PHILLY BOXING HISTORY - February 23, 2019  
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Story by John DiSanto
Photos by Darryl Cobb Jr. /


On Saturday night on North Broad Street, The Met Philly made a successful return as a boxing venue, after more than six decades, and Steven Ortiz made his claim as the top rising lightweight in the City. Ortiz faced fellow-undefeated prospect Jeremy Cuevas in an eight rounder with the Pennsylvania state championship on the line - as well as some major bragging rights at stake. Although Cuevas entered the ring with the reputation as the bigger puncher, it was Ortiz, known more as a boxer, who displayed the superior punching power and better overall skills. Ortiz was accurate, powerful, and quick. He took control of the fight early and maintained the edge throughout the full distance, ultimately winning the bout by wide-margin unanimous decision. 

Cuevas jumped out to take the first round on my card. However, late in the second round, Ortiz smashed Cuevas with a sweeping left hook that spun the southpaw around and sent him crashing to the canvas. It wasn’t the first time Cuevas had been knocked down in his career, and like before, he climbed to his feet, ready for more. However, from the moment Ortiz landed the near-knockout blow, the fight - and Cuevas’ chances - never felt the same. 

The bell sounded ending the second round before Ortiz had a chance to capitalize on his big punch, but in round three, he picked up where he had left off. Ortiz battered Cuevas in the third and it felt like the fight might end at any minute. However, Cuevas was tough and he kept trying to turn things around. He would go on to land several of his own power shots during the fight, but he never really hurt Ortiz or make him wary of mixing it up. 

Ortiz controlled the next several rounds, with only the fifth being in question. Still, I gave Steven that round and every one that followed. In round seven, Ortiz looped an overhand right that caught Cuevas and sent him down again. Like in the second, Cuevas got up, far from finished. And fortunately for him, once again the bell sounded before he was hit again. 

The fighters entered the final round with Cuevas’ only winning scenario being a last minute knockout. He applied some pressure and did his best, but the body language said that everyone – the fighters, the crowd, and the judges – were in agreement about who the better fighter was. 

Ortiz took the final round and earned the decision of the official judges by easy scores of 79-71 (James Kenny), and 78-72 (Dewey LaRosa and Ron McNair). It was a gritty battle, but it was Ortiz’ all the way. 

Going into the fight, Ortiz was the slight favorite to win. So, it wasn’t a shock that he came away the state champ. However, the fact that his victory was so complete and dominant, was a surprise. It was a truly impressive performance by Ortiz.

Ortiz remained undefeated and improved his record to 10-0, with 3 KOs. Cuevas lost for the first time as a pro, 11-1, 8 KOs. The first loss is always tough to swallow, but this is not the end for Cuevas. Many might debate if these two young risers should have ever faced each other at this still-developmental stage of their careers. But I would argue the opposite. It was a good match that will help both improve. 

Now, I’d love to see Ortiz face the winner of next month’s Hank Lundy versus Avery Sparrow match. Let the local lightweight tournament proceed! 


In an 8-round welterweight contest, Malik Hawkins, Baltimore, 14-0, 9 KOs, defeated Gladwin Ortiz of the Bronx, 6-3, 5 KOs, by unanimous decision. It was an action fight with both men landing freely throughout. Hawkins revved for a couple of rounds before really hitting his stride in the third. In that period, Hawkins loosened up Ortiz with a very hard right hand and appeared to be on the verge of putting him down. However, Ortiz proved that he wasn’t going anywhere on this night.

The two brawled it out over the full eight rounds. Many of the exchanges were two-way, but in my opinion, Hawkins always kept the edge. He banked round after round on my scorecard, and built a big lead. 

Actually, I only gave Ortiz two rounds (six and eight), making it a near shutout on my sheet. However, this was one of the closest near-shutouts I’ve seen. Boxing can be like that. Most in attendance felt that this was the best fight of the night.  

The official judges all believed Hawkins was the winner, and awarded him the decision by a range of scores. James Kenney scored the fight 79-73.  Ron McNair had it 78-74, and Lynne Carter scored it the closest at 77-75. It was an entertaining fight that had a number of observers calling for a rematch.  

