PHILLY BOXING HISTORY                                                                                            March 06, 2009


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Welterweight prospect Mike Jones made his debut at the Blue Horizon a successful one with a frenetic second round KO over Dario Esalas in the main event at the legendary fight club Friday night (03/06/09). Jones started fast and kept the action going for the length of the abbreviated bout. His opponent was overmatched but game, and did his best to stay in with the North Philly wrecking machine. But Jones kept moving forward and kept landing his heavy shots until he got what he had set out for.

As Jones' career blooms, there are many comparisons to welterweight legend Tommy Hearns of Detroit. With Jones' height (5'11"), weight, and punching power, I can see the parallels. But for me, I'd say he's more a skinny Sonny Liston than a Hitman Hearns.  Jones has a sullen, stalking, square-shouldered style. He keeps his hands up high, and has a game face as far away as Sonny's ever was. But there are a couple of major differences. Unlike Sonny, when Mike starts making progress toward a KO, and his killer instinct comes out, that impassive facial expression turns angry and downright mean. When Liston turned up the intensity, it still looked like he was staring at a test pattern. Another difference is the pace and recklessness that Jones sometimes displays. On this night against Esalas, this was the case.

Perhaps Jones felt a lack of power from his opponent. He must have; because Jones waged a war and swung wildly in the trenches, seeming not to care one bit about getting hit. Ah, to be young, talented and undefeated again. And a packed house chanting your name doesn't hurt either. So Jones did get hit, but he also failed to blink.

Jones stormed forward and got his KO in a hectic second round that featured some crazy exchanges, a variety of thunderous punches from Jones, two sudden trips to the canvas by Esalas, a momentary mouthpiece delay, a wild, screaming crowd, and a final, fight-ending third knockdown at 1:56 of the round. Referee Gary Rosado waved the contest over, and with the TKO, Jones had his 17th straight victory (15 KOs) and his first Blue Horizon appearance all wrapped up. Dario Esalas, an affable Columbian living in Miami, fell to 31-16 with 25 KOs.

Jones successfully defended his NABA welterweight belt and looks forward to a bright future and probably a very busy 2009. The main event, scheduled for 10 rounds was the only knockout of the night.

In the semi-final bout, Philly's most dazzling young prospect, Teon Kennedy, had a very difficult night. His 8-rounder against Andre Wilson of St. Joseph, MO went the full limit and resulted in a very close call for Teon. Although Kennedy posted his 12th win without a loss, he had much to deal with in gaining a split decision. He was forced to overcome a serious knockdown, a very bad cut, and a talented, left-handed rival. But at the beginning, this looked like a typical Teon Kennedy fight.

The pint-sized prospect started okay. He hurt Wilson in round one, and cruised through the second. But it was clear from the initial bell that Teon's opponent was no "opponent". Jr. featherweight Andre Wilson came to town with a major task at hand and accounted quite well for himself. He showed a good jab, effective movement, and plenty of power.

In the third, Kennedy was having another pretty good round when suddenly Wilson popped Teon with a straight right hand, putting him down. From a seated position Kennedy turned over, got to his knees and started to rise. But then he stumbled back down to one knee, and for a moment, it appeared he might not get up. But Kennedy did beat the count and continued on, although a bit wobbly. Ladies and gentlemen, we have ourselves a fight!

The action picked right up in round four. Kennedy roared back, especially with a heavy body attack. He seemed to be well revived from the knockdown and once again on track. But then Wilson sliced Teon over the right eye, setting up another hurdle for the Philadelphian.

In rounds five and six, Teon's cut bled heavily and looked bad, but he kept pressing forward. Both fighters showed a good work rate and the exchanges were top notch. But Wilson kept testing Kennedy, and in this challenge, Teon really had to show what he was made of. In the seventh round, Wilson landed a hard left hook that once again shook Kennedy, but Teon rebounded to land a stiff left hook / right hand combination that had Wilson reeling back, near his own corner.

In the final round, Teon pressed the action while Wilson moved and looked to land more of his showy, sharp punches. Kennedy was still bleeding and his white trunks had turned pretty pink. By the end of the round, Wilson's faced looked marked up as well. It was another tough round, and the fight was over.

