|PHILLY BOXING HISTORY May 22, 2010||
TEON TAKES HIS LUMPS
Except for one hairy moment in round four, when his opponent stunned him with a ramrod right hand, Teon Kennedy was cruising through the first half of his first USBA title defense. He looked strong. He looked like Teon, the most promising of all the Philly prospects out there right now. But something happened in the second half of the fight. This seemingly easy bout turned ugly and difficult for the young star. Somewhere along the way, Kennedy let Jose Angel Beranza into the fight, and the experienced Californian got brave. This posed a bit of a problem for Kennedy.
But Teon won his fight at Bally's Atlantic City on Saturday night (5/22). He took a unanimous decision over twelve rounds by a surprisingly comfortable margin on the official scorecards. Two of the three judges had Teon ahead 117-111 - that's nine rounds to three. The remaining official had it a much more realistic 115-113 or seven rounds to five. The victory kept Kennedy rolling forward, retained his regional crown, and kept him on track for the future most feel he will ultimately achieve - a world title. But this fight wasn't easy for Kennedy. And it wasn't pretty. By the end of the fight Teon's face was heavily marked. Both of his eyes were nearly swollen shut. It's funny what a few rounds can do.
In the opening six rounds, Kennedy was brilliant. He moved. He punched. And he seemed to be setting his foe up for a spectacular stoppage. Except for that moment when Beranza wobbled the Philadelphian with a hard shot to the head in round four, it was all Teon. At ringside we were talking about how beautiful his style was - how he was doing everything right. But everything changed in round seven.
As the second half of the twelve rounder began, Kennedy started running into Beranza's punches. Oddly, instead of moving, Teon traded punches. Finally Beranza (32-17-2 / 25 KOs) had the fight he wanted, and he made the most of it. The tough journeyman pressed Kennedy and fired away at his head and body. It was at this point that Teon's right eye began to swell. By the next round, Kennedy looked tired. Before the session was over, his eye looked almost completely closed.
One thing you can't help but notice when watching Kennedy fight is that the guy is comfortable in the ring. Even on a night like this when things stop going well for him, he just hangs in there. He never seems to get rattled. It's a quality that will serve him well in the future. So Kennedy kept calm and kept fighting. He was particularly effective to the body. But his method was flawed. He didn't use his best skills to regain control of the fight. Instead he decided to brawl with a tough and battle-tested brawler. The problem was he wasn't strong enough to keep Beranza off of him. As the two waged thrilling war, Kennedy began to run out of gas. The ninth was closer, but Beranza continued his rally. After the tenth, he'd swept four straight rounds making the fight uncomfortably close for Kennedy. In that round, Teon landed one big right hand that looked like it might turn the fight back around for him. But it didn't. Kennedy was still losing steam and ringsiders started wondering if he would make it to the end.
Somehow, Teon pulled out round eleven. It was close, but he managed to come out on top. It gave him seven rounds in the bank, and insured a victory - as long as he could stay on his feet in the last round. It was a big accomplishment considering how the second half of the fight was going.
The last round was a struggle. Kennedy started well enough but it wasn't long before that brave and confident old pro Beranza took the fight right back to the trenches. Kennedy made it easy for him by once again abandoning his jab and opting not to move. To be fair, he may have been trying, but his tank was on "E". Kennedy made it to the end, but the crowd was shouting for him to "Stay Up" right before the final bell.
The rest of the night went very well for Kennedy and his fans. Two of the three judges gave him the fight by that wide margin. He walked out proudly wearing his USBA belt. And the near-hometown crowd cheered him. It was a hard-earned victory which he deserved. But it raised some questions.
Leading up to this fight, which was Teon's first start in six months and his return from the infamous Blue Horizon bout that claimed the life of Francisco Rodriguez - everyone was focused on how tragedy might affect this rising star. Most wondered if he would lose his killer instinct. That question may still need to be answered for certain in the future. But in Atlantic City, Kennedy (15-0-1 / 6 KOs) did not look timid. He swung for the fences, trying to end the fight with one mighty blow. That may be a simplistic dismissal of the concern. But I'll put that worry off for now, because what unfolded on Saturday night was more puzzling, and perhaps even more concerning.
Hopefully all I saw was Kennedy going with a bad fight plan. That's the best case scenario. In the second half, he fought Beranza's fight and almost gave him the title. It happens sometimes, and I hope it was the case this time. But it might not be.
As Kennedy's young career blossomed, comparisons to the great Jeff Chandler came from every direction. I made the comparison myself on many occasions. But watching Teon on Saturday made me think of another all-time Philly great - Meldrick Taylor. Taylor was a guy who had the skills to go a whole career without taking a punch. But Meldrick insisted on trading. It made him a fan-favorite and made his fights fun to watch. But it made his bouts much harder than they had to be. In doing so, he cut the prime of his career down considerably.
For a young heir apparent to Philly greatness, Teon Kennedy has already waged more wars than a young fighter should. A tough battle is a good thing for a developing boxer, but too many wars can take their toll.
Teon has now fought three life-and-death battles in the past year - this decision over Beranza, the 10th round KO of Rodriguez, and an 8-round decision over Andre Wilson. That's three in his last five fights. Add the two round slugfest over Thomas Snow in 2008, and he's got a total of four all-out wars.
Is Teon Kennedy in danger of becoming a shot fighter so early in his career? There were warning signs on Saturday night.
As sweet as he looked in the first half of the fight, he came into the ring a notch slower than I'd ever seen him before. He also only had enough energy for a six or eight rounder. Maybe it was from the six month layoff. But shouldn't the time off have left him well-rested?
Kennedy is a fighter with all the tools necessary to achieve great things in the ring. But all he could bring himself to do against Beranza was slug it out. Was he fighting dumb or fighting for his life?
Additional questions were raised about how Kennedy's swelling eyes were handled between rounds. On this night, he didn't need any more obstacles. By the end of the bout, both eyes were more or less completely closed.
One thing that is certain however, Kennedy retains his will to fight and to win. He gave everything he had in the fight and was completely spent by the end. As he stepped down from the ring, he fell into the arms of his family. I knew already, but this made it clear exactly how difficult the fight was for him. And true to form, just like in each of his other wars, Teon Kennedy fought with enormous heart - and won. He deserves a lot of credit for that.
With this heart and his overall skill set, I have to think that he still has what it takes to make it all the way to the top. But instead of worrying about his killer instinct, it's time to start watching for more serious problems.
Teon Kennedy is a Philly fighter to the core. He proved it once again. But let's hope he's not too Philly for his own good.
There were six other bouts on the card:
Jr. lightweight Anthony Flores returned after facial surgery and a long layoff to draw with Carlos Vinan over six rounds. The official cards were split. I had it 57-57.
Welterweight Josh Mercado TKO'd Joel Nieves at 1:02 of the second. Scheduled for four.
Jr. welterweight Ronald Cruz stopped Juan Ramon Cruz at the end of the fourth round.
Jr. lightweight Ryan Carson won a four round majority decision over Marcos Garcia.
Rafael Jastrzebski won a four round split decision over favored Troy Maxwell in their super middleweight bout.
The card was promoted by Peltz Boxing and crowd was a near sellout. Recently enshrined PA Hall of Famer Ed Derian was the ring announcer.
Peltz returns to Atlantic City on July 9th at Boardwalk Hall with a show headlined by welterweight contender Mike Jones. Over the weekend, the latest world rankings had Jones up to #3 in the WBA & WBO and #7 in the IBF & WBC.