|PHILLY BOXING HISTORY December 31, 2011||
A YEAR WITHOUT BENNIE
Although 2011 included numerous high points, the year may be best remembered for heavy losses that occurred over the past 12 months both in and out of the ring. But such is the way of boxing. Every high seems chipped by an inevitable low. Even during a fight, an incoming punch to the face can be a real buzz kill for a streaking fighter and make his big night one to forget. Boxing is entangled with downs and 2011 was no different. In fact it was the norm. Take a look at the milestones of 2011 in a complete review of the Year in Philly Boxing. All in all it was still quite a year.
1940s welterweight Mayon Padlo died on January 13 at age 92. He went 75-21-4 with 36 KOs in a memorable career that spanned 1937 to 1952. He faced a long list of fine foes like Ike Williams, Bob Montgomery, Midget Wolgast and others.
Camden light-heavyweight Ed "Bojack" Williams died on June 29. He was 68. Williams fought almost exclusively in Philadelphia in the late 1960s and early 1970s, and appeared on the undercard for some of the biggest Philly fights during than span.
One day later, renowned trainer Bouie Fisher died at age 83 after a long illness. He was a fixture on the Philly scene working with Ivan Robinson, Jesse Ferguson, Hasim Rahman, and most famously Bernard Hopkins. Fisher, who retired after his split with Hopkins, was one of the last of the old-school Philly trainers. Fisher died on June 30.
On July 4th, Jimmy Lowry passed away. He may have been generally lesser known to many local boxing fans, however Lowry made an impact on a generation or two of Northeast Philly boxers. Lowry was a trainer and mentor who was an important figure at the Harrowgate Boxing club and the VBA - Ring One.
Former pro welterweight and active boxing judge Robert Grasso died on August 6th, after a short bout with cancer. Bobby was a class act and a ringside staple in Philly in Atlantic City. He looked sharp and dapper right to the end.
On September 9th, Philly icon George Benton died. His passing was as big as Briscoe's and as equally hard to believe. Benton was (and remains) one of the most important figures in Philadelphia boxing history. He was great as a fighter, great as a trainer (Hall of Famer), and great as a man. Guys like Benton don't come along very often.
Amateur standout and professional middleweight Joe Trofe passed away on September 30th. Joe was a both the Golden Gloves and Diamond Belt champ in 1946.
Smokin' Joe Frazier, Philly's heavyweight champion, died November 7th. Frazier is arguably the greatest fighter to ever come out of the City. Winner of the "Fight of the Century" over Muhammad Ali, Frazier's legacy is chiseled in stone, even if his Philly statue remains elusive. Frazier's death completed a solemn, 12-month trifecta (with Briscoe and Benton) that hit Philly like a punch to the solar plexus. But then, body punches were Smokin' Joe's specialty. Frazier was 67.
The final death of 2011 was that of little-known Donald "Red" Ryder on November 25th. Ryder was a fine amateur who placed second in three major Philly tournaments in 1946 & 1949. His pro career was brief and ended in 1954.
However after these two high points, the remaining Philly title bouts were all near disasters. Light-heavy Yusaf Mack held his own for a few rounds with IBF champ Tavoris Cloud on June 25 in St. Charles, MO, but his title shot ended abruptly in round 8 when Clouds' thunderous punches started landing. Warhorse Rogers Mtagwa was pounded in 2 rounds by Jhonny Gonzalez on September 15 in a try for the WBC featherweight crown. The fight was in El Paso, TX.
Cunningham returned to Germany October 1 to defend his IBF title against Yoan Pablo Hernandez and received a raw deal when the fight was halted in round 6 due to cuts to Hernandez from accidental butts. After a eternity-length tabulation, somehow Hernandez was up on the cards and was given Cunningham's title. It was pretty rough to watch. On an up note, Cunningham was granted an immediate rematch which happens on February 4, 2012.
Hopkins was up next and in a fiasco of a fight was dumped on the canvas by Chad Dawson in round two in Los Angeles. The fall resulted in a separated shoulder for Hopkins and an end to the bout. Originally Dawson was credited with a title-winning KO, but the decision was eventually reversed by the WBC and the California commission (CA called it a No Decision while the WBC made it Technical Draw). Hopkins wound up with his title reinstated, but many felt an Academy Award would have been more appropriate.
The final title fight of the year, saw a never-before-stopped Lajuan Simon iced in the first round by WBA middleweight champion Gennady Golovkin in Germany. It was a shocker.
Around Memorial Day, Teon Kennedy was arrested for a variety of charges including attempted murder. He could have gotten decades in prison if proven guilty, but by October, he was cleared of all charges without having to go to trial. In the middle of it all, Teon lost in the ring to Alejandro Lopez, clearly distracted. But between the criminal case and the fight, the fight was the one to lose. Teon has regrouped and is looking forward to a big TV opportunity in January.
