PHILLY BOXING HISTORY - February 08, 2019  
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Story by John DiSanto
Photos by Darryl Cobb Jr. /


No one at the packed-to-the-gills 2300 Arena ever thought they would witness the scene that played out in evening's main event. All of South Philly came out on a cold Friday night to root on their latest favorite son, Christian Carto, and the crowd of about 1,400 was ready to carry him out on their shoulders after he registered his 18th professional victory. However, on this night, they had to settle for watching Carto get carried out on a stretcher. 

The end of the fight, at 1:56 of round two, was sudden, violent, and above all, a complete and total surprise. The shocking KO of Carto turned a rowdy block party into a sullen gathering of broken and worried fight fans.

Everyone stood in total silence as a rigid, motionless Carto lay on the canvas, flat on his back, completely still. As the minutes passed and the medical team scurried into action, the intensity of the quiet grew. The ring was abuzz, but Carto was still dormant. He never moved a muscle. 

The fight that had just ended, evaporated in everyone's mind. No one was thinking about boxing at that moment. The crowd was frightened, full of dread, and thinking the absolute worst. Was this actually happening? All of us just waited for something, some motion, a smile from someone hovering over Carto, anything would have helped. But those of us outside the ring never received even the slightest comfort or so much as a flicker of an indication that Carto was okay. 

The EMS team gave him oxygen, fitted him with a neck brace, and whisked him out on a stretcher. All the time, Christian never moved. He left for the hospital as the rest of us just stared at each other before trudging out of the arena as quiet as Carto. 1,400 people went home Friday night, worried that the worst had happened to a young man, that in recent years, we had all rooted for, believed in, cared about, and in him saw nothing but the brightest of futures.

Carto had started the fight well. He won the first round and seemed on his way to another win and a further step closer to that bright future. However in round two, Mexican visitor Victor Ruiz landed a vicious left hand that sent Carto down.

Ruiz was an experienced fighter, but most believed that he was in Philly to lose, just more fodder for the rising South Philly ring star. But the old pro saw the opening, swung for the fences, and hit a homerun. Carto fell backward stiffly and as he landed on the canvas, his head hit with a loud thud. It was two knockouts for the price of one.

Referee Eric Dali looked down at Carto and immediately called the fight to an end. The stunned South Philly crowd went completely silent, and nervously watched as the terrifying the scene unfolded. It seemed to go on for an hour. In truth, the aftermath only lasted a matter of minutes. Still, it felt like an eternity.

The upset victory improved Ruiz' record to 23-10-1, 16 KOs. Carto, 17-1, 11 KOs, lost for the first time.

It took several hours for any word to come regarding Carto's condition. Some time after midnight, Frankie Carto, Christian's brother and manager, posted on social media that the hospitalized fighter was talking and feeling fine.

In the morning, we learned that Carto's CT scan had proven to be clear and that he was released from Thomas Jefferson University Hospital, a little before 1:00 AM. Later, Christian's father, Frank, posted that his son was feeling disappointed, but that he was physically fine and out to breakfast with his girlfriend.

What a relief. A tragedy was avoided, but the question still remained - What is with this sport we love so much, and exactly why is it that we love it? 


North Philadelphian Marcel Rivers, 7-0, 4 KOs, remained undefeated with a close 6-round unanimous decision over Derrick Whitley Jr. of Springfield, MA, 4-1-1, in their welterweight bout. Whitley was a difficult puzzle for Rivers to solve. The visitor was quick and slick and seemed quite comfortable during the first half of the fight, effectively out boxing Marcel, two rounds to one. However, Rivers kept pressing and gained ground starting in round four.

Rivers worked Whitley's body and began landing his power shots, especially one good left hook and one equally hard right. The rally evened the score on my card after four rounds. In the fifth, Rivers stayed in control, mixing in a nice left uppercut and a collection of rights. Still the battle was close. In the last round, Whitley rallied himself, but Rivers edged the action during the final three minutes to give him a 4-2 final tally on my score (58-56).

Two of the three official judges agreed. Steve Weisfeld and Robert Rubenitz scored the bout 58-56 in favor of Rivers. Judge David Braslow had it 58-56 for Whitley.


