|PHILLY BOXING HISTORY - March 21, 2014||
Eric "Outlaw" Hunter battled his way through ten tough rounds Friday night against Miami-based Dominican Yenifel Vicente at Harrah's in Chester, PA. Not only was Hunter fighting for the vacant USBA featherweight crown, he was battling to finally put his career on track toward the success that had been predicted for him since turning professional in 2005.
Hunter won the fight with a unanimous points victory that was comfortable on the scorecards, but much tougher in the ring. After all, Hunter was not only battling Yenifel Vicente, he was also fighting himself.
As an amateur, Hunter picked up just about every trophy, medal, and championship available to him. However, as a pro, after nine years and 20 bouts, Outlaw had yet to take home a single title - regional, local, or anything else.
Something always stopped him from entering that club. Whether it was inactivity, promotional turmoil, a lack of management, bad luck, or his sometimes hot head, Hunter always came up a bit short, even though his record said that he almost always won.
But Hunter passed his test Friday night with flying colors, beating both Vicente and that self-described black cloud that had previously lingered over him and conspired to keep him from reaching his potential.
But not on this night. Now all of his fans are hoping that his black cloud has lifted for good.
Over the first half of the bout, Vicente caused Hunter some problems. He was strong and tough, and won a couple of rounds over the first five sessions. However, Hunter always seemed in control, and began pulling ahead in the second half.
The action was fast-paced as Vicente tried to land his power shots and Hunter responded with his own focused attack. Outlaw fought the majority of the bout from the southpaw stance, a new tactic, in an attempt to keep Vicente's looping and dangerous right hand better in his sights.
Throughout the evening, Hunter used foot movement sparingly, opting instead to remain in the pocket, blocking Vicente's incoming shots and firing most of his own artillery from the inside. It kept the pace of the fight fast and the sense of danger high. It also showed that Hunter was there to fight for his future.
"That shit was tough," Hunter said. "I gave him all the respect in the world, but I knew I wasn't giving up. You'd damn near have to kill me."
As the contest wore on, Hunter's tactics slowly took the starch out of Vicente. Although he remained competitive, gradually his spirit dulled as Hunter provided answers to every question his the Dominican's fists were able to raise.
"He thought I was going to be the boxer," Hunter said. "That's why I stepped to him. He ain't comfortable when you bang with him."
Vicente's constant pressure may have unraveled Hunter if he was having one of his black cloud nights, but this was not one of those nights. On this night, Hunter was focused, well trained and determined. His attitude aligned with his talent, and he carved out a very nice victory that finally put him on course for something bigger.
"I have the best manager in the world," Hunter said about Mark Cipparone. "He cares about me. He really love me genuinely. All the managers I ever had never took the time, never got the chance to know me. With me and Mark, it's like a father and son thing. I'm just really happy to be part of the team. And I'm really happy to be the first guy that brought a belt back for him."
All three judges scored the fight for Hunter. Pierre Benoist and Dave Braslow had the fight 97-93, while George Hill saw it as a near-shutout, 99-91. Many in the crowd felt the fight was much closer, and especially disliked Hill's lopsided tally. However, all seemed in agreement that Hunter had come out on top.
I scored the fight 98-92, or 8 rounds to 2, and Vicente's record slipped to 25-3-2, 17 KOs.
The scene immediately following the fight was an emotional moment for both Hunter and the fans who never gave up on him. Hunter felt the moment as he left the ring, the USBA belt hanging loosely from his skinny waist, his immediate team surrounding him in celebration, and his big cheering section crowding the ring. They waited to embrace the new 126-pound US champion.
"Oh man, I don't know how this feels right now," Hunter, 18-3, 9 KOs, said after the fight. "You can't explain it. I worked hard for it. It felt good when they said my name though."
Hunter looked out beyond the ropes and felt the love. He had finally done it. His journey to the top was not yet complete, but at least on this night, he had fought his way to a new plateau.
It seems like ages since Hunter's days as a world-class amateur. Now there is tangible confirmation that all his talent hadn't gone to waste. Some say belts don't mean anything. But on nights like this, you realize that sometimes these belts can have enormous meaning.
"It's like a real gold medal," Kadeen Hunter, Eric's son, said in the dressing room, as he proudly wore his dad's USBA belt over his shoulder.
This was the night that Hunter, his family, and all of his fans had been waiting for. Friday night in Chester, his night finally came.
In a feisty bantamweight bout, Miguel Cartagena remained undefeated with a second round KO of Miguel Robles in their scheduled 8-rounder. The co-feature began with Robles, who could not make the contracted 115 pound weight limit earlier in the day, starting strong. The Puerto Rican tried to rough up the young Cartagena, and had some success early on. Robles took the opening round, after landing well with both hands.