After Gabriel Rosado whacked out late substitute Ayi Bruce on July 15 in Atlantic City, he and his group of friends were arrested at Bally's casino after a late-night fracas with the police. Rosado was charged with aggravated assault and accused of punching a police officer. However, the case against Rosado was shabby and laced with serious questions about the accusing police officer's own behavior. Rosado's spotless record, good standing and army of supporters helped the process. It took a little time but Rosado's case was dropped and he moved on unaffected in any serious way. In fact he had perhaps his best year of his career.
Both Kennedy and Rosado dodged bullets in 2011. After what they went through, dodging punches should seem like a piece of cake.
The five best local fights of the year were all staged outside city limits and therefore do not qualify for a Briscoe Award. If any of them were in Philly, they'd be an easy winner. If all of them had been in the City, picking a winner would be tougher than selecting a Republican opponent for Barack Obama. The "non-nominee" fights were:
Gabriel Rosado TKO12 Jamaal Davis - Feb. 26 in Atlantic City
My vote would probably be for Wilson-Mussachio for it's dramatic ending or Kennedy-Diaz for it's two-way high quality action. But remember, fights outside of Philly don't qualify.
Briscoe nominations for Philly Fight of the Year will be announced in 2012.
Mike Jones won three fights and earned a shot at the vacant IBF welterweight title, which figures to occur against Randall Bailey early in 2012.
Danny Garcia won three fights, beating two former world champs in his last two outings. Before the end of this year, it was announced that he'll face legend Erik Morales for the WBC jr. welterweight belt on March 24.
Garrett Wilson won two bouts - two of the best of the year. He won the USBA cruiserweight title and defended it once. It was Wilson's best year as a fighter. He sent the message that he has the hunger and attitude to tangle with the big names.
Gabriel Rosado made everyone forget his close loss to Derek Ennis in 2010 by rebounding with three important wins this year. Rosado won the Interim NABA jr. middleweight title by beating Jamaal Davis and claimed the PA State title with a decision over Keenan Collins in two of his three starts.
Bernard Hopkins became the oldest man to win a world title in a great performance, but had many boxing fans crying uncle with the Dawson debacle.
Amateur star Miguel Cartagena turned pro and started his journey toward a world title. The ability to become a champion is never a certainty, but Cartagena probably has the goods to do it a few years.
Amateur Jesse Hart won the Olympic trials but is still battling to secure his spot on the 2012 Olympic team.
Motor-mouth Hank Lundy talks faster than he punches, but he did plenty of both in 2011. Lundy won the vacant NABF lightweight title April 1with a decision over Patrick Lopez. Four months later Hamerin' Hank won yet another thriller, coming off the canvas to halt former champ David Diaz in six rounds.
Welterweight Ronald Cruz stepped up and looked like a real prospect in 2011. Cruz went 5-0 with 5 KOs against increasingly better competition, upping his record to 15-0 (12 KO). He took out tough Doel Carrasquillo with a body shot in his first main event, a hometown fight in Bethlehem. He closed his year with a nerve-wracking TKO of an experienced Anges Adjaho in a fight that was full of growing pains but also showed the determination of a real fighter.
Lightweight Victor Vasquez started the year with a thrilling loss to Osnel Charles but rebounded with two wins over Gustavo Dailey and Angel Rios. As usual, Vasquez gave boxing fans exactly what they wanted. He always does.
Fred Jenkins Jr. turned professional after years of anticipation. He went 4-0 with 2 KOs in 2011 against limited opposition, but he shrunk to a middleweight and showed a lot of poise and promise in his four starts.
Osnel Charles had a good year, going 4-0. He beat Victor Vasquez and scored his first-ever KO with a sledgehammer right that took out Anthony Flores in round one. It was a thrilling moment, but he hasn't fought since. His win over Flores was the knockout of the year (the only other in-Philly candidate was Mike Jones' one-punch dumping of Raul Munoz).
The Ennis Brothers, Derek and Farah, both suffered surprise losses early in the year. In March, Derek Ennis was stopped in two rounds by Giorbis Bathelemy in his first bout since beating Rosado eight months prior. Pooh laid low until October when he scored a warm-up-comeback-out-of-town win over Shakir Ashanti. Ennis returns in February 2012 for an IBF jr. middleweight eliminator.
Farah Ennis lost for the first time as a pro (17-1) in April when undefeated 30-year old Alexander Johnson beat him over ten rounds. Farah sat idle the rest of the year but is due back on January 13 in Philly.
Heavyweight contender Fast Eddie Chambers rebounded from his 2010 loss to Klitschko with a repeat victory over Derric Rossy, but did not fight again in 2011, due in part to a bad back that forced him out of an IBF eliminator with Tony Thompson. Chambers will headline in Philly on January 21 against fellow comebacker Sergei Liakhovich in an attractive 10 round match up.
