PHILLY BOXING HISTORY - January 07, 2019  
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Story by John DiSanto
Photos by Darryl Cobb Jr. /
Additional Photos by Various Photographers As Noted


The 2018 Philly fight season closed with a bang in December with two world title fights involving two of Philadelphia's best fighters - Tevin Farmer and Jesse Hart. But they weren't the only stand outs in 2018. The local fight scene kept fans busy with a number of important events and milestones.

A total of sixteen boxing shows (with 114 total bouts) took place within the Philadelphia city limits. Kings Promotions (Marshall Kauffman) staged the most shows, with eight dates (including one private one-bout show), but Hard Hitting Promotions (Manny Rivera and Will Ruiz) was just behind with six events. Evander Holyfield's Real Deal Sports and Entertainment opened the season in their only Philly show of 2018, and Top Rank & Peltz Boxing teamed up to stage the biggest event of the year - a nationally televised card at the Liacouras Center.

The 2300 Arena was the primary boxing venue in 2018, with nine shows, while the Sugar House hosted five. The Fillmore was the site for one show, returning for it's second-ever event boxing event. The Liacouras Center was the only other boxing venue in 2018 (1 show), but The Parx Casino, just outside the city limits in Bensalem, bowed as a boxing venue in 2018, and ran two shows (promoted by Joe Hand Promotions).

Other non-Philadelphia locales that helped contribute to the Philly fight scene included the Sands Event Center, in Bethlehem, PA, four shows (Kings Promotions), the PAL Center in Hockessin, DE, two shows (Dee Lee Promotions, and of course various Atlantic City properties including, The Showboat (Rising Star Promotions) with four shows, The Claridge (Mis Downing Promotions) with two, The Mark G. Etess Arena (Main Events) with two, and Boardwalk Hall (Real Deal) and Ocean Resort Casino (Top Rank) with one each.

The 2018 national / international platform belonged to Tevin Farmer, who won the IBF 130-pound championship and defended it twice. Jesse Hart also vied for a world title (WBO), but lost by a hair. Former champ Danny Garcia went 1-1, including a narrow defeat to Shawn Porter for the vacant IBF welterweight title. Bryant Jennings remained a relevant heavyweight with three strong victories. Julian Williams continued his comeback with two wins.

Perennial threat Hank Lundy split his two  bouts in 2018, as did Reading's Travis Kauffman, who briefly retired after winning a rocky decision over Scott Alexander, only to return before the year closed in a high-profile bout with Luis Ortiz. Kauffman lost to Ortiz but showed plenty of toughness, lasting all but one minute of the scheduled 10-rounder. Gabriel Rosado kept plugging along, landing yet another lucrative internationally streamed fight (D12 Luis Arias), and once again got jobbed on the decision.

Heavyweight Amir Mansour fought once in 2018 - a rough trip to Croatia - and was stopped in three rounds. Joey Dawejko fought and lost twice by decision - to Bryant Jennings in Philly and Andrey Fedosov in Russia.

The rest of the 2018 boxing action belonged to the local Philly fighters on the rise, and that's where the Briscoe Awards enter the picture.

This year the Briscoe Awards return on April 14, 2019, at Xfinity Live! in South Philly. Below are the nominees for six of the ten Briscoe Awards that will be presented in April. The winners in these categories (Fight, Fight, Prospect, Rookie, KO, and Performance) will be determined by fan voting. The winners of two additional awards (The One to Watch and Upset of the Year) are named below, while winners for two more awards (Photo of the Year and Amateur of the Year) will be determined in the near future. Also two honorary awards will be presented in April and are described below.

So, review the nominees below and make your voice heard today by voting!

You may vote for the various awards described in this story by visiting Look for the "VOTE" tab (at the top / far right), or click the VOTE links, at the end of each section, in the article below.

Voting opens today (Jan. 7th).

Without further delay, let’s get down to the Briscoe Award nominees for the 2018 fight year. 


