PHILLY BOXING HISTORY                                                                              June 25, 2011


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IBF light-heavyweight champion Tavoris Cloud successfully defended his title for the third time with an impressive eighth round TKO of West Philly's Yusaf Mack Saturday night at the Family Arena in St. Charles, MO. The bout was televised live by HBO.

Philadelphian Mack came to fight in his first-ever bid for a world title. However it was when he artfully boxed that he made the most headway during the bout. The two fighters fought on fairly even terms over the first six or seven rounds. But when Mack stopped moving, the powerful champion had the advantage. Although the champion was clearly the harder puncher, Mack unloaded his own share of leather throughout the terrific action fight. But the spirited exchanges began to take their toll on the pride of Shuler's Gym.

Late in round eight, Cloud cornered Mack and cracked him with a left hook. With Mack wobbly and in danger, Cloud went for the finish, landing a barrage of punches that were capped with a hard right hand that floored our man. Mack gamely climbed to his feet, but was completely unresponsive to referee Sam Williams' questions. With his back against the ropes and a vacant stare in his eyes, Yusaf Mack's title quest came to an end. The time was 2:57 of round eight.

Going in to the bout, it seemed that very few gave Yusaf much of a chance to return to the City of Brotherly Love as its third reigning champion (along with Steve Cunningham & Bernard Hopkins). What it must feel like to go on the road with such lukewarm chances. But Mack made the most of his title bid. He clearly had the edge when the two boxed, but was just not able to match the champion's power. Against a guy like Cloud, that's no disgrace. They don't call him "Thunder" for nothing. The fight was an entertaining battle that ended with a talented champion peeking over a worthy but out-gunned challenger. 

With the win, Cloud remained undefeated, improving to 23-0 with 19 KOs. Mack lost for the fourth time in his career and went home 29-4-2 with 17 KOs.

The fighters and  trainers at Shuler's Gym are perhaps the tightest boxing team in the City (although Bozy's Dungeon gives them a run for their money). So it is certain that Yusaf Mack will be given a hero's welcome by his boxing family, back at their West Philly office. For it is those who grind out this difficult living and impossible dream of the boxing ring that clearly best understand the accomplishment that Mack has made. Many fighters dedicate themselves to this tough sport. Very few make it to that big fight that fills their head during every grueling gym workout or lonely morning run. Fighters usually just chase the big time; not Mack.

Yusaf earned his opportunity and made it to a world title fight. And for seven rounds, he flirted with becoming a world champion. Although the disappointment of losing such an important fight must be huge for a fighter, Mack's accomplishment and spirited performance rate just as big for those of us who merely watch this sport.

Mack already has a prominent place on the mural that overlooks the ring at Shuler's Gym. It recognizes him as one of the team's standouts. Over the years, the 31-year old has held two USBA titles, one NABF belt, one NABA belt, and yet remained one of the best kept secrets of Philly boxing. With  his recent run at the IBF world championship, Mack showed the TV audience what he was made of - something  that everyone back at the Shuler Gym already knew. And in Philly, that's what it's always been about anyway.




John DiSanto - News & Notes - June 25, 2011