|PHILLY BOXING HISTORY - January 05, 2015|
When we look back on 2014, local boxing fans won’t necessarily be talking about Philly boxing’s two top dogs of the moment. Champions Bernard Hopkins and Danny Garcia both fought twice and made their share of history, but 2014 was a year that set up numerous Philly boxers for possible future glory. In addition, last year showed a glimmer of hope that the local fight scene – I’m talking about fights in Philadelphia – was not dead.
Philadelphia hosted eleven shows within the city limits in 2014, as many as the previous two years combined. This was still a far cry from Philly’s glory days – or even more recent times when an average of about two shows per month was the norm. 2014 showed improvement, and that’s a good sign.
Of course nearby “out of town” shows in Chester, Atlantic City, Bethlehem, Delaware, and other places helped to pick up the slack and keep our local fighters busy.
Two new fight series (by Cool Boxing Promotions and by Joe Hand / D&D Management) helped to breathe new life into the scene, as did the reopening of the 2300 Arena in South Philly. With the 2300 and the Sheet Metal Workers Hall, suddenly South Philadelphia was back in the boxing business.
BERNARD HOPKINS added the WBA light heavyweight world title with a points win over Beibut Shumenov in an April showdown in DC. Hopkins looked strong, scoring a knockdown and once again neutralizing another young aggressive champ.
Hopkins then shocked the boxing world by calling out WBO champ Sergey Kovalev for a fall unification super-fight. The pair met on November 8 in Atlantic City. Kovalev dominated the bout, winning every round and nearly ending the fight in the first and final rounds. Still B-Hop, just shy of his 50th B-Day, proved a marvel in his durability, his willingness to fight the best, and his post-fight class.
Some say that Bernard is now finished for good, but I’ll believe it when I see it.
Junior welterweight king DANNY GARCIA kept his record spotless (29-0, 17 KOs), but still had the worst year of his career. First the Philly-born fighter “went home” to Puerto Rico for a March world title defense against Mexican-American Mauricio Herrera. After a couple of years filled with nothing but world champions and killers alike, a little local hero love seemed exactly what Danny needed to start 2014. However no one told Herrera this. Maurico went on to give Garcia his toughest fight yet. In fact, most observers felt Herrera deserved the decision, but Garcia retained his belts in a disputed win that many called the worst decision of the year.
Things got worse for Garcia when he took to social media to say that he believed he’d won the fight by an 8-4 margin, and that Herrera didn’t deserve a rematch. His comments enraged many boxing fans. But if these verbal slips weren’t bad enough, his next move would take the cake.
Instead of fighting Lamont Peterson, or moving up to welterweight as expected, Garcia announced he would next defend his 140-pound titles against Pittsburgh’s Rod Salka, an unranked lightweight. The fans did not like this career move, and completely turned on Garcia.
How did Garcia go from his career-best win, an upset of Lucas Matthysse in 2013 and all the accolades that went with it, to the “fan non-favorite” of 2014? Such are the dangers of being a young champion with a Twitter account and a high-powered manager looking to protect the investment.
The Salka fight was eventually stripped down to a 10-round non-title fight and held in Brooklyn, NY on August 9. Garcia scored a crushing KO of Salka, but still failed to win back his fans. Garcia went underground for the remainder of the year, making few public appearances. He was a no show at the Briscoe Awards to accept his “2013 Fighter of the Year” and “2013 Performance of the Year” awards, and closed 2014 without another fight.
However, Garcia stayed in the gym, waiting patiently for a chance to prove himself all over again. Talk of possible fights against Manny Pacquiao and Lamont Peterson dominated the rumor mill, but the Mayweather talks, once a common storyline of his future, had completely faded.
GABRIEL ROSADO kept his middleweight dry spell going, losing to Jermell Charlo in January and David Lemieux in December. Both boxers were solid risers, with Rosado slotted as the highly-paid opponent. As usual, King Gabe fought with guts, but could not secure the win he so badly needed to keep him in the race for a world title.
However, between these two nationally televised bouts (Showtime and HBO), Rosado entered the BKB (Big Knockout Boxing) league and won its world middleweight title with an impressive KO of Bryan Vera in Las Vegas. This fight was a main event on PPV.
BKB is not boxing; the win does not show on Rosado’s record. But it was a performance that helped to keep him relevant in the legitimate boxing world.
