PHILLY BOXING HISTORY                                                                     November 19, 2011


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USBA champ Garrett Wilson scored a stunning last minute knockout of tough challenger Chuck Mussachio Saturday night to retain his cruiserweight title in the 12th and final round of their Bally's Atlantic City main event. Down on the scorecards with his title slipping  away, Wilson brushed off the mountain of frustration he was carrying from the first 11 rounds against his crafty and ever-ballsy Wildwood, NJ challenger, and did the only thing he could to save his title. In stead of handing over his belt, Wilson refused to be denied and launched a monstrous overhand right that crashed against Mussachio's jaw and sent him sprawling to the canvas. The determined challenger did his best to rise from the thunderbolt, but stumbled back to the floor and was counted out. Wilson's "Hail Mary" retained his title and raised his record to 11-5-1 with 5 KOs.

Wilson started the fight well by whacking Mussachio to the body, keeping to he and trainer Rodney Rice's pre-fight game plan to "live in his body like a tape worm" and sent the message that Mussachio was in for a tough night. But instead of retreating, Chuck stood his ground and fought back smartly. Mussachio's boxing began to stall Wilson's punch output, but the action teetered back and forth early on. Wilson relied on a smattering of heavy blows, while Mussachio concentrated on boxing basics. After eight rounds, I had  it even. But a cool-headed Mussachio combined just enough movement with his active left jab to gradually gain control of the fight.

As the battle moved into its final third, Mussachio boxed away and began to cloud Wilson's signature upbeat attitude. It is that positive attitude that normally buoys Wilson's aggressive style and fills the gaps between the fighter he is and the fighter he wants to be. As the jabs rained in and Mussachio's distance kept him out of any major danger, Wilson grew discouraged. This departure from the big confidence he brought into the fight reverted him back to the inexperienced fighter that his 10-5-1 record describes.

But in his heart and in his will, Wilson is 110-5, and even when few others believed that he still had it in him on this night of schooling, Garrett reached in and reclaimed his belief in himself. He threw caution to the wind and decided that winning was worth the risk.

He told himself, "If I get knocked down, I'm losing anyway. Just go out there and go all out."

And all out he went.

The punch that ended the fight was an arching shot that left Wilson completely exposed himself. But his mental shift of gears instantaneously changed the momentum of the fight. Feeling the pressure, Mussachio backed away with his guard low as Wilson cocked his gun. The blast came a second later and turned this very good fight into a classic.

Shock blanketed the crowd of 1,500 as Mussachio crashed to the floor and Wilson peered at his fallen foe hoping that he'd hit him hard enough. A quick read of Mussachio's body language made it clear that he wasn't  getting up. But still he tried.

Joey Eye, cut man for Mussachio, shook his head. "He had it...he had it", he said. 

"I felt I was blowing it", Wilson said backstage. "I knew I needed the knockout. I knew I had it in me to pull out the knockout, but you know, at the same time, he was tough as nails." Not every fighter is willing to lay it on the line, but Garrett Wilson is NOT one of those fighters.

Mussachio commented, "That's how boxing goes. No excuses. He landed that punch fair and square. I was totally healthy and he beat me."

At the time of the stoppage, Mussachio had control of my scorecard, 106-103 (or 7-4 in rounds). The official cards had it a bit closer with Mussachio up by scores of 107-103 & 105-104 on two tallies, and Wilson leading 105-104 on the third.

After the fight, both  men addressed the crowd and complimented each other's performance. There was no gloating, no excuses. They seemed to enjoy the fight as much as everyone else did. The sportsmanship - and newly found friendship - between the two sealed this one as probably the best local fight of the year. It was certainly the most dramatic.

Mussachio's record slipped to 17-2-2 with 5 KOs. It was the first time he had ever been knocked out. Afterwards Chuck vowed to go back to the light-heavyweight division.

The main supporting bout was another dramatic affair with undefeated welterweight Ronald Cruz in an eight rounder with his best and most experienced opponent yet, Anges Ajadho (17-6 / 9 KOs). Adjaho showed his class and schooled Cruz, who looked flat from the opening bell. Ajadho started with jabs but began mixing in heavy combinations that shook Cruz more than once and threatened to end his winning streak at 14 straight. But Cruz came out for round five determined to keep this difficult evening limited to a good learning experience rather than a full stumble.

From the start of the round, it was a different Cruz in there. He moved forward and threw the combinations that he failed to muster thus far. Suddenly a right hand by Cruz dropped Adjaho, but the experienced boxer bounced up, ready to continue. The seasoned pro even tried to hustle a "slip call" from referee Earl Morton, who didn't go for it. Before long, a southpaw-shifted Cruz nailed Adjaho with a straight left that dropped him again. Adjaho got up and seemed clear-headed. Cruz jumped on him and fired away. With Cruz giving and Adjaho taking, referee Morton stepped in. The time was 2:54 and although it was clear that Cruz had him, the stoppage felt a little premature.

The hard-earned victory made Cruz 15-0 with 12 KOs, and provided a world of experience that should make him an even better prospect. Cruz had set out to make a statement with this fight, and I think he did. Sometimes when a young fighter is having a tough night, he has to just suck it up and seize the win. Not all of them can do it, but Cruz proved that he could. That may not be the message he planned to send, but it was an important one nonetheless. He continues to impress and is proving that he has a future.

Peltz Boxing put on a terrific night of fights all around. The evening began with a 4-round junior welterweight bout between Niam Nelson and Deroy Beaton. Nelson edged his southpaw foe by unanimous decision (39-37 x 3).

Junior welterweight Dontre King survived the powerful Julio DeJesus to take a close unanimous decision over four rounds (39-37 x 3).

Heavyweight Bryant Jennings raised his record to 11-0 / 5 KOs with an expedient first round TKO over Kevin Franklin. The time was 1:51 of the scheduled six round bout.

Welterweight DeCarlo Perez claimed a surprise six round unanimous decision over journeyman Manuel Guzman, after Guzman impressed most ringside observers. However the three official judges thought Perez was the winner (58-55, 58-55, 57-56). I scored it 58-55 for Guzman, and the noisy crowd seemed to agree with me.

Antowyan Aikens won the super middleweight walkout bout with a four round unanimous decision over Charles Kirby.

Peltz Boxing returns to Atlantic City on  February 25, but before that, stages a card in South Philly on January 21.




John DiSanto - Atlantic City - November 19, 2011