The American Idol is hard to beat in this category for 2018. Coming off his controversial first title shot the previous December, Farmer traveled to Australia to fight local hero Billy Dib for the vacant IBF junior lightweight title. Farmer fought magnificently and took a one-sided unanimous decision to earn the world championship. Farmer stayed busy and defended his crown twice before 2018 closed. In October, Tevin KO'd James Tennyson in Boston, with a body shot in round five in his first defense. Then in December at Madison Square Garden, Farmer defeated Francisco Fonseca by unanimous decision for his second defense. It was a terrific, 3-0, 1 KO, year for Philly's only current world champ. In 2018, he looked unbeatable.

All year long, Jesse Hart chased Gilberto Ramirez for another shot at the WBO crown. Ramirez had dished Hart his first-ever loss the previous September, and Jesse refused to rest until he received another championship opportunity - against Ramirez and only Ramirez. He fought three times between February and August, winning all three bouts by knockout. His victims were Thomas Awimbono (TKO1), Demond Nicholson (TKO7), and Mike Gravonski (TKO3). This powerful streak led Hart back to Ramirez. The old rivals faced off for the second time in a world title bout in Corpus Christi, TX. Hart almost brought the title back to Philly, but lost the decision by a hair. It wasn't controversial, just a good, close fight between the two best 168-pounders in the world. Although he didn't win the title in 2018, his efforts showed that a title belt might be coming his way in the very near future. 

Like Hart, BY Jennings was fighting to get back into the thick of his division, the increasingly competitive heavyweight class. Jennings fought three times in the year, each bout bringing him a step closer to another big title shot. First he steamrolled Akhor Muralimov in a three round no-sweater. Then he faced fellow Philadelphian Joey Dawejko in an anticipated showdown between Philly's two best heavies. The fight was competitive, but Jennings proved he was the better conditioned and better seasoned pro, taking the 10-round unanimous decision. The win gave Jennings his second PA state title. Finally in August, Jennings came off the floor to stop Alexander Dimitrenko in round nine. That victory brought Jennings two regional belts (NABO & IBF-International), but more importantly shoved him back near the very top of the heavyweight division.

Place your VOTE for Philly Fighter of the Year and 5 other categories!
(Voting is now closed)


There were many good fights in the city of Philadelphia last year, but, without a doubt, the two best were: 

April 28, 2018 - Liacouras Center
Top Rank / Peltz Boxing

In Philly's only world title bout of 2018, Jesse Magdaleno nearly defended his WBO junior featherweight title in round one when he dropped Isaac Dogboe right off the bat. However, Dogboe was not to be denied on this night. The London-based Ghanaian climbed to his feet and battled back against Magdaleno with everything he had. Dogboe dropped the champion in round five, but the Magdaleno wasn't finished yet. They continued to fight a thrilling two-way war, but Dogboe began pulling ahead when his energy and power began paying dividends. Finally in round 11, Dogboe sent Magdaleno to the canvas twice and won the title by TKO at 1:38 of the eleventh round. It was a great fight by two visiting warriors.

December 07, 2018 – 2300 Arena
Kings Promotions

The final Philly main event of 2018 was a dramatic and grueling battle between super middleweights Brandon Robinson and out-of-towner Kalvin Henderson. Robinson, riding an 11-bout winning streak and slowly but surely pushing his career upward, was the favorite. However, Henderson came in with a good-looking 10-0 record and plenty of chip on his shoulder. The pre-fight build up was ugly and the fighters entered the ring with much to prove. Robinson started fast, but before he knew it, his left eye was marked and beginning to swell. In round two, Henderson took over and exploited Brandon's injury, sneaking hard shots past his limited vision. The fighters brawled away. Henderson took control, but Robinson was pressing the action and doing everything he could to turn the tables, as both his eyes closed. In the fifth, Henderson caught a blinded Robinson with a hard right that put him down. Robinson never saw the punch. But he got up and furiously pressed Henderson, who kept his cool, but felt the pressure. Kalvin stormed back in round seven to score two more knockdowns that forced the end to this glorious, bloody and exciting fight. It was a dramatic and violent battle, and an upset that had everyone hoping for a 2019 rematch.

