PHILLY BOXING HISTORY - February 03, 2020  
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Story by John DiSanto
Photos by Various Photographers As Noted


It's time again to vote for the Briscoe Awards! 2019 was another good year for Philly boxing. Not only was there the usual loaded schedule of local fights, world championship boxing came to Philadelphia as well. In 2019, Tevin Farmer continued his reign as IBF junior lightweight champ and Julian Williams won the unified (IBF & WBA) junior middleweight championship. However, Farmer and Williams weren't the only stories during the year. 

A total of fifteen boxing shows (with 129 total bouts) took place within the Philadelphia city limits. Kings Promotions (Marshall Kauffman) staged the most shows, with six dates. Top Rank and Hard Hitting Promotions were second with three shows each. Raging Babe staged two shows and Matchroom Boxing did one. It should be noted that Raging Babe and Peltz Boxing assisted heavily with the Top Rank and Matchroom events. 


The 2300 Arena was the busiest boxing venue in 2019, with eight shows (five by Kings Promotions, two by Raging Babe and one by Top Rank). The Liacouras Center hosted three (big) shows (two by Top Rank and one by Matchroom Boxing). The Met (Metropolitan Opera House) returned as a boxing venue after a 64-year hiatus from the sport. Hard Hitting Promotions partnered with Live Nation to make that happen and suddenly, Philly had a new gorgeous venue for fights. The Met hosted three shows during the year. The Sugar House (now called Rivers Casino) offered one show (by Kings Promotions). Just outside the city limits, The Parx Casino in Bensalem, PA held three shows (by Joe Hand Promotions). 

Other non-Philadelphia locales that helped contribute to the Philly fight scene included the Sands Event Center, in Bethlehem, PA, with two shows (Kings Promotions), the PAL Center in Hockessin, DE, three shows (Dee Lee Promotions), and of course various Atlantic City properties including The Showboat (two shows by Rising Star Promotions and one by Marty Shuler Promotions), Ocean Resort Casino (one show by Golden Boy) and Boardwalk Hall  (one show by Salita Promotions). 

The 2019 national / international platform was led by Tevin Farmer who defended his IBF junior lightweight championship twice and inched closer to a big match with one of the top fighters in the world. Julian Williams shook up the junior middleweight division by scoring a big upset over Jarrett Hurd in May to take his IBF & WBA titles. It was a remarkable performance. For this tremendous performance, Julian Williams will take home the Briscoe Award for the "2019 Performance of the Year". Both Farmer and Williams are "2019 Philly Fighter of the Year" nominees - and both have won the award in the past (Farmer for 2018 and Williams for 2015).

On the Williams-Hurd card, Stephen Fulton pitched a shutout against Paulus Ambunda to claim the IBO junior featherweight belt, a minor world title. More importantly, Fulton leaped onto the national stage and showed everyone what he was capable of. For this performance, Fulton will take home the Briscoe Awards as the "2019 Breakout Fighter of the Year". Danny Garcia rebounded from his 2018 loss to Shawn Porter with a stay busy KO of Adrian Granados. Bryant Jennings had a tough year, losing to Oscar Rivas (TKO12) in January and Joe Joyce (L12) in July. In March, Gabriel Rosado fought another thriller back home in Philly against Maciej Sulecki. It was a typical Rosado performance - exciting, bloody, and breathtaking. Once again, King Gabriel came up just a little short, losing the 10-round decision. However, it proved once again that there is more to consider than a boxer's record. Rosado is must see - win, lose or draw. He followed it up with a stay busy win in December.

Jesse Hart moved up to light heavyweight and won a comfortable decision over gate-keeper Sullivan Barrera. Joey Dawejko split two ten rounders, but the one he lost in January against Sergey Kuzmin was called a robbery by many. Joey remained in the hunt for a big bout. Jason Sosa fought three times. He won against Moises Degadillo and Lydell Rhodes (in a KO of the Year nominee), but lost a title challenge by KO against Miguel Berchelt. Hank Lundy was upset in a local showdown against Avery Sparrow in an Upset of the Year nominee), but bounced back with a stay busy win (W8 Robert Frankel). Sparrow failed to capitalize on his big win over Lundy. First a Golden Boy fight in CA was cancelled when he was arrested for a domestic charge one day before the fight. A few months later, he got another chance with Golden Boy, but pulled out of the fight due to weight issues.

Championship boxing came to Philly again this year, with four world title bouts staged in the city - Tevin Farmer W12 Jono Carroll (a "Philly Fight of the Year" nominee), Katie Taylor TKO9 Rose Volante, Oleksandr Gvozdyk TKO5 Doudou Ngumba, and Artur Beterbiev TKO10 Oleksandr Gvozdyk.

The rest of the 2019 boxing action belonged to the local Philly-area fighters on the rise, and that's where the Briscoe Awards enter the picture.


