LINCOLN â€” Rich Gingras remembers all too well the first time he sported a New England championship belt around his waist.
It lasted all of two minutes.
Last summer, after a marquee matchup with Providenceâ€™s Vladine Biosse for Biosseâ€™s super middleweight title at Twin River went to the judgesâ€™ cards, it was announced that Gingras had won the championship, winning by a slim margin on two of the three cards.
But no sooner had the belt been fastened to his body was it removed once it was quickly noted that one of the judgesâ€™ scores was incorrectly announced in favor of Gingras and the match was a majority draw. Biosse had his title back, while Gingras was left with nothing but disappointment.
Eleven months after that unforgettable night, Gingras found himself back at the Lincoln casino fighting another local fighter, Central Falls native Jaime Velazquez, for another New England title, the light heavyweight crown, on Classic Entertainment & Sportsâ€™ â€śUnstoppableâ€ť card.
And this time, he didnâ€™t leave the verdict in the hands of the judges.
Using a menacing left hook for most of the night, the Lincoln resident (and owner and head trainer of the Fight 2 Fitness gym in Pawtucket) knocked Velazquez through the ropes with a vicious overhand right midway through the fourth round.
Velazquez got back on his feet, but at 1:41, referee Joey Lupino sensed that enough was enough and halted the action, giving Gingras the championship belt he waited almost a year to get back.
â€śThis one I get to keep,â€ť he said after the fight in his dressing room, the belt still around his waist. â€śNo oneâ€™s taking this belt off me. It feels great to bring it back home and make my gym and my fans proud. It really does.â€ť
Aside from absorbing a few uppercuts early in the fight, Gingras showed no signs of abuse in raising his record to 14-4-1 (9 KOs). The only real damage came to his boxing trunks, which mysteriously suffered an 18-inch rip on its left leg after the second round.
Velazquez, who fell to 11-7-2 (6 KOs) and was fighting for the second time in four months after ending a 14Â˝-year hiatus from the ring, clearly looked a lot better than he did in his February loss to two-time world champion Glen Johnson, but the night belonged to Gingras and his left hooks.
â€śHe has a great chin because I hit him quite a few times with some clean left hooks,â€ť Gingras said of Velazquez. â€śHeâ€™s a warrior. I thought he was going to go down in the second round, but he didnâ€™t.
â€śBut I could tell that the pressure was really starting to wear him down, and I was working the body and keeping my defense tight. I knew he was trying to sneak that right uppercut in there, but every time he did, I just threw a left hook right over the top of it.â€ť
Gingrasâ€™ last left hook of the night was the one that set up the overhand right that finished off Velazquez.
â€śI stunned him with that left hook and his head went back a little bit,â€ť added Gingras. â€śI then followed through with the right hand and down he went. As soon as I hit him with it, I knew it was over.â€ť
When asked what he planned to do now that he seized his first New England title, Gingras said that he was going to go back to his gym the next morning and hit the weights to continue his preparations for a fitness competition heâ€™s entering at the end of the month in Medford, Mass.
â€śI took the whole week off from weights,â€ť noted Gingras. â€śI have the WBFF (World Beauty Fitness & Fashion) Boston show coming up in 22 days and I really want to get my pro card. Itâ€™s time to get back to work.â€ť
On a night that featured five crowd-pleasing knockouts, the quickest one came in the co-feature by Pawtucket middleweight Thomas â€śThe Soulijahâ€ť Falowo, who sent Jose Ramirez of Albuquerque, N.M. to the canvas with a punishing right 1:51 into their fight.
Falowo (12-2, 8 KOs) was at his best in the couple of minutes he spent in the ring peppering Ramirez (11-14, 6 KOs) with an assortment of punches. After Ramirez hit the deck, he tried to return to his feet, but he couldnâ€™t regain his balance and flopped backwards (and almost under the ropes).
â€śI felt that right connect with his jaw,â€ť Falowo said with a wide smile. â€śIâ€™m definitely happy with (the knockout). Even though I was only in there for a minute, I felt like I was boxing a lot better and I felt a lot sharper than I had before.â€ť
Follow Eric Benevides on Twitter @EricBen24