|PHILLY BOXING HISTORY December 21, 2013||
For the local fight scene, 2013 ended not with a bang, but a whimper, as a crowd of about 300 at the Marple Sports Arena watched the wheels fall off the final fight card of the year. Only three professional fights came off this night, just 12 total rounds. The main event was scratched at the last minute when one of the participants injured his ankle while watching a preliminary exhibition. The night was a mess. However to be fair, the fights that did happen, were all decent scraps.
The would-be main event was scheduled to be a 4-rounder for the XBC welterweight title belt between Tim Witherspoon Jr. and Josue Rivera. This fight almost didn't happen, regardless of the freak accident that squashed the bout before it even began. Rivera was reluctant to take the fight in the first place, and didn't sign to do so until a day or so before the bell was scheduled to ring.
Rivera's hesitation to fight was due to, what he described as, a disappointing purse offer, and an agreed upon weight of 150 pounds, which he felt gave Witherspoon too much of an advantage going in. After much soul-searching, Rivera agreed to fight, but as it turned out, it still would never happen.
The evening began with a 3-round exhibition between welterweights Anthony Abbruzzese and Allen Burris. The fighters were both scheduled to make their professional debut. However, some last minute paperwork slipup turned the fight into an exhibition.
Both fighters went at each other in the bout, foreshadowing exciting careers for both. However, the fight was significant because of what happened just outside the ring between the first and second rounds.
Working in Abbruzzese's corner was none other than would be main event fighter Josue Rivera. Besides being a pro boxer, Rivera also runs the Warrior Boxing Gym in South Philly, where Abbruzzese trains.
After the rest period was over prior to the second round, Rivera turned away from the corner and descended the ring steps in one fell swoop, pitching off the apron and falling the three or so feet, directly onto the floor. When he landed, he twisted his ankle awkwardly and the injury prevented him from fighting in the main event.
At first, it was not yet a certainty that Rivera wouldn't fight. For the remaining two rounds of the exhibition, Rivera remained folded in pain on the floor while the doctor and everyone else took a look at the ankle. Eventually he hopped back into the dressing room, and we all sat wondering if the fight would take place.
I heard many versions of what transpired back in the dressing room, as the preliminary fights continued. Some said the doctor gave him the okay to fight. Others said this was not the case. Some said Rivera was pressured to fight despite the injury, and still others said Josue had found the "out" he was looking for. Who knows? However, the bottom line was that Rivera was ultimately unable to fight.
The whole incident taught us two important lessons about boxing and fight cards: 1) professional cards should NOT have exhibition bouts on them, and 2) fighters should fight, and not work corners before their own scheduled bout. If either of these rules had been followed on this night, Rivera would not have been injured, and the main event would have gone forward.
As it turned out, the sudden main event became the 6-round fight between Christian Steele and Lonnie Jackson Jr. for another XBC title belt. The two lightweights put on a good show.
Jackson immediately began switching from a left- to a right-handed stance, and throwing his flashy punches. However, Steele set the tone with a powerful left hook that rattled Jackson. Lonnie took the first round on my card, but Steele began putting together rounds beginning in round two.
In the second, Steele suffered a small cut at his hairline that bled on and off throughout the fight. The blood did not seem to bother him much, and he began landing the harder punches in the fight and taking many close rounds.
Around the fourth round, Steele began to look a bit tired and allowed Jackson to win another round in the fifth. However, Steele dug down in the sixth and final round, stepped on the gas, and prevented a 3-3 draw (on my card). Steele punctuated the bout with another hard left hook, that was the perfect bookend to his weighty left of round one.
When the official scores were announced, Steele took a close majority decision. Judge Rose Vargas had the fight a plausible draw at 57-57. Joe Pasquale saw it all Steele with his 59-55 (5 rounds to 1) score. Judge John Gradowski gave Steele the edge 58-56, or 4-2 in rounds. My score was 58-56 (Steele), as well.
With the win, Steele improved his record to 4-7-2, 1 KO, while Jackson lost for the first time as a pro, 3-1-1, 1 KO. Steele also took home the XBC belt.
In another XBC title bout, cruiserweights Brian Donahue and Mike Moore brawled for four ugly rounds in a messy pit fight. Moore had the slight edge in the clinch-filled contest, landing more and slightly cleaner shots.
The fighters tackled each other to the canvas twice in round two and grabbed at each other the rest of the way. However, both fighters also landed their right hands, especially in rounds one and four.
At the end, two of the three judges, Joe Pasquale and John Gradowski, awarded the fight to Moore by scores of 39-37 (3-1 in rounds). Judge Rose Vargas saw it for Donahue 39-37.
It was the first pro win for Moore, 1-1. Donahue fell to 2-6-2, 0 KOs.
In a scheduled 6-round welterweight fight, Los Angeles-based, Russian Sukhrab Shidaev powered his way through Lancaster's Evincii Dixon, and only needed two rounds to capture his 7th straight victory.
The aggressive Shidaev started landing his heavy blows from the start. Dixon avoided major trouble in the opening round, but it wasn't long before a huge left hook found his chin, as the second round wound down. The punch slammed into Dixon's face and he crashed to the floor.
Referee Benji Esteves began a 10-count, but didn't bother going past four or five, awarding Shidaev a KO victory at 2:59 of round two.
Shidaev, 7-0, 6 KOs, looks like a hot prospect. Dixon, 3-4-1. 1 KO, is a better fighter than his record indicates, but this was a clear-cut defeat.
The Celebrity Team returns to Philadelphia with another boxing show in February.