This year the Briscoe Awards will be handled a little differently. As I continue to recuperate from ankle surgery - and prepare for a second surgery on my other ankle - we will not hold one single big Briscoe Awards event. Instead, we will bring the Briscoe Awards to the fighters and present various awards at different, smaller pop-up events during the spring. We will also produce a "2019 Briscoe Awards Yearbook" full of 2019 stories, photos, lists, ads and sponsorships. The regular Briscoe Awards event will return in the future, once I recover from by ankle issues.

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" button (in the center of the page) or the "VOTE" tab (at the top / far right). You may also click one of the "VOTE" links throughout this article.

Voting opens today (February 03, 2020). Please only vote once in each category.




The American Idol, last year's winner of this award, made another strong campaign in 2019. Farmer defended his IBF junior lightweight title twice during the year (2-0). First he brought his title home for a competitive title defense against Irishman Jono Carroll at the Liacouras Center in March. Farmer won a comfortable decision, but Carroll came to fight and gave Farmer some problems. In July, Farmer won another decision over Frenchman Guillaume Frenois in Texas. These two victories kept Farmer streaking toward a big fight. Tevin lost his title in January of 2020, but this nomination is based on his activity in 2019. So he should not be penalized for his recent defeat.


Julian Williams was left for dead by many after losing his first shot at the junior middleweight title - a fifth round KO loss at the hands of Jermall Charlo in 2016. Williams bounced back with four wins over the following two years, but when he challenged Jarrett Hurd on May 11, 2019, he was considered a big underdog. However, Williams seized the opportunity and fought a perfect fight against the bigger champ. Williams boxed, punched and controlled the action all night long, dropping Hurd in round two and winning the unanimous decision to gain the IBF and WBA titles. His perfect performance proved that Julian Williams still had plenty of fight left in him, and suddenly he was THE man at 154 pounds. Williams only fought once in 2019, but he made it count. It was one for the ages. Williams lost his title in January of 2020, but this nomination is based on his activity in 2019. So Julian should not be penalized for his recent defeat.    

Place your VOTE for Philly Fighter of the Year and 4 other categories!



There were many good fights in the city of Philadelphia last year, but these four were the best. Two of them were BIG fights and two were local pairings scheduled for six rounds.  

March 01, 2019 2300 Arena
Kings Promotions

It was just a six-rounder, but the nip and tuck battle between rising Philly fighters Rasheed Johnson and Vincent Floyd was a terrific, entertaining squeaker that could have gone either way. Johnson jumped out to an early lead before Floyd made his run in the middle rounds. However down the stretch, Johnson rallied and did enough to claim the points victory by a narrow margin. This was a very good local fight between two rising young fighters. Later in their careers, it might be good to see them do it again.

March 15, 2019 - Liacouras Center
Matchroom Boxing

Forget Rocky vs. Apollo Creed. Sulecki and Rosado put on a show for Philadelphia fans that was one of the best bouts in recent memory. The fight started like it was going to be a blowout. Sulecki dropped Rosado in the opening round and then again in the eighth. However, Rosado was born to fight and stormed back to put Sulecki on the canvas twice in round nine. If there was a few more seconds left on the clock, Rosado would have won the fight right then and there - and another chance to fight for a world title. But Sulecki survived Rosado's onslaught and lasted through the final round to take the decision. However, this was classic Rosado and a classic Philly fight.

March 15, 2019 Liacouras Center
Matchroom Boxing

Farmer defended his world championship for the third time against the visiting Carroll, who was determined to take Tevin's belt back to Ireland. The fight went the full twelve rounds and Carroll gave Farmer serious problems with his relentless charges and constant punching. But Farmer was far more skilled and had extra gas in the tank as the fight went into the final rounds. Carroll was tough, but Farmer was world class, and won the unanimous decision by surprisingly wide scores. This was a big night and a big fight for Philly boxing.

August 10, 2019 Liacouras Center
Top Rank / Peltz Boxing

These rising, undefeated welterweights put on a fantastic display of speed and grit in this battle for local bragging rights. Kroll started fast, but Bunch came on in the middle of the fight. However, Kroll rallied to hurt Bunch in the fourth and took control of the spirited bout. Kroll was stronger down the stretch and took the unanimous decision. It's not every day that two promising boxers clash so early in their careers. This was a memorable fight and it would be nice to see these two rematch later in their careers.

Place your VOTE for Philly Fight of the Year and 4 other categories!



The KOs kept coming in 2019 and the four best of the year were: 

March 01, 2019 Parx Casino / Bensalem, PA
Joe Hand Promotions

Paybacks are a bitch! After winning two "Knockout of the Year" Briscoe Awards, Garrett Wilson fell victim to fellow Philadelphian Brian Howard in 2019 in one of the best KOs of 2019. It wasn't the biggest shock that the aging Wilson lost to the upstart Howard. But a first round knockout? Forget it. Wilson has always been as sturdy as he was dangerous. But Howard didn't get the memo. He stepped out against Wilson and began dishing out punishment from the opening bell. A big right early in the fight sent Wilson crashing to the canvas. He got up, but Howard jumped right on him. Another right sent the Ultimate Warrior down again, this time for the full ten count.

