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Story by John DiSanto
Photos by Darryl Cobb Jr. /


Los Angeles flyweight Carlos Maldonado came to town Friday night and ruined the homecoming of North Philly’s Miguel Cartagena, who had been on the road for nearly four years.  Maldonado won the dramatic eight-round main event at the Parx Casino Xcite Center in Bensalem, PA, with a rally down the stretch that secured the close split verdict.   

The bout was a hard-fought battle that saw the boxers trade the early rounds before Cartagena began taking control in the middle of the fight.  Perhaps the phrase “taking control” is a bit of an exaggeration.  Because although Cartagena began pulling away on my scorecard by round six, the action in the ring felt much closer than my widening score indicated. 

In the first half, a few of the rounds were quite close and could have gone the other way.  And even in Miguel’s best rounds, he wasn’t escaping without taking serious punches and accumulating some damage himself.  Slowly his eyes began to mouse and his energy appeared to sap.  He was winning, but it felt like he was more treading water than putting the fight away. 

Cartagena’s best round was the fifth.  During that three minutes he landed well and experienced no danger.  When the bell ended the round, it looked like Cartagena had solved the Maldonado puzzle and was about to close the show. 

However, in the final two rounds, the LA fighter rallied and turned the fight completely around.  Maldonado cut Cartagena under the left eye and his right eye worsened.  As Maldonado gained steam, Miguel sagged.  Despite the new trend in the fight, Cartagena still had a three point lead on my card going into the final round.  So, he still seemed to be on the brink of getting his career back into the win column. 

But in the eighth and final round Maldonado bullied Cartagena and hurt him with his determined attack.  He landed punch after punch.  At one point, a right-left combo by Maldonado staggered Cartagena, and suddenly the local was in serious trouble. 

As Cartagena buckled backward, Maldonado jumped right in and cracked Miguel with another shot that sent him tumbling down.  The Philadelphian climbed right up, but you could tell that he was still hurt and was almost out of gas.  But Miguel fought back hard and more importantly, survived Maldonado’s last minute onslaught.  Cartagena lost the final round by a 10-8 margin, but he still had a one point lead on my card. 

However, the many close rounds and Maldonado’s late surge, left the official outcome in question.  Judge James Kinney agreed with my score (76-75 for Cartagena), but he was overruled by Mark Werlinsky and Steve Weisfeld who scored the fight for Maldonado, 77-75 and 76-75 respectively.   

The exciting split decision defeat was a tough one for Cartagena, 15-5-1, 6 KOs, who has now lost two in a row and five of his last nine.  He is still only 25 years old, but this career reboot assignment did not go as planned and he must turn his slide around ASAP to keep any hope alive for landing the big fights. Maldonado improved to 11-2, with 7 KOs.  This was his best career win, and a rematch might be interesting to see given the closeness of the score and the quality of the action. 

In a junior middleweight rematch, Anthony Prescott, 8-8-2, 2 KOs, Cherry Hill, NJ, and Philly’s Isaiah Wise, 6-2-1, 3 KOs, brawled to a six round draw in the evening’s exciting co-feature bout. It was a terrific battle with both fighters landing substantial shots throughout the fight.  This second meeting was hotly anticipated after a fine first fight between the two, and to everyone’s delight, the gritty action this time even surpassed their memorable first go in March.   

Wise opened the fight showing a quality jab that allowed him to take early control and win him the first round.  The fist fight between these two was a tug of war that was ultimately decided by a second round knockdown by Prescott that earned him a precious extra point on the official cards.  So, in this rematch, it made sense that Prescott would look to use his apparent edge in power to win once again. 

However early on, it seemed that Anthony relied too much on power shots, allowing Wise to set the pace with that newly improved left jab.  But Prescott’s power-first strategy began to pay some dividends in round two.  Anthony swung and found Isaiah with some good right hand shots that hurt Wise a couple of times.  As the second wound down, Prescott landed another right that hurt Wise again, just before the bell ended the round. 

The third round was terrific, probably the best of the fight, with the boxers trading shots and grappling for control.  The work rate of the both was fairly even, but once again, Prescott’s power was the determining factor.  Both were landing, but Wise was paying more.  This pattern continued to play out the rest of the way. 

In the fourth, Wise’s nose was bloodied by a good right uppercut, and Prescott began marking Isaiah’s eyes with his consistent shots.  The action was grueling and going in both directions, but Prescott was edging the rounds on my scorecard. 

Prescott won the fifth round as well, cutting Wise’s eye and cracking him over and over on the jaw.  However, this was another excellent three minutes of action with both men having their moments.  It might have gone either way, but Prescott was doing more damage and thus took another round on my card. 

The last round followed a similar pattern, but in these final minutes Wise’s jab was back on target as he seemed determined to finish the fight as he had begun it.  However, Prescott was in it as well.  He landed one very good right and kept up the pressure.  It was another very close round, and lead to an interesting tally on the official cards. 

Two of the three judges saw the fight 58-56, or four rounds to two.  James Kinney gave it to Prescott while Mark Constantino thought Wise had the edge.  Judge Steve Weisfeld turned in an even score of 57-57, making the verdict a split decision draw.  It was just that kind of fight.  My card had Prescott up 58-56.  A third fight - preferably over eight rounds - would be welcomed.

