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Mitchell's knockout highlights evening Estimated 1,500 attend event

Sometimes low-budget movies are surprisingly more entertaining than their big-budget counterparts, yet go unnoticed by the masses because there isn't enough money to zealously fuel the hype machine.

That was definitely the case Friday night during "The Return of Buffalo Boxing" card at the Buffalo Niagara Convention Center.

The first professional boxing card to hit Buffalo since Joe Mesi was considered the city's third franchise had plenty of entertaining moments and was a quality show.

All X-Cel Worldwide Promotions needs to do now is increase the prefight ad budget and spread the word so that the next card packs the facility that's better known for being the venue for the world's largest disco party and auto shows.

An estimated 1,500 fans attended the first professional card in the Queen City in more than five years. They got their money's worth on a night when former two-time world champion Byron Mitchell proved that there's still plenty of fight left in his 35-year-old body, and when Western New Yorkers Lionell Thompson and Johnnie Davis won their debuts.

Friday was the first pro card in the city since Mesi floored DaVarryl Williamson before nearly 15,000 fans in HSBC Arena on Sept. 27, 2003.

"As a promoter, you always hope for more [fans] but having close to 1,500 people here for the first one gives people a chance to see I'm for real and I'm not doing this for the short term," said promoter Nick Garone, who hopes to do another show here in the future. "I think I have to do a little bit of a better job letting people know [about the card via advertising]. This is really something to build on. We have a foundation here now."

Four of the seven fights in the venue equipped to seat 2,400 ended in knockout fashion, including Mitchell's North Atlantic Boxing Association United States light heavyweight championship main event.

Mitchell (27-4-1, 20 KOs) stopped 27-year-old Zach Walters (23-4) when the savvy veteran nailed Walters in the face with a straight left late in the sixth round. The blast would've floored Walters but the ropes held him up for the standing eight count. In between the sixth and seventh rounds, the ref stopped the fight -- giving Mitchell a title belt and most importantly a top 10 spot in the world rankings.

The two brawled for the better part of four rounds before Mitchell began asserting his will in the fifth. Mitchell dominated the sixth round by pounding Walters' body and head before the knockout shot.

"I'm back where I should have been a long time ago," said Mitchell, who's 2-1 in his comeback since ending a four-year hiatus in November 2007. "This opens up good opportunities for better fights -- and puts me in contention for a world championship."

Niagara Falls' Davis won via unanimous decision over heavyweight foe James Rankin (0-2). But Sweet Home graduate Paul Marinaccio (24-5-3) -- likely fighting for the last time in his seven-year career -- came out on the short end of a split decision against East Cleveland's Ryan Thompson (9-6). Scores were 76-73, 74-75 and 75-74 in favor of Thompson.

Marinaccio suffered an ankle injury during training, an ailment the current resident of Cary, N.C., aggravated late in the first round when Thompson stepped on his right foot. That prevented the 41-year-old southpaw from being able to step into his punches and hindered his ability to move out of the way of Thompson's blows.

"I wasn't able to do the things I normally do," Marinaccio said. "Every wide shot he threw I saw coming. I just couldn't respond [and avoid them]."

But Lionell Thompson, the former five-time state Golden Gloves champ, sent fans home happy with a first-round KO of light heavyweight Zaid Malik (0-1). Thompson -- in the last bout of the evening -- knocked Malik down twice with body shots, the last crumpling Malik at 2:40 like he had been belted by the neighborhood bully.

"I just try to do what I do and not think of the crowd and remind myself I'm the best fighter in the world," said Thompson, who went 84-7 as an amateur.

In other bouts, the Bahamas' Meacher Major (15-4-1) survived two knockdowns in a round to earn a six-round TKO over Philadelphia's Kevin Carmody (10-11-1) in the junior welterweight division. Michael Faragon (5-0) of Guilderland made quick use of fill-in Shane Gierke of Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio, earning a TKO at 2:34 of the first round. In a junior featherweight bout, Rochester's Harvey Murray (3-2-2) ended a four-fight winless streak by taking a unanimous decision over Philadelphia's Omar Carroll (0-3-1).

e-mail: mrodriguez@buffnews.com

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