|PHILLY BOXING HISTORY April 23, 2011||
WILSON CLAIMS USBA CROWN IN SHEIKA REMATCH
In a performance far more dominant than anyone could have imagined, cruiserweight Garrett Wilson avenged a prior TKO loss to Omar Sheika by lopsided 12-round unanimous decision to capture the vacant USBA title Saturday night (04/23/11) at Caesars Atlantic City. The official judges all saw the bout for Wilson, turning in wide scores of 118-109, 118-109 and 119-108. But despite tallies that indicated the fight was a breeze, the wild and wooly rematch was an action packed, dramatic war that had the near-capacity crowd on the edge of their seats - when they weren't standing and cheering. Although Wilson clearly won the fight, it was a hard night at the office for the new USBA champ. This was no breeze. It was a major struggle for the relatively inexperienced 28 year old. He was forced to prove his toughness and will to win over and over against the crafty and determined Sheika. Wilson learned on the job and came away with the best win of his career.
The Philadelphian started the fight strong. In the first two rounds, he marked up Sheika's face and dominated the action with an accurate jab and some good work to the body. The third round was closer with Sheika getting into the groove. The action was heated, but Wilson managed to maintain his edge in the round. However when the three minutes were up, it was clear that the fight was about to ignite.
All those watching thought this fight was taking the same path as their first meeting. That fact made the Wilson cheering section a little nervous since he was doing well against Sheika last year before running into a big bomb that ended the fight.
Sheika took rounds four and five by pressing forward and landing the bigger punches. Sheika's battered face began to bleed in the fifth, but he fought through it and appeared to be eyeing a repeat victory. After five rounds my score was 3-2 for Wilson, with the fight still very much on the line.
It was at this point in the fight that Garrett Wilson took over. He went out for round six and fought for his life and career. He did well, landing many big shots. When he pumped his jab, it landed and made things much easier for him. But he kept abandoning the tactic in favor of aggressive head-hunting. For the most part it worked, but it also put him in range for Sheika's hard punches - which landed enough to make this Wilson fan uncomfortable.
Along the way, Wilson also ignored the body of the fading Sheika. A downstairs attack may have been exactly what he needed to push Sheika to the brink, but he never went there. Still Wilson started to put together rounds and build his lead - three minutes at a time. Given what happened in the first fight, it became clear that if Wilson could avoid Sheika's power, he was on his way to a big win. But the way these guys were trading, that seemed like a big "if".
Sheika pressed the action. He repeatedly landed hard shots and appeared to be making his move. But every time this happened, Wilson simply sucked it up and threw back. He matched every blow Sheika landed and added a few of his own. The action was furious, and Wilson was extremely determined.
As this pattern wore on, Wilson consistently edged Sheika in work rate and punches landed. As proof, the damage to Sheika's face worsened. The bruises and lumps were like a tab that Wilson was running on Omar's face. Sheika was clearly losing steam but kept coming forward. He actually pressed a good deal of the action - clearly confident that he could land a lighting bolt like the last time. Wilson looked tired at times and was stopped in his tracks occasionally, but he refused to feel it. He just kept throwing punches and answering the call.
The individual rounds see-sawed, but by the end of each round, Wilson wound up on top. The night became less of a 12-round fight and more like twelve individual battles. Wilson had the power and the stamina. His youth was helping too. But could he avoid getting blasted out by a Sheika bomb? This became the drama of the fight. With the experience disparity between the two, it was never certain that Sheika wouldn't lay the trap that would lead to Wilson's demise. Further, as the rounds ticked off, Wilson went deeper and deeper into the "no man's land" of the late rounds. He had only been eight rounds once in his life - and a good many of his bouts ended way earlier than that. For Sheika, the long haul was old hat and figured to help keep him in the fight to the very end.
Wilson won rounds six through ten to cement a potential points win. All he had to do was stay on his feet. Every time the bell rang to end a round, it was another victory for Garrett. That's exactly how it felt. Another round down meant another step closer to the prize.
Sheika ended round ten with a wallop that rattled Wilson. It wasn't enough to win him the round, but it sent the message that the final two rounds would be nerve-wracking.
Sheika came out for round eleven knowing he needed a knockout. He swarmed Wilson who was content to do battle. The truth is Wilson just kept fighting the same way that had worked for him all night. But in round eleven - with just six minutes to go - it felt a little careless. But Wilson showed his stuff and stayed in there with the renewed Sheika, who won his first round since the fifth. By all indications round twelve would be a war.
The final session was much like the majority of the fight. Sheika appeared to be sapped again while Wilson plugged along and did a little more. But all that really mattered at that point was that Wilson kept his butt off the canvas. He managed to do that - with ease - and landed plenty to win another round.
After twelve rounds, I scored it 117-110, that's nine rounds to three, minus a penalty point taken from Sheika for low blows (in round seven). The official judges had it even wider. Judges Larry Layton and Robin Taylor saw it 118-109. Judge John McKaie had it 119-108.
