PHILLY BOXING HISTORY  -  August 23, 2014


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 Story by John DiSanto
Photos by Ray Bailey


The long awaited comeback of Mike Jones ended in dramatic fashion Saturday night when Jaime Herrera rose from the floor twice to ultimately score a 7th round TKO over the returning former world title challenger. It was a grueling and brutal fight that started as most had expected it would, with Jones' punching power all but wrapping up the comeback fight. However, this test didn't end there.

Herrera managed to survive the early storm and went on to administer a beating frightful enough to not only end the fight, but to likely dismantle whatever fighting spirit remains in the already apprehensive Mike Jones. It was a difficult and agonizing lesson to watch be dispensed, but it was riveting boxing and one of the most memorable nights in recent years.

The enigmatic Jones began the fight carefully, and looked like the long and lean "Machine Gun" we all remembered from before his extended layoff. Jones put the first round in the bank, and came out for the second looking to go home early.

Jones dusted off his old weapons - that hard left hook and dangerous right hand - and fired them at Herrera several times. However, Herrera also loosened up and started to show good boxing skills. Slowly, the Franklin Park, IL fighter began taking the action to Jones, landing well and taking a slight lead in the round, but Jones hadn't waited all this time, more than two years, just to serve as a target.

By the end of the round, Jones was firing angry shots at his opponent, although not quite at a machine gun's pace. With the clock running down in the second, Jones caught Herrera with a heavy left hook and Jaime crashed to the canvas.

He got up on rubbery legs and almost fell through the ropes. Still, Herrera beat referee Earl Brown's count of ten, although had a breeze blown through Bally's ballroom, he would have hit the canvas again. Wavering on unsteady legs, Herrera stepped away from the ropes as the bell rang, and the referee allowed the fight to continue. 

After one minute's rest, Herrera came out looking like a doomed man. Jones met him at center ring and started throwing punches. This was exactly the comeback that the former Mt. Airy resident was looking to make, and he did his best not to let it slip away. Jones chased Herrera and delivered a good left hook that once again deposited the woozy fighter on the floor. 

To his credit, Herrera got up again and went back to work. We didn't know it then, but this second knockdown was the last gasp of Mike Jones' comeback.

Herrera collected himself and pushed forward, surprising Jones with his resiliency. Moments later an inadvertent clash of heads opened a cut above Jones' right eye. The streaming blood was a distraction and Jones looked a little rattled. But before the round ended, Mike managed to land another big left hook. Herrera stiffened, but took the punch in stride.

Just before the bell, Herrera landed a solid left hook of his own and Jones buckled. It happened in an instant and the moment passed quickly, almost as if it had never happened at all. But the punch was like a nail penetrating a tire's tread. The effect would come later, further down the highway. 

In round four, Herrera took control of the fight, but Jones wasn't ready to quit. He resolutely stayed in the fray. After all he had proven in the prior two rounds that he was capable of doing serious damage with just a single power punch. But in this round, those power shots were nowhere to be found.

Instead, all eyes shifted to Herrera, as everyone marveled at how he had managed to survive and even turn the fight in his favor. We watched and wondered if we were seeing it all correctly.

The shift in momentum started with that nail in Jones' tire, and through that puncture, Jones' confidence began to drain like a slow leak. If the bloody eye and his inability to keep Herrera on the floor didn't help his situation, round five made things even worse for Jones.

In the fifth, Herrera continued to control the fight, but began to intensify the level of his attack. Suddenly Herrera's punches were hurting Jones often, and to go along with that bloody right eye were a bloody nose and a rapidly closing left eye. Herrera kept punching and Jones began giving ground. 

The slow leak was now noticeably hissing, and Jones was starting to unravel. 

Who knows if those terrible memories from his last fight - a knockout loss to Randall Bailey - were creeping into his head? But Jones was looking distressed and at times appeared to be in a panic. It was exciting boxing and compelling human drama.

Herrera's beating was so complete in round six that he could have been given a 10-8 score for the session. I didn't go that far, but by this time it became clear that Jones would need a miracle-punch to save him from another devastating defeat. 

In the corner before the seventh began, the doctors examination of Jones and discussion with his corner lasted so long that it delayed the beginning of the round. However, Jones was permitted to continue. He rose from his stool and marched out for the execution of his career.

Herrera jumped right in and butchered away at Jones for the entire round. Mike's face was a mess - blood everywhere, one eye closed, and worst of all, a mask of pain and anguish all over his face. It wasn't easy to watch, whether you are a fan of Mike Jones or not.

This was much more than a boxer going down to defeat. This was a man, still ruined by his previous loss, getting even more ruined right before our eyes. It was a torture session. Jones, a true puncher once near the top of the welterweight heap, was now reduced to a shot fighter getting beat up in the ring and being stripped of his identity. He had become a flat tire.

He didn't know what to do and neither did we. Everything Jones tried made no difference. He bravely took his beating and we couldn't look away. The scene was brutal and cruel and beautiful, all at the same time. It was a real fight. It was boxing - the good and the bad - playing out in front of us. It was everything we come to a boxing match to see, and everything that we hate about loving the sport so much. 

Jones survived the seventh round, but the moment he returned to his corner, the commission doctor jumped into the ring and advised referee Brown to stop the slaughter.

Mike Jones' career officially ended at 3:00 of round seven. If it took Jones two years to recover from the Bailey fight, it will take far longer for him to get over this one. I suspect we will never see Mike Jones in a boxing ring again, unless he's waving to the crowd.

"Mike Jones is a warrior," Herrera, 12-2, 7 KOs, said from the ring after the fight. "He came out hungry, but sometimes the other guy is hungrier." 

At the time of the stoppage, Jones was still up 66-65 on all three official cards (and mine as well), thanks to the two knockdowns he scored. However, Mike lost for the second, and hopefully last, time in his career. He returns to Henderson, NV with a record of 26-2, 19 KOs.

In the 8-round semi-windup bout, middleweight Thomas LaManna extended his winning streak to 15-0, 7 KOs, with a unanimous decision over West Philly warhorse Jamaal Davis, 14-12-1, 6 KOs. The fight was sold as a classic crossroads battle, and that is exactly what it turned out to be. 

Davis, 33, well rested for the past ten months and looking in terrific shape, began the bout by immediately testing the 22 year old upstart. He was aggressive and appeared to have the better of things over the first two rounds. Davis repeatedly pinned LaManna on the ropes and landed excellent punches. For the rising young fighter, it was a rude welcome to the next level of the sport.

However, LaManna showed his toughness, hanging in there and slowly finding enough punching room to begin landing an effective jab. Still Davis was physically stronger and took every opportunity to work his opponent to the ropes. Sometimes he managed to assault LaManna, but the grinding action eventually began taking its toll on Davis.

As the fight unfolded, Davis lost steam while LaManna gained confidence. The action was fairly even through the first seven rounds. However, in the final round, LaManna eagerly exchanged with Davis and suddenly looked like the stronger fighter. Jamaal was puffing by this time, and although he kept fighting hard, he was fading fast. 

LaManna landed a volley that hurt Davis, and the youngster stomped on the gas. Davis sucked it up and tried to keep pace, but LaManna was just too fresh. He pounded away and by the time the bell rang ending the fight, Davis appeared to almost fall a couple of times. However, the old pro managed to hang in till the very end. 

The stiff test that Davis provided forced LaManna up a skill level. His ability to close the show so impressively in the final round proved that he had matured significantly over the eight round distance.

The scores on press row were all over the place. Some had the fight a draw, most others favored LaManna slightly. My apparently sentimental tally had Davis up by one point. However, all three official judges agreed that "Cornflake" LaManna had won the fight. Debra Barnes had it 79-73, Henry Grant scored 78-74, and Ron McNair saw it 78-73.

The victory was a career-best for LaManna. Davis lost for the fourth straight time. 

In  bout between two brand new professionals, Grashino Yancy, Staten Island, made a successful debut with a 4-round split decision over Carlos Rosario on Pennsauken, NJ. All three judges scored the bout 39-37 for Yancy, now 1-0. My score concurred. Rosario went home 0-1.

