PHILLY BOXING HISTORY                                                                       February 24, 2012


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Warhorse Omar Sheika used his deeper experience and higher work rate to win a 10-round unanimous decision over a younger and bigger Tony Ferrante at Harrah's Chester Friday night, but the fight was a bloody give-and-take war that felt far closer than the lopsided scores turned in by two of the three judges. Sheika won the bout and the BAM Light Heavyweight Title by tallies of 99-90, 99-90 & 95-94 to improve his record to 32-11 (21 KO) and advance his twilight career campaign. Ferrante fought well against his best opponent to date. He lead on some unofficial ringside scorecards and was livid after the fight.

The regular series of fights at Harrah's Casino and Racetrack in Chester, PA staged by Joey Eye Boxing, are quickly gaining the reputation of being real throwback blood and guts club fights. The term "club fights" is not intended as a knock. It is a compliment when one considers that such fights are usually the best source for the action and attitude most fight fans crave. Despite the fancy-ish casino ballroom that house the fights, there is nothing fancy about the fights Joey Eye puts on. They tend to be well-matched, blue collar, crowd pleasers. Friday's show was no exception.

The main event pitted a weathered and fading contender against a popular but still developing local. Omar Sheika was the veteran in this play. His best days were many moons ago when it seemed he was vying for either a world title or regional belt every time he turned around. Although those days are gone, Sheika still has the ring intelligence and enough skills to give anyone a good fight. At 35 years of age and a lot of mileage on his clock, he still continues to bring the fight into the ring with him, long after many thought he was no longer a factor. Just one month ago, Sheika beat young Philadelphian Charles Hayward in Hamilton, NJ.

Friday he made the trip from North Jersey for another night at the office against another youngster expected to beat him. But on this night, Omar Sheika still had plenty left to not only win the fight, but to do his part in delivering a memorable and thrilling war to the fans.

The other side of this equation was Tony "Boom Boom" Ferrante. Tony's talent is still brewing, but in the past he has shown glimpses of promise and usually provides good action. He also often brings a loud and energetic crowd along with him. On Friday night, his fans were there and they were chanting "Boom Boom" for ten full rounds.

The first round was close. Ferrante led the action and won the round, but before the bell ending the first, Sheika started to gain some ground. As soon as he started closing the gap, Ferrante started dropping his hands. It felt like the foreshadowing of a knockout.

Sheika put together the next couple of rounds with a diligent work rate, but by the end of the third his trunks were covered in his own blood. With his eyes appearing clear of cuts, it became obvious that the blood was coming from his nose, which bled the rest of the night.

Ferrante came on strong in the fourth round and evened the score on my card - two rounds each. Both fighters were landing and the action shifted back and forth. This was the story of the fight. Each fighter took turns throwing and often landing on the other. Most of the rounds were a see-saw with both men having their moments. As soon as one would make his statement, the other would respond, refusing to let the other gain too much ground. Watching a fight like this can be exhausting. It also can be difficult to score. This difficultly would play out in a big way at the end of the fight.

Sheika's experience started to show in the middle rounds as the fight got rough. He was able to pick his shots and get them through Ferrante's defense. While Ferrante was stronger and fresher, Sheika worked carefully and out-landed Tony - but not by much. When the fighters got close, Sheika would try to clinch and an unwilling Ferrante started to bend over at the waist to break out of it. He pulled the move over and over, but it left him blind to Sheika's punches and put him in danger of taking a big shot. Ferrante got hit when he did this, but never was in danger of being stopped.

With the Sheika up 4-3 on my card after seven rounds, Ferrante was penalized one point in the eighth for pushing or wrestling. Again it had to do with Ferrante's bad habit of ducking  or bending out of the clinches. The move was ugly and unruly, but did not deserve to be penalized. In a fight that  felt this close the lost point seemed critical. But as it turned out, Ferrante had already lost this one on the one-sided official cards.

