PHILLY BOXING HISTORY                                                                        January 31, 2009


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Brian Cohen's comeback came to a screeching halt on Saturday night in the gymnasium of South Philadelphia High School, when a last minute substitute from Bakersfield, CA named Billy Bailey surprised everyone with an unlikely victory in the second round of the scheduled 10-round light-heavyweight main event.

It wasn't supposed to unfold this way. Cohen, looked toward a nice homecoming, after seven fights on the road last year. The venue for the event - Southern High - was terrific. Who knew a local high school gym would turn out to be a such great place for a fight? Everyone there was talking about how nice the setting was. 

This was Brian's show, all the way. His face and muscle-bound body were on the poster and the program. The good-sized crowd of about 2,000 were all there to see him. Cohen walked into the ring behind an entourage procession carrying aloft his six championship belts (that's three more than Henry Armstrong ever had - but who knows what these straps were all about). There truly was an air of excitement in the place, and you have to credit Cohen for that. 

His opponent, Billy Bailey, looked like a nice smiley guy, but physically he looked like no match for Brian's bulging muscles. The general consensus around the arena was that this was going to be a quick one, and that Bailey was going to have to be scraped up off the canvas when it was over. Keep in mind that Bailey had only been snagged for the show about 24 hours before, after the original opponent scheduled, Robbie Tovar, pulled out of the fight for personal reasons.

After an extended intermission and a rousing national anthem, everyone scrambled back to their seats, not wanting to miss this potential fireworks. Both guys came into the ring and their body language held consistent to expectations. Bailey looked like a lamb and Cohen looked ready to slaughter. That wasn't sweat oozing from Cohen's forehead, it was pure testosterone. They tapped gloves and things got underway.

The first round was a wild-swinging affair with Cohen pressing the action and exerting his obvious edge in strength. He chased Bailey all over the ring and launched grenades from the outside. Some landed and some missed. Bailey kept trying to move away, stay out of corners, and throw his own shots, but he seemed out-gunned. It was a rowdy thee minutes and Cohen won the round. Heading back to their corners, both guys looked tired and a little over-heated. 

The second round started and the action picked up where it had left off, with Cohen coming on strong. But before long, he really started looking winded. Then suddenly, Bailey rocked Cohen with a hard left hook in one of the neutral corners and followed it with a straight right hand that dropped Cohen to one knee (and one glove). Breathing heavily, Brian hauled himself up in the nick of time, but he looked exhausted. He walked a few steps out of the corner and along the ropes. Bailey stepped right back in and landed a messy, almost misplaced left hook, but it was good enough to floor Cohen again. This time he went down on both knees and both gloves. It didn't look like he was going to rise, but he did so bravely. He must have known what was coming, but he was the star of this show and he did what he could to carry on. Seconds later he was down again in the exact same spot. He hadn't even taken a step since rising. Referee Blair Tallmadge waved the fight over at 1:45 of the second round.

The place was stunned, although we all had three knockdowns worth of time to let the idea of an upset settle in. Cohen walked back to his corner with a few lumps around his left eye.  He looked disgusted and disappointed, but okay. Bailey looked happy, but seemed to take the upset win in stride. The victory raised his record to 8-2 with 3 KOs.

Cohen, suddenly 9-2 with 8 KOs, received a lot of attention in the corner. Then he was given oxygen. To be honest, I could have used some myself given the body heat in Southern's gym. But then, they took Brian to Methodist Hospital. And the fun of this crazy wild club fight drained out of the new beautiful fight venue.

As of lunchtime on Sunday, Brian was still in the hospital. His father, Ivan Cohen, said that he was dehydrated and had suffered from an asthma attack. Apparently Brian's blood pressure had spiked in the process as well. "He wasn't himself. That was not Brian last night. We'll be back," said Ivan.

Hopefully Brian will be out of Methodist Hospital and parked in front of a big fat flat-screen TV in time for tonight's Super Bowl. He lost in a big way Saturday night, but what are you going to do? Upsets are part of the game, and they are exciting to witness. This one was a doozey. Bailey left the ring wearing two of those championship belts, and he and his entourage ran out of Southern High as quickly as they could, fearing backlash from the pro-Cohen crowd.

The full evening of fights began a bit late, as the large walk-up crowd were hustled in the door, past the ticket counter, and through security. The first bout of the night was a four rounder between middleweights "Mighty" Mike Tiberi of Smyrna, DE and Pennsboro, WV's John "Jaw Breaker" Colvin. Tiberi used a heavy body attack throughout to weaken his foe. His thumping ribcage shot's had Colvin grimacing more than once. The West Virginian landed a few shots of his own, but Tiberi did most of the pressing and was winning the fight when it ended with Colvin trapped in Tiberi's corner early in round four. After taking a few hard shots and with three lost rounds in the bank, Colvin was stopped at 1:16. Referee Hurley McCall did the waving.

