ORLANDO – Richardson Hitchins maintained his perfect pro record versus his most experienced foe to date.
The 2016 Olympian for Haiti and current rising junior welterweight contender boxed his way to a comfortable unanimous decision over former three-time title challenger Jose ‘Chon’ Zepeda. Scores were 120-108, 120-108 and 119-109 for Hitchins in their DAZN-aired main event Saturday from Caribe Royale Orlando in Orlando, Florida.
It was a night of firsts for the Brooklyn native, who’d never previously fought twelve rounds or in a televised headliner.
Zepeda was on familiar grounds in both of those areas, though not always successful at that level. It didn’t matter for the 34-year-old California-based southpaw, who failed to provide the type of test expected in this crossroads bout.
Both fighters treated the opening round as a feel-‘em out session. Zepeda fought behind a high guard and reached with his left hand out of his southpaw stance. Hitchins was content to pump his jab and play defense in an effort to set traps, though the crafty Zepeda never took the bait.
Zepeda threw with greater purpose in the second. A straight left by the veteran contender caught the glove of Hitchins but was still enough to back up the unbeaten 25-year-old An effort by Zepeda to force the action didn’t quite take. Hitchins used lateral movement during any threat of an exchange, as boos began to fill the intimate ballroom.
Little changed in round three, where there was more action in the crowd than in the ring. Security scrambled to break up a fight and escort one of the participants from the venue, while Hitchins and Zepeda failed to put forth any sort of sustained offense. The pace was moderately accelerated in round four, as Hitchins offered occasional right hands behind his jab. Most of his punches fell well short of the mark, while Zepeda struggled to find a home for his left hand.
Zepeda landed a looping left hand to the body in round six. Hitchins was backed into a corner but avoided the follow-up and was able to make his way to the center of the ring.
Hitchins landed with his right hand in round seven. Zepeda’s persistence to press the action led to time being called as he was left with a cut along the right side of his forehead. The sequence was ruled the result of a clash of heads, though replays suggested he collided with Hitchins’ elbow as he attempted to come forward.
Legendary cutman Jacob ‘Stitch’ Duran went to work on Zepeda’s wound after round seven and again after the eighth when Zepeda spent much of the frame with blood spread around his right eye. Hitchins continued to fight at his desired, deliberate pace. The jab alone was enough to control the action, as Zepeda remained unable to mount an offense.
A clash of heads in round ten left both fighters to turn away and break in the action. Zepeda pawed at his already opened cut while Hitchins held the right side of his forehead which avoided any visible damage. Referee Christopher Young examined both boxers and ordered action to resume, though more of the same transpired over the balance of the fight—Zepeda reaching with his punches and Hitchins content to not get hit.
Zepeda (37-4, 28KOs; 2NC) lost for the second time in his last three starts. The defeat was his first to not come at the title level, nor did he provide much evidence that—at age 34 and through a lethargic performance—there is grounds to again return to that stage.
Hitchins advanced to 17-0 (7KOs) with the win, his third since he signed with Matchroom Boxing around this time last year. Part of the deal was to have included a showdown with one-time bitter rival Montana Love. That bout was supposed to take place on July 15 in Detroit but was canceled when Love withdrew due to an injury suffered during training camp.
Saturday’s win was his first as a televised headliner but the least inspiring, entertainment-wise, among Hitchins’ fights under his Matchroom contract. Far more impressive showings came in his eighth-round stoppage of Yomar Alamo last November and a ten-round shutout of John Bauza in their February 4 battle of unbeaten prospects at Madison Square Garden’s Hulu Theater in New York City.
Jake Donovan is a senior writer for BoxingScene.com. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox