PHILLY BOXING HISTORY                                                                             April 04, 2009


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It was almost one year ago that prospect Gabriel Rosado last appeared in a Philadelphia ring. Since that bout at the New Alhambra last May, Rosado fought in New York and Maryland, and served as the prime sparring partner for both Bernard Hopkins (in Miami) and Shane Mosley (in Big Bear). It was in New York last June when Rosado posted his best career win when he dropped and decisioned a then-undefeated prospect named James Moore before a national TV audience on ESPN2. It was a win that came on the heels of a particularly active stretch for Gabe. But instead of immediately capitalizing on that high-profile victory, Rosado packed his bags and headed out for two back-to-back training camp gigs, helping both Hopkins and Mosley prepare for two of the best wins of their respective careers. Although he helped both of these stars win big, Rosado let his own career go inactive for eight months, a mortal sin for a young and rising prospect, and in doing so probably helped himself lose his next big test. That fight was a disappointing start against the highly regarded Fernando Guerrero. Rosado did well in the bout, even dropping Guerrero with a booming right early on, but he wasn't able to sustain the pace he'd set in the first half of the fight and went on to lose the decision. It was a fight that if he'd won, would have sent out a loud message to the elite of his division. But instead, Rosado had to cope with the various would-have, could-have scenarios that always follow a loss. To his credit, Rosado immediately set his sights on the one thing that he needed most - a busy boxing schedule. After the bout he said that he wanted to put together six more fights before 2009's end - squeezing them in between his wedding and the birth of his first child. It was a plan that sounded just right.

Rosado began that quest Saturday night at South Philadelphia High School, one week to the day after his wedding to Jennifer, the new Mrs. Rosado. In his successful return to the rings of Philadelphia he faced and defeated Ariel Espinal of Brooklyn with a fifth round technical knockout in their scheduled six-round middle-weight bout. Espinal was tough and scrappy, but Rosado served up a consistent beating for five full rounds. In the fifth round, after being wobbled by a Rosado onslaught, Espinal took a knee and looked ready to call it a day. But he did bravely rise and finish the round. However, just a few seconds into the rest period, Espinal's corner decided their fighter had had enough. It was a workmanlike first step back for Gabe. Nothing too flashy, just a good solid win that raised his record to 11-3 with 7 KOs. He expects to fight again in one month, back at the same South Philly venue on May 9th. It was the sixth straight loss for Espinal who's record worsened to 6-8-2.

One of the best things about seeing Rosado fight live is watching his circuitous trip back to the dressing room. It takes him forever to get there. First he's stopped by ringside reporters, then by many fans, and finally he makes his way over to the bleachers where his large family and cheering section is seated. Like a Wimbledon champion, Rosado climbs up the stands to greet his clan. As he does, a queue of additional fans come toward him, offering congratulations and shaking his hand. He welcomes them all and shows a warmth that is nowhere to be found while still in the ring.

Rosado shared the promotion's spotlight Saturday night with Kensington's Dennis Hasson, who had the other co-feature bout of the evening which closed the show. Hasson went up against Johnny Hayes of Atlantic City in a super middleweight six rounder. It was Hasson's first go as a main-event attraction and he won his bout by a wide margin on all the judges cards. In fact all three officials called the fight the same, a 60-53 shutout. Hasson served up a steady menu of long jabs, straight right hands and whipping left hooks. But no matter how much he plastered Hayes, he could not get him out of there. Hasson hurt him in round four and floored him the fifth. In the sixth and final round, Dennis appeared to drop his foe again, but referee Hurley McCall ruled Hayes' meeting with the canvas a slip. This angered Hasson who really wanted to impress. None the less, Dennis won his bout by a mile and improved to 8-0. Hayes fell to 6-5-1.

The evening started with a scheduled 4-round lightweight brawl between Gustavo Dailey of Philadelphia and Travis Thompson of Pottstown, PA. These two could not have thrown more punches during the brief slugfest. They took turns rocking each other with one wild power shot after another in a rowdy and thrilling punch out. After one hectic round, Dailey trapped Thompson on the ropes and fired away until referee Blair Talmadge jumped in at 34 seconds of round two. Dailey scored his first knockout and improved to 3-5. Thompson lost his third straight and fell to 3-5-1.

In the second fight of the night, Lamont Barnes, Kensington, halted Zeferino Albino, Southwest Philly, at 2:09 of round two with three knockdowns. Barnes overcame what looked like an insecure start by suddenly leveling Albino early in the second round. Needless to say, this turned things around in a hurry. Barnes hustled along, threw countless punches, and managed the additional two knockdowns needed for an automatic stoppage.

South Philadelphia heavyweight John Mercurio won his second fight in a row with a second round TKO over Derrick Allen of Wilson, NC. Mercurio made his pro debut at the same venue back in January, and repeated tonight with another quick win before a strong cheering contingent. The two big men went at it over the first round but the action was suddenly stopped in the second when a nasty cut over Allen's left eye left the officials squeamish enough to call a halt at 1:10. Referee Talmadge asked the doctor to have a look and the bout was immediately stopped. Although the gaping gash looked like something that might have been caused by a head butt, no such call was made and the result went down as a technical knockout.

The final preliminary bout was a hectic affair that featured the pro debut of "Lightning" Lonnie Jackson against an 0-4 pro named Soumana Nandou Abdoulaye of New York. Going in, southpaw Jackson had all the bravado of an established veteran, and was as cocky and brash as could be until the first bell sounded. But once his inaugural fight started, Jackson learned that posting a win isn't as easy as it sometimes looks. In the four round lightweight bout, Jackson went to the canvas in every round. Although his first trip down was ruled a slip by referee McCall, there was no question that the following trips were legit. To his credit, Jackson managed to return the knockdown favors of Abdoulaye, dropping him in rounds two, three and four. The ring action was total chaos with the pair exchanging knockdowns in three of the four rounds. The scrap must have been a real puzzle to score, and the judge's official ballots were split, 38-37 for Jackson, 37-35 for Abdoulaye, and 39-36 for Jackson. I'm not quite sure how you score a four round fight containing seven knockouts (six acknowledged by the ref). It felt like Abdoulaye had the better of it, and he looked absolutely heart broken by the verdict. The loss dropped his record to an awful 0-5. Jackson escaped 1-0, and by now I'm sure his good-natured cockiness has returned.

South Philadelphia High School continues to be a fine boxing venue. This was just the second card ever held there. One wonders how is wasn't discovered sooner. Unlike the packed crowd of the first show back in January, a smallish crowd of about 600 came out on this night. Certainly Villanova's appearance in the college basketball final four hurt the gate of the fight.

Next up for South Philly High and Bionic Bull Productions is a May 9th card featuring the return of Brian Cohen, who headlined the January show.




John DiSanto - South Philadelphia - April 04, 2009