PHILLY BOXING HISTORY                                                                     November 20, 2009


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The Blue Horizon came alive Friday night in a way that it only has maybe once or twice in recent years. The occasion was the latest and most important step in the developing career of Philadelphia's brightest prospect, Teon Kennedy. He won his main event fight and with it took home the USBA junior featherweight title. The gold and red belt that they eventually strapped around his waist looked huge on his compact frame - almost comical. Typical boxing overkill. But that belt will look great in Kennedy's trophy case, along with his national golden gloves trophy. He should look at that old trophy and this latest bauble and wonder about when the day will come when he'll add a world championship belt to his collection. The post script to this fight should be nothing but celebration.  However, the sight of his new belt, and the memories of his glorious ring victory at the Blue Horizon Friday night may in fact bring him nothing but nightmares. Much of what Teon ultimately takes away from this night depends on the progress of his talented and gallant opponent, Francisco Rodriguez, who currently lies in the intensive care unit at Hahnemann Hospital. 

The classic contest waged by both fighters left the crowd breathless. This two-way war was one of those fights that comes along every once in a while to remind all boxing fans why they stick with this messy sport that so often disappoints even the most ardent fan. But Teon Kennedy and Francisco Rodriguez went to work last night and did everything they possibly could to not only win their fight, but to satisfy the one-thousand or so fans that came out to watch them. It was their night to make a statement, and to grab their moment in the history of the sport. And they did what they set out to do. As a fight, a sporting event, and a drama, it was truly a memorable affair.

But it was the series of events that occurred after the fight had been stopped in round ten, that everyone came away talking - and thinking - about. As Teon Kennedy rejoiced in the center of the ring, Rodriguez was led back to his corner where he sat down and eventually grew unresponsive. Suddenly the body language of the fighter's corner men changed from one of concern to a palatable and frantic fear. They desperately tried to revive their man, before the commission doctor called in the paramedics. Rodriguez was laid on a stretcher and given oxygen. Moments later, the medical team swiftly took him from the ring, down the aisle, out to a waiting ambulance, and off to the hospital. Everyone worked quickly, but time stood still while it all happened. Rodriguez apparently had surgery sometime late Friday night, and currently lies in critical condition in the intensive care unit. So now we anxiously wait to hear an update, fearful of receiving the worst news possible, and second guessing all that happened in the fight.

Just after the stoppage by referee Benjy Esteves, lively debates sprung up all around the arena. Many fans felt the fight had been stopped too quickly. It was that type of bout. Rodriguez had an answer for just about everything Kennedy had to offer. So, many thought that the headway Teon was finally making in rounds nine and ten would eventually be returned by Rodriguez. But the truth is Rodriguez was wearing down in the final round. He twice fell to the floor in the tenth, without being sent there with a specific punch. But it was a combination of the punishment he was taking and the fatigue of the long tough fight that felled him. The falls were not slips or loss of balance. He was winding down in the fight and Kennedy was surging. What none of us knew was how badly Rodriguez was hurt and just how hard he was struggling to survive.

The fight ended when Kennedy hit Rodriguez with a right hand that backed him to the ropes. As Kennedy followed him, the referee jumped in to pull Teon away before he could land another punch. Rodriguez was not trapped on the ropes. He did not receive a volley of unanswered shots. But it didn't matter on this night. Nothing out of the ordinary happened in this fight. Francisco Rodriguez gave his all in his fight with Teon Kennedy. And Kennedy returned the favor. It was an incredible contest to the end. But one of these kids wound up in the hospital fighting for his life.

Over-shadowed by this story are the actual results from a very entertaining fight card. 

Teon Kennedy TKO10 Franciso Rodriguez
12-round Vacant USBA jr. featherweight title bout

Teon Kennedy won the toughest and most important bout of his career against Francisco Rodriguez. Things started well for Teon when he staggered Rodriguez late in round one. Francisco stumbled toward the ropes and referee Benjy Esteves jumped in and called it a knockdown, feeling that the ropes kept Rodriguez from actually going down. With just a few seconds left, Kennedy could not finish the job before the bell ended the first round.

Rodriguez came out for round two with a vengence. He began an effective body attack that wore Kennedy down through the middle rounds. Both fighters also landed many hard shots to the head. The fight quickly turned into a very real fight of the year candidate.

The wonderful war rolled along with the fighters exchanging punches and scorecard leads. Rodriguez' punches began to close Kennedy's right eye. It started as a mouse under and to the side of the eye, but as the fight entered the second half, swelling had begun over the eye as well. Teon looked tired and seemed to be fading.

After seven rounds or so, the fight felt dead even. But beginning in the eighth, Kennedy seemed to get a second wind. His physical strength and punching power started paying off. Kennedy appeared to be winning the exchanges, as Rodriguez looked to be winding down. But Francisco was still in the fight. He repeatedly rallied back to smash Kennedy with his own bombs, while doing his best to defend against the surging North Philadelphian.

Round nine was a classic, with both boxers trading shots. By the end of the session, Kennedy hurt Rodriguez in one corner and seemed to be on the brink of victory.

In the tenth, Rodriguez looked beaten. Kennedy kept up the pressure. His right right eye was almost completely closed. Twice Rodriguez slipped to the canvas from fatigue or from the effects of the long grueling night. Kennedy was warned once for pushing him down, but Rodriguez was weakening and going down as his body was faltering. Finally Teon landed a vicious left-right combination and Rodriguez reeled into the ropes. Referee Esteves jumped in, grabbed Kennedy and waved the fight over at 1:52. Kennedy was awarded the USBA title, the first major step of his young and promising professional career. Rodriguez eventually died from his injuries. It was a great fight, but it has been covered by a black cloud.