Where his boxing career will go after his December TKO loss to Lemieux is uncertain. Once again, that problematic left eye helped to defeat him, but he always brings the blood and guts that fans like to see. His well-advertised new trainer brought little if anything to his game. However, Rosado appears to be one of those fighters whose record doesn’t affect his fan base or income. Still, his (boxing) title hopes appear faded. Maybe his recent move to LA and his upcoming role in the movie CREED will push this popular puncher into a whole new field.
Jennings fought only twice, but made both outings count. In January, “BY-BY” toppled fellow undefeated big man Artur Szpilka with a 10th round TKO at the Madison Square Garden Theater. Six months later, Jennings moved over to MSG’s big room and squeaked out a 12-round decision over unbeaten Mike Perez in a WBC eliminator.
Jennings spent the rest of the year sitting back and patiently waiting for that WBC shot to materialize against the winner of the Bermane Stiverne and Deontay Wilder title clash. However, that fight didn’t happen in 2014 – pushed off until mid-January 2015.
While Jennings waited for his guaranteed shot, his name also started being mentioned as an opponent for Wladimir Klitschko in April. Either way, Jennings is perched for a world title fight in his next start. Talk about sitting pretty.
Former cruiserweight champion STEVE CNNINGHAM continued to prove his place among the heavyweights. Cunningham defeated Amir Mansour in a thriller and then whipped an inexperienced-but-bona fide big boy in Natu Visinia. Cunningham was out-weighed against Visinia by 73 pounds, but still managed to register an exciting TKO.
All-in-all, it was a great year for Cunningham. He finished the year solidly ranked among heavyweights and already signed for a March battle with Czar Glazkov for the IBF eliminator. The winner gets Klitschko (unless Jennings handles him first).
After being “one punch away” from victory in his fight with Steve Cunningham, AMIR MANSOUR bounced back from his first loss with probably the best KO of the year. Mansour crushed Fred Kassi in Bethlehem to keep his title hopes moving forward. Everybody loves a puncher, and Mansour is surely that.
Prospect JOEY DAWEJKO transformed his career in 2014. The former junior world amateur champion was once regarded as a fighter with a future, but his professional career appeared to unravel before him during his first four years in the pros. However, this infamous under-achiever made a statement in 2014, and had everyone thinking that Joey still had the goods to make something of himself.
Dawejko started with a surprise win over veteran Derric Rossy. Joey took the fight on late notice and came away with a points victory and a whole new attitude about the sport. Joey soon added a new trainer (Billy Briscoe), a new manager (Mark Cipparone), a new promoter (J Russell Peltz) and a new nickname, The Tank. But the biggest change was that Dawejko stayed in the gym and remained active. Four more fights would follow in 2014.
In May, Dawejko defeated Mark Rideout by decision, before reeling off three consecutive first-round KOs in August, September and November. These quickie victims may not have been the stiffest competition on the scene, but Joey’s 5-0 year was still an impressive one.
MALIK SCOTT went 2-1 in 2014, but the fight that everyone saw was his one-round knockout loss to contender Deontay Wilder. The sudden, and some say questionable, defeat will be hard for Scott to erase, but he took a good step toward that end with his final fight of the year, a 10-round win over Alex Leapai in Australia, with Philly’s Fred Jenkins back in his corner.
Heavyweights weren’t the only top performers in 2014.
ERIC “OUTLAW” HUNTER won the USBA featherweight title with a strong performance over Yenifel Vicente at Harrah’s Chester in March.
For Hunter, an outstanding former amateur whose pro career, up to this point, was crawling, appeared to finally put things together in 2014. Besides picking up his first piece of professional hardware, “Outlaw” signed with Golden Boy Promotions by the fall, and looked sharp in a high-profile stay busy fight in November.
For fans of the enigmatic boxer, 2015 looks like the year we will finally learn for sure whether Outlaw has the right stuff or not. Hunter is set to headline a Golden Boy show in South Philly at the end of January against Rene Alvarado of Nicaragua. A win could propel Hunter in against a serious contender, or even a world title fight. Hunter has been waiting a long time for career movement like this, and so has everyone who believes in him.
In 2014, Eric showed that all his talent hasn’t gone to waste. If he can stay busy this year and quiet those often self-destructive whispers that circulate in his complicated head, Hunter may achieve his potential and become a world champion.
Bouncing back to the lightweight division, HANK LUNDY had a good year. He won his first two bouts of 2014 (W10 - Angelo Santana and KO2 - Gerardo Cuevas), but dropped his December HBO debut against Thomas Dulorme in frustrating fashion.