In a well-fought bantamweight fight, Alejandro Jimenez, 4-0-1, 1 KO, New Hope, and Edgar Cortes, 6-4-1, Vineland, NJ fought to a 6-round split decision draw. A few of the rounds were toss-ups, making the draw a reasonable call. From my seat, Cortes controlled the middle of the fight, but Jimenez won the early and later rounds. After six, I had Jimenez up 58-56, but it could have gone either way.

Judge Steve Weisfeld favored Cortes 58-56. Mark Werlinsky had it 58-56 for Jimenez. David Braslow had the deciding vote and called it a 57-57 draw.


In an insufferably sluggish heavyweight encounter scheduled for six, Germantown’s Darmani Rock, 14-0, 9 KOs, and Steven Lyons of Houma, LA, 5-4, 2 KOs, circled each other for three rounds, landing occasionally. It was a dreary fight, with neither boxer doing much to state their case. When one would land (not nearly often enough), the other would shake his head or sneer at the other.

Rock landed a nice left-right in the second and Lyons did a little hot-dogging in the third. This is what we were watching! Darmani took the first three, but those of us watching looked at that six round distance - three full rounds still to come - like a life sentence. 

However in round four, Rock put Lyons and the rest of the arena out of its misery. Darmani trapped Lyons in the red corner and landed a heavy combination that put Lyons down for the full 10-count. Referee Benjy Esteves reached his ten count, with Lyons down on one knee, at 1:20 of round four.


South Philly heavyweight Sonny Conto, 1-0, 1 KO, made a successful professional debut, halting Buffalo’s Jimmie Levins, 0-5, at 2:14 of round one. The final result was what everyone had expected, but the actual fight was a fiasco, with Levins clearly was not in the fighting mood on this night.

Coming into the fight without a win on his record and up against an accomplished amateur standout and hometown favorite, Levins clearly felt he had no chance, and looked for a quick and painless exit.

As the fight unfolded, Conto chased Levins but never had much of a chance to catch him. Each time the fighters drew near, Levins hit the canvas without getting hit. Over and over, the pattern repeated, and he went down so many times that I lost count. I think it was four trips to the canvas, or maybe it was five.

Every time Levins got up, he shook his leg and pawed at an apparent trick knee that was braced under his long trunks. Each trip to the canvas lasted longer than the last, as Levins tried to delay returning to the action as best he could. After the final non-knockdown, referee Eric Dali called in the ringside doctor, and the fight was stopped. 

It was not an auspicious start to Conto's career, but it wasn't really his fault. They say it takes two to tango, and this fight proved that rule. Already signed by Top Rank, Conto will likely return to the same arena on March 30 for his second bout, when Vegas-based promoter brings a world title bout to South Philly.


Gerardo Martinez, 4-1, 1 KO, Coatesville, PA, won by majority decision over AC vet Osnel Charles, 12-19-1, 2 KOs, in their 4-round junior welterweight bout. The entire fight was a closely fought slugfest, with both men landing bombs along the way. The style of the fight was surprising, given that neither man relies on power punches. They came in with just three KOs between them, but that did not stop them from staging an exciting punch out for four full rounds.

Charles jumped out to win the first, but Martinez swept the final three on my card, and took my tally 39-37. Judge Robert Rubenitz and Steve Weisfeld scored the fight for Martinez, 39-37 and 40-36, respectively, while Mark Werlinsky saw it a 38-38 draw.


In the show opener, Bethlehem bantamweight Jonathan Torres, 2-0, won a 4-round unanimous decision over Dallas Holden, 1-4, of Atlantic City. The third round was the best of the fight, with both men landing non-stop. Toward the end of the session, both blasted the other with bombs.

In the fourth, each landed their best punch of the fight. Early on, Holden landed a right that staggered Torres, but moments later, Torres returned the favor with his own heavy right hand. The exchange capped a good preliminary fight. All three official scores were 40-36 (Steve Weisfeld, David Braslow, Mark Werlinsky).

This was the first Philly show by promoter Michelle Rosado's Raging Babe Promotions. Called the "Philly Special", the show was clearly a box office success, with its quick sellout and packed house, and suggested that there would be more Raging Babe shows to come in Philly.




John DiSanto - South Philly - February 08, 2019