Teon Kennedy fought twice in the year. First he faced Jorge Diaz in a high-profile defense of his USBA jr. featherweight title on March 26. It was a thrilling bout and Kennedy looked fantastic, scoring two knockdowns and taking the unanimous decision. But it was another war. It seemed to be a gateway fight for Teon but no big TV date followed. In August, Kennedy faced Alejandro Lopez, a rabbit with a great jab. Teon chased and followed his speedy foe but could not catch him. Lopez out boxed and out classed Teon all night long. It was a surprising defeat but a valuable lesson. Teon, who has become more than comfortable with his (not so) newly found brawling style, has to reconnect with his "Teon the Technician" roots and be ready to use his boxing skills when a trench war fails to present itself. Kennedy fights on ESPN2 in mid-January 2012.
Power Productions started the 2011 fight year with a doomed show at the National Guard Armory in January. So many fights fell out on this card that it looked like they might have to put the parking lot attendant in with the security guard just to avoid refunding tickets. A smattering of hardcore fans braved a snowfall to attend, but the show was shabby and somewhat forgettable. However, Coy Evans dominated his foe and Tim Witherspoon Jr. returned to his home city for a solid win. West Philly / Shuler Gym product Georgiy "The Chemist" Guralnik made his pro debut. So all was not lost. Power looked to be out of the boxing biz afterward, with no more shows the rest of the year. But thankfully another Greg Robinson promotion will kick off 2012 at the Armory. Let's hope this one's seams stay together and Robinson gets back to his regular schedule.
Andre Kut's Kea Boxing provided two shows in South Philly. The first was April 1 headlined by undefeated Raymond Serrano and featured a barn-burner between Ardrick Butler and Mike Denby. Butler scored a TKO in the 6th and final round. Kea returned July 29 for a troubled card that suffered many scratched bouts. One headliner after another fell out, leaving what figured to be a scene-stealing preliminary between Greg Hackett and Juan Rodriguez as the last minute main event. As it turned out, the six round war was an exciting brawl. Some say it was the fight of the year.
Dave Wilkes of "Salute to Philly Boxers" infamy staged his inaugural fight card at the New Palladium in North Philly on July 8. Once again, many of the planned bouts slipped through the strainer and went down the drain. What was left were four fights scheduled for four rounds each. All of them were competitive and entertaining, but this card was shaky to say the least.
Brittany Rogers, president of BAM Boxing Promotions showed everyone how an inaugural fight card should be staged. Her first promotion at the Armory on September 30 was a solid show from the opening preliminary to the main event. A nice crowd of 1,100 attended. Mike Rogers, Brittany's father, deserves an assist on the show's success after pounding the pavement like nobody's business, serving as his daughter's sales agent. But all credit goes to BAM herself, who became the youngest female promoter in American boxing history with the undertaking. That's a nice footnote, but more important is her opportunity to infuse new blood into the local fight scene. She wants it and appears able to do it. BAM returns with her second show in March 2012.
Joey Eye put down the Q-Tip and slipped on the sports jacket to spearhead a great series of fights just outside the Philly limits, at Harrah's Casino in Chester, PA. Joey ran five shows (in January, March, June, August and October). His fights really helped to fill the Philly void of 2011. Generally the fights were entertaining and of very good quality. Victor Vasquez served as Joey's cornerstone providing his specific blend of blood and guts in three of the five shows. An assortment of other local boxers found work and won fans in these shows. Joey Eye's Chester fights were a life raft for Philly boxing fans in 2011. If only Harrah's was a few miles north we at the Briscoe Awards would be much happier. But hey, Joey Eye didn't draw the maps. I'm thankful for the Chester series and boxing fans should be too.
The Joe Frazier Boxing Gym became a furniture and bedding store in 2011. Crazy. The one link to the gym's boxing roots is that the new store advertises their "Knockout Prices". Oh well, Joe Frazier was famous for putting opponents to sleep.
Eddie Cool finally got his gravestone in December, becoming the fourth boxer to be recognized by our Gravestone Program. Cool joins Tyrone Everett, Gypsy Joe Harris and Sugar Hart. Eddie's brother Jimmy Cool is also remembered on this most recent marker.
The Briscoe Awards were given out for the 4th time in 2011. Steve Cunningham repeated as Philly Fighter of the Year and of course Ennis-Rosado was the Philly Fight of the Year (for 2010). At the awards this year we did our second museum exhibit. We'd love to do more of that going forward and eventually plan to have a permanent physical space to remember the past.
It appears that 2012 starts with a bang. The first quarter calendar is crammed with so many fights involving Philly boxers fans won't know what to do with themselves. It's very exciting, and 2012 is just one day away.
Happy New Year.