Lundy picked himself up from a first round knockdown by Dulorme, but failed to get started until the second half of the 10-rounder. When Lundy did finally get his hands moving, he easily controlled the bout. However, his surge came a little too late to earn him a victory. I scored the fight 5-5, with Dulorme’s knockdown as the deciding factor.
Despite blowing this prime opportunity, Lundy’s showing was packed with fun and drama, and should get him another national TV date in 2015. Lundy wants a showdown with 140-pound champ Danny Garcia, but he has to seize the next opportunity he’s given. Otherwise a fight with Garcia or any other champ just won’t happen.
Junior middleweight JULIAN WILLIAMS, the 2013 Briscoe Award winner for “Prospect of the Year” banked four more wins in 2014, including KOs of Freddy Hernandez (30-6) and Michael Medina (26-4-2). Williams beat undefeated Eliezer Gonzalez by decision before wrapping his year in a December with a TKO of Jamar Freeman (13-3-2) that won J-Rock the WBC Continental Americas title belt.
Williams keeps moving steadily, looks better and better, and at 18-0-1, 11 KOs, appears on the brink of a career-making fight in 2015.
Leading the pack was lightweight KARL “DYNAMITE” DARGAN. Dargan extended his undefeated streak to 17-0, 9 KOs, with his three wins in the year. He stayed busy with a points win over Chazz McDowell, halted the comeback of Philly’s Anthony Flores by TKO, defending his USBA Atlantic Coast Region championship belt, and then won the vacant NABF junior title with a showy KO of Angino Perez.
With these three wins and full backing from promoter Main Events, Dynamite Dargan looks ready to make his move in 2015. His career has been notoriously slow-moving thus far, but he’s already set for a January appearance on ESPN2 against Tony Luis. If Dargan stays busy and winning, he should be in a major fight by the end of the year.
RAY ROBINSON continued his careful ascent of the welterweight ranks with three fights in 2014, his most active span in quite a few years. Robinson won all three bouts, two by KO, and won the vacant NABO title twice. All three of his fights were in Delaware, the home base of Champs Management, the company that manages his boxing career. Robison has always looked like a talent, but since teaming with trainer Bozy Ennis in 2013, he looks like a future star. However, he has to fight more often to get there. At 19-2, with 9 KOs, and an 8-bout winning streak, 2015 has to be the year for the 28-year old to make his move.
JESSE HART continued to win in 2014, adding five more victories to his 16-0, 13 KOs, tally in 2014. There is no doubt that Hart has size, charisma and ability, but he’s more than ready for a solid step up in competition. His last fight of the year (TKO2 Samuel Miller) was against his most experienced foe to date (28-9). So that’s saying something, but he needs better opponents in 2015 to get where he wants to go.
His fight with Miller was the biggest ticket seller of the year in Philadelphia. Hart and emerging Puerto Rican superstar FELIX VERDEJO shared top billing on the card and sold out the 2300 Arena in December.
Super middleweight DERRICK WEBSTER of Glassboro, NJ, held down the fort for Philly in 2014. The undefeated fighter appeared in Philadelphia four times. He was the headliner twice and in the co-feature twice, winning all four bouts. In December, Webster annihilated Obodai Sai (23-1) in just 22 seconds at the 2300 Arena. He finished his year at 18-0, 9 KOs and is ready for better competition.
Camden’s JASON SOSA, 13-1-3, 9 KOs, continued his 8-bout knockout streak with two stoppages in 2014. His Atlantic City KO of Michael Brooks was a “Knockout of the Year” candidate, and perhaps his best career win thus far. Sosa toppled Juan Cruz in Puerto Rico after that.
DAMON ALLEN fought and won twice (6-0, 2 KOs) but then went inactive after splitting with his then-management team.
Promising HASAN YOUNG called it quits after going 5-1-1, 2 KOs, in his first three years (1-0 in 2014). However, there is word that he plans a 2015 return.
2013 “Rookie of the Year” MANNY FOLLY won two fights in 2014 before taking time off to enter the Philadelphia Police Academy. He plans to fight again in 2015, after graduation.
ON THE RISE
Middleweight THOMAS “CORNFLAKE” LAMANNA emerged as a potential prospect. After the usual record-building fare in his first few years as a pro, LaManna faced grizzled veteran Jamaal Davis in August at Bally’s Atlantic City.
