PHILLY BOXING HISTORY                                                                       February 25, 2012


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Undefeated Ronald Cruz improved his record to 16-0 with a lopsided unanimous decision over Allen Conyers at Bally's Atlantic City Saturday night. Although the scores were comfortable for Cruz, the fight was not. The young prospect rumbled with the dangerous Bronx puncher and made the fight more difficult than it needed to be in part by insisting on a  mostly southpaw style that seemed far less effective than his natural righty stance. When he pressed the action, moved forward, and kept his hands moving, Cruz dominated the fight. However, Conyers proved to be a challenge every time Cruz took his foot off the gas. And so set the pattern of this very entertaining, and at times, dramatic fight. Still, Ronald kept his head, avoided major trouble, and did more than enough to nail down the victory.

Before the bell rang to start the fight, a quickie poll at ringside would have produced a near unanimous opinion that this match would be full of fireworks and likely to end in a showy knockout. After all, Cruz had scored stoppages in his last eight bouts and Conyers was a proven "kill or be killed" type of battler. Clearly this would be one that you could bet would end early - one way or another.

When the two men met at center ring for round one, the action heated up instantly. Cruz, an increasingly effective pressure fighter in his recent bouts, came right at Conyers, while the New Yorker carefully held his ground with his right hand cocked and ready. The pair stalked each other and tossed serious shots as their warming up process. It was obvious right away that this was going to be a good one. Just two fighters fighting - pure and simple. But then Cruz switched over to a lefty stance and threw what seemed like a natural brawl into a curious display of stubbornness.

While Cruz debated with himself on whether to go righty or lefty (he seemed to settle on lefty most of the way), Conyers went to work and had a pretty good round one. However, as the round wound down, the suddenly southpaw Cruz blasted Conyers with a bomb of a straight left that buckled his knees and sent him sprawling along the ropes. Conyers went down, but at first it seemed that referee Earl Morton did not call the trip to the canvas a knockdown. Conyers rose to his feet as the bell rang, and Morton did not give him an 8-count, prompting many to believe that he had missed the call. However, the commission confirmed that Cruz had indeed been credited with a knockdown.

Ronald came out for the second with a head of steam. 

But Conyers, having lost three of his last four bouts, and two of those by TKO, had not gone soft as many had assumed from his recent record. After the knockdown he reengaged with Cruz and seemed to still have plenty of fight left in him. Cruz did his best to pick up where he had left off and aggressively pursued Conyers - as a lefty - and swung for the fences. Conyers covered up well and survived. He even stayed in the pocket and fired his own shots, very much staying in the game, but round two was all Cruz. 

The fight settled into a pattern after the second round. Cruz was clearly in control, while Conyers remained dangerous and ready to turn the fight around with his power. They worked their way through the next couple of rounds and took their turns landing punches. Cruz continued to switch back and forth but spent most of the night as a lefty. However, the tactic did not really produce any results for him. In fact from outside the ring, he looked far more comfortable when right-handed. From the orthodox stance, the things Cruz does best seemed to flow. He was more aggressive and his hands seemed to move much more. It was as if his body clicked when he returned to his natural stance.

It was a classic example of a fighter thinking too much. Cruz, a promising and talented fighter, simply wanted to be a confusing switch hitter. Maybe he's watched too many Marvelous Marvin Hagler tapes.

This phenomenon of confusion is quite common for developing fighters as they struggle with their ring identity. A fighter must learn who he really is in the ring and must rely on that fighter as his career progresses. There is nothing wrong with adding a new skill or tactic to ones armory. However, new tricks should never cloud a fighter's identity and work against what a he does best. If Cruz wants to hone the ability to switch from righty to lefty, that is fine. But in my opinion, he doesn't need it. There is nothing more formidable than a right-handed Ronald Cruz doing what he does best - moving forward, staying busy, hammering the body, and working for the knockout. That is his recipe for success. I wish he'd embrace it. His natural style is beautiful and exciting and quite good. If you ask me, Cruz should only switch stances if he breaks his hand during a fight.

In the fifth, Conyers had his best round and was able to crack Cruz on the chin more than once. Ronald felt his opponent's power, but survived the heavy shots well. Conyers' sudden success pumped his confidence and had him smiling a devilish  smirk and he stalked Cruz. But as Conyers' bombs came in, the fighter in Ronald Cruz came out. He fired back at his foe and the two swung away and produced the best round of the fight. Conyers won the round, but at the midway point of the fight, Cruz held a decisive edge on my card - four rounds to one. It still seemed like the fight would end by knockout.

Over the second half of the fight, however, another pattern developed. When Cruz remained aggressive Conyers would go into a defensive shell, ready to strike but generally dormant. As soon as Cruz would let up, Conyers would get brave and press forward. Muted by his own lefty style, Cruz hesitated more in the final five rounds and allowed Conyers to stay in the fight. The outcome never really seemed in doubt, but a puncher like Conyers should at least be contained and shut down, if not taken out completely. Anything less is risky business. Cruz let Conyers continue while he fought with himself.

