MONTICELLO – When a young Carlos Takam started boxing while growing up in Africa, he always looked to America as a land of opportunity.

The French boxer made his United States debut a success on Saturday night, posting a unanimous decision victory over Craig Lewis before a near-packed house at Resorts World Catskills.

“I was a big dream when I started boxing, to box here in America,’’ Takam said. “It’s great. USA is a very great country. I love it.’’

So it didn’t matter much when a group of fight fans started chanting “USA, USA” during the middle of his 10-round bout, in an effort to cheer on his opponent from Detroit. Takam was never in trouble during the main event, and he even delivered a handful of crushing head shots in the ninth round, though none seemed to stun Lewis.

“I am feeling good,’’ Takam said afterward. “It was a tough fight. That guy was a good guy. I (did) my job.’’

Takam was the clear aggressor throughout, menacing his taller opponent by ducking down his bald head a bit, bobbing and weaving his head and throwing punches at his taller foe, many of which clipped Lewis on the back of his head and along his neck – for that reason, Lewis thought a lot of those punches shouldn’t have been considered scoring blows, though he believes the judges were swayed by the “ooohhhs” and aaahhhs” from the assembled crowd.

“I believe I landed more shots and I believe I landed the harder shots,’’ said Lewis, blood still dripping from a cut above his left eye. He lamented about not coming forward more often, content to box from an upright stance, cocking a right hand that never seemed to swing in anger. “The jab was definitely looking beautiful tonight. It was a good fight. I believe I won a close fight.’’

Two judges scored 99-91 and one 96-94 in favor of Takam.

The fight could have been sponsored by Rust-Oleum – Takam, 38, hadn’t fought since last December and Lewis, 35 in two weeks, was out of action for 14 months before getting the late call only 11 days ago. Lewis dropped 20 pounds, to 232, in one week of training but was hardly in boxing shape after working three jobs to support his family. Takam said he didn’t feel rusty because he’s been sparring regularly since his last bout.

Two crowd favorites from Hartford, Conn., prevailed easily in their return visits from the first Catskill Clash in June. Welterweight Anthony Laureano and cruiserweight Richie Rivera, aka Popeye the Sailor Man, won unanimous decisions in their eight-round contests.

Laureano (12-0) had the most crowd-pleasing fight of the evening, out-pointing Texan Brian Jones (15-11), 80-72, 80-72, 78-74.

“I made it harder than it was,’’ Laureano said. “I think I could have threw more jabs, used my angles a little more, but overall I am very happy. The crowd got what they paid for. The crowd wanted action and that’s why they call me ‘Action’ Anthony Laureano.’’

Laureano and Jones engaged in a close-quarters bout, barely giving their opponent any room. Laureano said fighting in close negated Jones’ reach and power advantage. Laureano was clearly more effective with scoring punches while many of Jones’ short throws missed their target. The close battle also led to a lot of talking during the fight and notable jawing after some of the rounds ended.

“I did a lot of angles; the thing is I didn’t do them in long durations,’’ Laureano said.

Following a post-fight medical check-up, Jones was transported to a local hospital. There were no reports of his condition or specific medical emergency.

Rivera (13-0) came within a point of pitching a shutout, with the judges scoring 80-72, 80-72, 79-73, over Los Angeles’ Israel Duffus (19-6). Rivera controlled the fight, which helped preserve his stamina for his next bout only two weeks from now in Mexico.

“I felt like I fought good,’’ said Rivera, with several boxing championship belts covering his torso. “I tried to keep him at a distance. I knew he was a heavy hitter so I wanted to keep enough space between us to see those big shots coming in, so I would have time to either get my hands up or get out of the way.

“I was very successful, Amen,’’ he added.

Rivera, who sold nearly 100 tickets to the event back in Hartford, said he is eager to return to Resorts World Catskills to fight again.

“I had a lot of people coming up to me, ‘Hey, I saw you from last time,’’’ Rivera said. “It was a good feedback knowing that I am expanding, I am getting more fans, my brand is getting out there. Popeye the Sailor Man is here to stay. … I would like to continue fighting here.’’

Cincinnati’s Boubacar Sylla remained unbeaten as a pro but had a decidedly tough time with late replacement Jermaine Corley (3-7) in a six-round welterweight bout. Sylla won on two judge’s cards, 59-55 and 58-56, but lost 58-56 on a third scoresheet.

Liberty’s Bryant Costello (1-1) won his first pro bout in the opener, earning a third-round technical knockout of late-replacement Anthony Everett (1-8) at 42 seconds of the third round of their scheduled four-rounder.

kmcmillan@th-record.com

Twitter: @KenMcMillanTHR