In an another 8-rounder, Tre’Sean Wiggins, Newburgh, NY, 11-4-1, 6 KOs, won the PA State junior welterweight title with a wide-margin unanimous decision over Philly’s Samuel Teah, 15-3-1, 7 KOs, and continued to establish himself as Philly spoiler. Wiggins holds previous wins (both TKOs) over locals Naim Nelson, two years ago, and Jason Sosa back in 2009.   

At the Met, Teah seemed to fall victim to Wiggins’ southpaw style. Tsunami Sam did not appear to have any answers for the turned-around Wiggins, and was hard-pressed to win a round. I did give Teah the third, but Wiggins out-boxed him the rest of the way.  

After eight full rounds, the out-of-towner took the decision by three comfortable scores. Alan Rubenstein gave every round to Wiggins, scoring the bout 80-72. Dewey LaRosa had Wiggins the winner 79-73, and Lynne Carter saw it one round closer at 78-74. So, Wiggins won the fight, earned the Pennsylvania state title, and took the belt home with him to New York. New York? Go figure. 


Philly’s Branden Pizarro, 14-1, 7 KOs, blew out Zack Ramsey, Springfield, MA, 8-6, 4 KOs, in just 1:50. First, Pizarro floored Ramsey with a left to the body, and then put him down again with a left to the chin. The second trip to the canvas lasted for ref Shawn Clark’s full 10 count. This was Ramsey’s fourth straight KO loss. So for this scheduled six-rounder, the writing was on the wall before either fighter even stepped into the ring.   


In a junior lightweight fight scheduled for six, Gadwin Rosa, 10-0, 8 KOs, dropped Jorge Luis Santos, 5-3-1, 2 KOs, with a left hook in round two. Santos survived, but Rosa swarmed him when the action resumed and referee Eric Dali stopped the bout moments later at the 1:28 mark.


Lightweight Christian Tapia, Coamo, PR, 8-0, 7 KOs, devoured David Veras Pena, Odenton, MD, 0-2-1, in two one-sided rounds. Tapia pounded away at Pena, and referee David Franciosi could have stopped the fight much earlier, but the southpaw lasted until 1:28 of round two.  


In a fight scheduled for four rounds, wild-but-entertaining light heavyweight Benny Sinakin, 3-0, 2 KOs, ate a few early bombs from Ronald Lawrence, 0-4, but eventually overwhelmed his fellow Philadelphian, scoring a knockout at 2:42 of round one. Eric Dali was the referee.

In a 4-round female featherweight fight, Tamar Israeli, 2-0-1, 2 KOs, and Karen Dulin, 3-16-1, 1 KO fought to a majority draw. Judge Ron McNair scored the fight for Israeli, 39-37. However, he was overruled by the two remaining judges, Lynne Carter and Alan Rubenstein, both of whom had it 38-38. It was a close fight, but I felt Israeli had done enough to earn the decision (39-37). 


Philly bantamweight Josue Rosa, 1-0, 1 KO, made a successful pro debut by stopping Willie Anderson of Paulsboro, NJ, 0-2, at the end of the first round. Anderson made it to the bell, but then called it quits in his corner before the second round started. The official time was 3:00 of the first round.


In the opening bout, Newark, NJ bantamweight Emanuel Rodriguez remained undefeated, 4-0, with a 4-round unanimous decision over New Yorker Jose Lopez (0-1-1).  Rodriguez scored a knockdown in round one, and won on my card, 39-36. Official judge Lynn Carter agreed, 39-36, while Alan Rubenstein scored it 38-37, and James Kenney had it 39-37. 


Besides the full slate of fights, and two state championships, the other major storyline on this night was the apparent huge box office success of the show and revived venue. The 10-bout card was promoted by Hard Hitting Promotions (Manny Rivera and Will Ruiz), and although exact attendance numbers were not announced, the first boxing card at the venue in more than 64 years drew a very large crowd of at least 3,500. Practically every seat in the beautifully restored former opera house appeared to be filled on Saturday night. 

This was the largest attendance number for a boxing event in Philly since Danny Garcia’s 2016 KO victory over Sam Vargas at the Liacouras Center. The Met is a gorgeous locale, and an unusual setting for boxing, but its return to action is very welcome. Hard Hitting Promotions announced that they will return to The Met with more boxing on Friday, April 26. 




John DiSanto - North Philly - February 23, 2019