PHILLY BOXING HISTORY  -  December 13, 2014


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 Story by John DiSanto
Photos by Darryl Cobb Jr.


Budding Puerto Rican superstar Felix Verdejo thrilled his legion of supporters Saturday night in South Philly by scoring a fourth round TKO of Karim El Ouazghari of Barcelona. The packed house at the 2300 Arena seemed happy enough to watch the rising lightweight's ring walk, so you can imagine their reaction when the undefeated Verdejo pounded his opponent into submission midway through their scheduled 8-round main event. Philadelphian Jesse Hart also won by TKO on the nine-bout fight card, and like Verdejo, stretched his undefeated streak to 16-0. 

Verdejo cruised through the fight, winning the first two rounds easily to set up the big finish. In round three, Verdejo staggered El Ouazghari with a hard right hand. Verdejo's follow up barrage put the Spaniard down. The crowd went wild, convinced they were watching the second-coming of Felix Trinidad.

Verdejo shares Trinidad's big smile and boyish good looks. He is loaded with charisma and can punch with either hand. Verdejo is clearly a talented fighter on the rise, but he is not yet in Tito's stratum. There was only one Trinidad. However, Verdejo still looks like a future champion.

El Ouazghari survived the third, but the writing was on the wall.

In the fourth round, another right hand by Verdejo stunned his foe. El Ouazghari remained standing, but was frozen, paralyzed on the ropes. Felix didn't miss a beat. He ripped two more shots, a right and a left, each punch jolted Karim in opposite directions. He kept his feet, but Smoger jumped in to save him. When Steve Smoger stops a contest, you know that fighter is finished. The time was 1:27 of round four.

The end of the fight detonated the biggest explosion from a Philadelphia boxing crowd in many, many years. The boisterous party started the moment Verdejo walked from his dressing room, but the real celebration began the moment Smoger started waving his hands. 

Verdejo kept his winning streak alive, 16-0, 12 KOs, while El Ouazghari slid to 16-6-2, 4 KOs.

Super middleweight Jesse "Hard Work" Hart ripped through another opponent in the co-feature bout of the night. Despite being the most experienced Hart opponent to date, Columbian Samuel Miller could not withstand the rising star's aggressive attack in their scheduled 8-round fight.

Hart swung for the fences beginning in round one, and finally began hitting home in the second. Hart cracked Miller with a right that hurt him. As Hart stormed in for the finish, Miller opted to take a knee rather than another shot from the hard-charging prospect.

The decision saved Miller momentarily, but could not change the course of the fight. When he got up, Hart rushed in swinging.

A right-left combo dropped Miller to the canvas. Once again he made it to his feet, but stumbled forward when referee Gary Rosato tested his condition. Rosato waved the end of the fight at 2:07 of round two.

The victory kept the Hart train steaming forward. At 16-0, 13 KOs, Jesse has done his early work and is ready to take a step up in 2015. It is time for him to fight someone that can seriously test him. Miller's record fell to 28-10, 25 KOs.

Millville middleweight Thomas "Cornflake" LaManna continued his rise in the ranks with a comfortable yet challenging points victory over Alex Sanchez of Camden. Sanchez grabbed the first round with some hard pressure and continued to press the undefeated prospect all night long. However, LaManna landed the cleaner punches beginning in round two and began to pile up rounds in his favor. 

Round four was the hottest session of the bout, with both fighters landing. At one point, LaManna strayed low with one of his punches. Sanchez grimaced and retaliated with a rugged punch on the break. Referee Gary Rosato warned Sanchez and tried to cool both fighters down. But it didn't happen. When the action resumed, both traded body blows. As Sanchez faded, LaManna bit down and teed off until the bell ended the round.

Cornflake kept punching in round five and won it, despite looking winded by the end. Sanchez came on strong in the final round, seizing the opportunity as LaManna caught his breath. Sanchez shook up LaManna with a right, but Thomas took it well and finished the round strong.

All three judges, Steve Weisfeld, Eric Dali and Kevin Morgan scored the fight 59-55. I gave Sanchez the first and last rounds for a 58-56 score in favor of LaManna.

Cornflake extended his undefeated record to 16-0, 7 KOs. He's had a good year, posting three decision wins including a victory over tough Jamaal Davis his last time out. Sanchez slid to 4-6-1, 2 KOs, but remains an excellent measuring stick for fighters like LaManna.

Top Rank prospect Toka Khan Clary won a one-sided 8-round decision over Camilo Perez. The southpaw (in red trunks) zipped through every round against Perez, scoring to the head and body. Although Clary, 14-0, 9 KOs, won easily, he did it in bland fashion against the plucky but overmatched Perez, 9-5, 4 KOs.