In a six round welterweight bout, North Philly’s Marcel Rivers, 6-0, 4 KOs, won a unanimous decision over southpaw Mike Crain of Smyrna, DE, 2-3-1, 1 KO.  Crain’s lefty style was awkward enough to give Rivers some trouble through most of the might.  Marcel struggled more than usual and only looked dominant in the final round.  

This time out, there was no showy knockout, as we’ve come to expect from Rivers.  However, this was probably a good learning experience for the still-developing puncher.  Despite the difficulties he had, there was never a doubt as to who was winning the fight.  Rivers had the best of Crain, and won the decision by scores of 58-56 (Mark Constantino) and 59-55 twice (Mark Werlinsky and Steve Weisfeld).  Still, it felt like an off night for Rivers. 

North Philly lightweight Victor Vasquez, 21-11-1, 9 KOs, returned after two years away from the ring to defeat New York southpaw Vinnie DeNierio, 3-5, 1 KO, by majority decision over six rounds. The boxing barber shook off a little ring rust as the pair split the first four rounds on my card.

Vasquez, a classic blood and guts Philly warrior, has been a fan favorite for about a decade.  His resume is filled with exciting, bloody and rugged battles.  However, in recent years he’s only been taking fights here and there.  Let’s call it a farewell tour.  But any Victor Vasquez fight is one to see.  This fight did not come with the heart-pounding drama many of his previous bouts, but it was a tough and earnest struggle by both men. 

After fighting evenly for four rounds, Vasquez and DeNierio came out to settle things in the final two rounds of the fight.  They clashed, but it was Vasquez who took the lead.  In round five, Vasquez hurt the New Yorker, and appeared to have him close to going down.  But DeNierio hung in there and fought back.  Then in the final round, Vasquez controlled the action for the better part of two minutes before DeNierio rallied at the end. 

It was a good tough fight and Vasquez took the official decision by two scores of 58-56 (James Kinney and Mark Constantino) and a 57-57 even score from Steve Weisfeld.  I scored the fight 58-56 for Vasquez. 

Gerardo Martinez of Coatesville, PA, 3-1, won a four round unanimous decision over North Philly’s Nyrome Lynch, 0-2, in their lightweight four rounder. Martinez won every round of the fight and in the third, Lynch was penalized one point for holding.  This widened Martinez’ shutout scores, and all three judges, Kinney, Constantino, and Werlinsky, turned in identical tallies of 40-35.

In a wild, all-action lightweight bout between North Philadelphians, Christopher Burgos, 1-2-1, 1 KO, used a brutal body attack to stop debuting Adolfo Serrano, 0-1, at 1:58 of round four. The action see-sawed back and forth for the entire fight, and was really something to watch.  Serrano came out looking to make an impression and fired one bomb after another.  Most of them landed, but the constant activity appeared to sap his strength a bit. 

By round two Serrano looked a little winded, but he kept pressing and punching like a windmill.  Oh, to be 19 years old!  His exuberance was met by a determined Burgos, who had lost both of his previous pro bouts, and was apparently dead-set on continuing this trend.  Burgos kept absorbing Serrano’s punches, but began to work effectively to the youngster’s body.  In the second, third and fourth, Burgos cracked thudding shots to Serrano’s mid-section.  It looked – and sounded – painful.  But Serrano stayed in there and tried to land the bomb that would knock Burgos cold. 

The fight was an entertaining brawl that never slowed down.  In the fourth and final round, Serrano began reacting to Burgos’ body attack by turning away as a means of escape.  By this time, his energy was kicking and the determined Burgos was closing in.  Chris could smell his first-ever victory and wasn’t going to be denied.  Finally, after a particularly wilting volley to the body by Burgos, and another turn-away by Serrano, referee Benjy Esteves stepped in to save Serrano for further punishment.  It was an excellent fight and the only stoppage of the evening. 

The night opened with a Southwest Philly vs. Northeast Philly four round showdown of young middleweights.  SW’s Kieran Hooks, 3-0-1, 1 KO, came away with a solid points win over the NE’s Sharif Jones, 0-2-1.  Hooks used a steady left-right combo to score most of his points.  His right hand was sharp and he managed to hurt Jones a few times in the fight.  Hooks dominated the second round and then staggered Jones in the third with another right.  Hooks also won the fourth, but Jones ended the fight with a hard right hand at the bell.  The scores were all for Hooks, 40-35 (Weisfeld), 40-36 (Werlinsky), and 39-37 (Constantino). 

In the walkout bout after the main event, bantamweight Emmanuel Rodriguez, 3-0, Berlin, NJ, won a four round unanimous decision over Ndira Spearman, 1-2, La Vergne, TN, by scores of 40-36 (Kinney) and 39-37 twice (Werlinsky and Constantino).

The show was promoted by Joe Hand Promotions and BAM Boxing.  J Russell Peltz was the matchmaker.  This was the second boxing event at the Parx Casino’s Xcite Center, and was another good one.  The same team returns to the venue in October and December. 




John DiSanto - Bensalem, PA - June 29, 2018