Sheika hurt Ferrante in round nine with a hard right. Ferrante wobbled and stumbled a bit, but he hung in  there and even battled back by the end of the round - just like in every other round. But Ferrante came away with a nasty cut over his left eye.

Tony pulled out  the last round, as Sheika seemed too tired to get very much going. Before the fight was over, Sheika was bleeding badly from a bad  gash over his right eye. With the blood flowing and  splattering everywhere, the pair fought hard until the final bell.

But the biggest surprise of the night belonged to judges Joe Pasquale and Alan Rubenstein who each turned in scores of 99-90 in favor of Sheika. That's nine rounds to one minus the penalty point. Judge Richard Hopkins had a more reasonable 95-94 score for Omar. There were many close rounds, and apparently the first two judges gave them all to Sheika. I didn't see it that way.  My final tally  was 96-93 for Sheika. Take away the faulty penalty point and you have a 6-4 rounds win for Sheika. Flip one of my rounds for Omar (and ignore the penalty) and you've got a draw. That's how this fight felt. Tough and close. Sheika won it but not by a lot, certainly not a landslide.

Sheika lives to fight another day and left with a 32-11 (21 KO) record. The win also brought Sheika his second BAM Title belt and trophy. Ferrante slid to 12-3 (7 KO). The loss snapped a three-bout winning streak for Tony, but it was a great learning experience and certainly should help him improve as a fighter.

In the semi-final bout, undefeated Philly junior welterweight Naim Nelson pushed his record to 5-0 with a six round majority decision over tough Linwood Hurd of Atlantic City. Hurd proved a good test for Nelson's  first six-rounder. Nelson had to work a bit harder than in his last fight, but he looked solid all the way through. Hurd only won the fourth round on my card, which was wider than the official tallies. Joe Pasquale thought it was a 57-57 draw. Richard Hopkins scored 58-56, while Alan Rubenstein had it 58-57. Hurd's record evens at 3-3-4 (1 KO) with the loss.

Ridley Park heavyweight Jamie Campbell (at right with black trunks and black gloves) thrilled his big cheering section with a strong points win over Lonnie Kornegay. Lonnie  was able to tag Campbell a number of times, but Jamie  remained in control most of the way. Campbell floored Kornegay in the third to seal the points  win. All three official judges had him  winning 39-36 (Hopkins & Rubenstein), while Joe Pasquale felt it a bit closer, 38-37. My score was 39-36.

Late add Fred Jenkins Jr., Philadelphia, (below in blue trunks) stayed undefeated with a unanimous four-round decision over rugged John Michael Terry of Portsmouth, VA, . Terry took the second round, but Jenkins grabbed the other three to win the fight 39-37 on all cards - official and unofficial. Terry is a traveling opponent who will face anyone, anywhere. His 3-22-3 (1 KO) record says it all, except how tough he is and what a good test he usually provides. He was game against Jenkins, and was not a push over for the 5-0 (2 KO) Philadelphian. The fight was fought at light heavyweight.

Danny Mills of Glen Mills, PA (below in black trunks) made a successful pro debut with a second round TKO over Wilmington's Mike Haynes, who was also debuting. The middleweight action was wild as the two newbies flailed at each other, trying to hammer home their first win. In round two, Mills drilled home a big overhand right that dropped Haynes. Referee Eddie Cotton halted the fight at 1:50 of the second round.

In the opening bout, Tyrone Crawley Jr., the son of popular world title challenger of the 1980s, Tyrone Sr., made his professional debut against debuting Hamid Robinson, also of Philly. Crawley Jr. was a decorated amateur whose pro debut had been delayed since last July, when it was originally scheduled. After a couple of scrapped starts, Crawley finally became a pro and took the unanimous decision over Robinson Friday night by shutout scores of 40-36. Crawley looked promising and may be one to watch (pictured below).

The card was fast-paced and entertaining from top to bottom. A good crowd of more than 1,000 attended. Joey Eye Boxing returns to Chester on April 6th.




John DiSanto - Chester, PA - February 24, 2012