When the action resumed in the second, things quickly turned nasty. Both fighters unloaded big shots before Robles locked Cartagena in a tight clinch and proceeded to pound away on the back of the North Philadelphian's head with repeated rights.
Referee Benjy Esteves pried the fighters apart, and just as he got them separated, Cartagena retaliated for those rabbit punches by drilling Robles with a hard right hand, on the break.
Esteves halted the action and penalized both fighters one point for their respective infractions.
The dirty tactics seemed to bring the fight out in Cartagena, for as soon as the action resumed, he turned into a tiger and went right at his best pro opponent to date.
A sudden left hook dropped Robles to the canvas. The sturdy fighter got to his feet, but was met by a raging Cartagena. "No Fear" ripped Robles with a left hook and right hand that sent him down again. This time it was for good.
Referee Esteves ended the fight at 2:31 of round two.
Cartagena improved to 12-0 with 5 KOs. Robles fell to 12-4-2, 5 KOs. This was probably the deepest competition of Cartagena's pro run, and proved that he needed the step up in toughness. Cartagena looked far better than in other recent fights, when it seemed he might be starting to fight down to the level of weaker competition.
Now that Cartagena is fighting regularly (this was his second fight already in 2014, and his sixth in the past 11 months), he needs to keep upping the level of his competition. If he and manager Mark Cipparone can do this, the fighter will begin to make strides as a professional that may even surpass his fine amateur accomplishments.
Atlantic City's Osnel Charles beat Victor Vasquez for the second time at Chester. Three years ago, the same pair of lightweights topped the very first Joey Eye show at Harrah's. Charles won that bout by decision (W6), and repeated the feat again Friday night. Prince Charles took a close 8-round split decision over the rough-and-tumble Vasquez in a very good fight.
At first, it appeared Charles might run away with the bout. He won the first round easily and then dropped Vasquez through the ropes with a body punch in the second.
However, Vasquez battled his way back in the fight, as he often does, taking the next three rounds and pulling the score even, on my card, after five. But Charles rebounded in the sixth with better boxing and more activity. He landed a nice combination that secured the round, and gave him another slight edge in the scoring.
Despite getting wobbled in the seventh, Vasquez won the round to again swing the bout even on my card.
Everything came down to the final round, and Charles was the fresher and more active fighter in the eighth. Vasquez had made a bold comeback in the fight, but Charles stood his ground and pulled out the win. It was a very good fight.
Judge Pierre Benoist favored Vasquez 78-74, but George Hill and Dave Braslow overruled with their cards of 77-74 for Charles. I also scored the fight for Charles, 76-75.
This was Charles' first win after a 0-6-1 slide. The victory raised his record to 10-8-1, 1 KO. Vasquez lost for the second straight time and went home 16-9-1, 7 KOs.
In the big upset of the night, heavyweight Pedro Martinez bested popular Tony Ferrante in a 6-rounder. Most, especially Ferrante, believed that Tony would come out on top in this one, but Martinez fought hard and outworked Ferrante all night long.
Both fighters had their moments in the bout, but Martinez did more, while Ferrante waited to land a knockout blow that never came. This was the second time in a row that Ferrante's reliance on power cost him a fight.
In his last bout, also in Chester, Ferrante lost by a sliver to Anthony Caputo Smith in a 10-round cruiserweight fight much the same way. This loss to Martinez on Friday derailed plans for a Smith-Ferrante rematch in May.
So it was an upset to say the least.
Credit goes to Martinez for refusing to follow everyone else's expectations. He worked hard for this fight at Diesel Fit Boxing Gym, and it showed in the ring. He won the bout four rounds to two on my card, and swept the three official tallies by scores of 58-56 (Hill), 59-55 (Braswell), and 60-54 (Benoist).
The win evened Martinez' record to 7-7, 3 KOs. Ferrante, the king of Chester frustration, fell to 12-6, 7 KOs. Four of Ferrante's six career losses have come at Harrah's Chester. He is 4-1 at the venue.
In the opening bout of the night, Anthony Prescott (above, left) took a majority decision over Anthony Miller in a 4-round junior middleweight fight. Prescott scored a knockdown in round one, and Miller was penalized one point in the second for throwing Prescott to the canvas.
With that commanding points lead after two rounds, Prescott went on to take the final two rounds on my card as well. However, the official scores were closer. George Hill and Dave Braslow scored the fight 39-35 for Prescott, and Pierre Benoist had it even, 37-37. Prescott, 3-3-1, 1 KO, won the majority decision over the now 1-1, 1 KO, Miller.
It was another good night for Joey Eye Boxing. The entertaining five-bout card attracted another full house. Eye returns to the same venue on May 9th.