Although Cruz' identity crisis was at times frustrating to watch, the fight it inspired was not. It was a good match with plenty of action and the drama weaved in and out all night long.

The official  scores were right on the money. Alan Rubenstein and Barbara Perez scored it 99-90, or nine rounds to one plus an extra point for the knockdown. Judge John Potteray tallied 99-89. My score was 99-91 (nine to one with NO extra point).

Cruz improved to 16-0 with 12 KOs. Conyers slipped to 12-6 with 9 KOs.

The semi-windup bout featured USBA cruiserweight champ Garrett Wilson in an eight-round non title bout against fellow Philadelphian Pedro Martinez. Some wondered if Wilson would be able to go all out against his familiar foe, with whom he's sparred and befriended over the years. If Wilson himself wondered the same thing, his pondering didn't last long. By round two, Garrett's engines were fully revved, and he was firing away. Early in round three Wilson landed a nasty right uppercut-left hook combination that dropped Martinez along the  ropes. While still on his knees, Pedro pawed at his nose and checked his glove for blood. He stood up but did not have the desire to go on. So referee David Fields waved the fight to an end. The time was 36 seconds of round three.

The brief victory was Wilson's 6th KO, and boosted his record to 12-5-1. At  the end of the night it was announced that he would return to Bally's on April 14th to face Andres Taylor for the vacant NABF cruiserweight belt.

Martinez fell to 6-5 with 3 KOs. It was his third loss in four fights, but to be fair not many expected him to win this one.

The evening opened with a four round junior welterweight rematch between Camden's Korey Pritchett and Philly's Korey Sloane who first fought last  September. Pritchett repeated his prior victory, winning on this night by another split decision. Generally it was a match-up of Pritchett's power against Sloan's activity. Pritchett landed a big right in round one to set the tone and won the first three rounds. With his back against the wall, Sloane did enough to bank the final round, but it wasn't enough to sway two of the three judges. Everyone scored the fight 39-37, but Perez and Potteray saw it for Pritchett while Rubenstein favored Sloane. I had it 39-37 for Pritchett, who improved to 2-1. Sloane left 2-3.

Next up was a four round super middleweight bout between Charles Kirby of Philadelphia and Antowyan Aikens of Atlantic City. I thought the pair each won two rounds for a 38-38 draw, but the officials all saw it for Aikens. Judges Perez and Potteray scored it four-zip (or 40-36), while Rubenstein gave Kirby one round (39-37). Aikens remained undefeated, 4-0 (1 KO); Kirby dropped to 1-6. After the fight, Aikens took the microphone and proposed marriage to his girlfriend in the Bally's ring. The proposal was complete with a diamond engagement ring and Aikens down on one knee. She said "Yes", and then the fights continued.

Welterweight Jeff Lentz made a successful pro debut with a first round TKO of hard luck North Philadelphian David Navarro, now 1-5. Lentz dropped Navarro twice before referee Earl Morton halted the fight after just 2:34.

In a battle for Camden bragging rights, late substitute Luis Cream channeled his grandfather Jersey Joe Walcott to pull a minor upset of Miguel Corcino in a four round welterweight fight. Cream looked sharp and powerful throughout the bout, hurting Corcino over and over with his punches. Corcino was having a pretty good second round before he ran into a big left hook by Cream. The punch dropped Corcino and pretty much decided the fight. They fought on, but the tone had been set. The final round was terrific with both fighters going all out. Corcino rattled Cream at one point, but Luis rallied back well. The bell interrupted the toe-to-toe action, before the judges turned in landslide scores for Cream. Alan Rubenstein and Barbara Perez scored it 40-35, while John Potteray saw it (as did I) 39-36. Cream stayed undefeated, 3-0. Corcino receded to 3-2 with 2 KOs.

In a scheduled six round welterweight bout, Atlantic City's DeCarlo Perez entered the ring with a tribute to Muhammad Ali, complete with an Ali-esque white terrycloth robe, white high-top shoes with tassels, old-style white & black Everlast trunks, and even an Ali-inspired hair-do. DeCarlo's resemblance was striking, but then the bell rang. Rafael Montalvo of St. Clair, PA, stepped into the Ali-zone and didn't even need a Joe Frazier makeover to chop down Perez quickly. After one trip to the canvas in round two and a little more punishment once Perez got up, referee Earl Morton stopped the fight at 2:33 of the round. The TKO gave Montalvo a 2-1 (2  KO) record. Perez fell to 6-2 (2 KO). It was his first loss by knockout.

A large and rowdy crowd assembled for the card. Attendance was approximately 1,300. Peltz Boxing returns to Bally's Atlantic City on April 14 with Garrett Wilson headlining.




John DiSanto - Atlantic City - February 25, 2012