Place your VOTE for Philly Fighter of the Year and 5 other categories!
(Voting is now closed)


2018 featured a number of good knockouts, both at home and on the road. Here are the three best. 

February 17, 2018 – Mandalay Bay / Las Vegas
Premiere Boxing Champions (Showtime)

Danny "Swift" Garcia bounced back from his first-ever professional defeat by viciously stopping former world champion Brandon Rios in Las Vegas. Garcia lowered the boom in round nine, dropping Rios twice. The second knockdown was a picture-perfect overhand right to the jaw that sent Rios crashing to the floor. The ever-tough Rios made it to his feet, but the fight was obviously over. Garcia scored his 20th career KO with that perfect punch.

October 20, 2018 – TD Garden / Boston
Matchroom Boxing (DAZN)

Tevin Farmer made the first defense of his world junior lightweight title with a beautiful body punch against James Tennyson in Boston. Like a true Philly fighter, Farmer punished the Irishman's midsection throughout the bout, but the final, telling smack to the breadbasket came in round five when a Farmer left put him away. Not known for his power, Farmer made the exception this time, to ensure that his new IBF belt stayed securely around his waist.

November 16, 2018 – 2300 Arena / Philadelphia
Hard Hitting Promotions & Victory Promotions (Showtime)

It was quick. It was brutal. It was complete. And the second round stoppage of Raymond Serrano by Jaron Ennis was one of the best KO's of the year. Everyone wondered how the rising star would fare against a battle-tested fellow Philly fighter, but Ennis left no doubt with his second round assault. Boots dropped Serrano three times in the round and the final deadly left hook closed the show on the spot. The KO sent yet another message to the welterweight division that Ennis is the real deal. Thank you, next.

Place your VOTE for Philly Fighter of the Year and 5 other categories!
(Voting is now closed)


There were many fine performances in 2018, but here are the four that edged out all the others.

TKO2 Joshua Davis on January 26, 2018 at the Sugar House Casino

In his first main event, rising Philly lightweight Steven Ortiz scored an impressive second round TKO over DC prospect Joshua Davis. Ortiz jumped out to a fast start, and Davis could not keep pace. By the second round, Ortiz was in high gear and went in for the kill. A left hook by Ortiz dropped Davis for the first time. Davis got to his feet, but Ortiz was ready and waiting. Steven pounded away until a sharp right hand put Davis down again. The visitor survived, but when the action resumed, Ortiz blasted him with another right that sent him to the canvas for a third and final time. Ortiz had arrived.

W12 Billy Dib on August 01, 2018 in Australia

Tevin Farmer became a world champion with his landslide points win over Australian Billy Dib. Farmer pitched a near shutout against the old pro, dropping him once in the ninth and winning by scores of 120-107, 119-108 & 118-109. This was an essential Farmer performance that finally showed the rest of the world what Philly already knew - Tevin Farmer is a world class boxer and ready for anyone in or around the 130-pound division.

W8 Reynaldo Blanco on August 18, 2018 in Atlantic City

Very few people hung around to see the final bout of a long slate of fights in Atlantic City last August, when Jason Sosa met Reynaldo Blanco in a glorious 8-rounder. If you were one of the die-hards that stuck it out, you really saw something special. The two staged the Atlantic City Fight of the Year with their 8-round war. If this bout had been in Philadelphia, it would run away with "Philly Fight of the Year" honors, but unfortunately it was set about 60 miles too far east to qualify for that award. Both brawlers gave everything they had, but the former champ, Sosa, prevailed with his usual toughness, determination, and workmanlike skill. Jason's performance displayed the essence of his greatness. He is a fighter that leaves it all in the ring and works like no one else to get the job done. This fight - and performance - is a lost classic, but should never be forgotten.

