Lawler had right moves in victory
By Brandon Masuoka
Advertiser Staff Writer
By Brandon Masuoka
Falaniko Vitale's return from retirement to compete in Saturday night's main event of the Icon Sport card wasn't a memorable one.
Iowa's Robbie Lawler knocked out Hawai'i's Vitale in the first round before an estimated crowd of 5,000 at the Blaisdell Arena.
Lawler landed a combination of hard punches that opened a gash above Vitale's right eye, and the Hawai'i fighter dropped to the canvas 3 minutes, 38 seconds into the opening round of the non-title bout.
"I don't remember how he knocked me out," said Vitale, who lost the Icon Sport middleweight (185 pounds) championship to Lawler last July. "It was just one of those things. I don't know where he came from with that punch. That's why they call him 'Ruthless' Robbie Lawler."
Vitale remained sprawled on the mat for several moments while doctors checked on his condition. He stood up afterward and walked around the ring.
The bout was scheduled for three five-minute rounds. Lawler, from Davenport, Iowa, improved to 11-3. Vitale, a Waipahu High graduate who now resides in 'Ewa, lost his third consecutive bout and fell to 20-6.
"Robbie is a professional, and a good one," Vitale said. "It was a privilege to fight someone of his stature. I wish the best for him in the future."
Neither fighter took control of the bout early. Both chose to stand upright and exchange blows rather than grapple on the floor.
Vitale eventually connected with several head punches and knee thrusts to Lawler midway through the round to the roar of the crowd.
Lawler recovered, and unloaded a flurry of punches to the head of Vitale, who staggered backward to the ring ropes, obviously hurt. Lawler then finished him.
"His hands were down," Lawler said. "I wanted to stay tight. I ended up catching him with a right, and that's how it went."
Lawler said his gameplan was to "stay tight" on Vitale, and not give his opponent too much breathing room because, "He's real dangerous, real quick. I wanted to press him. Every time he threw a shot, I wanted to step back, but keep in his face, so he had to work the whole time."
Asked whether he wanted to continue fighting, Vitale said: "We'll see what God has planned for me. I'm definitely going to start teaching, and helping out the guys. I just want to move on from here."
Vitale was a replacement for Jason "Mayhem" Miller in the main event. Miller was suspended by Icon Sport last month because he is facing first-degree burglary charges.
Since Vitale was brought in as a replacement, Saturday's bout was not for the Icon Sport championship.
Vitale lost the No. 1-contender bout to Miller in October, and said he was "leaning" toward retirement after that loss.
In the undercard bouts:
160 pounds: Marshall Harvest (Hale'iwa) def. Bryce Martinez (Honolulu) by choke submission, 2:12 into third round.
155: Bronson Delima (Honolulu) def. Tim Moon (Wai'anae) by unanimous decision.
165: Mike Taniguchi ('Ewa Beach) def. Ikaika Choy-Fu (Waipahu) by choke submission, 2:10 into first round.
170: Derek Stadler (Honolulu) def. Wayne Perrin (Wai'anae) by arm bar submission, 1:06 into first round.
135: Tyson Nam (Honolulu) def. Ryan Lee (Honolulu) by TKO, 1:01 into third round.
175: Kimo Woefel (Waimanalo) def. Chad Gusman (Honolulu) by TKO, 2:51 into first round.
140: Mark Oshiro (Honolulu) def. Gene Gregory (Wai'anae) by TKO, 2:20 into first round.
155: Adam Bass (Muncie, Ind.) def. David Padilla (Waipahu) by TKO, 1:15 into third round.
160: Michihiro Omigawa (Tokyo, Japan) def. Jason Chambers (Hollywood, Calif.) by split decision.
STATE FLYWEIGHT CHAMPIONSHIP
145: David Yeung (Honolulu) def. Jim Kikuchi (Waipahu) by unanimous decision.
Reach Brandon Masuoka at email@example.com.