|PHILLY BOXING HISTORY - July 12, 2014||
Story & Photos by John DiSanto
Chazz Witherspoon returned to the ring for the first time in more than two years Saturday night, and scored a final-round TKO over tough Tyyab Beale in a heavyweight bout which was full of two-way thunder for the nearly eight round distance. In addition to headlining the card at the Riverwinds Community Center in West Deptford, NJ, Witherspoon also promoted the show with the debut of his company, Silver Spoon Promotions.
With more than thirty professional bouts to his credit, as well as a decorated amateur career before that, Witherspoon appeared to have an easy task on his hands against Beale, a pro with far less experience and whose only advantage came on the scales.
However, the underdog opponent proved to be a tough and dangerous nut to crack, and Witherspoon had to watch himself each and every time he appeared to have the fight wrapped up.
After a ponderous first round, the pair traded hard rights in the second, and the exchange got things heated up. The heavyweights tested each other in round three. Witherspoon jabbed and landed rights to the head and body, while Beale fired a heavy left hook every chance he got.
As the third wound down, Witherspoon's body work started paying off and Beale began slogging along the ropes. Just before the bell, with Tyyab's back resting there on the strands, Witherspoon scored a heavy right hand that looked like it might have led to the end of the bout, had there had been a little more time.
Beale started the fourth round fast, perhaps in an attempt to convince Chazz - and himself - that he had more fight left in him. Beale lumbered forward and launched his left hook. However, Witherspoon reigned him in with more body work. The attack withered Beale's spirit and had him breathing heavily.
Witherspoon backed him up with a stiff jab and launched a hard right that put Beale on the deck. For a moment, it looked like Beale would need more than 10 seconds rest to catch his breath. But the game fighter hauled himself upward and went back to work.
Witherspoon zoomed in for the finish, but as he pressed and fired, Beale stood his ground and recharged his battery. Chazz kept throwing, convinced that this was his moment. And that enthusiasm almost cost him.
In the middle of Witherspoon's near knockout, Beale let loose a right of his own that had Chazz stumbling. Beale rallied back until the bell ended the round, but Witherspoon had enough cushion to still put the session in his column.
This was the fight in a nutshell. Witherspoon generally had things in control, but Beale didn't give him much room to breath. Witherspoon kept racking up the score, but he had to stay on his toes all night.
Slowly, as the final few rounds progressed, Witherspoon wore down Beale, especially with his efforts to the body. Beale tried switching to southpaw, but it didn't produce results. He was better off in the orthodox stance where his dangerous hook was cocked and ready to ruin Witherspoon's night. However for Beale, the big punch never came.
A jarring right in round seven, set the stage for the finish of the fight, but Witherspoon would have to wait for the last round to do it.
Midway through the eighth and final scheduled round, Beale looked exhausted, and Chazz just kept working. The honest labor edged Beale to the brink and finally pushed him over the edge. Tyyab never went down again, but as he spent his last drops of gas along the ropes, referee Allan Huggins stepped in to put him out of his misery. The time was 1:59 of round eight.
The victory restarted Witherspoon's boxing career, and launched his promotional endeavors. Chazz, 31-3, 23 KOs, looks determined to make one final run up the rankings in hopes of landing a title shot or some other major payday. With his size, skill, and that Witherspoon name to his credit, Chazz just may get another chance before having to rely solely on his St. Joseph's University degree. Either way, Chazz appears to have a solid future.
Beale's good effort entertained the fans, but further marred his record, now 9-5-1, 3 KOs.
The co-feature of the night pitted another Witherspoon - Tim Witherspoon Jr. (cousin of Chazz) - in a six rounder against 3-0 southpaw Jeff Lentz of Lanoka Harbor, NJ. Again, it was the Witherspoon with the edge in experience - 15 bouts for Tim and just three for Lentz.
However this time, the underdog came out on top.
From the opening bell, Lentz pressed the action and tirelessly threw punches at his favored foe. Lentz was energetic and determined, but his attack was sloppy. Witherspoon fought from a defensive posture and his attempts to keep his peppy opponent off him were mixed.
Lentz landed more punches, but Witherspoon managed to fire some hard blows that not only found their mark, they hurt and wobbled the southpaw. In round two and four, Witherspoon almost toppled Lentz, but nothing could discourage him. Lentz kept fighting - aggressively working Witherspoon to the ropes where he flailed wildly at him.
I found the fight tricky to score. For much of the action, Lentz was clearly doing more, but I found Witherspoon more effective with his harder blows. To me, Tim seemed to salvage rounds that he was losing with powerful moments.
After six brisk rounds, I had Witherspoon up 4-2 (or 58-56 in points). However, I was the only one who seemed to see the fight this way. All three judges, Tony Perez, Barbara Perez, and John Stewart scored the fight 59-55 for Lentz. Further, every other writer in my earshot also thought Lentz won (and thought I was crazy).
The win kept Lentz an undefeated welterweight at 4-0, 1 KO. Witherspoon slipped to 10-5-1, 2 KOs.
In a 4-round welterweight fight, Anthony Prescott and Kevin Womack battled to a draw. It was a very good fight with both boxers having their moments over the four rounds distance.
I felt that Prescott had slight advantage at the end (39-37, or 3-1 in rounds), but the official judges couldn't produce a victor. Tony Perez surprisingly scored it a shutout for Womack (40-36). John Stewart favored Prescott, 39-37, and Barbara Perez had it deadlocked at 37-37.
Prescott went home 3-3-2, 1 KO, and Womack 4-5-2, 2 KOs.
In a sloppy but entertaining junior middleweight bout, southpaw Nick Valliere made a successful pro debut with a 4th round TKO of Jamil Gadsden. Valliere used a collection of windmill punches that kept Gadsden backing away and covering up. Valliere threw everything he had at Gadsden, and kept doing so, whether it landed or not. His swarm stretched from the opening bell until referee Harvey Dock halted the bout at 2:39 of the final round.
Valliere fought through fatigue and fought through Gadsden's incoming shots. It wasn't pretty, but Valliere just kept milling until he claimed his first professional win.
Gadsden extended his losing streak to 0-6.
Middleweight Matthew Gonzales claimed a split decision over Raphael Machado in their four round fight. The bout was close and could have gone the other way, and actually did on my scorecard. With his aggressive style, I felt Machado had done enough to win the bout 39-37.
Judge John Stewart's score agreed with mine, but Tony Perez and Barbara Perez overruled with their 40-36 and 39-37 respective scores for Gonzales.
It was Gonzalez' pro debut, and he left 1-0. Machado fell to 0-2.
In the opening fight of the evening, Malik Jackson pitched a shutout over previously undefeated Luis Cream in a junior middleweight bout. Cream, the grandson of former heavyweight champ Jersey Joe Walcott, looked rusty and hesitant throughout the fight, which allowed Jackson to dominate the action.
Cream had his best round in the third, but it wasn't enough to secure him the round. Jackson kept the lead with a good jab during those three minutes, and won the other rounds with an aggressive and constant attack.
Judges Perez, Perez and Stewart all had the fight 40-36 in Jackson's favor. My score mirrored theirs.
Jackson won for the first time, 1-3-3, and Cream lost for the first time, 3-1.
The fight was the first event at the Riverwinds Community Center, the first fight in West Deptford, NJ, and the first fight for Chazz Witherspoon as a promoter. About 500 people were in attendance.