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Toot, Toot! Richard “Popeye” Rivera smokes Jaime Solorio in 8th round

Rising Hartford folk hero Richard “Popeye The Sailor Man” Rivera kept his pro record perfect (8-0), knocking out his tough opponent,Jaime “Zarco” Solorio (12-4-2, 9 KOs), in the eighth round to capture the vacant ABF Continental cruiserweight title, last night (Saturday) in the main event on the “Fight Night at The Capital” pro boxing card, at Xfinity Centre in Hartford.

The reigning UBF All Americas light heavyweight champion, Rivera (8-0, 7 KOs) is arguably the hardest pound-for-pound puncher in New England, if not the entire Northeast. After breaking his last opponent’s ankle with the force of his power.

Boxing trainer Tony Blanco and his Hartford Boxing Center gym partner, Michael Tran, recently teamed with Rivera to form Hartford Boxing Promotions, which was promoting its first pro boxing event, “Fight Night at The Capital.”

“I’m excited to have promoted our first show here in Hartford and I hope other promoters will follow,” Blanco commented. “I’m happy for all of the fighters. This was our first but not last show. We’re bringing boxing back to Hartford.

“I’m also excited about Sharrad’s pro debut (Collier), who is like a son to me, and Richie, my brother and partner. Everything I do is for them, that’s who I work for them.”

The durable Solorio had only been knocked out once in 17 pro fights going into the ring against Rivera, who has knock out six of his seven victims.

The first was a feeling-out round, but Rivera picked up the pace in the second, landing several hard shots on his game Mexican opponent. The highly entertaining Rivera cruised through the third through fifth, picking his spots better, but it was bombs away in the sixth as Rivera landed a right that sent Solorio to the deck. Solorio was penalized a point in the sixth for unsportsmanlike conduct.

In the seventh round, Solorio appeared to be fighting to survive, frequently holding and clinching, but he came forward in spurts as Rivera started loading up for a knockout that finally came in the eighth round. Rivera had never fought more than four rounds, but he was determined to ward off his opponent’s wrestling, landing a right-left-right uppercut combination to close the show with only 30 seconds left in the contest.

“I want to thank everybody for being here and bringing our community together in one house,” Rivera said. “Happy Father’s Day. I dedicated this fight to my father who I love so much. I told everybody that he was going down in three, but Solorio was tough. I took him in deep water and I’m strong to the finish because I eat my spinach…..toot, toot!”

In an intra-Connecticut clash of junior welterweights, Danbury’s undefeated Omar “The Beast” Bordoy, Jr. (6-0, 2 KOs) knocked out Alexander “El Bravo” Picot (2-6-1), of Hartford, with only one second left in the sixth and final round of the co-featured event.

Bordoy was hampered by a cut over his right eye, suffered during the second round from an unintentional headbutt, who was fighting in his first scheduled six-rounder. He pivoted and threw a short, straight right that rocked Picot, dropping him forward on the mat as referee Shada Murdaugh immediately waved off the count, calling the doctor into the ring.

A star was born in a professional debut as two-time New England Golden Gloves champion “The Special One” Sharad Collier (1-0, 1 KO, fighting at home in Hartford, displayed his vast arsenal of skills, knocking out Antonio Castillo, Jr. (1-1) in round one.

The 21-year-old Collier showed the poise of a veteran and surprising power, especially considering he fought two full divisions higher than his natural weight class, due to his opponent weighing in as a junior middleweight. Collier decked Castillo early and finished him off with a barrage of unanswered punches until referee Danny Sciavone halted the action.

“Everything went the way I had planned,” Collier said after the bout. “Before the fight, I knew I was going to win, because I felt so good. People were asking me before the fight how I was feeling and, to be honest, I was a lot more nervous as an amateur.”

New Haven, CT lightweight Anuel Rosa (1-0, 1 KO) turned in an explosive pro debut, blasting an overwhelmed Roger Blankenship (1-3) around the ring until the referee Murdaugh stopped the action at the 49-second mark of the opening round. The 21-year-old Rosa dedicated the fight to his cousin, the late Luis “KO King” Rosa (23-1, 11 KOs), who tragically died last January in a car accident at the age of 26.

New Britain, CT featherweight Nathan Martinez (1-0) had another very impressive pro debut, pitching a complete shutout (40-35) on all three judges’ scorecards against Henry Garcia (0-2), despite it being an action-packed bout from start to finish. Martinez used lethal body shots, dropping Garcia with a left hook to the liver, and crisp combinations.

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