Judges Steve Weisfeld and Bernard Bruni scored the fight a shutout (80-72), while Kevin Morgan saw it a point closer at 79-73. I had also had the bout an 80-72 landslide.

Featherweight Chris "Pitufo" Diaz, Barranquitas, PR, exploded in the final two rounds of his 6-rounder with Jazzma Hogue of Farmington, NM, to nail down a unanimous decision victory. After winning the first three rounds of the fight, Diaz had to rally in round four when his opponent suddenly fought his way into the bout. It was the most competitive series of the bout.

However, in round five, Diaz dropped Hogue with a potent left hook to the body, and let another punch fly  - and land - long after Hogue had gone down. After Hogue made it to his feet, referee Steve Smoger admonished Diaz and the warning delayed resumption of the action. It also may have helped the fallen fighter survive. However, the warning was warranted.

In round six, Hogue looked weary but remained on his feet for most of the session, although by then his nose was bleeding badly and he was fading fast. As the round come to a close, Diaz smashed Hogue with a right that sent him to the floor for the second time. The game fighter struggled to his feet just as the bell ended the fight. If there had been more time remaining, Smoger probably would have stopped it. 

All three judges, Bruni, Weisfeld and Dali, turned in a 60-52 score in favor of Diaz. My score was a point closer at 59-53. Diaz, moved to 8-0, 5 KOs, while Hogue fell to 3-6-1.

New Jersey junior welterweight Julian Rodriguez powered his way to a second round TKO of Texan Randy Fuentes in a scheduled 6-rounder. Rodriguez floored Fuentes with a left in the first round, and put him down another three times in round two. Referee Steve Smoger stopped the massacre at 2:24 of the second round.

Rodriguez, 8-0, 7 KOs, looked like a real prospect with the powerful performance. Fuentes slipped to 4-4-1.

In a grueling welterweight fight, Virginian Juan Rodriguez dished Berlin, NJ's Nathaniel Rivas his first pro loss in a scheduled 6-rounder. Rodriguez dropped Rivas in round one with a right-left combination. Rivas managed to rise, but took a frightful beating for the rest of the round.

The second was closer, but Rodriguez again won it with his sharper punching. Rivas mounted a comeback in the next two rounds, but could not keep Rodriguez off him once round five began.

In the fifth, Rodriguez came out aggressively and floored Rivas with a series of hard shots. Rivas proved his toughness by getting up, but took a shellacking until referee Steve Smoger stepped in to save him at 1:01 of round five.

Rivas, 5-1, 2 KOs, lost for the first time. Rodriguez improved to 6-2-1, 5 KOs, and looked very impressive. 

North Philly junior middleweight Fred Jenkins Jr. struck early, knocking down James Robinson with a left hook in round one. However, Jenkins could not repeat the feat for the rest of their 6-rounder. Jenkins staggered Robinson in the third and generally controlled the fight. Round five was the only exception to this. Robinson jabbed well in the fifth while Jenkins rested.

In the last round, Jenkins was working well again and went on to take the unanimous decision. Judge Kevin Morgan saw it a shutout (60-53), while Eric Dali and Bernard Bruni both scored it 59-54. My score was also 59-54.

The win closed a solid year for Jenkins, 9-1, 3 KOs. Fred won by quick KO (in the same ring) his last time out and scored a points win over Alex Sanchez in March. Robinson went home 3-2-2, 1 KO. 

Bronx heavyweight George Arias, 2-0, 1 KO, impressed with a 4-round shutout of PA's Randy Easton, 3-6-1, 3 KOs, in a swing bout that occurred between the Hart and Verdejo fights. Arias looked good in the bout, and the three judges, Bruni, Weisfeld and Dali, agreed on a 40-36 score.

When it was announced that Felix Verdejo, the latest heir to the great Puerto Rican  boxing tradition, was scheduled to top the last Philadelphia boxing show of 2014, it didn't take long for tickets to flying out the door. By fight night all the seats were gone, leaving standing room only tickets up for grabs to local fans. It didn't hurt that popular attractions Jesse Hart and Thomas LaManna were also on the program.

Peltz Boxing reported the attendance at 1,277. The atmosphere on this night at the 2300 Arena was terrific - the best in recent memory. I can't remember the last fight to sell out in Philadelphia.

The show was promoted by Top Rank with Peltz Boxing and BAM Boxing, and televised by Unimas.




John DiSanto - South Philly - December 13, 2014