TKO2 Raymond Serrano on November 16, 2018 at the 2300 Arena

Everyone has been buzzing about the skills of Jaron Ennis since before he even turned professional. However, the buzz has gotten louder and louder with each pro assignment he's had. His most recent start was perhaps his best and most convincing of them all. Of course Ennis looked poised and extremely skilled in his overwhelming victory over Raymond Serrano. We've gotten pretty used to that. However, on display last November was the lethal power and killer instinct of the youngest of the fighting Ennis clan. The assortment of artillery Boots unleashed that night was withering. He looked like he was ready to take on the world and able to back up all the hype that has surrounded him for the past three years. If he's not the Philly fighter of the future, I don't know who is, and this fight displayed that perfectly.

Place your VOTE for Philly Fighter of the Year and 5 other categories!
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The four rising fighters (with 15 pro bouts or less) that made the biggest impression and promised the most for the future were:

Lightweight southpaw Jeremy Cuevas went 5-0, with 3 KOs, in 2018, improving his overall record to 11-0, 8 KOs. During the year he brought plenty of excitement to local boxing fans, winning in his usual thrilling fashion and even coming off the floor to top Efrain Cruz at the Fillmore. By the end of the year, he had knocked off Jerome Rodriguez, a tough opponent who brought out the best in Cuevas, and helped him prove that he's ready for the next level of competition.

Lightweight Steven Ortiz went 2-0, 1 KO, in 2018, to push his record to a perfect 9-0, 3 KOs. He started his year with a breakthrough win (and mild upset) over a more experienced Joshua Davis (11-2, 5 KOs), and closed 2018 on the road with a points victory over then-unbeaten pro (and previous amateur standout) Wesley Ferrer (12-0-1, 7 KOs). The 25 year old prospect looks to be ready to make some serious noise in 2019.

Junior welterweight Branden Pizarro went 5-0, with 2 KOs, in 2018, improving his overall resume to 13-1, 6 KOs. Pizarro has been touted as the next big thing ever since he turned pro in 2016. But it was in 2018 that he began to really show that he might have the goods to make it far at 140. His final two fights of the year brought out a little something extra in Pizarro, still just 19 years old. After disposing three relatively easy foes, Branden stopped experienced journeyman Justin Johnson in two rounds and then handled Jerome Rodriguez (W6) with flair and relative ease. His performances, especially in these two fights, sent the message that Pizarro had matured a great deal and was ready for bigger things.

Super middleweight Brandon Robinson went 3-1, 2 KOs, in 2018, which moved him to 11-2, 8 KOs, overall. Although he lost his last fight of 2018 - TKO'd in 7 by Kalvin Henderson - his gutsy performance in defeat showed the size of his heart and willingness to fight through adversity. He didn't bring home the win that night, but it was perhaps the fight of the year and set up an attractive potential rematch. The rest of the year, Robinson ruled the roost at 168 pounds, defeating experienced Oscar Riojas by 8-round decision and knocking out Ghanaian cinder block Ernest Amuzu in three rounds. He also quickly toppled Juan Zapata in a single round. Robinson is likely to bounce back big in 2019.

Place your VOTE for Philly Fighter of the Year and 5 other categories!
(Voting is now closed)


The 2018 crop of rookies all looked good but these three were the most promising, despite only making two starts each. 

Junior featherweight Rasheen Brown made his pro debut in August at the Sugar House Casino, winning a one-sided unanimous decision over Bryann Nevarez, who was 2-10-1 at the time. He followed up his debut with an out of town decision, three months later against Sebastian Baltazar (1-2). Southpaw Brown has plenty of potential.  

Junior middleweight Paul Kroll, a 2016 Olympian, made his pro debut at the Sugar House in August, blasting out DeAngelo Alcorn (0-1) in the first round. He followed with an another stoppage (TKO2), this time against Antonio Wattell (1-5-1) in Oklahoma City. His delayed pro career is now on track, and appears ready to take flight in 2019. 

