PHILLY BOXING HISTORY                                                                              July 29, 2011


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Juan Rodriguez, Jr. and Greg Hackett stepped into the spotlight when two separate main event bouts fell out earlier during fight week. But the six-round preliminary-turned-headliner did not disappoint. Some felt the match was undeserving to be a main event, but if that was true, someone forgot to tell the fighters. Rodriguez and Hackett brawled through all 18 minutes of the bout. When the smoke cleared, Rodriguez had the edge on all three official scorecards, but Hackett fought better than he ever had before, pressing the action and making things exciting. However, Rodriguez had the answers he needed against his spirited foe. Some disputed the decision, feeling the bout should have been a draw. But all seemed to agree that the battle was a sure Philly Fight of the Year candidate.

Leading up to the fight night, the card itself was a troubled affair. Derek Ennis, Gerald Nobles, and Coy Evans each pulled out of the date. Evans' departure was so late (about 24 hours prior), that it appeared to be the final nail in the show's coffin. But promoter Andre Kut muddled ahead and went on with the card. For the small collection of boxing fans that attended the show, it's a good thing he did. The night turned out to be an entertaining club show, with only one clunker in the six remaining bouts. The other five were all good action scraps, especially the main event.

The fireworks between Rodriguez and Hackett started at Tuesday's final press conference. Both fighters attended and Hackett got under Rodriguez' skin. It was bad enough when Hackett spoke. He questioned Rodriguez' ability while touting his own. But the pot really boiled over when Rodriguez tried to address the press, only to be repeatedly interrupted by Hackett. The tactic seemed to work as Rodriguez quietly simmered. Everyone assembled knew it would be a good fight.

Hackett entered the ring first wearing a mask that read "Art of War". When the bell rang he did his best to wage war on Juan Rodriguez. But Juan's greater skills kept him one step ahead of his surging foe.

Hackett came in with a shabby record of 2-8, but his career is filled with last minute fights and tough matches that make his win-loss tally a bit deceiving. Further, over the past year or so, Hackett has whittled himself down from a light-heavyweight to a welterweight. He weighed 149.5 for Rodriguez, 147.

Although Hackett looked better than I have ever seen him before, he never quite took control of the fight. His best moments were just that, thrilling moments that, at times, appeared to almost turn the fight around. Hackett landed hard shots quite a few times. However, every time Greg fought his way to the brink of something, the southpaw Rodriguez was able to rely on  better skills and some effective cool under pressure. But Hackett made Rodriguez fight hard for all six rounds, which made the fight a very good one loaded with fast-paced back and forth action.

After six rowdy rounds, everyone (except maybe the fighters) would have liked a little more. I scored the fight for Rodriguez, 58-56 (4-2 in rounds). The three official judges all saw it for Rodriguez, but differed in margin. Richard Hopkins Jr. also had it 58-56. Lynn Carter scored 59-55. Alan Rubenstein though Rodriguez won every round, and scored it 60-54.

Some ringside reporters felt  the fight should have been called a draw. The  truth is the fight felt close, round to round, but Rodriguez had things under control. Talks of a draw were as off as Rubenstein's one-sided score. The bottom line is the fight was excellent and a rematch would be great to see.

Given the deteriorated state of the City's boxing scene (this was just the 5th Philadelphia fight card of 2011), the fight that may have squeaked onto the Fight of the Year nomination list in more typical action-filled years, became the first real candidate for 2011 honors.

Union City, NJ's Rodriguez improved to 7-3 with 3 KOs.

In the six-round semi-windup, Southwest Philly's Ardrick Butler posted one of his best career wins with a full route unanimous decision over William Wilson of Oxford, NC.

In round two, Butler lived up to his "Hitman" nickname, flooring Wilson and looking like a killer. But Wilson rebounded nicely in round three. The pair exchanged shots throughout the round and made it a great three minutes for fans. Butler won the round, but Wilson appeared to be back in it. However, by round four, Butler was back in control. He hurt Wilson with his sweeping punches.

In the sixth and final round, Wilson went for broke, knowing that he had yet to win  a round. Butler looked tired and seemed to merely go through the motions until the final bell. Wilson's effort won him the round, but the overall decision was long lost. All three judges gave it to Butler by scores of 59-54 and 58-55 twice. I had it 59-54 for Butler, who improved to 7-4 with 3 KOs. With the loss, Wilson evened out at  8-8 with 4 KOs.

