PHILLY BOXING HISTORY - January 20, 2017  
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Story by John DiSanto
Photos by Darryl Cobb Jr. /


While two out-of-towners slugged it out in the entertaining main event, four local fighters bolstered the undercard of Saturday night’s nationally televised fight card from Bally’s Atlantic City. The show was promoted by GH3 Promotions and Kings Promotions and represented the beginning of the 2017 fight year for Philly-area fighters. The three top bouts were broadcast live on Showtime. 

Philly super middleweight Christopher Brooker, 11-3, 5 KOs, got some TV time when he faced unbeaten prospect Ronald Ellis of Lynn, MA, 13-0-1, 10 KOs. The 8-round co-feature bout was an all-action fight, but Brooker continued to learn on the job against the talented Ellis.

“Ice Cold” Brooker, coming off his first-ever loss by knockout, looked a little gun-shy in the opening round, backing up and avoiding the fray more than usual. However, as the action heated up, the Philadelphian too warmed up, but still could not equal the skills of the streaking prospect. Ellis was too proficient and it turned out that Brooker’s grit could not close that gap this time. 

This struggle is par for the course for a fighter like Brooker. He has talent, heart, size and will, but his slight amateur background puts him at a disadvantage in these early stages of his career. 2015’s “Rookie of the Year” at the Briscoe Awards, is still learning and has yet to fully harness and integrate his physical attributes with his fighting spirit. When he does put it all together, he’s trouble in the ring.

Brooker’s best round on Saturday was the third, when he landed well and made Ellis take notice. However in the rest of the rounds, Ellis was just too savvy to get caught by Brooker’s pressing attack.   

After eight rounds, Ellis grabbed the official decision comfortably. George Hill had it the closest at 77-75, while Debra Barnes and Eugene Grant saw Ellis the winner 79-73. My scorecard was also 79-73. 

Atlantic City’s Anthony “Juice” Young, 15-2, 6 KOs, (above right) started strongly but was lucky to escape his 6-rounder with James Robinson, 4-6-4, 1 KO. Young nearly knocked Robinson to the deck in the opening round. Only the ropes kept the York, PA fighter on his feet.

Young continued to dominate the action as the rounds elapsed. However, he appeared to lose control in the fifth round. Whether it was fatigue or an effective punch that hit the mark, Young faded by the end of the fifth. Then in round six, Robinson hurt young with a shot and drove him across the ring with a volley of punches.

Young felt every blow and teetered on weak legs. Another combination along the ropes tipped Young over and sent him to the floor. Juice looked finished as he fell, and referee Benji Esteves, Jr. began to wave his arms, only to stop with the sound of the bell.

With the fight officially over, Young was (properly) given a count and managed to get to his feet before ten. This meant no knockout for Robinson and a sure points win for Young, who had built a substantial lead before running into trouble.

Of course, all the scores favored Young. George Hill had it 57-55, while Barnes and Grant scored it 58-55. It was a near disaster for Young, but a split-second good fortune at the end of the sixth, gave him a break. I believe if the knockdown had come even a second or two earlier, the referee would have called the result a TKO. In any case, Young moves on to fight again with his record looking good at 15-2.


Heavyweight Darmani Rock, 7-0, 5 KOs, began his sophomore season with a thudding fifth round knockout of Solomon Maye of New Haven, CT, 3-8-2, 3 KOs. The young Philadelphian started the fight slowly, satisfied to quietly stalk his prey and wait for an opportunity to land his bombs.

Rock banked round after round on the cards of this, his local debut, but his performance through the first three rounds was uninspiring. The touted twenty year old looked tentative and bored most of the night.

However, the currency of heavyweights is the knockout. The best and the worst of the big boys make their mark by building the body count. If they can score knockouts, heavyweight boxers get noticed. And in round five, Darmani Rock, a super amateur just one year ago, got noticed. 

As the sleepy bout neared its sixth and final round, Rock close the show one round early. With the round just getting underway, Rock crushed Maye with a hard right and left hook. Maye crashed downward, and referee Davis Fields halted the fight without a count. The time was 0:34. The win was Rock’s seventh in a row and kept his potentially lucrative future on track.


Philly junior welterweight Keenan Smith remained undefeated, 10-0, 4 KOs, with a fifth round TKO of Waco’s Marquis Hawthorne, 4-6, 1 KO. Smith dominated the fight, winning every round along the way. The southpaw landed a staggering left in round five that failed to put his opponent down, but probably convinced Hawthorne’s team that their fighter had had enough. When the round ended, Hawthorne’s corner halted the bout before the bell sounded for round six.

The evening’s main event, a scheduled twelve round WBA title elimination bout, was an entertaining battle between the two top contenders at 122 pounds (in the WBA). The favorite, San Antonio’s Adam Lopez came in undefeated and won the first two rounds against Daniel Roman of Los Angeles. However, the tide began to shift in round three.

Roman surged in the third and then dropped Lopez twice in round four. Lopez made it to his feet both times and fought on. However, his nose gushed blood afterward. Roman controlled the fight from that point. Lopez rallied to win the sixth round on my card, but for the most part, he slowly wore down as Roman edged closer to scoring a knockout.

Roman began landing punches with ease. He forcefully took rounds seven, eight and nine, and when Lopez returned to his corner after the ninth, his team immediately asked referee Harvey Dock to stop the fight. The official time was 3:00 of round nine. The victory earned Roman a mandatory shot at WBA champion Nehomar Cermeno. 

In the opening TV bout, junior welterweight Kenneth Sims Jr., Chicago, 11-0, 3 KOs, won an 8 round unanimous decision over San Diego's Emmanuel Robles, 15-2-1, 5 KOs. The three official scores correctly had Sims comfortably ahead (78-73 & 79-72 twice), but the fight felt more competitive than those one-sided tallies. Each fighter had their moments, but Sims maintained the lead throughout. My score was a clean sweep for Sims (80-72). 


In a scheduled 4-rounder between two bantamweight southpaws, heavy-handed Leroy Davila, New Brunswick, NJ, 5-0, 3 KOs, knocked down Warren, OH's Anthony Taylor, 4-1, 1 KO, once in round one and twice in round three, en route to a third round TKO victory.  The final blow was a hard right hook. Referee Benji Esteves stopped the fight at :53 seconds of the third.


In an 8-round junior featherweight bout, Stephon Young of St. Louis, 16-0-3, 6 KOs, scored a unanimous decision over Olimjon Nazarov of Uzbekistan, 14-4, 8 KOs. Scores were 77-75 and 78-74 twice.


In the opening bout, junior featherweight Malik Jackson of Washington, DC, 2-0, 2 KOs, dropped Virginian Christian Foster, 0-3, twice with body shots to score a first round TKO in the scheduled 4-rounder. After the second knockdown, referee Benji Esteves stopped the fight at 2:20.

The Bally’s ballroom was filled for this fight night that launched the 2017 season.




John DiSanto - Atlantic City - January 20, 2017