March 30, 2019 2300 Arena / Philadelphia
Top Rank / Peltz Boxing

On the undercard of a WBC light heavyweight world title fight, few paid attention to this match between two young fighters. Going in, Reading's Ortiz was just 5-0 3 KOs, and his foe James Thomas was 6-4, 6 KOs. It didn't take long for Ortiz to prove that he was the better fighter. Ortiz slammed Thomas with a left uppercut that put Thomas down for the full count of ten. It was a classic one-punch knockout.

August 10, 2020 The Liacouras Center / Philadelphia
Top Rank / Peltz Boxing

After fighting close for the first two rounds, Jason Sosa opened up on Rhodes to the head and body. Sosa was especially effective with hard uppercuts that had Rhodes cringing. In the fifth, Sosa sent Rhodes crashing to the floor with a potent left hook to the head. Rhodes survived but went down again before the round ended. In the seventh round, Sosa closed the show, blasting Rhodes with a right hand that put him on the canvas for the third time. It was a powerful performance by Sosa.

August 24, 2020 Bert Ogden Arena / Edinburg, TX
Sampson Boxing / TGB Promotions / PBC

Not known for knockout power, Stephen Fulton made an exception on this night. After looking sharp and controlling the action for the first four rounds, Fulton went for the kill in round five. He battered Avelar, but the tough Mexican survived. In the sixth round, Fulton cracked Avelar with a perfect left hook to the body. The shot crumbled Avelar to the canvas where he took the full ten count. It was a perfect Philly left hook by one of the city's best young fighters.

Place your VOTE for Knockout of the Year and 4 other categories!



The 2019 crop of first-year pros included two fighters from Philly and two from Jersey. 


Welterweight Shinard Bunch of Trenton, NJ, fought seven times in 2019, going 5-1, with 4 KOs and 1 NC. His only loss came against last year's "Rookie of the Year" Paul Kroll. His bout with Vincent Floyd, which he was winning, was stopped because of a headbutt, and ruled a No Contest. In general, Bunch was the busiest of the nominees, showed much promise throughout his rookie year, and made fans eager to see him develop as a fighter.   


South Philly heavyweight Sonny "The Bronco" Conto won all five of his bouts in 2019, four of them by knockout. Conto was signed by Top Rank right out of the amateurs, positioning him to move up quickly if he can keep winning. Conto is enormously popular with a big fan base ready to buy tickets the moment one of his fights are announced. He's big, young and can punch with both hands. No wonder he's one of Philly's rising stars.


Featherweight southpaw Raymond Ford of Camden, NJ, went 5-0 with 2 KOs in 2019, and looked like a million bucks doing it. Signed by Matchroom boxing right out of the amateurs, Ford made his debut in Philly and has been on the road ever since. He's already fought at MSG, in the UK, in Phoenix and in RI. With his promotional ties, Ford will continue to develop on some of the biggest cards boxing has to offer. He's a fast, slick and energetic boxer with tons of talent.


Philly welterweight southpaw Tyhler Williams went 3-0, 2 KOs in 2019. He made his debut on March 1st at the Parx with a second round TKO over Nyrome Lynch of Philadelphia. Williams then stopped Abdiel Padilla at the Met on April 26th. Williams closed out his year back at the Parx, winning a four-round unanimous decision over Philly's Tyree Arnold. Tyhler is quick and powerful and looks like the real deal.

Place your VOTE for Rookie of the Year and 4 other categories!



The year was full of surprises. Here are the three biggest: 

March 15, 2019 The Liacouras Center / Philadelphia
Top Rank / Peltz Boxing

Perennial contender and 37-bout vet Hank Lundy was the solid favorite against 10-bout pro Avery Sparrow in their ten-round lightweight bout. Sparrow was a good prospect, but had yet to fight anyone of Lundy's stature. Regardless of all that, Sparrow took control, dropping Lundy twice in round two and winning the testy, high-level face off by majority decision. In boxing, you just never know, and in 2019 Sparrow proved it.

March 30, 2019 2300 Arena / Philadelphia
Top Rank
No one gave Ray Robinson a chance against Egidijus Kavaliauskas in their ten-rounder for the NABF title. In fact Robinson was a 16-1 betting underdog. But Robinson boxed smartly from the opening bell and kept the touted puncher at bay. Ray built his lead and banked round after round. Kavaliauskas got through to Ray's chin a few times,  but Robinson held strong and kept boxing. It was a masterful performance by Ray, but unfortunately the official judges let him down. After ten full rounds, the fight was ruled a majority draw. But we all know what we saw. This was Robinson's fight all the way. Even with the official draw decision, Robinson far exceeded all expectations.

