|PHILLY BOXING HISTORY August 12, 2011||
Victor Vasquez, the fighting barber from North Philly, has yet to be in a bad fight, and his 8-round war with New Yorker Angel Rios Friday night at Harrah's Chester fit right into his thrill-a-minute body of work. As usual, Vasquez kept his hands high, stepped in close, and let his furious punches fly to the head and body. Luckily his opponent was also in a fighting mood and matched Vasquez for effort, if not for scorecard points. Vasquez won the all-action war by a close majority decision to push his pro record to 14-5-1 (7 KO). The victory also earned Vasquez the BAM lightweight title, a fight club bauble that acknowledges the gritty and usually uncelebrated heroics of the local boxing circuit. Vasquez left the ring with a belt, a trophy, a few lumps, some bruises, and a paycheck that probably did not reflect the terrific effort he made in the ring.
Vasquez jumped out to a quick start, breezing through the first two rounds and securing them on the scorecards. But Angel Rios got into the fight in round three. The Bronx boxer called the "White Tiger" nailed Vasquez a couple of times in one corner. Victor momentarily stopped in his tracks, but his warrior instinct launched him right back into the fray.
It takes two to make an exciting brawl, and thankfully Rios came to fight. The punches he landed in round three were an invitation to Vasquez. And as in most of his previous fights, Vasquez never turns down an invitation. The fight heated up in that round and the action kept going until the final bell.
Vasquez went on to win the first five rounds with his probing jab, wide-winging punches and effective body attack. Rios hurt him in the fifth, but Victor continued to outwork the New Yorker. However a couple of the first five were pretty close.
Beginning in round six, Rios found his groove and began to win rounds. Vasquez helped him a bit by taking the sixth off, and the change of momentum gave Rios extra pep in the final two sessions. But as Vasquez slightly slacked, trainer Billy Briscoe pushed him in the corner, demanding the lightweight brawler get back to work. Briscoe, in just his second fight as Victor's head trainer, has done a good job with the fighter.
In rounds seven and eight, Rios and Vasquez waged war. They were two of the best rounds I've seen all year.
In the seventh, Rios trapped Vasquez in the corner and blasted him with hard shots. But to no surprise, Vasquez fought back to the frenzied delight of the crowd. They chanted "Vic, Vic, Vic", and Vasquez answered them by digging down and hurling his bombs. But Rios seemed fresher and more in control of the late action. He won both of the last rounds on my card, but the action was back and forth and wild.
When the final bell sounded, it was like when the alarm clock goes off in the middle of a sound sleep and a great dream. What I would have given for a snooze button.
The eight round bout offered three rounds that could be described as great. And the other five weren't too shabby either.
The official scores were close and indicated how tight some of the rounds really were. Judge Joe Pasquale saw it 76-76, or four rounds each. But judges Richard Hopkins, Jr. and Dewey LaRosa both scored the bout 77-75 for Vasquez. My tally was the same, 77-75 or five rounds to three.
"When I just fought him, I was okay. But when I thought too much, that's when he nailed me", Vasquez said in the dressing room after the fight. It's a philosophy that makes Vasquez the most fan-friendly boxer in Philly. He was born to fight, and I mean really fight.
It was a terrific battle that merits a rematch. After the bout, Rios (9-6 / 6 KO) and his camp were challenging Vasquez to a rematch in New York. It seems unlikely that promoter Joey Eye would let a second bout come off so far away. Hopefully he's thinking about staging a re-do himself.
The belt Vasquez took home was for the B.A.M. title. Officially BAM stands for "Boxing Association of Machismo", which is a scrubbed and less evocative version of it's true meaning, "Bad Ass Mother-f'er". Vasquez should wear the belt well.
The semi-final bout was a showcase for the talents of undefeated North Philly lightweight Angel Ocasio. The promising prospect looked better than ever before with his shutout win over Rasool Shakoor. Ocasio zipped through all six rounds, winning them rather easily. He looked fast, slick, in condition, powerful and impressive. The speedy and mobile Ocasio didn't quite commit to his punches enough to produce a knockout. Had he stepped in and threw his shots fully, he would have blasted Shakoor out of the ring. But Ocasio was in complete control and fought with authority.
Ocasio always looks pretty good, but he was clearly in better shape and more motivated for this one. Perhaps the fact that at 3-8-1, Shakoor posed more of a challenge than the usual foes lined up for Ocasio. This match appeared to bring out the talent he showed earlier in his career. Two of the judges (Hopkins & Pasquale) scored the fight 59-55, while LaRosa tallied 60-54. I was so convinced, I not only gave Ocasio all six rounds, but gave him the fifth by a 10-8 margin. My final score was 60-53. Ocasio improved to 6-0 with 1 KO. More activity and better opposition is exactly what Angel needs. Hopefully he'll get both when he bounces right back on September 30 at the National Guard Armory against Eliud Torres.
Light-heavyweight Tony Ferrante saw his scheduled six-rounder cut to four rounds at this week's weigh in. But at fight time, Ferrante adjusted and started quickly against William Prieto. Ferrante floored his opponent twice in the first round, dishing out enough punishment to convince Prieto to quit on his stool after just three minutes.
Clearly Ferrante was frustrated at the premature surrender. The crowd, brimming with Ferrante faithful, wanted more as well. They booed heartily. But the TKO win raised Ferrante's record to 12-2 with 7 KOs. Prieto, of Lorain, Ohio, fell to 5-6-1 with 2 KOs.
The rest of the card fell apart during fight week. Joey Tiberi never landed an opponent. A suggested rematch with Jonathon Occasio was nixed by the PA commission, despite the competitiveness of their match in June.
Heavyweight Joey Dawejko saw his opponent fall out at the last minute because of a serious health condition. Dawejko, idle since January, and trimmed down to 225 pounds, was frustrated to see his opportunity to fight vaporize.
The gaps left by these fallouts were filled with three exhibition bouts. Melissa Hernandez went three rounds with stable-mate Ronica Jeffery. 57-year old former champion Buster Drayton sparred three rounds with Wildwood's Chuck Mussachio. Joey Dawejko and Teneal Goyco put on a rousing and heated exhibition in their three-rounder. It felt almost like a real fight. Perhaps someone forgot to tell both fighters it didn't count.
A nice-sized crowd supported the troubled show, but the numbers were far lower than the previous three shows at the venue. Joey Eye and David Feldman return to Harrah's Chester on September 24th with an outdoor Boxing / MMA combination show.