|PHILLY BOXING HISTORY January 21, 2012||
JENNINGS WINS PA STATE TITLE
North Philly's Bryant Jennings defeated South Philly's Maurice Byarm by 10-round unanimous decision Saturday night at the Asylum Arena in a battle for the Pennsylvania State Heavyweight Championship. The two rising undefeated boxers answered a last-minute call to fight less than one week before another match was intended to launch the brand new NBC Sports Network nationally televised boxing series. But this bout exceeded expectations for even the originally scheduled fight between Eddie Chambers and Sergei Liakhovich. That fight fell apart due to a late injury and Jennings-Byarm was practically pulled out of thin air.
But the switch turned out to be serendipity for the boxing fans, the promoters, the network and TV viewers. Jennings and Byarm put on an all-action heavyweight contest for ten full rounds. A rarity for sure. And although Jennings came away with his record unblemished and the PA State Belt around his waist, both boxers left winners.
Usually it is risky business to depend on a pair of heavyweights to carry such an important main event. I mean, you're probably okay if you're talking about Muhammad Ali, Joe Frazier, Evander Holyfield, or Mike Tyson. Those legendary big men usually made for a good fight. But the typical 21st century heavyweight lumbers like a brontosaurus and is often just as docile as the plant-eating behemoth. With heavyweights these days, chances are you'll be fine as long as they don't step on you.
But this was not the case with Saturday's fight. Suddenly thrust into the spotlight and with those shinny unbeaten records to maintain, each boxer came to fight. Both were many moons away from headlining their own show under normal circumstances, let alone a nationally televised one. Neither fighter had gone past six rounds in the past, but they came out and fought their hearts out.
The fight was close, with the heavier Byarm landing more consistently early on. But Jennings fought in explosive spurts that showed he was the "bigger" guy. Jennings responded to Byarm's offense with sharper and faster punches of his own, and despite the lower KO percentage between the two, Jennings seemed to have the heavier hands.
The fight was more or less even after six rounds. As they entered the new territory of the post 6th-world, you'd never know either man had yet to experience it. Both fought through any nerves or fatigue, and continued to throw punches at the other. They clinched and caught their breath, but not nearly as much as you might think they would. These guys were hungry and both wanted to win badly.
Down the stretch of the fight, the pattern remained set. The action teetered between the two with Jennings having a slight edge in work rate and power. But his bursts of activity made more of an impression.
Once the final bell had rung, the decision seemed to be a toss up. The crowd loved the fight and the steady action that it provided.
The official judges all had Jennings leading. Joe Pasquale saw it 97-93 (7 rounds to 3), while Alan Rubenstein and Steve Weisfeld though it was a bit closer, and turned in scores of 96-94 (6-4 in rounds) each. It could have gone either way, but the decision felt right - Jennings by a hair.
"It makes him see what he's got to do", said Fred Jenkins Sr., the trainer of Jennings. "It will open his eyes to see what he's got to learn. He got the experience in a live fight."
The win kept Jennings undefeated at 12-0 with 5 KOs.
"That was a real test and I passed with flying colors", Jennings said after the fight.
Byarm left 13-1-1 with 9 KOs, but both men showed their stuff and should be commended for stepping up to the plate on such short notice. Very few fighters are willing to take such a risk, and go into a fight without pulling all the strings. Boxers used to be willing to do that, but it is rarer these days. If Jennings and Byarm are the tomorrow of the heavyweight division, then hopefully it means that their throwback willingness to really fight is a thing of the future, and not just the past.
Gabriel Rosado scored the best win of his career in the televised 10-round co-feature. His 5th round TKO of Jesus Soto Karass was a thrilling display of ferocious aggression that had the crowd dizzy. Rosado, 19-5, 11 KOs, became the first person to stop the tough and wily Soto Karass, 24-7-3, 16 KOs, and sent the message that he was ready to step up to the next level in the junior middleweight division. With such a great performance, it should be no time before Rosado gets a big fight. For full coverage and photos of Rosado-Soto Karass, read Graduation Day For Gaby.
Also televised on the card was a 6-round light heavyweight bout between Sullivan Barrera and Damar Singleton. Barrera won the unanimous decision in a dominant performance. Two of the three judges gave him all six rounds (I too had it a shutout) while the third saw it 5-1. Barrera improved to 9-0, 6 KOs. Singleton lost for the first time, 7-1 with 3 KOs.
Philly junior welterweight Naim Nelson opened the evening and posted his fourth pro win without a loss with a commanding 4-round unanimous decision over debuting Pedro Andres. Nelson's stalactite hair had grown even higher since his last fight, but so had his punching power. He popped Andres throughout the bout with surprisingly stiff shots and came away with a shutout victory. All three judges agreed with scores of 40-36.
Jose Pelata Alejo beat Lenwood Dozier in a 6-round cakewalk. The one-sided unanimous decision lifted his record to 7-1 (4 KO), while Dozier fell to 7-4-1 (3 KO).
Philly's Ray Robinson got a good test from perennial tough guy Doel Carrasquillo in their 8-round welterweight fight. Carrasquillo stalked Robinson with a familiar smirk across his face and Robinson did his best to jab it off of him. The fight was tough and close. Robinson had the speed, movement and jab, but Doel threatened him with power that has helped him pull a number of upsets in the past.
Carrasquillo landed his shots, especially in round three. The hard punches made Robinson's eyes go wide, but he kept his head - and feet - and kept lashing the "Amish Assassin" with his straight southpaw jab. Robinson had to fight in spurts and move in and out to claim the victory, but it was a smart plan. Mixing too much with Doel can be a death wish.
Robinson did enough to win the fight. I had him up 77-75 or five rounds to three, but the official judges thought his win was more comfortable than that. Joe Pasquale scored 78-74, Steve Weisfeld saw it 78-74, and Alan Rubenstein liked Robinson 79-73.
It was a nice win and a great learning experience for Robinson, now 13-2 (5 KO). For Carrasquillo, 16-19-1 (14 KO), it was another night at the office and another one that got away. But he knows he'll have other chances to upset young rising stars.
The live show, promoted by Main Events in association with Peltz Boxing and Greg Cohen Promotions, was a big success. With a sellout crowd and more than a few "standing room" customers, the live audience was about 1,300.
The televised show was the first in a proposed quarterly series by NBC Sports Network. The hope is that the ratings and content merit more than four shows next year. If the remaining three 2012 telecasts are anything like this Philly card, there should be plenty more TV boxing on the NBC Sports Network in the future.