The evening started with a four round junior featherweight contest between Josh Bowles, Harrisburg and Cyprian Khumalo of Maryland. Khumalo did not win a round, but managed to cut Bowles over the right eye during the first three minutes. Although the would bled the rest of the way, Bowles took it in stride and pitched the shutout. The best round was the third, which played out mostly in the confines of the red corner. Both fighters landed and exchanged grueling combinations, but Bowles got the best of it. All three judges scored it 40-36 for Bowles, who won for the second time as a pro (2-0 / 0 KOs).  Khumalo remained winless, 0-2.

The heavyweights took over for the next three bouts, a trio of four rounders.

The first one featured Shuler Gym's Georgiy Guralnik against Damian Richardson of Washington, DC. The pace of this fight was exceptional for a heavyweight fight. The boxers clashed shortly after the first bell sounded, and threw wild punches. Richardson showed some good movement, but Guralnik walked him down and stalked him to the ropes and into the corners. The Philly fighter known as the "Chemist" launched looping shots over Richardson's guard and dug deep shots to the body. But Richardson fought back, usually with his back to the ropes or nestled in the corner. His attacks were mostly one-shot bombs.  Some landed, but most did not. Toward the end of the first round, Guralnik pinned Richardson on the ropes once more and pounded away. A body attack drilled Richardson into his own corner. With a second left, he launched one more arching bomb, but it misfired. The bell rang to end the first, and Richardson chose not to come out for the second. It was Guralnik's first KO in his 2-0 career. Richardson's surrender left him 0-3.

The second heavyweight fight featured undefeated John Lennox of Carteret, NJ and last minute sub Jason Pauley of Cabin Creek, WV. Pauley started the fight with a blackened right eye, but did well enough to take the first round and threaten the upset with some well-placed right hands. However in round two, Pauley began to wear down. Lennox started to land early in the round, and halfway through it got easier. Lennox hurt Pauley, dropped him hard and finished the West Virginian when he rose. Referee Hurley McCall  halted the fight at 2:10 of round two when it was clear Pauley had had enough. Lennox extended his undefeated streak to 6-0 with 3 KOs. Pauley hit the .500 mark, 5-5 with 1 KO.

The final heavyweight bout was touted to be the most  interesting of the trio, but it turned out to be the dud of the night. Miami-based Nicaraguan  Jose Luis Roque brought his perfect 3-0, 3 KO record to Philadelphia to face durable Canadian measuring stick Taffo Asongwed, 2-7-7. The fact that Asongwed had never been stopped suggested we might find out just how hard Roque could punch. Unfortunately we never learned the level of Roque's power. Rather we found out why Asongwed has never lost by knockout.

Roque tried to press the action and use his 263 pounds and thirty pound weight advantage to produce some fireworks, but Asongwed had no desire to test Roque's power. The Canadian moved and ran and held. He did everything but fight. It became clear that he didn't care about producing an entertaining fight as much as he did surviving.

Roque became increasing frustrated with his opponent, but he never stepped up the action enough to produce a knockout or even  create an opportunity for one. Blame certainly goes to Asongwed, but Roque also was responsible for the stink out. With his three-fight KO streak on the line, Roque needed to take control and make something happen. Only in the final round, did Roque seem to be looking to end it. But ultimately he succumbed to frustration and shook his head and shrugged his shoulders until the final bell. I prefer punches.

As the fight ended, Asongwed approached Roque for the traditional post-fight embrace, but Roque would have none of it. With four full (and boring) rounds completed, the fight finally broke out - after the fight. Roque lashed out at Asongwed with true bad intentions, but referee Gary Rosato capped the hostility and separated the boxers before anything happened.

All three judges scored it 40-36 for Roque.

The troubled fight card only drew about 350 fans.  That's too bad considering how entertaining the matches were.

Lynn Carter, Alan Rubenstein and Richard Hopkins, Jr. judged all six fights. Referees Gary Rosato and Hurley McCall alternated bouts. The ring announcer was Henry Hascup. Renee Aiken was the matchmaker. Andre Kut / KEA Boxing  promoted the show.




John DiSanto - South Philly - July 29, 2011