Light heavyweight Benny Sinakin launched his pro career in October with a rousing decision over Alex Lara (1-0) at the 2300 Arena. He returned just one month later with a messy first round TKO of Darren Gibbs (1-5), also at the Arena. Sinakin didn't come to the pros with a mountain of amateur experience (like Brown and Kroll), but while learning on the job, he proved to be a crowd-pleasing attraction that looks set to entertain fans for years to come.   

Place your VOTE for Philly Fighter of the Year and 5 other categories!
(Voting is now closed)




This local bantamweight won four straight bouts in 2018 and improved his record to 17-0, with 11 KOs. There are other local boxers who we need to watch as well, but Carto is a few lengths ahead of all the others in this race. For this, he earns the award without going to the fan vote.

His four 2018 bouts included two main events and two supporting spots on big nationally televised cards. This was a year of development for Carto, as he went the distance in all four of his starts, mixed it up in the ring a bit more than we're used to seeing, generally faced a tougher level of competition, and transitioned to a brand new trainer, Billy Briscoe. So, 2018 included many new variables in Carto's career, but he remained focused and passed each test put before him.

In addition, Carto established himself as perhaps the biggest box office attraction in Philadelphia. Philly has one champion, a handful of ranked contenders, and many rising stars, but Christian Carto is arguably the most popular fighter in the City. He is still learning and gradually improving, but it is clear that Carto is ready for a true challenge and a serious step up. His continued success and obvious promise earn him his first Briscoe Award - unopposed. Honorable mentions in this category go to Steven Ortiz and Jeremy Cuevas.

Congratulations to Christian Carto!


Sam Teah pulled an upset on November 16 at the 2300 Arena that outshined any other during 2018. Teah defeated the favored Kenneth Sims, Jr. of Chicago (13-1-1, 4 KOs) by convincing 8-round unanimous decision, and he did it on the nationally televised SHOBOX series to boot.

Although going in to the fight, their records were in the same ballpark (Teah was 14-2-1), Sam was still rebounding from a so-so 2017 appearance on SHOBOX that had some - certainly Team Sims - thinking that Teah couldn't perform at the next level. However, Teah surprised everyone and scored the best win of his 5-year career. For that, he earns his first Briscoe Award, no vote required.

Congratulations to Sam Teah!


J Russell Peltz promoted his first boxing show on September 30, 1969. That makes 2019 Russell's 50th year as a promoter. He has become a cornerstone of Philly boxing history, promoting and matching thousands of bouts, and developing great champions, contenders, and countless memorable Philly fighters. A look at his career is a lesson in the history of the sport that we all love so much. He has also been inducted into every boxing Hall of Fame there is - IBHOF, PABHOF, NJBHOF, WBHOF, and more. 

So, on April 14, we will celebrate this great 50 year milestone by presenting Russell Peltz with an honorary Briscoe Medal.

Congratulations Russell!  Thank you for 50 years worth of contributions to Philly boxing. 


Stanley "Kitten" Hayward is one of Philly's most exciting and best fighters to have ever come along. A veteran of the great era of the 1960s and 1970s, Hayward fought a who's who of boxing talent. He challenged  for the world junior middleweight championship in 1969, competed all over the world, and scored memorable victories over the likes of Bennie Briscoe, Emile Griffith, Curtis Cokes, Dick Turner, Ike White, and many others. With his aggressive style, Kitten packed a lifetime of excitement for boxing fans into his 18 years as a professional boxer (1959-1977).

On May 26, 2019, Kitten will turn 80 years old. So, on April 14, we will take the opportunity to honor Hayward with a special Briscoe Medal for his great career, his importance to Philly boxing history, and his colorful 80 years on on planet.

Congratulations Kitten!  Thank you for all you have done for our sport. 







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John DiSanto - Philadelphia - January 07, 2019