PHILLY BOXING HISTORY - May 29, 2015                                                              
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by John DiSanto
Photos by Darryl Cobb, Jr.


Reading junior lightweight Frank De Alba continued his winning ways Friday night at South Philly's Stadium Holiday Inn. The Puerto Rican born Pennsylvanian won his fourteenth straight bout and improved his record to 16-1-2, 6 KOs, with a sixth round KO of Mexico's Bernardo Gomez Uribe in the scheduled 10-round main event. The card also offered the long-awaited return of Farah Ennis and the latest start by Steve Upsher Chambers.

Frank Santos De Alba dominated the first five rounds with his southpaw style, landing well to the body and hard upstairs with power lefts and thudding right hooks. However, despite the busy start, De Alba's punches did not appear to hurt Bernardo Gomez Uribe, who fired back when he could, and landed several shots himself.

Then, just when it seemed the fight was destined to go its full limit, De Alba drilled Uribe with a three punch series (right, left, right) that softened him. Bernardo sagged slightly before De Alba clocked him with long, straight left hand punch that dropped him to the canvas for the full ten count. The time was 2:17.

The KO loss snapped Uribe's six-bout winning streak and dropped his record to 14-4, 9 KOs. 

De Alba hasn't lost a fight since his pro debut in 2011. He's faced a number of good locals and plenty of out-of-town imports. Uribe had the best-looking record among all of De Alba's opponents, but now it is time for Frank to test the waters of the next level.

His knock out victory capped a ten-bout card that was split in two halves. The first six bouts were populated with out-of-towners in both corners. These fights were mostly one-sided. However the final four bouts, De Alba's included, featured local boxers.

In the co-feature bout, Philly junior welterweight Steve Upsher finally reversed a recent three-bout skid, but had his hands full with Alejandro Rodriguez of Mexico.

For almost two rounds, Upsher could not miss with his right hand and appeared to be on the brink of a breezy victory. Steve had Rodriguez on the canvas four times in the first round. Two of these were correctly called knockdowns. A third trip to the floor by Rodriguez also looked like a knockdown from my vantage point, but referee Benji Esteves called it otherwise.

Early in round two, Upsher dropped Rodriguez again, but then, instead of closing the show, Showtime went strangely quiet. From the moment he rose from his most recent knockdown, Rodriguez battled back well and slowly took control of the action.

Before long, Rodriguez was teeing off on Upsher and although the Philadelphian was still riding a big points lead, thanks to the knockdowns, Steve began looking the worse for wear. By now, Rodriguez was landing all the big punches. Upsher's right hand, so effective at the beginning, was rarely used, and when it was, the power it once packed was nowhere to be found.

Rodriguez continued to rally and Upsher kept fading. Slowly Rodriguez brought the score on my card close. Upsher showed a few signs of life in the seventh round and even did enough in the eighth and final round to actually win it. This mini-rally by Upsher gave him the fight on my card, by a whisker (75-74).

The official judges saw it a bit wider for Upsher, who took the unanimous decision by scores of 76-73 (Gail Jasper), 76-72 (John Gradowski) and 77-71 (Alan Rubenstein.

Upsher escaped with the win, but did not look particularly good doing it. Still his losing streak and improved to an overall 25-4-1, 6 KOs. Rodriguez slipped to 24-17-1, 14 KOs, with his close-but-no-cigar-performance.

The most intriguing match going into the night was the return of talented super middleweight Farah Ennis after a nearly two-year layoff. Farah, middle son of the fighting Ennis family, looked stale in his last outing (vs. Badou Jack), and the local boxing scene has scratched their collective heads waiting to see him get back on track.

Farah's opponent was tough Ghanaian journeyman Michael Gbenga, who extended Derrick Webster to the final bell in his last trip to Philly. Ennis started slowly and looked rusty. However he still managed to pile up rounds in his favor - although just slightly in his favor. Generally Farah's punches were harder, but they were not jetting him out the jam.

By the middle rounds of the scheduled six-rounder, Gbenga began landing well. Farah trudged forward and kept working, but Gbenga won the fourth round and maybe even the fifth. However, Ennis has his best round in the final three minutes of the bout.

My card favored Farah by a hearty 59-55 margin. The official judges saw it a little closer. Alan Rubenstein scored the fight for Gbenga, 58-56. Gail Jasper thought Ennis won the fight by the same score, 58-56. Larry Hazard broke the tie with a 59-55 score for Ennis.

Farah's split decision win raised his record to 22-2, 12 KOs, and rebooted his career. Gbenga evened out at 20-20, with 20 KOs.

Super middleweight Christopher Brooker remained undefeated (3-0, 3 KOs) with a wild TKO of Gainesville, FL's Santario Martin, who was making his professional debut. Brooker won the first two rounds, but there were plenty of good, two-way exchanges between the boxers. I gave both rounds to Brooker, but he came away with marks around his left eye.

However, when the bell for round three sounded, southpaw Brooker stormed out and caught Martin with a right hook that had him reeling across the ring. As Martin hit the ropes, referee Benji Esteves jumped in to save him from more punishment. The time of the stoppage was 13 seconds of round three.

Middleweight Caleb Plant, Ashland City, TN, extended his record to 7-0, 5 KOs, with a one round TKO of Kansan Jason Zabokrtsky, 3-2, 3 KOs. The fight was stopped by Benji Esteves, after four knockdowns at 1:49.

Detroit light heavyweight Leo Hall, 6-0, 6 KOs knocked out Lawrence Blakey, Pittsburgh, 2-4, 1 KO, with a left hook to the head, at 1:34 of round one.

Middleweight Demond Nicholson, Laurel, MD, 13-1, 13 KOs, stopped German Perez, 11-2-3, 3 KOs, in round five. Nicholson dropped Perez, Tijuana, with a left hook. Perez beat the count, but referee Benji Esteves stopped the fight. The time was 2:33.

Lightweight Brandon Bennett, Cincinnati, 19-1, 8 KOs, beat on Rondale Hubbert, of Minneapolis, 10-2-1, 6 KOs, for the first three rounds before the fight was stopped between the third and fourth rounds. The result goes into the books as a TKO for Bennett at 3:00 of round three.

Welterweight Samuel Figueroa, 8-0, 4 KOs, scored a six-round unanimous shutout decision over Jose Valderrana, 4-10, 3 KOs.  All three judges (Jasper, Rubenstein and Gradowski) scored the bout 60-54 for Figueroa. My score was the same.

Welterweight Miguel Cruz, 9-0, dropped Juan Rodriguez, 6-3-1, 5 KOs, with a right hand for the full ten count in round four. The time was 3:04.

The show was promoted by Marshall Kauffman's King's Boxing and drew a live crowd of about 250.  




John DiSanto - South Philly - May 29, 2015