May 04, 2019 T-Mobile Arena / Las Vegas
Golden Boy Promotions / Matchroom Boxing

Anthony "Juice" Young had never fought a fighter with the credentials of Sadam Ali before. Ali was a former champion with a 27-2 record. Young, then 20-2, was brought in as an opponent for the still viable Ali, just a couple fights past his title reign. However, Juice proved to be a spoiler. In a real shocker, Young battered and stopped Ali in just three rounds. What an upset!

Place your VOTE for Upset of the Year and 4 other categories!



There were a number of fine performances during the year, but one out-shined the rest. Therefore, no vote is needed in this category. 

W12 Jarrett Hurd / May 11, 2019 / EagleBank Arena in Fairfax, VA

West Philly's Julian "J-Rock" Williams scored a sizable upset (5-1 odds) to take the IBF and WBA junior middleweight titles from Jarrett Hurd. It was a brilliant and determined performance by Williams. Many thought Hurd would be too big and too strong for Williams - especially after his loss to Jermall Charlo in 2016. But Julian left no room for doubt in his title-winning effort. He out-boxed, out-muscled and out-punched the betting favorite using a flawless fight plan designed by trainer Stephen Edwards. Williams showed just how good a fighter he is and turned in a career-best performance. The scope of this effort was so big that no voting is necessary in this category. Williams wins this Briscoe Award uncontested. The 2019 runners up for this award include: Steven Ortiz' dominant victory over Jeremy Cuevas (W8); Gabriel Rosado's losing but breath-taking rollercoaster performance against Maciej Sulecki; and Stephen Fulton's shutout against Paulus Ambunda to win the IBO belt. Congratulations J-Rock!



The rising fighter with 15 pro bouts or less that made the biggest impression and promised the most for the future was: 

Lightweight Steven Ortiz fought twice in 2019, winning both bouts by eight-round decision. His unanimous decision victory over Jeremy Cuevas to re-open the Met as a boxing venue was a dominant and impressive performance. Ortiz dropped Cuevas with a killer left hook in round two and then did it with a right hand in round seven. In this battle of undefeated prospects, there was no question that Ortiz was the better man. In his other 2019 fight, it was Ortiz who hit the canvas, but he managed to get up and win his fight against Alejandro Salinas at the Parx Casino. It was a difficult fight, but Ortiz shined through with his fine skills and newly proven resiliency. The other promising prospects and runners up were Paul Kroll and Donald Smith. But this was Steven Ortiz' year, no voting necessary. Congratulations Steven Ortiz! 



A number of fighters made their mark in 2019, but one broke through like no other during the year.  


In 2019, Stephen Fulton sent the message that he was ready to take on the world. He fought three times (3-0, 2 KOs). First in January, he knocked off Marlon Olea (14-3) in Brooklyn by TKO in five rounds. Four months later, Fulton defeated experienced Paulus Ambunda (27-2, 11 KOs), to win the IBO junior featherweight title. It was a tremendous performance. Fulton won every round and scored a knockdown in round eight. Stephen painted a masterpiece that night, out-fighting, out-classing and overwhelming a very good opponent. This was Fulton's breakthrough moment, but his year wasn't finished yet. In August, Fulton dominated another tough foe, then undefeated Isaac Avelar (16-0, 10 KOs). In fact this was the sixth unbeaten boxer that Fulton defeated during his career. In the fight, Fulton cut Avelar in round three and gained confidence as the fight progressed. Finally in the sixth, Fulton hammered home a perfect left hook to Avelar's body that put the Mexican down for the count. This was a great year for Fulton, 17-0, 7 KOs, and the "Breakout" award goes to him uncontested. The runner up for this award was Anthony Young who vaulted onto the world stage with his upset stoppage of Sadam Ali. Congratulations "Cool Boy Steph"!



One fighter earned some deserved attention with a surprise victory that put him on the map to fight fans outside the Philly-area.   


Anthony "Juice" Young burst onto the world stage with a massive upset of "World Kid" Sadam Ali on May 4, 2019. Young was selected as merely an opponent to aid in Ali's continued comeback. But Young rocked the boat and destroyed Ali by third round TKO. It was a huge upset by Young and the ultimate statement that it was finally time to pay attention to the 23-bout pro. The win earned Young the WBC (USNBC) Silver title belt. Earlier in the year, Young also stopped Juan Rodriguez Jr. in six rounds. This too was a very solid victory for Young, and set the stage for his big bout with Ali. All in all, it was a good and truly attention-getting year for Juice. The Briscoe Awards noticed too, and he wins this award without a vote. Congratulations Juice!






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John DiSanto - Philadelphia - February 03, 2020