PHILLY BOXING HISTORY - December 31, 2019  
Home Boxers Fights Arenas Non-Boxers Gyms Relics More About Contact

Story by Frank Bartolini
Photos by Darryl Cobb Jr. & Stephanie Trapp


KAUFFMAN FUELS PHILLY - A tremendous year of boxing in the “City of Brotherly Love” came to an end on Friday December 6th at the 2300 Arena. When Washington DC native, junior welterweight, Mykel Fox's hand was raised after winning a ten round unanimous decision over John Arrellano of Texas, it signaled the end of a fabulous year of pro prizefighting. Fittingly, the area’s most prolific promoter Marshall Kaufman’s Kings Promotions delivered the action that night. Kaufman once again was the busiest local promoter. In October, Kaufman, in conjunction with Premier Boxing Champions,   brought world class talent to the area showcasing Robert Easter Jr.'s win over Adrian Granados and top ranked junior middleweight Erickson Lubin to his hometown Reading, PA. Without Kaufman promoting close to a dozen shows in and around the Delaware River,  the area’s fight scene would hardly survive, yet alone thrive.

RAGING BABE DEBUTS - The excitement all started back in February when Michelle Rosado’s Raging Babe Promotions kicked the year off promoting her first event in Philly at the 2300 Arena. A solid fight card became mythological when flaming hot prospect, Christian Carto was poleaxed and laid out on the canvas by Mexican tumbler Victor Ruiz in round two. Leaving the venue on a stretcher, Carto’s future was in doubt, meanwhile Rosado cemented her credentials as a promoter within the municipality.

A NIGHT AT THE OPERA - It appeared that Hard Hitting Promotions was going to a have a phenomenal  year when close to 3,500 spectators packed into the newly refurbished Metropolitan Opera House (The Met) on North Broad Street. That night a couple of home town undefeated participants of Puerto Rican heritage squared off in the main event for more than victory. On the line for combatants Steven Ortiz and Jeremy Cuevas was neighborhood and ethnic bragging rights. Ortiz won easily over eight rounds. Hard Hitting returned to “The Met” a few more times but nothing compared to the virgin experience in the opera house.

TOP RANK PROMOTIONS - Bob Arum committed to bringing world renowned talent to Philadelphia and delivered exactly that in 2019. Checking the temperature of the water, Arum dipped his toe in last March when he promoter Oleksadr Gvozdyk's successful WBC light heavyweight  title defense against Doudou Ngumbu. Also seeing action that night Philly native “The New” Ray Robinson drew with highly  ranked and touted Lithuanian Egidijus Kavaliauskas. Many of those at ringside believed Robinson deserved the nod. Other spectators felt if Robinson turned it up just a notch he would have clearly been victorious. Egidijus went on to give a good account of himself in his next fight before getting kayoed in nine rounds versus WBO Welterweight King Terence Crawford in December at Madison Square Garden.

THE SHOW MUST GO ON - After a freak accident had Carl Frampton pulling out of his fight at the Liacouras Center in August, less than two weeks beforehand. no one would have blamed Top Rank for cutting their losses and canceling the festivities altogether. Instead former junior lightweight champ Jason Sosa was bumped up to main event status and pitted against unheralded Lydell Rhodes. Sosa kayoed Rhodes in seven rounds. With no time to promote the change in the main go, the show drew poorly.  A few months later Sosa went on to unsuccessfully challenge WBC Super Featherweight Champion Miguel Berchelt getting finished off in four rounds.

THE COUP DE GRACE - The big one occurred when Top Rank chose to come back to the Liacouras Center to pit two undefeated knockout artists in a light heavyweight unification match. WBC King Oleksandr Gvozdyk and IBF Monarch Artur Beterbiev squared off on October 18. This pairing would have sold out major arenas in Las Vegas, Manhattan or Chicago. By choosing Philadelphia, Top Rank made a statement that it plans on being a major part of this city's professional pugilism. Beterbiev stopped Gvozdyk in the tenth. Quality over quantity is why Top Rank should be considered for The Briscoe Award Promoter of the Year.

IRISH INVASION- Once again UK boxers invaded Philadelphia. Contrary to the American Revolution, this time the City of Brotherly Love welcomed the red coats with open arms. In March, Matchroom Boxing USA promoted Tevin Farmer's homecoming at the Liacouras Center in what turned out to be the best night of fights for 2019. Jono Carroll of Ireland put forth a spirited and gallant effort in trying to wrest the crown from IBF Super Featherweight king Farmer. The undercard showcased two potential Briscoe Award Fights of the Year. Philly native Gabriel Rosado's late round comeback against Polish Maciej Sulecki was epic. Rosado lost a ten round unanimous decision but showed he is still a threat in the middleweight division. Unbelievable, unless you were in the arena early  to witness Hank Lundy vs. Avery Sparrow, you missed one of the best pairings of two rival Philly boxers in a long time. DAZN cameras had not started rolling when this fight occurred. Also, nearly 1,500 of Katie Taylor's faithful fans flew into Philly from the Emerald Isle to see her easily defend her undisputed lightweight laurels.

WEST PHILLY RULES - I traveled to DC to see Philly fighters showcase their impressive skills in May. The scraps took place on the abandoned campus of George Mason University. Classes ended the day prior to Julian Williams' shocking upset of Jarrett Hurd. Not only did Williams ruin Hurd's homecoming, he walked away with his IBF and WBA Super Welterweights belts. West Philly had more proud moments when Stephen Fulton put on a flawless performance on the undercard, and won the IBO junior featherweight belt. 

Happy New Year! Keep Punching!




Frank Bartolini - Philadelphia - December 31, 2019