At first it appeared that Davis’ experience might be too much for the youngster. However, slowly but surely, Cornflake turned the tides and won the 8-rounder by unanimous decision. The fight was LaManna’s coming of age in the ring, and he looked sharp in his next fight, a decision win over Alex Sanchez. In all, LaManna won three times in 2014 and pushed his unblemished record to 16-0, 7 KOs.
2013’s “Breakout Fighter of the Year”, TEVIN FARMER continued his winning streak and even made it to his first nationally televised main event during 2014. Farmer once a 7-4-1 club fighter, currently sits on a 10-bout winning streak and a good-looking 17-4-1, 4 KOs, record. Farmer’s June defeat of Emanuel Gonzalez (14-0) on Fox Sports validated his current rise and kept hopes strong that this energetic southpaw has a bright future. He fights next on January 9th in California.
Featherweight TONY DUBOSE continued to impress in 2014, winning four times and improving his record to 7-0, 2 KOs.
Lightweight ANTHONY BURGIN won three times in the year. In April he came off the floor to beat fellow-Philadelphian Frank Trader in Atlantic City, and twice defeated Ramon Ellis later in the year. Burgin, 8-0, 1 KO, is one of the City’s best young talents, despite not being able to break an egg with either hand.
FRED JENKINS JR. posted three wins including one of the best KOs of the year. Jenkins crushed Jeremy Trussell in round two of their South Philly main event. It was an atypical early evening for Jenkins, but with his steadily improving physical conditioning, his punch appears to be developing as well. Jenkins dropped James Robinson early in his next bout, but Robinson held on until the final bell. Jenkins ended his year at 9-1, 3 KOs.
NAIM NELSON returned after an extended injury and remained unbeaten, going 2-0-1, for an overall record of 12-0-1, 1 KO. All of his fights were razor close (W8 Christian Steele, W8 Jerome Rodriguez, and D8 Ryan Belasco). Although the scores among ringside observers were varied, my scorecards for all of these three fights had Nelson slightly behind each time. Still, he is one of the most entertaining rising fighters on the scene and I look forward to seeing him fight again – especially in rematches with Belsaco and Rodriguez.
In 2014, DECARLO PEREZ continued his breakthrough of the previous year. Although he started the year with a loss (L8 Wilky Campfort), Perez rebounded against Marcus Willis and scored a dramatic TKO of Tyrone Brunson in one of the best fights of the year. The showdown between Perez and Brunson looked like a winner from the moment it was announced. It turned out to be exactly that. Perez withstood Brunson’s early pounding to outlast the infamous puncher. Perez won by TKO in round five.
ANTHONY PRESCOTT, of Cherry Hill, NJ, emerged as one of the most entertaining young fighters of 2014. The hard-luck welterweight went 3-2-1 in his six starts, but established himself as an undercard attraction that always makes it interesting. At 5-4-2, 2 KOs, Prescott may not be making a run at the title any time soon, but he will always be a fighter to watch.
Light heavyweight KHALIB WHITMORE added two more KOs to his 6-0, 5 KOs, record, but sat idle since August.
Junior welterweight MILTON SANTIAGO was the busiest rookie with 8 wins in his first year. “El Santo” turned pro at just 17 years old in February, headlining his first show at the National Guard Armory. He won that start in the first round and went on defeat experienced foes like Travis Thompson (7-11-3), Josh Beeman (5-16-4), and William Lorenzo (3-14-0). All of his opponents were below Santiago’s level, but he handled all of them with ease.
Wilmington’s KYRONE DAVIS made a nice debut splash, winning all five of his fights, three by KO. The middleweight looks strong, but is still untested.
Lightweight AVERY SPARROW won all three of his fights, including a whopper of a first-round KO in his second start. Despite the gap in experiences, Sparrow dropped Hassan Wasswa (5-15-3) for the count in one of the best knockouts of the year.
STEPHEN FULTON didn’t make his pro debut until October, but still managed to squeeze in three wins before the year ended (3-0, 1 KO). He’s scheduled to go again at the end of January.
JEROME CONQUEST split his first two pro bouts, and boxing writer RYAN BIVINS lost his pro debut.
MIGUEL CARTAGENA had a tough year. He fought five times including his first two losses as a pro. Both setbacks were by KO. His first loss, by third round TKO to Timur Shailezov was a shocker. He closed his year with a first round KO loss in Puerto Rico.
