One round into his fight with Yolexcy Leiva on Thursday night at Twin River Casino, Warwick’s Benny Costantino was already in trouble.
Leiva had thrown a punch that fractured an orbital bone under Costantino’s left eye, causing the eye to swell shut and Costantino to lose vision.
The injury, combined with aggressive fighting from Leiva and some missteps from Costantino ended up being the perfect storm of factors to finally send Costantino home with a professional loss.
The fight was stopped 42 seconds into the third round, as Costantino was defeated by technical knockout after taking a barrage of punches to the face in the corner.
“I wasn’t defending myself, and the ref said, ‘Benny I had to stop it, ’” Costantino said.
The loss, which was part of Twin River’s Thursday Night Fight series and was held by Jimmy Burchfield’s Classic Entertainment & Sports Inc., was the first of Costantino’s career as a pro. In just his second fight back after a 10-year hiatus from the sport, the 40-year-old Costantino dropped to 7-1 overall. Leiva improved to 5-2.
“He was a little stronger than I thought,” Costantino said. “But he came forward, and that’s his strong point. I didn’t do enough to neutralize it.”
But the fight, which was the seventh of a nine-fight card on the night, was far from lopsided.
Leiva easily controlled the first round, causing Costantino to go down to a knee midway through. It appeared that Costantino took the knee soon after the injury to his eye.
“Honestly, I’ve been cut before but I could see fine,” Costantino said. “When I couldn’t see from this eye, I’ll be honest, I have a lot of experience but it threw me off.”
In the second round, Costantino fought back.
With time winding down, Costantino landed a hard right hook to the right side of Leiva’s face, dropping him to the floor.
Yet, as exciting as that moment was, it was also a sobering moment for Costantino.
“The scariest thing in the world is when I dropped him and the crowd went nuts, I said, ‘Uh oh,’” Costantino said. “Because I didn’t have any energy to finish him.”
Just days prior to the fight, Costantino was struggling to make weight and ended up cutting 10 pounds in three days. He thinks the rapid weight loss may have been one of the reasons he didn’t feel quite like himself.
“I just didn’t feel right,” he said.
The bell rang to end the second round, and in the third round, Leiva quickly re-asserted himself.
He worked Costantino into a corner, then landed five consecutive shots to the face, forcing the ref to run over and stop the fight.
“He overwhelmed me a little bit, which kind of threw me off a little bit,” Costantino said. “Usually I’m the aggressor.”
After the fight, a visibly frustrated Costantino made sure to give credit to Leiva, but also put some blame on himself.
With his corner giving him instructions, Costantino didn’t quite follow them as closely as he could have, and he thinks it cost him.
“I didn’t listen,” he said. “I should have been lower, because he comes wide. They gave me the tools to beat him, and I didn’t do it.”
Going forward, Costantino was scheduled to fight again on May 24 against a yet to be determined opponent, but the orbital bone fracture puts everything in jeopardy.
He was planning on seeing a doctor on Monday to find out if he needs surgery. If it turns out that’s the case, Costantino may finally retire his gloves for good.
If not, then he hopes to be back in the ring – and he wants it to be against Leiva.
Costantino proposed a rematch directly following the fight, and though it has yet to be arranged, it’s possible.
“I refuse to not fight him again,” Costantino said. “That’s my goal. I’m better than that, and I know I am. That’s what hurts the most.”
In the meantime, Costantino will get his diagnosis and decide whether or not his comeback tour will continue on.
“I think I’ll be fine,” Costantino said. “But I accepted this as a possibility when I decided to make a comeback.”