Unbeaten Detroit Bantamweight Ja’Rico O’Quinn stops Yaqub Kareem in four rounds in his first scheduled 8-rounder
All of the women’s Middleweight world titles being on the line on the same night might’ve brought Showtime Boxing to town Friday night at the Masonic Temple in downtown Detroit. Two-time Olympic Gold medalist and unified Super Middleweight champion Claressa “T Rex” Shields may have been the main event in another Salita Promotions event, with the Flint, Michigan native vying for a world title in her second weight division – versus a unified Super Welterweight champion in Costa Rica’s Hanna Gabriels.
Even undefeated unified Middleweight champion Christina Hammer was in the house defending her WBC and WBO titles in her U.S. debut versus former world champion Tori Nelson.
Along with the women’s Middleweight “Final Four” being the major attraction, a few promising Kronk Gym fighters also showcased their skills in front of hometown fans at Detroit’s Masonic Temple Friday night. Salita Promotions achieved the event’s desired cachet – on international and local levels – with its fighter pairings.
However, for 23-year old Ja’Rico “The Great Lakes King” O’Quinn, Friday night represented another opportunity to to resume sowing seeds that his reign, or strong local appeal, should start to extend beyond the city limits of the Motor City. O’Quinn’s opponent for his step up to 8-round contests was Yakub Kareem. O’Quinn (9-0-1, 6 KOs) continues to hone his craft, and collect victories on Shields’ undercards, but these pivotal opportunities to fight in front of key people such as Showtime executive Gordon Hall could be fleeting.
The thrilling action from the Shields-Gabriels fight, plus the in-ring drama between the Shields and Hammer camps could propel the eventual Shields-Hammer showdown to happen somewhere other than Detroit – or anywhere in the Midwest.
O’Quinn’s focused performance, and heightened fight preparations, for his first scheduled 8-rounder hinted that he’s clearly aware of that type of uncertainty.
The Detroit prospect simply took apart Kareem (14-10-1, 8 KOs), as he bullied the 34-year old veteran from the bout’s opening seconds. O’Quinn was aggressive from the bell, he walked down Kareem immediately and displayed his strength advantage by pressuring Kareem into the ropes where he quickly got into some punishing combination punching. With Kareem clearly in his control from a number of prods with his left hand, O’Quinn began sitting down on his hooks to Kareem’s body from both hands.
Kareem spent the last minute of the first round trapped against the ropes struggling to overcome the younger fighter’s pressure and combinations. These exchanges set the tone for the balance of the fight.
O’Quinn opened the second round patiently before connecting with a powerful overhand right near the midpoint of the round. The punch affected Kareem and kept him peeking from behind his guard throughout most of the action. Kareem’s offensive output in third round still resembled the work of a fighter more concerned with his defense.
In the fourth round, O’Quinn seemed to sense it was time to close the show. He overwhelmed Kareem with several flurries and clearly forced the issue for the ref to begin paying close attention to Kareem. O’Quinn’s fierce attack kept Kareem in duress along the ropes until a brutal combination crashed through Kareem’s guard, and sent the Nigerian down to the canvas. After referee Sam Williams motioned O’Quinn to a neutral corner to administer his count, he turned around in time to see the badly hurt Kareem nearly fall forward through the ropes. The sight, in conjunction with the one-sided action to that point, compelled Williams to immediately end his count and stop the fight at 1:10.
O’Quinn had an impressive first-round 26-second knockout back in March 2017 on a Shields card at MGM Grand Detroit. That same night a Chicago bantamweight, Joshua Greer Jr, introduced fans of Showtime’s ShoBox: The New Generation to his “Don’t Blink Night-Night” pillow after his stunning sixth round knockout of the year candidate versus Detroit’s James Smith. O’Quinn and Greer fought as amateurs, but the Detroit fighter has watched Greer capitalize on his ShoBox debut to appear on two more times.
Friday’s win over Kareem gives O’Quinn another big win in his young career, and it came against an opponent Greer stopped back in November. Kareem retired after the fourth round with Greer. The fast-rising Greer, 24 years old, awaits his next fight date, sitting at 17 wins in his 19 fights. By O’Quinn convincingly earning his 9th victory Friday night, he’s taking care of what he can control, and as long as he remains committed to his hard work he just may get the shot to show the world his greatness before the end of 2018.
All photos by Stephanie Trapp