PHILLY BOXING HISTORY - March 30, 2019  
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Story by John DiSanto
Photo by Darryl Cobb, Jr. /


WBC light heavyweight champion Oleksandr Gvozdyk, 17-0, 14 KOs, defended his title for the first time in unusual fashion Saturday night at the 2300 Arena in South Philly. With a packed house cheering him on, the Ukrainian native stopped Kinshasa native and current resident of France, Doudou Ngumbu in round five, but it wasn’t a punch or a compilation of points that pushed him to victory. Things may have been going in that direction, but suddenly in round five, Ngumbu pulled back from an incoming punch and came away limping and complaining about pain in his leg.   

Referee Eric Dali sent the champion to a neutral corner and paused the action. He guided Ngumbu back to his corner, where for several minutes a confused conversation went down. Apparently Ngumbu doesn’t speak a lick of English. So, communications between the ref, the doctor, the fighter, and his corner went in circles.   

In an attempt to cut through the language barrier, Ngumbu’s translator was called up the ring steps. However, when he was asked to ask the fighter if he could continue, the translator, a proud countryman of the boxer, repeatedly answered in the affirmative – without conferring with Ngumbu! This went around and around for a brief spell, before the ringside doctor made the call that Doudou has torn his Achilles tendon and was unable to continue.  

So, Eric Dali waved an end to the championship fight, giving Gvozdyk his first title defense, 58 seconds into round five.    

Welterweights Ray Robinson, Philadelphia, 24-3-1, 12 KOs, and Oxnard-based Lithuanian Egidijus Kavaliauskas, 21-0-1, 17 KOs, fought to a 10-round majority draw, in the 10-round semi-final. Going into the bout, many believed Robinson had been given a career death sentence with this difficult assignment. The betting odds were massively in Kavaliauskas’ favor, with Robinson’s odds set at a massive

However, when the bell sounded, Robinson came out, boxed smartly, and kept the touted puncher at bay. Slowly but surely Robinson built a lead, way beyond the first couple of warming-up rounds. In the thick of the fight, when most felt the Lithuanian would get it together and score yet another knockout, Robinson was still boxing well, and avoiding danger.  

Kavaliauskas got through a few times, and Ray wobbled here and there. But each time things became worrisome for the lanky welterweight, he just used his legs, his jab, and his experience to regain control of the action. It was a resourceful and mature performance, and, considering the stakes and the difficulty level, has to be one of the best showings to date for Robinson.   

Even when the fight entered the final rounds, Robinson had enough juice to close the show and nail down the victory. Or so it seemed. It turns out that Robinson controlled everything he could in the bout, except the most important factor – the judging. 

When the first tally was read, 97-93 for Robinson (from Judge Rose Lacend), all seemed well. That was my score exactly. So, I assumed that Robinson would cruise on to the huge upset victory, no sweat. But the remaining two judges, David Braslow and Kevin Morgan, both saw the fight an even 95-95, making the result a disappointing majority draw.  

If you twisted my arm, I could see Robinson winning by a slim 96-94 margin, but that was giving Kavaliauskas every benefit of the doubt. Any way you slice it, Robinson should have been named the winner.  

Despite the bad decision, it was still a tremendous performance by Robinson, and an early candidate for the ”Upset of the Year”. A clean points win would have done more for Ray career-wise, but this was the next best thing. Everyone that saw the fight, knows he was the better man. So, congrats to Robinson for such a terrific performance.   


Southpaw junior lightweight Donald Smith, Philadelphia, 9-0, 6 KOs, knocked out Jose Antonio Martinez, Albuquerque, 11-18, 6 KOs, with an arching overhand left hand in the fourth and final round. Referee Benjy Esteves began counting, but then called the fight over at 2:01.  


South Philly heavyweight Sonny Conto, 2-0, 2 KOs, satisfied his large and rowdy cheering section by knocking out Texan Omar Acosta, 1-6, 1 KO, at 1:15 of round one. Conto dropped Acosta with a left hook, and although Acosta made it to his feet, was in no condition to continue. Referee Gary Rosato waved the fight to an end, giving Conto his second win in the professional ranks, and sent the patisan crowd into a frenzy.   


Allentown junior featherweight Jeremy Adorno made a successful pro debut against free-swinging Sebastian Baltazar of Tacoma, 1-4, winning a 4-round unanimous decision. All three judges scored the fight a 40-36 shutout.  


Chino Lopez, Humacao, PR, 12-1, 10 KOs, schooled Oxnard’s Askhat Ualikhanov, 4-2, 2 KOs, stopping him after the sixth round of their scheduled 8-round junior lightweight bout. There were no knockdowns, but after six rounds, Ualikhanov retired in his corner. The official time was 3:00 of round six.  


Reading junior lightweight Joshafat Ortiz, 6-0, 4 KOs, knocked out James Thomas of Grand Rapids, 6-5, 6 KOs in the opening round of a scheduled sixer. Ortiz slammed home a left uppercut that put Thomas down for the full 10 count. Eric Dali was the referee.   


Tijuana junior middleweight Juan Ruiz, 22-4, 14 KOs, stopped Ghanaian Fredrick Lawson, 27-2, 21 KOs, in round four of their scheduled 8-round bout. Ruiz scored one knockdown and when the action resumed, just fired away until referee Gary Rosato stepped in at the 1:15 mark.  


Super middleweight Christian Mbilli, Montreal, 14-0, 13 KOs, scored an 8-round unanimous decision over Humberto Gutierrez, Tijuana, 33-8-2, 22 KOs. The fight was a trench war, with much of the action playing out along the ropes, and a steady stream of two way body punching. However, Mbilli was sharper and stronger and won by easy scores of 80-72 and 79-73 twice.  


In an IBF welterweight elimination bout, Kudratillo Abdukakhorov, Kuala Lampur, MAL, 16-0, 9 KOs, beat Japan’s Keita Obara, 20-4-1, 18 KOs, by 12-round unanimous decision. Abdukakhorov was the aggressor most of the way, constantly pressing and landing his shots. Obara stayed in the fight with his own power punches, especially right uppercuts. After twelve rounds, the official scores all favored Abdukakhorov, 118-110 (Julie Lederman), 117-111 (Kevin Morgan) and 115-113 (Ron McNair).  


In the first bout of the night, heavyweight Cassius Chaney, New London, CT, 15-0, 9 KOs, dropped Christian Mariscal, Tijuana, MEX, 12-3, 5 KOs, twice in round one, and won by TKO after just 2:16.

The 11-bout card was promoted by Top Rank. The two main fights were televised live by ESPN, and all but the first bout was streamed live by ESPN+. The live attendance was announced as 1,187.




John DiSanto - South Philly - March 30, 2019