PHILLY BOXING HISTORY                                                                  September 08, 2012


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By John DiSanto


Three Philadelphia fighters won important fights on Saturday, but Tomasz Adamek delivered a memorable war with Travis Walker in the main event at the Prudential Center in Newark, NJ. Steve Cunningham made a successful debut as a heavyweight with a shutout 10-round decision over Chris Koval. Bryant Jennings blasted Jason Gavern out in just 35 seconds in their heavyweight bout, and lightweight Karl Dargan returned after one year off with a stoppage of Jesse Carradine in the fourth round. These and all the other preliminary fights were entertaining battles, but it was Tomasz Adamek who received most of the gasps on the rare Saturday afternoon boxing show.

Still rebounding from his failed attempt to take the heavyweight title from Vitali Klitschko one year ago, Adamek fought and won his third comeback fight which turned out to be a thrilling slugfest. After a typical opening round which was won by  Adamek, the fight suddenly heated up in round two.

As the two heavyweights picked up the pace in the second, underdog Travis Walker unloaded a big overhand right that hit the mark perfectly on Adamek's chin. Tomasz tumbled to the canvas, a real rarity. He got to his feet but still looked in bad shape as he trudged back into the action.

With plenty of time left to finish the job, Walker waged in throwing punches. However that rock of a chin that has kept Adamek upright throughout his eventful career was still in service, even if the rest of him had seemed to have slipped a bit over the past year. Travis tried for the kill, and even hurt Adamek moments later, but the proud and sturdy Adamek managed to tough it out, despite his rubbery legs.

As the round wound down, Adamek drilled Walker with a straight right and Travis fell hard to the floor. The modest crowd of Adamek faithful went wild. Walker regained his feet but looked very much out on those feet. As the action resumed, the bell to end the round sounded, but referee Eddie Cotton did not hear it. For another ten seconds or so, Adamek peppered a wobbly Walker along the ropes. Finally Cotton realized the round was over and pulled Tomasz off his dazed opponent.

In rounds three and four, Adamek continued the beating with Walker trying to turn the momentum back his way by occasionally attempting some bombs. A few landed, but the potency had faded from round two.

In round five, Adamek hurt Walker with another good right hand, and followed with an avalanche of punches. Walker, pinned in his own corner, tried covering up but  Adamek kept firing until the referee jumped in to stop it.

The fight was terrific. Walker, sorely in need to capitalize on this his final chance to make a move in the division, figured to be a live and dangerous opponent. But who could have predicted the fight would produce such fireworks?

After leaving fans cold in his victories over Nagy Aguilera and Eddie Chambers, Adamek sent a clear message that he can still put on a show. Undoubtedly if Tomasz is on a late career slide, his heart and fighting spirit will continue to keep him competitive and give fans plenty to cheer for.

Adamek defended his IBF North American Heavyweight Title, and left the ring 47-2 (29 KO); Walker slipped to 39-8-1 (31 KO).

Steve Cunningham tipped the scales at 207 for his first heavyweight bout. However, he had to deal with both Jason Gavern and the 32 pound weight advantage the Virginian brought into the ring.

Cunningham looked solid in the fight, clearly winning all ten rounds, but it wasn't easy going. In round one the fighters butted heads. Gavern came away with a bloody hairline, while Cunningham suffered a slice over his left eye. Neither wound was very serious, but Cunningham had to cope with a steady trickle for the next nine rounds.

Steve controlled the action with his jab. Eventually he began throwing his long right, which found its mark repeatedly. But Cunningham's transition to the heavyweight division will take a little time. The clinches, where Gavern could use his weight advantage, were difficult for the former two-time cruiserweight champ, who usually came out of them puffing.

But Gavern's weight advantage could not best Cunningham's skill advantage, and the Philadelphian won a lopsided decision. Judge Emil Conforti gave Gavern the first round and turned in a 99-91 scorecard favoring Cunningham. However, everyone else thought Steve had won all ten rounds. Judges John McKaie and Henry Grant scored it 100-90 for Cunningham, the same as my score.

The win raised Cunningham's record to 25-4 (12 KO), and launched the heavyweight chapter of his career. Gavern fell to 21-11-4 (10 KO).

Philly heavyweight hopeful Bryant Jennings delivered an impressive TKO in his scheduled 8-rounder, needing just 35 seconds to drop Chris Koval twice and convince referee David Franciosi to stop the fight.

The first knockdown came courtesy of a booming left hook. Koval got up, but Jennings met him with a straight right-left hook combination that once again deposited Koval on the  canvas. The referee waved the fight to a close immediately at the 0:35 mark. 

Such a quickie was exactly what Jennings needed after three tough bouts already in the books for this year. The firestorm improved Bryant's record to 15-0 and upped his KO tally to 7. Jennings has already stated that he'd like to get in two more fights before the close of 2012. That might be a little ambitious, but with the  brevity of this one, it may not be out of the question.

Philly lightweight Karl Dargan opened the show with a TKO of Jesse Carradine at 1:04 of the fourth round of their scheduled 6-rounder. Dargan had been inactive for more than a year, but came roaring back in this fight. He scored an "iffy" knockdown in round one, before legitimately flooring Carradine with an overhand right in  round four. When Carradine got up, Dargan whacked away at his body forcing him to the ropes. Dargan threw a volley of shots that trapped Carradine near the corner. Even though not much landed, the referee Davis Fields stepped in and stopped it. The time was 1:04 of the fourth. The win kept Dargan undefeated, 11-0 (6 KO). Carradine left 8-2-1 (4 KO). 

Junior welterweight Jose "Mangu" Peralta, Jersey City, dropped West Philadelphian Christian Steele twice en route to a third round TKO. A left hook in round two caused the first trip to the canvas, and a straight right was the culprit for knockdown number two. Steele got up after the knockdown in round three, but referee David Franciosi halted the fight at 0:46. Peralta went to 10-1 (6 KO). Steele fell to 3-5 (1 KO). The fight was scheduled for six rounds.

In what figured on paper to be the fight of the afternoon, Texan Jerry Belmontes won an easy 8-round unanimous decision over Joselito Collado of Queens, NY. The pair clashed heads in round one which caused a cut on Collado's forehead. It bled the rest of the way. Collado tried to turns things around, but Belmontes was a matador for all six rounds. The official scores were far closer than my card. Judge John McKaie had the fight 77-75 for Belmontes, while Emil Conforti and Henry Grant scored it 78-74. I thought Belmontes won every round but the fifth. The "Corpus Christi Kid" remained undefeated, 17-0 (5 KO). Collado lost  for the second time, 13-2 (3 KO).

The fight was promoted by Main Events and was televised nationally by WealthTV. The show was also beamed back to Poland for a PPV broadcast. Main Events returns on September 21 for another NBC Sports Network show in Bethlehem, PA. Two more dates (in December) remain on the 2012 NBC fight schedule.




John DiSanto - Newark, NJ - September 08, 2012

Photos by Gary Purfield