Next up was a 4-round female featherweight bout between Nasia Brown, a little 122-pound pipsqueak from South Philly making her pro debut against the strapping 0-2 Karen Dulin, 128, from Mystic, CT. Dulin seemed to have a huge size advantage. She also had the edge when it came to power and ability. She repeatedly drilled Brown with a solid jab and worked the body effectively. After winning round one, Dulin dropped Brown for the 10-count, and recorded her first ring win. Former champ Buster Drayton trains Nasia Brown.

The third fight of the night pitted Buster Drayton's next charge, South Philly's John Mercurio, a 261-pound heavyweight who could win a John Poore look-alike contest, against Brandon Bennett, 220, of Kokomo, IN. This one didn't last long. Mercurio dumped Bennett flat on his face in a neutral corner, where he was counted out by Hurley McCall. The time was 1:51. Bennett's record dropped to 0-2. Mercurio and Drayton whooped it up in celebration of their successful start.

After three straight losses at the Blue Horizon, Philadelphia southpaw  Kamarah Pasley won his first pro fight two weeks ago at the New Alhambra. That victory must have tasted pretty good because here he was, back in the ring again so quickly. For one minute of the first round Saturday night, he appeared to have his hands full with Pedro Martinez, also of Philadelphia. But then Pasley flashed his power and knocked down Martinez along the ropes. Martinez got up but Pasley hurt him again near the end of the round. As the fight progressed, the two cruiserweights tested each other. It was a good action fight. Pasley seemed to be winning the rounds, but not by much. Martinez was tough and kept coming. After four full rounds, Pasley got the unanimous decision by scores of 38-36 and 40-35 twice. Pasley upped his slate to 2-3 with 1 KO; Martinez fell to 3-2 with 2 KOs.

It was at this point that the intermission occurred, followed by the Brian Cohen fight. After Cohen was taken to the hospital, we all waited until the EMS crew returned and the show was resumed.

Young and upcoming Kensington super middleweight Dennis Hasson fought next, going for his sixth straight win against  Michael Rayner of Lumberton, SC. It was Rayner's third trip to Philly, having lost to Gabe Rosado (KO'd 3) and Tommie Speller (TKO'd 2) on those visits. So it would be interesting to see how Hasson would do against this guy.

Dennis started quickly. He hurt Rayner midway through round one, but let him off the hook. He hurt him again later in the round, but there wasn't time to finish the job. Round two saw more hurt from Hasson, as he bloodied Rayner's nose badly and continued to control the action. In the third, Hasson dropped his foe and when he got up, Hasson hurt him again, but still could not stop him.

It was more of the same in the middle rounds. Dennis feigned with a stomping lead left foot, and followed with his budding power shots, but on this night, perhaps he showed a lack of killer instinct. He also mounted a good body attack, and a few times his body shots drifted low, prompting a couple of warnings from Referee McCall.

In the sixth and final round Rayner went down again. This time it looked like a slip, but when he got up, Hasson jumped on him and really looked like he wanted to end the fight. He almost did it too.  More importantly he showed a little of that killer instinct that he lacked earlier. The fight was a shutout for Hasson and the knockdowns made the scores even wider (60-51, 60-51, 60-51).  Raynor goes back to North Carolina 6-11. 

Dennis Hasson is a good prospect that steadily improves with each fight. But he is a work in progress who is adjusting to the pro ranks. He definitely has skills, and looks like a solid bet to make a move someday, but he needs time, and should not be rushed. With his dark brown brush cut hair and stubbly beard, I think the now 6-0 Hasson looks like a living "G.I. Joe - with lifelike hair", but without the scar on his cheek.  Hasson makes his Blue Horizon debut on March 6th.

The last fight on the card confirmed that body punching was back in vogue on this South Philly night, as Tony "Boom Boom" Ferrante returned to the more comfortable light-heavyweight division after his cruiserweight win over Simon Carr, and punished the torso of Micky Stackhouse in another scheduled six rounder. Stackhouse of Spartanburg, SC was an old KO victim of Harry Joe Yorgey's and came in with an experienced 6-17-1 record. But Ferrante, a veteran of just four bouts, seized control in the first two rounds, thanks largely to his hard work to the body. The attack helped to wear down Stackhouse, but it also left Ferrante quite winded as well. Stackhouse rallied to win the third, but Ferrante ended things toward the end of the fourth. A very sudden right stopped Stackhouse in his tracks. He wobbled and then crashed to the canvas. Blair Tallmadge stopped the bout at 2:27 without counting, while Stackhouse laid flat on his back. And that was that.

In all, it was an excellent night at the fights, continuing 2009's good start. With another show scheduled for this coming Friday at the Blue Horizon (2/06), and a big March 6th show at the Blue, starring Mike Jones, Teon Kennedy, Dennis Hasson, Victor Vasquez, Jamal Davis, & Kaseem Wilson, Philly boxing is looking to be on the upswing. 




John DiSanto - South Philadelphia - January 31, 2009