Late-sub Jonnie Rice torpedoed the heavyweight dreams of Michael Coffie in five rounds in a huge upset at the Prudential Center in Newark, New Jersey, on Saturday evening.
Rice (14-6-1, 10 KOs) was drafted in on fight week as a replacement for former world title challenger Gerald Washington who tested positive for Covid-19. Noted for his durability, he was supposed to give the unbeaten Coffie some rounds, but ended up giving him a beating.
“Honestly, I didn’t expect to overwhelm Coffie like that,” said the Los Angeles-based Rice. “I knew Michael Coffie from his fights, but not because he had a great record but because he was a sparring partner for Deontay Wilder. In my head, I played the little game that I was Luis Ortiz’s sparring partner for his second fight against Wilder. So technically it was Luis Ortiz’s vs. Deontay Wilder’s sparring partners. We’re going to see what happens. I was playing with that in my head. I had to fight a little bit like Deontay Wilder and then a little bit different. That’s what the game plan was.
“I wasn’t a late replacement. I was waiting for an opportunity. We replaced someone, but we weren’t late. We were right on time. I was training every day. I was training with Michael Hunter. I did 20 rounds, 10 and 10 last Friday before I got the call. So when I got the call, I was ready.
“I want it all. I want what every boxer wants. I want to be world champion. I understand that my record doesn’t say that, but I want the world to watch my progress. I’m not in the right mind to be calling people out. I’m just going to be ready for the opportunity and, when it comes, I’m going to answer the call. I’m going to get as much money for it as I can. And you know one thing, I’m going to put on a show.”
Rice took the fight right to Brooklyn’s Coffie (12-1, 9 KOs), causing distress with a series of dangerous overhand rights in the opening round. Coffie switched to southpaw in the second and found more joy with a straight left hand.
A left hook in the fourth hurt Coffie and prompted him to revert back to orthodox. By the fifth, former US Marine Coffie was suffering from a swelling under his left eye and being worked over by Rice. After Coffie was repeatedly nailed by flush shots, referee Eric Dali stepped in.
In the co-main event, New Jersey favourite Vito Mielnicki Jr. (9-1, 6 KOs) halted Noah Kidd (6-4-2, 5 KOs) in the second round of their welterweight bout. Mielnicki dropped Kidd in each round before referee Dali intervened.
Meanwhile, unbeaten 154-pounder Joey Spencer (13-0, 9 KOs) clearly outpointed James Martin (7-3, 0 KOs). Scores were 80-72 and 79-73 (twice). Martin had taken the unbeaten record of the aforementioned Mielnicki and was supposed to battle him in a rematch. Overweight on the scales, he fought and lost to Spencer instead.
Former world title challenger Andre Dirrell (28-3, 18 KOs) returned at light-heavyweight to earn a third-round stoppage of Christopher Brooker (16-8, 6 KOs). Referee Richard Gonzalez stopped the fight after Brooker was dropped for a third time by the 37-year-old veteran noted for losing close and competitive decisions to Carl Froch (2009) and James DeGale (2015).
Main image: Sean Michael Ham/PBC.