PHILLY BOXING HISTORY - August 15, 2015  
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Story b
y John DiSanto
Photos by Darryl Cobb, Jr.


The Playground in Atlantic City debuted as a boxing venue Saturday night, and in the main event, heavyweight Chazz Witherspoon, 34-3, 26 KOs, trounced Nick Guivas, 11-3-2, 9 KOs, for a third round stoppage. Witherspoon had all the advantages in the scheduled 10-rounder, so it was not fun and games for Guivas at this playground. Seven of the ten bouts on the new seaside facility’s inaugural show ended early, but the action was entertaining and well worth watching. 

Witherspoon began the fight with a dose of caution, but by the second round began opening up against his bullish foe. Chazz established his jab and started working Guivas’ body effectively. As the round heated up and the aggressive fighter from Topeka, KS pressed the action, Witherspoon suddenly went right hand crazy. He repeatedly plastered Guivas with rights to the body and to the head and then uncorked a vicious right uppercut that found the mark. Guivas felt every punch.

Witherspoon then unleashed an overhand right that landed on Guivas’ temple and knocked him to the canvas. Guivas returned to his feet and survived the round, but it was clear that he was outgunned and in danger. 

In round three Witherspoon continued cracking right hands, but then hurt Guivas with a solid left hook. Sensing the kill, Chazz unloaded on Guivas and battered him along the ropes until referee Eric Dali had seen enough. Guivas stayed on his feet, but took heavy punishment. 

The time of the stoppage was 1:07 of round three. This was Witherspoon’s fourth straight knockout victory. All four of those fights were staged by his own promotional company, Silver Spoon Promotions. 

In the co-feature, Philadelphian Keenan Smith stretched his undefeated string to 7-0, 2 KOs, with a hasty knockout of Lavelle Hadley of Youngstown, OH, 2-1, 2 KOs. Southpaw Smith ran right out and began belting his opponent from the start. He tasted a few return shots, but seemed to take them in stride. In round two, Smith stung Hadley with a combination and then pulled out all the stops with a fight-ending flurry that dropped Hadley in his own corner for the full 10-count. Crumbled in a seated position, Hadley took referee Dali’s count, aware but unwilling to continue. The time of the KO was 1:56 of round two. 

In a sloppy but hard-fought heavyweight contest, Brick, NJ underdog Dan Pasciolla, 4-1, outworked a more experienced John Lennox, 13-3, 5 KOs, Carteret, NJ, over six rounds to earn a surprise split decision victory. Lennox won the first round, but Pasciolla battled back in round two and marked Lennox under the left eye. The fighters continued to maul away at each other with Pasciolla establishing an edge in the action. 

On my card, Pasciolla took the lead through round four before Lennox rallied to take the final two rounds. The fight was close, a draw in fact, on my score sheet. When the official verdict was read, the bout was first announced as a draw, and the fighters left the ring thinking there was no winner. 

However, after reviewing the individual scores, it was discovered that Pasciolla actually led on two of the cards (58-56 and 59-55), while one judge favored Lennox (58-56). Just before the main event, Pasciolla was brought back into the ring for a new announcement that declared Dan the winner. 

In an over-the-weight welterweight fight, Pleasantville, NJ’s Anthony Young, 11-1, 5 KOs, took a 6-round unanimous decision against Jonathan Garcia, 4-15, 1 KO, of Aquadilla, PR. Young dominated the fight except in round three when the boxers exchanged well. Both were hurt during the heated session, and I gave the round to Garcia. However, the official judges, Alan Rubenstein, James Kinney and Pierre Benoist, all scored the fight a 60-54 shutout for Young. 

Junior welterweight Scott Kelleher made a successful debut against Xzavier Ford, 0-2, of Concord, NC, in a scheduled 4-rounder. Kelleher, of Philadelphia’s Joe Hand Boxing Gym, stormed right out at the opening bell and pounded his opponent into submission. After just 1:57, referee Eric Dali stopped the fight and awarded Kelleher a TKO in his first professional start (1-0, 1 KO). 

In a junior welterweight contest, Sam Ellsworth, 3-0, 3 KOs, beat southpaw Kashif Muhammad, 0-2, of New York, with a 3rd round knockout. The fighters split the first two rounds before Ellsworth, Farmersville, LA, caught Muhammad with a hard left and a brief burst to the body that put the New Yorker down. Muhammad stayed down and took the count, nodding all the way. 

Philly’s Jerome Conquest scored the first knockout of his 3-1 career - and it was a spectacular one. After winning the first three rounds comfortably against a debuting David Perez, Conquest kept his dominance going in round four with his speedy in-and-out left-handed style. After pretty much nailing down the round in the first two minutes, Conquest began showboating in the final minute, seemingly happy to claim another points win. 

However, in the waning seconds of the fight, a suddenly orthodox Conquest crushed Perez with a devastating right hand that put the Pittsburgh fighter on the deck, face down in a heap. The fight was stopped without a count and the medical team was called. Perez was revived, but it was a scary moment. The end of the fight came at 2:51 of round four. 

In a bloody 6-round heavyweight bout, Chinese giant Zhang Zhilei, 5-0, 3 KOs, knocked out Norfolk’s Dennis Benson, 2-7-1, 1 KO, in a messy but entertaining slugfest. Zhilei won every round, but Benson was tough and gave the 2008 Olympic Silver Medalist a test. 

In round three, Zhilei was cut over his left eye and moments later, Benson’s nose began pouring blood. The fighters battled away as the blood flowed freely for the remainder of the fight. 

Finally in the sixth and final round, Zhilei hit a fading Benson with a right-left combination that put him down. Benson looked exhausted and hurt, his own blood smeared all over his face. However, he stood up and returned to the battle. Zhilei immediately met him and fired a deadly combination that overwhelmed Benson. A right sent Benson’s mouthpiece flying into the crowd and a left hand deposited him on the floor where he took the full count from referee Sammy Viruet. The time was 56 seconds of round six. 

Camden junior middleweight Alex Sanchez won a 4-round unanimous decision over Pensacola’s Eric Kitt in a good scrap. The rangy Kitt boxed well, but Sanchez’ power punches allowed him to win rounds and establish the lead. After four full rounds, the judges had Sanchez comfortably ahead, 40-36, 40-36 and 39-37. Sanchez raised his record to 6-6-1, 2 KOs, while Kitt slid to 5-2, 2 KOs. 

In the opening bout on the card, Wang Zhimin extended his undefeated string to 4-0, 2 KOs, when he scored a knockout over winless Carlos Nieves, 0-8-1, of the Bronx.  Zhimin won every round leading up to the fight’s finish at 2:34 of the fourth and final round. It was a jarring left uppercut that put Nieves down and out. The referee was Sammy Viruet.   

The Playground turned out to be a fine boxing venue with its intimate setting, giant playback screen, and wrap-around balcony. The room was scaled for the modest crowd of 500-600, but could accommodate more. 




John DiSanto - Atlantic City - August 15, 2015