Light heavyweight DENNIS HASSON also suffered his first two career losses in 2014. He started the year with a win, but was stopped by unheralded Tyrell Hendrix in four rounds and edged by TANEAL GOYCO in six rounds. Hasson is currently 16-2, 6 KOs.
GARRETT WILSON returned from an injury to drop a 10-round decision to Thabiso Mchunu on NBC network TV. It was the third straight loss for the cruiserweight / heavyweight.
Cruiserweight TONY FERRANTE had an eventful year, fighting four times in 2014. First he dropped ANTHONY CAPUTO SMITH in round six, but lost a close decision over 10 rounds for the PA State title. Next, in a warm up for a rematch with Caputo, Ferrante was shocked by journeyman PEDRO MARTINEZ. Martinez won the 6-round nod, and derailed Ferrante-Caputo II.
In his next bout, Ferrante scored one of the year’s best KOs when he shocked Venroy July in October. Finally Ferrante took a pounding from Alex Guerrero the following month in a TKO loss.
Ferrante’s 1-3 year was rough but memorable.
Road warrior DHAFIR SMTH beat veteran BRIAN DONOHUE, but then disappointed in a vacant NABA title bout against Tommy Karpency.
RONALD CRUZ lost all three of his bouts in 2014 (L10 Kermit Citron, L10 Errol Spence, & TKO 8 by Dmitry Mikhaylenko), and retired in November after discovering he suffered a detached retina in his last bout. Cruz was an exciting and skilled warrior and will be missed on the local scene.
ROGERS MTAGWA hasn’t officially retired, but most of us wish that he would. The proud warrior lost two fights in 2014 including an embarrassing TKO to Cornelius Lock. It’s time.
YUSAF MACK lost a 6-round decision to Cory Cummings for his fourth straight setback. Mack may still have something left in his tank, but the end of his long career appears close.
JAMAAL DAVIS lost to rising Thomas LaManna for his fourth straight defeat. He sounded close to retirement after the fight but has second-guessed himself ever since.
MIKE JONES made his long awaited return in August. He started the bout by dropping Jamie Herrera twice, but unraveled when Herrera wouldn’t stay down. In one of the most dramatic and heartbreaking fights of the year, Herrera battled back and tortured Jones into a seventh round retirement. It may not have been Jones’ final fight, but it sure looked like it to me. It was one of the hardest fights to watch in 2014, but also one of the best.
As the fight approached, it was difficult to find anyone picking Cunningham, who was still trying to prove that he belonged in the heavyweight division. Mansour’s reputation as a murderous puncher seduced most fans and media, and that power nearly won him the fight in spectacular fashion. Almost.
With the fight even after four rounds and Cunningham boxing comfortably in the fifth, Mansour unloaded his vaunted right hook and twice dropped Cunningham to the canvas. The fight appeared to be over, but Cunningham inexplicably gathered himself after both trips to the mat. He rose to his feet twice and fighting through a badly cut left eye, put on a boxing clinic - not to mention a display of guts and grit - in the second half of the fight. Cunningham won a heroic unanimous decision and the USBA heavyweight title.
On the same card, CURTIS STEVENS won by last minute TKO over TUREANO JOHNSON in a thrilling middleweight contest. If the main event hadn’t happened that night, this controversial punch-out may have walked away with the award.
DECARLO PEREZ’ stoppage of TYRONE BRUNSON was another dramatic affair. Both fighters needed the win, and they fought exactly that way. Perez won the best victory of his career.
STEVE CUNNINGHAM turned back a hard-pressing NATU VISINIA in a bruising heavyweight brawl, and fought through a big weight disadvantage to do it.
OUT OF TOWN
Middleweight THOMAS LAMANNA withstood JAMAAL DAVIS’ early pressure to prove his worth as a young prospect. LaManna showed everyone that he could indeed fight and won the crossroads match by unanimous 8-round decision.
ERIC HUNTER’s USBA title winning effort against YENIFEL VICENTE was a hard-fought 10-rounder. It was an excellent fight, and although Hunter looked in control, it wasn’t easy going.
Middleweights HARRY JOE YORGEY and ERIC MITCHELL battled to a 6-round majority draw in the summer. The fight was so good – and the decision so fair – that they’ve been talking rematch ever since.
Journeyman TANEAL GOYCO surprised DENNIS HASSON with a knockdown and a close 6-round decision victory in their light heavyweight fight at the Valley Forge Resort.
2014 PHILLY FIGHTER
OF THE YEAR
FIGHTER OF THE YEAR