PHILLY BOXING HISTORY - February 19, 2019  
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Story & Photos by John DiSanto


As if Saturday night’s re-opening of the 111 year old Met as a boxing venue wasn’t exciting enough, the first main event in the “new” location is a rare meeting between two of the top rising lightweight prospects in Philly.  Jeremy Cuevas, 11-0, 8 KOs, and Steven Ortiz, 9-0, 3 KOs, meet in the 8-round feature bout with the PA state lightweight title at stake.  This match-up is one that does three things I wish we saw more of in this era of boxing. 

First, both fighters are on the rise.  Each has a potentially bright future in the game, and seeing them square off at this developmental stage of their respective careers should be interesting. 

Second, both men are undefeated.  The common opinion is that undefeated fighters don’t need to fight each other, this early in their profession.  Most managers, promoters, and fans (and often even the fighters themselves) prefer easy matches that pad records and put off any real threat until some later date.  Although understandable (who doesn’t like an easy road), this philosophy is a bad one. 

Third, and most importantly, both Cuevas and Ortiz are Philadelphia fighters.  Like the bad thinking that prefers the easy road, many believe that two Philly fighters should never meet unless a world title or a boat-load of money is at stake.  The thinking in this scenario is that one local fighter should never stand in the way of another one. 

One of the key aspects of Philadelphia’s boxing history is that its fighters have traditionally faced one another en route to moving up into the national rankings and onto the world stage.  Some of the very best moments in our city’s boxing history came when two of our own squared off. 

64 years ago, in the last Met main event (November 18, 1954), former world title challenger and 450-bout vet Gil Turner met up-and-coming 18-bout youngster Charley Scott, both of North Philly, in a scheduled 10-rounder at the old opera house.  Turner won the contest by TKO in eight rounds, and the show attracted 2,535 fans. 

For the re-opening of the Met, the first main event at the venue in 64 years, had to be a fight of significance to make the moment matter.  The Met was always been a place where crosstown rivalries were settled.  North Philly vs. South Philly, South Philly vs. West Philly, West Philly vs. North Philly, and so on.  Past fights have been contests between new guard vs. old guard, prospect vs. prospect, and veteran vs. veteran. 

So kudos should go out to Hard Hitting Promotions (Manny Rivera and Will Ruiz), and the two combatants for stepping up and making this fight.  Both boxer Ortiz and slugger Cuevas were finalists for the “2018 Prospect of the Year” Briscoe Award.  Cuevas received more votes and will receive his Briscoe Award on April 14th.  Some may look at their upcoming fight as a chance for Cuevas to prove that the fans were right in choosing him, and an opportunity for Ortiz to prove they were dead wrong. 

But more importantly, both will stake their undefeated records and their first shot at some boxing hardware on this fight.  The winner will walk away with the Pennsylvania state 135-pound title belt.  The loser will have to regroup and work his way back.  However regardless of Saturday’s final result, both fighters still have a future and will certainly come away better boxers because of what they will learn in the bout.  Facing a fellow rising, undefeated, Philly fighter will not snuff their future potential.  It will enhance it. 

Early indications are that the show will be a big seller, and is on pace to sell more tickets than 1954’s Turner vs. Scott.  Certainly the fine main event and the new site deserve most of the credit for this.  However, the rest of the card is filled with many other good fighters and fights. 

In another 8-round PA state title bout, junior welterweight Samuel Teah, 15-2-1, 7 KOs, Philadelphia, meets Tre-Sean Wiggins, 10-4-1, 6 KO, of Newburgh, NY.  Wiggins halted Philly’s Naim Nelson (TKO5) in 2017, and also stopped Jason Sosa (TKO1) back in 2009.  So his pedigree as a Philly spoiler has been established.  However, Teah, winner of the “2018 Upset of the Year” in Philly, is coming off a career-best win and looks to keep his momentum going strong. 

In the third 8-round spotlight fight, Baltimore’s Malik Hawkins, 13-0, 9 KOs, fights Gledwin Ortiz, 6-2, 5 KOs, of the Bronx.  In his last bout, Ortiz shocked Philly’s Kieran Hooks, scoring a first round knockout.  Locally, Hawkins is best known for beating Philly’s Raymond Serrano, last year at the Fillmore. 

Fellow 2018 prospect award nominee Branden Pizarro will face Zack Ramsey in a 6-round junior lightweight fight. The 19-year old Pizarro, 13-1, 6 KOs, is a solid young fighter with tons of talent.  Ramsey is a battle-tested Massachusetts road warrior who has dropped decisions to locals Samuel Teah and Raymond Serrano.  He’ll be a big underdog against Pizarro, but come into the Met hoping to catch the prospect sleeping. 

Also on the card is light heavyweight Benny Sinakin, one of the top rookies of 2018, in his third professional start.  The Jewish Bulldog, as he is called, is an entertaining battler.  He’ll face winless Ronald Lawrence (0-3). 

Undefeated junior lightweight Gadwin Rosa, 9-0, 7 KOs, stays busy against Eric Manriquez, 6-5-1, 3 KOs, in a 6-round bout.  Lightweight Christian Tapia, 7-0, 6 KOs, looks to extend his undefeated streak in a 4-rounder against Elliot Brown, 2-7, 2 KOs.  Tel Aviv female boxer Tamar Israeli, 2-0, 2 KOs, makes her local debut against Rhode Island’s Karen Dulin, 3-16, 1 KO, in a 4-round junior featherweight bout.  Newark’s Emmanuel Rodriguez, 3-0, faces New Yorker Jose Lopez, 0-0-1, 4 rounds, bantamweights. 

Finally, two fighters will make their professional debut on the card.  Philly bantamweight Josue Rosa meets Trevor Ballinger, 0-3.  And Philly’s Tyhler Williams, makes his start against Texas welterweight Omar Reyes, 2-4. 

The weigh in and final press conference for the event will be held, 5PM on Friday at the Laborers’ Local 57 Union Hall (500 N. 6th St.), and is open to the public. 

The 11-bout fight card at the Met on Saturday night, begins at 7:00 PM. 




John DiSanto - North Philly - February 19, 2019