|PHILLY BOXING HISTORY November 20, 2009||
KENNEDY WINS USBA TITLE;
The Blue Horizon came alive Friday night in a way that it only has maybe once or twice in recent years. The occasion was the latest and most important step in the developing career of Philadelphia's brightest prospect, Teon Kennedy. He won his main event fight and with it took home the USBA junior featherweight title. The gold and red belt that they eventually strapped around his waist looked huge on his compact frame - almost comical. Typical boxing overkill. But that belt will look great in Kennedy's trophy case, along with his national golden gloves trophy. He should look at that old trophy and this latest bauble and wonder about when the day will come when he'll add a world championship belt to his collection. The post script to this fight should be nothing but celebration. However, the sight of his new belt, and the memories of his glorious ring victory at the Blue Horizon Friday night may in fact bring him nothing but nightmares. Much of what Teon ultimately takes away from this night depends on the progress of his talented and gallant opponent, Francisco Rodriguez, who currently lies in the intensive care unit at Hahnemann Hospital.
The classic contest waged by both fighters left the crowd breathless. This two-way war was one of those fights that comes along every once in a while to remind all boxing fans why they stick with this messy sport that so often disappoints even the most ardent fan. But Teon Kennedy and Francisco Rodriguez went to work last night and did everything they possibly could to not only win their fight, but to satisfy the one-thousand or so fans that came out to watch them. It was their night to make a statement, and to grab their moment in the history of the sport. And they did what they set out to do. As a fight, a sporting event, and a drama, it was truly a memorable affair.
But it was the series of events that occurred after the fight had been stopped in round ten, that everyone came away talking - and thinking - about. As Teon Kennedy rejoiced in the center of the ring, Rodriguez was led back to his corner where he sat down and eventually grew unresponsive. Suddenly the body language of the fighter's corner men changed from one of concern to a palatable and frantic fear. They desperately tried to revive their man, before the commission doctor called in the paramedics. Rodriguez was laid on a stretcher and given oxygen. Moments later, the medical team swiftly took him from the ring, down the aisle, out to a waiting ambulance, and off to the hospital. Everyone worked quickly, but time stood still while it all happened. Rodriguez apparently had surgery sometime late Friday night, and currently lies in critical condition in the intensive care unit. So now we anxiously wait to hear an update, fearful of receiving the worst news possible, and second guessing all that happened in the fight.
Just after the stoppage by referee Benjy Esteves, lively debates sprung up all around the arena. Many fans felt the fight had been stopped too quickly. It was that type of bout. Rodriguez had an answer for just about everything Kennedy had to offer. So, many thought that the headway Teon was finally making in rounds nine and ten would eventually be returned by Rodriguez. But the truth is Rodriguez was wearing down in the final round. He twice fell to the floor in the tenth, without being sent there with a specific punch. But it was a combination of the punishment he was taking and the fatigue of the long tough fight that felled him. The falls were not slips or loss of balance. He was winding down in the fight and Kennedy was surging. What none of us knew was how badly Rodriguez was hurt and just how hard he was struggling to survive.
The fight ended when Kennedy hit
Rodriguez with a right hand that backed him to the ropes. As
Kennedy followed him, the referee jumped in to pull Teon
away before he could land another punch. Rodriguez was not
trapped on the ropes. He did not receive a volley of
unanswered shots. But it didn't matter on this night.
Nothing out of the ordinary happened in this fight.
Francisco Rodriguez gave his all in his fight with Teon
Kennedy. And Kennedy returned the favor. It was an
incredible contest to the end. But one of these kids wound
up in the hospital fighting for his life.
Over-shadowed by this story are the actual results from a very entertaining fight card.
Teon Kennedy TKO10 Franciso Rodriguez
Rodriguez came out for round two with a vengence. He began an effective body attack that wore Kennedy down through the middle rounds. Both fighters also landed many hard shots to the head. The fight quickly turned into a very real fight of the year candidate.
The wonderful war rolled along with the fighters exchanging punches and scorecard leads. Rodriguez' punches began to close Kennedy's right eye. It started as a mouse under and to the side of the eye, but as the fight entered the second half, swelling had begun over the eye as well. Teon looked tired and seemed to be fading.
After seven rounds or so, the fight felt dead even. But beginning in the eighth, Kennedy seemed to get a second wind. His physical strength and punching power started paying off. Kennedy appeared to be winning the exchanges, as Rodriguez looked to be winding down. But Francisco was still in the fight. He repeatedly rallied back to smash Kennedy with his own bombs, while doing his best to defend against the surging North Philadelphian.
Round nine was a classic, with both boxers trading shots. By the end of the session, Kennedy hurt Rodriguez in one corner and seemed to be on the brink of victory.
In the tenth, Rodriguez looked beaten. Kennedy kept up the pressure. His right right eye was almost completely closed. Twice Rodriguez slipped to the canvas from fatigue or from the effects of the long grueling night. Kennedy was warned once for pushing him down, but Rodriguez was weakening and going down as his body was faltering. Finally Teon landed a vicious left-right combination and Rodriguez reeled into the ropes. Referee Esteves jumped in, grabbed Kennedy and waved the fight over at 1:52. Kennedy was awarded the USBA title, the first major step of his young and promising professional career. Rodriguez eventually died from his injuries. It was a great fight, but it has been covered by a black cloud.
Rodriguez, who beat Kennedy in the amateurs, posted a truly memorable performance on this night. He took Philly's most talented prospect to the brink of defeat and won the crowd with his toughness, his skill and his fighting spirit. He was more than ready to fight on when the bout was stopped. But he paid the ultimate price in the ring. His death is a reminder of just how dangerous the sport can be. Boxers are a courageous breed who are willing to put themselves at risk for the sport they love. Every boxer on this, and every other, fight card displayed this principle, but it is Francisco Rodriguez that will be especially remembered for it. He leaves behind a young wife and a five month old daughter. His father and one brother worked his corner. The tragedy of this fight is obvious. Nothing can be done about it now. All we can do is remember the fight and honor Francisco's memory. Kennedy will surely do that by going on and further proving himself as a world class boxer. The rest of us will just continued to talk about this great fight and the brave fighter from Chicago who made the bout bigger and more important than the typical and clichéd "great fight".
Jason Barrett KO3 John Poore
Ardrick Butler TKO1 Epi Cosme
Dennis Hasson TKO5 Eric Pinarreta
Jamaal Davis W6 (u) Joshua Onyango
Miguel Corsino TKO2 Keane Davis
Jason Sosa TKO3 Jonathon Ocassio
There was one more bout scheduled on the card. It was to be a 4-round walkout bout between Angel Ocasio of North Philadelphia and Marcus Smith of Burlington, NJ. But after the Kennedy-Rodriguez fight, Greg Sirb, Executive Director of the PA Commission, made an executive decision to scratch the final bout. It was to have been the second pro fight for both boxers.
A smaller than expected crowd was on hand with fewer than 1,000 in attendance. The card was promoted by Peltz Boxing & Joe Hand Promotions, and was their final local show of the year.
The Blue Horizon hosts one more show in 2009, on December 4th. Two additional shows remain on the year's schedule: December 2nd at the Liacouras Center and December 11 at the South Philly Arena.