During the fight, there was some talk around ringside that Wilson wasn't fighting smartly enough. The theory was that if he used his jab more and worked the body better, he could have produced a knockout. Of course a perfect performance by Wilson may have given him an even more impressive victory. But I really feel that he did an amazing job in this fight.
Consider for a moment the difference in experience between Wilson and Sheika. Garrett left this fight 10-5-1 with 4 knockouts. Sheika has 25 more fights than Wilson and has faced a lot of world class competition. He's fought for a world title four times and battled for numerous regional titles. PLUS Sheika stopped Wilson in their last meeting. Add up all these factors and it is clear that Garrett Wilson was not supposed to win the rematch with Sheika. Yet, so many of us had a very strong feeling that he would come away with the win anyway. And he did.
That is the magic of Garrett Wilson. He has always been a likeable guy and an admirable fighter. He has taken any opportunity thrown at him. Those risks have dished him a few lumps but he has kept moving forward and been dedicated to getting better. He was clearly in great condition for the fight and never blinked at the challenge of going twelve rounds for the first time. Congratulations are also due to his trainer Rodney Rice. Wilson and Rice have crammed a lot of learning into his sixteen fights - none more than on Saturday night. They did an incredible job against Sheika and Wilson really proved himself.
The scene after the fight was terrific. Wilson was clearly a happy man, proud of his accomplishment as well as that brand new shinny USBA belt strapped around his waist. He held court inside the ring and out. His family, friends and fans crowded him while the rest filed out of the Palladium Ballroom. Garrett made his way all around the ring for a series of victory celebrations.
Wilson is a good guy who managed to punch his way toward a real future in boxing. With his new title, he'll get an IBF world ranking. And with that misleading record of 10-5-1 he'll get an opportunity or two from boxers / promoters who have no idea how badly this guy wants to win. I think he has a few more surprises left to pull on unsuspecting foes.
He'll need to keep learning and keep working, but there is no question that he's more than willing to do that. Wilson will be fun to watch as he enters his prime - long before any of us thought he was anywhere near it.
Six additional bouts filled out the remainder of the Peltz Boxing card.
Bethlehem's Ronald Cruz, 12-0 / 9 KOs, shut down the often-beaten-but-never-stopped Manuel Guzman of Lancaster. Guzman started fast, in an attempt to test the rising star. But after winning the two opening rounds, Guzman felt Cruz' power toward the end of round three, and thought better of continuing. He retired in his corner after the third round, claiming an arm injury. The loss was his first by stoppage and made his record 7-11-2 with 3 KOs. The welterweight bout was scheduled for eight rounds.
Philly heavyweight Bryant Jennings displayed some power and bad intensions in his scheduled six rounder with David Williams, also of Philadelphia. Jennings, usually more of a large tactician in the ring, had KO on his mind from the opening bell. He dished out serious punishment for two rounds, including a pair of knockdowns in the first and one in the second. Williams' team stopped the fight as soon as he returned to the safely of the blue corner, immediately after round two. The win pushed Jennings to 7-0 with 4 KOs while Williams fell to 6-4-1 with 2 KOs.
Southpaw Derrick Webster, Glassboro, NJ, faced the formerly fearsome punching Jose "Macho" Medina of Philadelphia. But lately Medina is more interested in paydays than in winning. So the undefeated Webster easily raised his record to 7-0 (5 KO) with a first round battering of Medina. Webster dropped him three times in round one. The last time it was for the full 10-count, despite the towel that Medina's corner threw into the ring. The total elapsed time of the scheduled four round light-heavyweight bout was just 2:29. After a quick check by the ringside physician, Medina was up and smiling and set to go back to work as a trainer. Chances are we'll see him again, but at 15-21 and with 13 losses in his last 15 fights (including 10 knockouts) he may find his license to punch pulled for good.
Junior welterweight Korey Sloane, Philadelphia, made a successful pro debut with a 4-round unanimous decision over Edgardo Torres, 1-1 (1 KO). Sloane scored a knockdown in round two and went on to win by scores of 38-37, 38-37 and 39-36. I had it 39-37.
Maryland's Dontre King scored a TKO over Philly's Keane Davis at 1:29 of round three to raise his record to 4-9-1 (2 KO). Davis slipped to 1-2. The welterweight bout was scheduled for four rounds.
Professional newbies Antowyan Aikens of Atlantic City and Trenton's Willie Mack faced each other in a four round middleweight bout that started the evening. Aikens came away with his first win - a KO in round four at 2:52. Aikens dropped Mack in the third and then for good in the fourth.
It was a fast-paced show that ended at an unusually early hour, thanks to the four knockouts and Peltz' tried and true practice of starting on time and keeping the bouts rolling one after another. So many shows by other promoters are plagued with momentum-killing intermissions and delays. That's never the case with Peltz. He could have been put into the Hall of Fame for that quality alone - though Canastota probably didn't even consider it a factor. The 1,416 in attendance happily left the fights with plenty of gambling time still left in the evening. The show was a near sellout with just 34 tickets left unsold.
Peltz returns to Atlantic City on July 15th, but before that he'll stage a show in South Philly on June 25.