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Former junior middleweight champion Kassim Ouma snapped his three-fight losing streak at the Armory on Saturday night with a 6th round TKO over Martinus Clay. The fight capped a six-bout card billed as "Shamrocks and Dreams", where "Kassim the Dream" provided the dreams, and three upcoming Irish nationals supplied the shamrocks. The night was trimmed with an Irish band, bagpipers, smoke machines and lighting effects, which only enhanced the entertaining show inside the ring.

Ouma's win began a little shaky for the former champ when his sluggish start was exploited by an upset-minded Clay who boxed carefully and landed a number of solid right hands during the first four rounds. But Ouma kept chugging. And although he failed to rev all the way back up to his former non-stop, always-pressing style, he did enough to show that his career should not be relegated to Saturday nights at the Armory. Yes, Kassim the Dream may still have gas left in his tank. As the fight wore on, his peppy attack showed flashes of the fighter he once seemed to be, unlike at least two of his three recent losses, which almost wrote his career epitaph.

As Ouma loosened up, his increasingly consistent attack wore Clay down. Martinus stayed competitive through the fourth round, holding things pretty even in this fight he was not supposed to win. But beginning with the fifth, Clay's potential upset started to fray. You could see it beginning to happen in his corner before the bell even sounded. Clay looked tired. He was breathing heavily and his slumping body language seemed to indicate that he wasn't going to make it up the hill. The weary fighter's left eye was also showing signs of wear and tear. His trainer, Billy Briscoe, worked on the eye as well as a cut inside Clay's mouth.

In the fifth, Ouma owned all the action. More furious corner work after the round couldn't stop the slide. In round six, Ouma chased his prey around the ring caught him near his own corner. A combination of punches ending with a booming uppercut deposited Clay on one knee. Martinus got up but Ouma was on him immediately. After another combination from Ouma, Clay took a knee once again. He began to rise but Clay's corner called for referee Benji Esteves to stop it. The win raised Ouma's record to 26-5-1. It was his 16th KO. Clay dropped to 13-19-4.

The night began with Tim Witherspoon, Jr. winning his first pro fight with a narrow majority decision over Julius Edmonds, in a jr. welterweight four rounder that could have gone either way. Witherspoon, son of the former heavyweight champ, improved to 1-1. Edmonds fell to 2-3, but probably deserved better. 

Middleweight Jamal Davis, 8-4 (6 KO),  followed with a shutout over four rounds against fellow Philadelphian Chris Hall, 3-5-1. All three judges scored the bout 40-36.

The Irish action began with the third bout of the night. Dublin's Patrick Hyland, an undefeated junior lightweight and one of three fighting Hyland brothers, overwhelmed Elvis Martinez of the Dominican Republic with a second round TKO. Using flashy right hands, Hyland, 15-0 (8 KO), had Martinez on the canvas once in first and twice in the second, forcing Martinez' corner to stop the mismatch and referee Hurley McCall waved it off at 1:24 of the second round. Martinez slipped to 11-27-2.

Slick Simon O'Donnell, a middleweight from Galway, Ire-land who now fights out of Philadelphia, scored his own KO on this Irish night when Antonio Baker finally succumbed at 58 seconds of round five of their scheduled six rounder. Referee Esteves didn't bother to count when Baker slipped to the mat. With the win, O'Donnell goes to 7-1 (4 KO); Baker drops to 6-11.

In the final preliminary bout before the main event, Lucian Gonzalez, Reading, PA, let the air out of the ceremonial bagpipes with his upset win over Paul Hyland. The second Hyland brother started well, winning the first two rounds. Gonzalez rallied back in the third to score a knockdown, which evened the score going into the final round. The two fighters fought the full three minutes of the round and it was Gonzales who clearly had the best of it. After a nervous wait for the judges scores, Gonzalez was awarded the decision. It was the first pro setback for Hyland, now 12-1 (4 KO). The unlikely winner upped his record to 8-4-1.

It was a festive night and a successful first event for the fledgling promotional company Philadelphia Worldwide. Approximately 900 fans filed into the National Guard Armory for the Saturday night program. It should also be noted that for the first time in many, many years, a local show utilized a some dramatic lighting effects to add to the atmosphere. To begin each fight, the Armory's house lights were turned off and the boxers were led into the ring by spotlight. Once the action began, the house lights were left off and the ring was lit by four lighting banks each positioned above the corners. It called to memory the good old days of the Spectrum in the 1970s, when slip and fall lawsuits were rather uncommon, and the legendary venue also used spotlights and dimmed the house lights during every round. It was small detail, but it went a long way in making a night at the fights like no other sporting event.

So congratulations to the Philadelphia Worldwide on their launch AND to the lighting technicians for making the night special.




October 4, 2008