PHILLY BOXING HISTORY                                                                             May 04, 2012


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Wiley road warrior Dhafir Smith returned home in the middle of his sparring gig with world champ Lucian Bute to face tough Tony Ferrante in the 10-round main event at Harrah's Chester Friday night. Smith withstood everything his green foe had to offer, and used an effective jab and a bag-full of tricks to defuse the busy Ferrante. Smith won the unanimous decision and earned the PA State light heavyweight title, before going back out on the road for more sparring with Bute. It was just another night at the office for Smith, and a typical Dhafir performance.

Ferrante started strong in the bout, easily winning the first three rounds. Smith is always slow to simmer, but this time it looked like Ferrante was a little too strong and too active for the old pro. He even rattled Smith with a right hand in round  three. Between rounds, Smith's trainer, Buster Custus, gave Dhafir hell, and the dress down seemed to work. Starting in round four Smith's jab loosened up and started shooting out at Ferrante. It changed the fight dramatically.

Suddenly, behind the jab that Smith himself calls the best in the business, Dhafir was in control of the fight. Ferrante was still busier, but now Smith was able to mount little attacks that swung the fight his way and bloodied his opponent's nose.

Although not a hard hitter, Smith landed several combinations in the middle rounds that snapped Ferrante's head back and made him more hesitant to engage. Still Ferrante made the fight with his forward motion and hard-nosed ethic.

Smith was also extremely effective in the clinches where he tied Ferrante up and robbed him of the chance to make the fight a trench war. This was the icing on Smith's victory. Not only did Dhafir have the edge when they were exchanging punches, Smith also controlled the frequent passages when the fight could have taken a turn. By muting Ferrante's effectiveness when they were in close, Smith made certain that the fight stuck to his script. After that, it was just a matter of time. Smith focused his killer instinct on the time clock. He just repeated his tactics until the final bell. It was a masterful exercise in experience. And thanks to Ferrante's never-say die attitude, it  was also entertaining.

Smith closed the show with a sharp combination in the final round that shook Ferrante, but this was a certain full 10-rounder from the  moment it was signed.

Dhafir won all three official scorecards. Pierre Benoist gave it to him 99-91. Joe Pasquale scored it  98-92, and Richard Hopkins saw it  97-93. I had it 96-94, or six rounds to four for Dhafir.

The win made Smith the state champ and improved his deceiving record to 26-22-7 with 4 KOs. He is likely to fight next in West Philly on July 7th. But his immediate plan was to jump back on the plane to return to Bute's training camp for more work as a sparring partner. Such is the life of a road warrior like Smith.

"Me and Percy (Buster) Custus going to make some noise in this division," Smith said after the fight. "Somebody's going to give me a shot at a world title with all this experience that I got."

Unfortunately for Smith, the top talent in the sport will certainly consider him more trouble than he's worth - too good with a record that is still too bad to even attempt fighting him. Smith is going to have to be patient and avoid the frequent last minute fights that have helped to even out his record. At 29, he must keep winning, and hope to sneak into a bigger fight that gives him a chance to really show his stuff. It's a tough path, but he travels that tough road comfortably.

"I’m going to sneak up on them, just got to be ready," Smith said. "I'm a good fighter."

He is a good fighter, but he's a well-kept secret. Guys like Smith have to believe in themselves while almost everyone else takes them for granted. 

In his last outing, Ferrante also came up a little short against the veteran Omar Sheika. After Smith, it wasn't clear if this second near miss in a row would be used as a learning experience or farewell party for Ferrante. 

"I'm seriously gonna look at if I want to keep doing this," Ferrante said in his dressing room. "That really just broke my heart right there."

Most losses are hard for fighters to swallow, especially outings like these. Ferrante is right to feel that he made the fight, and inside the ring, that must feel like winning. But he didn't. This was another hard lesson that can help Ferrante improve, if he decides he wants to keep boxing. My guess is that the fighter in Ferrante hasn't had enough, and will keep plugging away - just like he does in the ring.

