PHILLY BOXING HISTORY - October 26, 2015  
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Story & Photos by John DiSanto


Pro boxing returns to South Philadelphia Friday night with the launch of a new fight series set to showcase local ring talent. After the death of the Blue Horizon in 2010, the Philly boxing scene has struggled to maintain a consistent fight schedule. Promoters and venues have come and gone, and the affect has been fewer fights within the city limits of Philadelphia – once a booming boxing capital. So every time a new promoter announces plans to kick off a new series of fights, local fight fans hold their collective breath, hoping that the plans will not only stick but flourish.   

Hard Hitting Promotions is the latest comer to enter the sparse field. Friday’s card at the Sheet Metal Workers Hall is the company’s first offering in Philadelphia. However the upstart promotional firm, headed by Will Ruiz and Manny Rivera, almost took a knockout blow before the first bell ever sounded. 

Originally the show was scheduled to with a real bang, featuring a PA state cruiserweight title bout between popular local sluggers Garrett Wilson and Tony Ferrante slated in the main event. However a little over one week before fight night, Ferrante was forced to pull out (due to a back injury), and for a moment everything appeared to be in jeopardy. 

However, Hard Hitting Promotions battled back. They kept Wilson, 15-9-1, 9 KOs, in place and filled Ferrante’s slot with another local favorite, Pedro Martinez, 7-8, 3 KOs. On paper the fight made sense. Both Wilson and Martinez are no-nonsense pros, known for come-forward, hard-punching styles. Further, late sub Martinez had pulled a big upset against Ferrante, just last year. 

Mike Cassell, trainer of both Ferrante and Martinez, suggested that “El Toro” step into the main event. It was a quick fix that could keep things on track for Hard Hitting’s initial show. Wilson was willing, Martinez was willing, and the promoters refused to look this gift horse in the mouth. The rest is history – but with a few adjustments. 

The original 10-rounder was cut to eight rounds, the weight class changed from cruiser to heavyweight, and a state championship was no longer on the line. However, the promoters still had a potentially explosive main event since Wilson-Martinez is more or less certain to end in a knockout. That’s exactly what happened the first time the pair met in 2012. 

One promotional obstacle in the match-up is that Wilson holds a TKO victory over Martinez already. Many believe that once a boxer KO’s another, he’s likely to do the same thing (only quicker) if they meet again. The counter point in this case is that Martinez defeated Ferrante since his first fight with Wilson. His decision win over Ferrante was the type of victory that a journeyman like Martinez can use well to his advantage. The win showed that Pedro is dangerous and can never be taken lightly. 

However with the Wilson-Martinez fight, fans are coming to see a knockout. Most of these fans expect Wilson to be the one to score that knockout anyway. Therefore, if Garrett does as expected, the fans will be happy. Even better, if Martinez can pull another upset, this time against Wilson, the fans will even happier. When guys like Wilson and Martinez face off, usually everyone watching goes home with a smile on their faces.  This should certainly be the case Friday night. 

Both Wilson and Martinez are two of the nicer boxers you’ll ever meet. They are as good natured outside the ring as they are scary inside it. Both look to Friday’s match as a chance to do what they love to do. While all the other stuff doesn’t seem to register on them. 

“Every time he fights, he goes to war,” Wilson said of his opponent.

“I’m grateful for the opportunity,” Martinez said. “I’ve had little bumps in the road, but not no more. I decided to take a year off, and I finally found my new trainer. Now the whole picture has changed. In training camp, I train harder, I train smarter. Thank God. Friday is going to be a great opportunity for me and a great show for everyone else.” 

Their good nature comes through even in the pre-fight hype. These guys can’t even pretend to be enemies. 

“Pedro is a good guy,” Wilson said. “He’s a man after my own heart. He fights anybody. He’ll step in the ring with anybody. This guy is a warrior.”

“I’ve known this guy for years,” Martinez said. “Garrett is a beast. He will fight anybody. He won the first fight, hands down. But the second fight will be the other way around.” 

“What can I say?,” Wilson asked with a smile. “We are going to see how that goes. I look at everyone as though I’m fighting Iron Mike Tyson. I don’t care what anybody says. Everyone I get in the ring with is Iron Mike Tyson. So I’m training accordingly.” 

The fight should be a good one, fun to watch and with a clear-cut finish. Both fighters need to win and are known to give it everything they’ve got. That’s always a good combination. If you go to the fight, don’t blink. 

The seven-bout card also features the return of Philly lightweight Angel Ocasio, 7-0-2, 2 KOs, after nearly three years away from the ring. The talented boxer reboots his career against tough Bryne Green, 7-8-1, 3 KOs. 

“There was a lot that went on in the last three years,” Ocasio said. “I met my fiancée. I got saved by Jesus Christ. I got married. It was just a process. 

I needed to clear a lot of stuff off my plate. I felt I needed to take a step back, make myself a better person. Right now I’m fully devoted to the sport. It’s something that I feel that with my talent and with the backing that I have, I can make it to the top. And right now, I feel like it’s the right time to go. It’s great to be back.” 

Thomas “TJ” Velasquez, 1-0, 1 KO, makes his hometown debut on Friday’s show. Just one fight removed from his fine amateur career, Velasquez feels very comfortable fighting as a pro. 

“The money is different,” Velasquez said with a laugh. “And you don’t need to work at a fast pace (as a pro), you can keep it calm.” 

Anthony Ramirez makes his professional debut on the card against Abdel Vera, 0-1. 

“I feel ready; I feel good,” Ramirez said about his approaching debut. “We did a lot of hard work in the gym, now it is the day to fight.” 

Philadelphian Seifullah Jihad Wise, 2-1 faces Wilfredo Ceballos, 0-1, in a 4-round lightweight contest. 

Middleweight Hakim Bryant, 4-0, 3 KOs, takes on Yoeglis Duverger, 0-2, in another 4-rounder. 

Dominican vet Marcos Leonardo Jimenez, 20-6, 13 KOs, is also scheduled to appear on the show. 

Tickets are priced at $40, $70 and $100, with the first bell scheduled for 7:00 PM. 




John DiSanto - Philadelphia - October 26, 2015