All the seats were full and the next Clash event will take place Nov. 4.