The scores were 76-75 for Kennedy; 76-75 for Wilson; and a crazy 79-73 for Kennedy, which raised Teon to 12-0 (5 KO).

Truth be told, Teon looked a little off this night and had to really dig down to win the bout. Some felt that he didn't win it. At the end, it felt like the decision could go either way, and very well might lean toward Wilson. However, Kennedy came away with the slim victory, but he didn't do it with any of his usual dazzling boxing skills. He did it with his grit. He had to bite down and keep fighting on a very difficult night. Kennedy never panicked. He stayed determined and serious, and appeared to be doing everything he could to come out on top, on a night when things were going wrong. Teon looked human, and it reminded everyone that successful fighters are made by working hard, overcoming challenges, and learning the game. This was a great teaching fight for Teon, and it should make him better. In taking the judges cards, it also was the first indication that Kennedy has luck on his side - a priceless intangible in boxing.

Wilson's record dipped to 11-2-1 with 9 KOs, but he did well and surprised Kennedy, as well as the rest of us.

Lightweights Victor Vasquez, North Philly, and Rod Salka, Bunola, PA, fought a grueling, bloody and entertaining six-rounder. Vasquez is a popular fighter in Philadelphia and he had a large cheering section on Friday night. But Vasquez couldn't overcome Salka's constant punching. Salka looked like a transplanted European fighter, with a debonair and swaggering style that didn't look like it was cultivated in Bunola, PA. He moved, worked, and won the fight, but the marks on his face at the end, said that it was a tough battle. Vasquez kept chugging and had his moments, but the official scorecards all said shutout (60-54). Salka improved to 7-0 (2 KO), while Vasquez fell to 8-3 (5 KO). Regardless of the result, Philly fans eagerly await another Vasquez fight; he's that popular. 

Garrett Wilson of West Philly was a cruiserweight last December, but he got down to 169 pounds to face Kensington's Dennis Hasson in a six round over-the-weight super middleweight fight. I was expecting Wilson to look emaciated, but he didn't. He still had plenty of muscle strapped to his short frame. I also kept watching for the affects of the weight loss to show in his performance. But Wilson put on an energetic, free swinging performance, and didn't really look tired until the last round. Over he course of the fight, it became clear that Hasson was the better, more experienced fighter. He hurt Wilson in the third and fourth rounds, but didn't look like he was in great shape himself. Hasson's 170.5 pounds made him look a little soft. But he won the slow fight by a wide margin and remained undefeated at 7-0 (2 KO). Wilson dropped to 3-2 (1 KO).

Jr. lightweights Derrick Bivins of South Philly, and Luis Esquilin of North Philly, fought to a cross-town, four-round draw (above). The third round saw the best of the action with Bivins hurting Esquilin, and Esquilin cutting Bivins. In the last round, the cut continued to bleed, while the crowd continued to boo. The scores were 39-37 for Bivins, 40-36 for Esquilin, and 38-38. The decision goes down as a split draw.

West Philly's Jamaal Davis opened the show with a dull but convincing unanimous six-round decision over Clarence Taylor of Wilmington, DE (above). The two jr. middleweights had to fight each other and a restless crowd. It was Davis' first fight since signing with Peltz Boxing.

The show ended with a real "walkout" bout. Not much happened between welterweights Kaseem Wilson, North Philly, and Martinus Clay, Norristown, PA. They put on a boring show as the Blue Horizon steadily emptied (above). Southpaw Wilson, with his straight as a pole stance, did plenty to win the decision, while the old trial horse Clay gave his usual solid effort but just didn't have the tools or the aggression to get to his foe. This one looked like an interesting match going in, but it was not to be.

This was the return of Peltz Boxing to the legendary North Philly fight club. Promoter J Russell Peltz began his Hall of Fame career at the venue on September 30, 1969. It was certainly a successful homecoming for Peltz, who didn't need his shoehorn on this night, but still had a sellout crowd on his hands. The official attendance was 1,327. He is sure to have that shoehorn at the ready for his second return show scheduled for May 1st, when he'll try to once again pack the Blue Horizon to the gills.





John DiSanto - March 06, 2009 - North Philly