In a battle of debuting New Jersey lightweights, Omar Curry, Atlantic City, and Marvin Johnson, Bridgeton, fought to a 4-round majority draw. The fight was an exciting one, with both newbies clawing to start their careers off right.

It was all Curry for most of the first round. Omar was busier and more accurate until Johnson (in red trunks, above) landed a solid left hook, just seconds before the bell ended the round. Curry felt the punch and it seemed to make him a little shy once the contest continued. 

Johnson revved things up in the second, but Curry, suddenly quiet, held tough. A pair of left hooks by Johnson were the highlight of the third round, and nice two-way exchanges closed out the fight in round four.

Two of the three judges, Debra Barnes and Henry Grant scored the fight even at 38-38, while Ron McNair favored Johnson, 39-37. I thought Johnson edged the fight 39-38. Both fighters left with a 0-0-1 record. 

Junior featherweight Anthony Caramanno came out in round one stalking for his first-ever knockout. However, the Staten Island fighter had to settle for a 4-round unanimous decision in his bout with Marquise Pierce of Phillipsburg, NJ.

Caramanno was aggressive throughout the fight, winning the first two rounds before a dubious knockdown call momentarily swung the momentum to Pierce. As the fighters backed into a corner in the third, Pierce let go a right hand as Caramanno slid to the canvas. Referee Earl Brown called it a knockdown, which helped to secure the round for Pierce.

Caramanno came on strong in the fourth and final round, landing two heavy left hooks that won him the round and sealed the victory. All three judges gave him the fight by a 38-37 margin. My score was the same.

Caramanno improved to 2-0, but still seeks that first KO.  Pierce fell to 1-4.

In a bruising junior middleweight bout, Vineland's Ismael Garcia scored a 6-round unanimous decision win over Alex Sanchez of Camden. Garcia floored Sanchez in the opening round with a nasty right uppercut that threatened to end the fight right then and there, but Sanchez was rugged.  He made it to his feet and soldiered forward in the fight.

Another right uppercut stunned Sanchez in the second, but Garcia could not finish him. Garcia (above left) teed off in round three, but Sanchez proved himself not only tough but brave. He took considerable punishment, but kept coming forward.

The fight got closer in the second half when Garcia lost a step due to fatigue, but generally he kept in control until the finish, and gained a victory on the judges scorecards. Judges Debra Barnes and Henry Grant both scored it 59-54, and Ron McNair had it 58-55, all for Garcia. My score was also 59-54.

After that vicious first round knockdown, no one would have guessed this fight would have gone the distance. Garcia remained unbeaten at 7-0-1, 3 KOs. Sanchez fell a notch below .500, 4-5-1, 2 KOs. 

The show opened with a heavyweight clap of thunder when Joe Cusumano, Danville, VA, (above, in red trunks) dropped Randy Easton, Sunbury, PA with a hard right hand to the body that felled Easton and kept him down for the full ten count.

Moments before, Easton had gone down in a neutral corner after another right hand landed as the fighters tangled feet. Most believed the fall was more of a trip, but referee Earl Brown called it a knockdown. However, the incident, and the mild controversy attached to it, was quickly forgotten once Cusumano delivered that deciding body blow.

The time of the finish was 2:36 of round two.  The fight was scheduled for four rounds. Cusumano improved to 8-1, 6 KOs, while Easton fell to 2-4-1, 2 KOs. 

In the evening's walkout bout, junior middleweight Nick Valliere, of Forked River, NJ, turned in another wild, free-swinging performance, scoring a second round TKO of Philadelphian Greg Thomas in a scheduled 4-rounder. As he did in his pro debut last month, Valliere swung for the fences until his opponent - and the referee - couldn't take it anymore. This time it was referee David Fields who called the halt at 1:20 of round two. Thomas never hit the floor, but did little more than take punches during the fight. Valliere went to 2-0, 2 KOs, and Thomas extended his losing streak to 0-4.

By the time the last few fights had started the Ballys crowd had filled in nicely. If this show, one of the best matched and most entertaining of the year, wasn't a sell-out, it was pretty close. 

Peltz Boxing / BAM Boxing return to action next in South Philly at the 2300 Arena on October 18.




John DiSanto - Atlantic City - August 23, 2014
Photos by Ray Bailey