But we can not forget that this was an incredible fight. The next day, this web site received calls and e-mails demanding that the fight be named as the Briscoe winner for 2009. Kennedy-Rodriguez certainly is the front runner for that award. Congratulations are certainly in order for Teon Kennedy. He fought with a determination that gives real heft to the thoughts that this kid is a future world champion. He had a tough night, got hit more than anyone could have imagined, and almost lost. But he somehow fought through all of that - and a closed eye - to find some way to win. He did it - not unlike the way he did in his Blue Horizon war earlier this year with Andre Wilson - and showed everyone that he has the grit and attitude to become champ.

Rodriguez, who beat Kennedy in the amateurs, posted a truly memorable performance on this night. He took Philly's most talented prospect to the brink of defeat and won the crowd with his toughness, his skill and his fighting spirit. He was more than ready to fight on when the bout was stopped. But he paid the ultimate price in the ring. His death is a reminder of just how dangerous the sport can be. Boxers are a courageous breed who are willing to put themselves at risk for the sport they love. Every boxer on this, and every other, fight card displayed this principle, but it is Francisco Rodriguez that will be especially remembered for it. He leaves behind a young wife and a five month old daughter. His father and one brother worked his corner. The tragedy of this fight is obvious. Nothing can be done about it now. All we can do is remember the fight and honor Francisco's memory. Kennedy will surely do that by going on and further proving himself as a world class boxer. The rest of us will just continued to talk about this great fight and the brave fighter from Chicago who made the bout bigger and more important than the typical and clichéd "great fight".

Jason Barrett KO3 John Poore
6-round heavyweight bout

Jason Barrett came up from St. Petersburg Florida with a 10-10 record and starched Upper Darby's John Poore in round three. The time was :38. It was a single left hook that did the damage. Poore went down hard and referee Hurlet McCall didn't bother to count. Poore remained flat on his back for a few minutes while the ringside doctor attended to him. Luckily he was okay and left the ring on his own power. But it was a scary moment, a foreshadowing of things to come on this night. Hopefully, this is the last fight in Poore's career. The loss drops his record to 21-4 with 18 KOs. That is a fine record to go into retirement with. John has produced many thrills in his ring run. But it is time to call it quits.

Ardrick Butler TKO1 Epi Cosme Rodriguez
4-round welterweight bout

This bout was "swung" in just before the main event and West Philly's Ardrick Butler made the most of the sudden spotlight he was given. He dropped his Lancaster, PA foe twice for sure in the opening round, while another trip to the canvas was ruled a slip. Hurley McCall halted the bout at 2:25. Butler improved to 4-1; it was his first KO. Rodriguez fell to 0-2.

Dennis Hasson TKO5 Eric Pinarreta
6-round super middleweight bout

Kensington's Dennis Hasson got his KO. It was just his third in nine wins. He had Eric Pinarreta of New Bedford, MA, down in the second and hurt in the third, but took his sweet time ending the fight. Hasson has to jump on these opportunities and close the show when it's teed up for him. At 9-0, Hasson continues to progress, but it has been slow. His style seems to be stuck in the amateur mold. This served him well before he began picking up paychecks for his fights, but as a pro, he needs to step it up. Hasson is a smart and likeable guy. He has the tools. He has to press forward and work to realize his potential. Perhaps now that his recent management drama has been settled, Dennis can begin to develop as a pro.

Jamaal Davis W6 (u) Joshua Onyango
6-round jr. middleweight bout

West Philly's Jamaal Davis, 11-5 / 6 KO, beat tough Josh Onyango, 14-18-1 / 11 KO, of Trenton, NJ, by unanimous decision over six rounds. The official scores were  a solid 59-54, 58-55 & 59-54. Davis dropped Onyango in round one but could not put him away over the course of the fight. Such good-natured handling of an opponent is becoming a Davis characteristic. Where is the killer instinct?  He has skills but seems to only do just enough to win. Davis has rehabbed his record nicely and rebuilt it to a nice-looking stat. He's had a lot of tough fights and has been often placed on the short end of the match-making. But this fight should have been a showcase for him. He had Onyango, and he let him go.

Miguel Corsino TKO2 Keane Davis
4-round welterweight bout

These two jumped out to a thrilling start. They traded knockdowns in round one and had the crowd dizzy. But it was Camden, NJ's Miguel Corsino who stepped up in round two and dropped North Philly's Keane Davis three times to force the stoppage by referee Howard McCall. It was Corsino's pro debut. Davis left 1-1.

Jason Sosa TKO3 Jonathon Ocassio
4-round jr. lightweight bout

Debuting Jason Sosa of Camden, NJ, was just too strong for hard-luck North Philadelphian Jonathon Ocassio, 0-5. Sosa pressed him from the start and had Ocassio in trouble throughout. After dropping him in the third, Sosa was awarded his first pro victory at 1:13 of the round. Referee Gary Rosato made the decision not a moment too soon. 23-year old Ocassio falls to 0-6 and also needs to retire ASAP. Retirement seemed to be the theme of the night.

There was one more bout scheduled on the card. It was to be a 4-round walkout bout between Angel Ocasio of North Philadelphia and Marcus Smith of Burlington, NJ. But after the Kennedy-Rodriguez fight, Greg Sirb, Executive Director of the PA Commission, made an executive decision to scratch the final bout. It was to have been the second pro fight for both boxers.

A smaller than expected crowd was on hand with fewer than 1,000 in attendance. The card was promoted by Peltz Boxing & Joe Hand Promotions, and was their final local show of the year.

The Blue Horizon hosts one more show in 2009, on December 4th. Two additional shows remain on the year's schedule: December 2nd at the Liacouras Center and December 11 at the South Philly Arena. 

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