PHILLY BOXING HISTORY                                                                         January 28, 2012


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Dhafir Smith won on his home turf Saturday night with a six round unanimous decision over Quinton Rankin of Charlotte, NC at West Philly's First District Plaza. It was the first home-field appearance for the West Philly road warrior in about three years. His opponent came in with a mere 4-1 record, a seeming piece of cake for a 53-fight vet like Smith. However, the 25-year old visitor brought the fight and an awkward southpaw style with him to Philly, and the result was a rather tough night for the hometown boxer. But after a slow start, Dhafir Smith got it together and worked his way to the points win.

The left-handed style of Rankin troubled Smith throughout the bout, especially in the first four rounds. During those first nine minutes of action, you could see Dhafir's wheels turning as he deliberately stomped his lead left foot to the outside of Rankin's right foot, just as the boxing textbook demands. But you could see that Dhafir was thrown by the mirror image that Rankin presented, and it didn't help that the southerner was full of fight. He repeatedly rushed Smith, throwing punches freely and often bulling him to the ropes.

After four rounds of give and take action, the bout was even on my scorecard. A few of those rounds could have gone either way. A notorious slow starter, Smith struggled to find his rhythm and cool his frustrated mind. He wanted to win big in this fight and impress his local fans, but he was clearly not enjoying his homecoming so much.

Smith got focused and more comfortable in round five. He began landing more and seemed to better neutralize Rankin's awkward style. Smith's work to the body helped a lot. At one point, a volley downstairs dropped Rankin to the floor, but he got up a moment later ready to go again. A little later in the round, Rankin was down again - along with Smith - but this time it was an obvious slip after they tangled feet along the ropes. Smith took the last round as well to seal his win.

Two of the judges, George Hill and Pierre Benoist, turned in scores of 59-54. That's 5-1 in rounds plus the extra point for the knockdown. Not such a bad night after all. The third judge, Richard Hopkins scored 58-55, 4-2 in rounds plus the extra point. My card also showed 58-55.

The win upped Smith's record to 25-22-7 with 4 KOs, while Rankin fell to 4-2 with 3 KOs. Both fighters were upset after the bout.

Rankin was shocked by the verdict. He stormed around the ring shaking his head. At one point, he rushed the videographer to demand a copy of the tape. "They wouldn't let me see the tape down in Florida", he said, referring  to his previous fight and first loss. Backstage, word was Rankin was going crazy with rage.

Smith was quiet after the fight. He walked from the ring with his head down. Perhaps his disappointment had crossed over to depression. He didn't yell or make a fuss. He just shook his head and said "I don't like southpaws." His comment said it all.

The remainder of the card was a collection of four four-round bouts. As the fight approached, the participant list kept changing and eventually everything went quiet. We came to the fight assuming that original headliner, the come-backing Gerald Nobles, was out, and that rising Julian Williams probably hadn't landed an opponent. But we were also in the dark about several of the preliminaries. It turned out four supporting fights had landed on the card.

In the show opener, Skender Halili of New York, above right, won his third straight pro bout (3-0 / 3 KOs), with a one-sided thrashing of Philly's Tyrell Boggs, now 0-4. Halili landed everything he threw at Boggs, and after two full rounds Tyrell's corner surrendered to referee Eddie Cotton with Boggs on his stool.

Philly's Kareem McFarland, a southpaw (blue trunks), made a successful professional debut with a quick stoppage of Joel Nieves of Allentown, PA. The entire fight lasted just 1:01, and ended when McFarland pinned his opponent in a corner and blasted away until referee Hurley McCall halted it. 

Lefty Alex Barbosa (above right) beat Luis Rivera by unanimous four round decision for his second pro victory (2-0 / 1 KO). Rivera lost for the second time (0-2). Barbosa looked good and appears to have some skills. All three judges, Hill, Hopkins and Benoist called it a 60-54 shutout, but Rivera landed a few solid shots of his own throughout the fight.

In the semi-final bout, Althea Saunders (above left) out-muscled DJ Morrison to win a four round unanimous decision. The women looked to be in far different weight classes, despite an announced weight of 130 pounds for each. Althea had to be a good 5-10 pounds more than her opponent, and she used her size advantages well. But Morrison came to fight and put on a scrappy show, taking the first round on my card. Saunders bloodied Morrison's nose in the fourth, but Morrison kept coming. After four rounds, the judges had Saunders winning all four rounds. Two of the judges, George Hill and Pierre Benoist gave a 10-8 round along  the way for a tally of 40-35. Judge Hopkins had it 40-36. Saunders improved to 3-0-1. Morrison slid to 2-12 (2 KOs).

The evening was filled out with three exhibitions and a tribute to Smokin' Joe Frazier.

Former IBF junior middleweight champion Buster Drayton clowned his was through three rounds with Richard Floyd in the first exhibition.

Light-heavyweight contender Yusaf Mack participated in two exhibitions. First he faced Prince Badi Ajamu for two rounds and  then went another two rounds with Frank Walker.

The show was promoted by Percy "Buster" Custus of Shuler Gym Promotions, and drew a crowd of about 500 spectators.




John DiSanto - West Philly - January 28, 2012