In the 6-round co-feature, Victor Vasquez bested Paul Fernandez in a lightweight rematch of their near-classic brawl of two years ago. Last time out, Vasquez seemed to do enough to win the bout, but had to settle for a draw. This time however, he left no room for debate. Rebounding from his February TKO loss to Dorin Spivey, Vasquez was just too strong and skilled for the feisty Fernandez.

That recent loss apparently drove Vasquez to prove himself this time out. At times Vasquez, a glorious, crowd-pleasing brawler, can somehow concentrate himself into a more polished boxer. It's just something he does from time to time, perhaps to prove that he's more than just a scrapper. Fortunately, even when he assumes this alter-ego, Vasquez is still a thrill machine in the ring.

Paul was having a pretty good round one before Victor nailed him with a spearing left jab that dropped the Frankford fighter on the seat of his pants. It was a sudden knockdown, but Fernandez felt it. He got up after a breath, but the trip to the canvas blew the round.

Vasquez dominated most of the remainder of the fight with a controlled, steady performance. He looked strong and confident and began piling up rounds.

However, Fernandez went to the body in round four and had his best round, despite coming away with a slashed left eye. He continued his mini-rally in round five, until Vasquez floored him with a straight right hand. From my angle behind Fernandez, it looked like a flash knockdown until Paul tried getting up. He was clearly dazed and for a moment it looked like he might not get up. But Fernandez is a pit bull, and found his way to his feet and survived the round.

Vasquez remained in control through the sixth and won a shutout decision on all three judges' cards, 60-52. It was an excellent win that improved his record to 15-6-1 (7 KO). Fernandez evened out at 5-5-2 (3 KO).

Light heavyweights Taneal Goyco and Brian Donahue brawled to an entertaining 4-round draw in their preliminary bout. Donahue took the fight on three days notice, and had the edge on Joe Pasquale's scorecard, 39-37. However, judges Hopkins and Benoist had it even, 38-38. I also had it even, giving Goyco the first and fourth, and Donahue the two middle rounds. Goyco left 4-3-1 (2 KO), and Donahue 2-2-1. It was a very good scrap that I'd like to see again over six rounds.

Heavyweight John Mercurio improved on last year's unanimous decision over tough guy William Miranda by scoring a final round TKO of their four-rounder. It was a hard-fought brawl, but Mercurio was too big and strong for Miranda. Mercurio controlled the action, winning the first three rounds before dropping Miranda with a hard right in the fourth. Miranda got right back up and was ready for more, but referee Benji Esteves stopped it at 0:59 of round four. Mercurio remained undefeated, 5-0 94 KO), while Miranda slipped to .500, 5-5-1 (0 KO).

Hard luck featherweight Jonathan Ocassio lost a majority decision to undefeated Alex Barbosa (3-0 with 1 KO) in his four round prelim. Against Barbosa, Ocassio fought the best he ever did in his nine-bout career, but failed to impress two of the official judges, and went home winless at 0-9. But he fought with much confidence and aggression against Barbosa, who perhaps took him lightly. I felt Ocassio did enough to win the fight (39-37), but Pierre Benoist and Joe Pasquale favored Barbosa, 40-36 & 39-37, respectively. Judge Richard Hopkins saw it even at 38-38.

In the opening fight of the night, Tyrone Crawley, Jr. won his second pro fight (2-0. 0 KO), with an unruly but one-sided decision over Luis Antonio Lopez. Southpaw Crawley took every round and won by scores of 40-36 (Hopkins) and 40-35 twice (Pasquale & Benoist). The action was sloppy and wild, but Crawley's victory was never in doubt. Veteran opponent Lopez, fell to 2-11-1 (1 KO).

The Harrah's Chester ballroom was scaled down for this fight to accommodate a poker tournament happening on the other side of the partition. The small room was packed with about 500 fans. Joey Eye was the promoter (with David Feldman). The ring announcer was Larry Tournambe. The fights were recorded by Go Fight Live (.TV) for a delayed webcast.




John DiSanto - Chester, PA - May 04, 2012