A group of people posing for a picture in a CES boxing ring.

Rhode Wars IV – the next generation – Brendan Higgins

by Brendan Higgins, contributing writer

On Saturday night, CES Boxing delivered a night of action combat sports fans will not soon forget. Rhode Wars IV had a little bit of everything. Great fights, boxing legends, and a surprise guest rounded out another successful night of boxing action presented by promoter Jimmy Burchfield.

In the opening contest, welterweight Calixto Cruz, of Springfield, Massachusetts, won a unanimous decision over Kevin Traynor, of Denny, Scotland. Cruz improved his record to 2-0. The next fight featured the debut of North Providence native Michel Didino. This was a scheduled four round lightweight contest. His opponent was Joel Young (0-2) from Beltsville, Maryland. Didino scored a split decision victory.

A victorious Michel Didino

One of the intriguing components of the night centered around the next generation fighters on the card. Light heavyweight, James Hagler Jr, is the grandson of Marvin Hagler. There was heavy anticipation surrounding his fight. Hagler came into the fight with a 3-1 record. He took on Leonardo Ledeiro (2-8 2 KOs), of Revere, Massachusetts. Hagler never seemed to get going in this fight. He was knocked out by Ledeiro in the third round.

Next up was a junior middleweight fight featuring Robert Duran Jr (11-3 9 KOs). He is the son of Roberto Duran. His opponent was journeyman Luis Eduardo Florez (26-27 21 KOs), of Barranquilla, Columbia.

Duran was a heavy favorite in this fight. The crowd was solidly behind this second generation fighter. Duran stopped his opponent in the third round scoring the win. During the post-fight in ring interview, Duran was joined by his wife and son.

In addition, Duran asked five time world champion Vinny Paz to come in the ring. Paz was sitting at ringside enjoying the fight. Years ago, Paz and Roberto Duran Sr were opponents in the ring but later became close friends. Duran Jr had these comments after the fight. He said, “Being here in Rhode Island has been amazing. My wife grew up here. I was surprised by the way everyone welcomed me. It feels like home here. I wasn’t expecting to be so well known. I was overwhelmed by the love and support. As for the fight, my plan was to go inside and box him for the first round and then impose my will on him. It didn’t turn out like that.

Soon as the bell rung he tried to impose his will on me early. He was snapping the strong jab. He was throwing the overhand right. I knew the night could turn bad if I let him get his way. That was not going to happen. Instead, I put my foot on the gas. I cranked it one hundred miles per hour, and I took control. I was a lot stronger and a lot faster. He was not going to tire me out. I chopped that tree down.”

Robert Duran Jr pointing to his family after his victory

During the intermission, the crowd was surprised and excited by the appearance of SNL star Kenan Thompson. The comedian is currently filming the movie Good Burger 2 here in the Ocean State.

Another highly anticipated fight had Melanie Costa making her professional debut. Costa fights out of Big Six Boxing in Providence. Her opponent was Daisy Preston from Manchester England. Costa has the nickname The Pitbull. From the opening bell everyone in attendance found out exactly why she was given that name. She stalked her much taller opponent the entire fight. Costa unleashed a barrage of combinations knocking Preston down several times during the fight. Costa put Preston on the canvas for good in the second round. The crowd support for Costa was intense. In addition to being a professional fighter, Costa is a Police Officer in Norton, Massachusetts. Her family, friends and rapidly growing fan base cheered the Pit Bull on to an easy victory.

After the fight Costa was in high demand for photos and autographs but I did manage to speak with her. She said, “I love the fact that my family and friends can be here tonight.

Melanie “The Pit Bull” Costa

It brought so much excitement into this fight. My plan was to come in and break down the body. She was very tall. I feel I was able to do that. The support I received was amazing. From the walk to the ring to this moment. It was pure joy. My team is so great. They got me ready for this. I trained really hard. Big Six Boxing keeps bringing me to new levels.”

Kevin Walsh, of Brockton, Massachusetts, is another fighter making a name for himself. He ran his record to an impressive 9-0 after defeating Marcello Williams (4-18-1). In the ring after his fight Walsh said he is ready to fight any place anytime. This was met with a round of cheers from the Park Theatre crowd.

Kevin Walsh gets the duke
Wilson Mascarenhas
Alejandro Paulino remained undefeated

In one half of the co-main event, Wilson Mascarenhas (7-1) from New Bedford, Massachusetts, defeated Benjamin Lamptey (13-10-2) of Accra, Ghana, in a six round super lightweight contest. Mascarenhas was returning to the ring after more than a year off. He was attacked. His injuries were severe resulting from a stabbing incident. He was told he would not fight again and last night he proved everyone wrong as he scored the win in his CES return.

In the second half of the main event, Alejandro Paulino beat Jonathan Perez improving his record to 13-0. Perez fell to 40-37.

The Pazmanian Devil comes home

One of the many storylines to this night involved Vinny Paz. As most Rhode Islanders know, Paz saw Rocky when he was a young boy and that became his motivation to become a fighter. On Saturday night, Paz was sitting at ringside watching the fights in the same building he watched Rocky 50 years earlier. I asked Paz how it felt to be back in the old Park Cinema. He said, “All I can say is I’m happy to be here tonight. I’m proud of all these fighters. Cranston is where it all began for me.” For more information on CES Boxing and MMA visit their website at


Brendan Higgins, writer and author, RIPTA bus driver, former professional wrestler (Knuckles Nelson), and North Kingstown resident.

We welcome Brendan as a contributing writer to RINewsToday.

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Higgins is the author of “Waking Up: From the Wrestling Ring to the Yoga Mat