PHILLY BOXING HISTORY - February 17, 2024  
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Story by George H. Hanson Jr., Esq. / The Mouthpiece
Photos by Darryl Cobb Jr. / Instagram: @darrylcobb
First Photo Below by Nicole Ross


The past week has been bittersweet – a melancholy lesson of advancing years. Early morning, Friday, February 9th,  I was ecstatic when John DiSanto, Chairman of the Pennsylvania Boxing Hall of Fame, gave me the great news that Coach Shar’ron Baker would be inducted in the class of 2024. Coach Shar’ron was nominated last year, but for some inexplicable reason she was not elected with her trainer/mentor – the late, great Sam Hickman who was inducted in the Class of 2023. Nevertheless, a dream deferred for a year was equally gratifying. On Sunday, February 11th I was speechless when I learned of the passing of Kelvin Kiptum, one of my favorite athletes – the marathon world record holder. The 24-year-old and his coach Gervais Hakizimana perished in an automobile accident.

L-R) Prince Yomi Garnett, Oyeleye & Hanson (Photo by: Nicole Ross)

I have always been fascinated by long distance runners and Kiptum was so exceptional that I thought that he was Muhammad Ali in running shoes – “The Greatest.” He was poetry in motion, running effortlessly, gliding over the landscape as though God gave him an extra pair of lungs. How is it even possible to run a marathon time of 2:00:35? Rest in Paradise Kelvin Kiptum you shook up the world! 

Coach Shar’ron Baker is a living chronicle of a by-gone era, and I wasn’t going to miss her in action tonight as the head trainer of three of tonight’s participants: Oluwafemi “The Nigerian Nightmare” Oyeleye, Joshua “The Real War” Jones and Juan “The One” Marrero. Billed as “Philly Fight Night 4”  the ten-bout card – 48 scheduled rounds of boxing – a delectable slice of the sweet science proved comforting. No surprise that the venue was packed and brought out some of Philly’s finest sitting ringside  - “The Baddest Man on the Planet” –  undefeated IBF Welterweight Champion, Jaron “Boots” Ennis, former two-division World champion Danny “Swift” Garcia, former WBO, WBC & IBO Super-bantamweight Champion Stephen “Cool Boy Steph” Fulton who was so “iced out” – diamonds, golds and gems adorning his neck and wrists - that frankly I feared for his safety – and 2007 Pan American Games Gold Medalist Karl “Dynamite” Dargan. Once again, promoter Alex Barbosa proved that he has the formula for filling the venue and producing another excellent show with well-matched bouts.

 It is an irrebuttable presumption that tonight’s main eventer – Oluwafemi Oyeleye affectionately known as “Femi” is one of my favorite fighters. Supremely talented with the work ethic of a Jamaican immigrant with three jobs – a 1,000-watt smile and the humility and diplomacy of the late, great Nelson Mandela – it is only a matter of time before he is atop the junior-middleweight division. Thank God that he is fighting out of Philadelphia. No surprise that the Nigerian community, inclusive of Prince Yomi Garnett MD, came out to witness its next world  champion. And they were not disappointed.

 Oyeleye (L.) lands the left hook.

Prior to commencement of the main event and final bout, Steve Peacock brought Coach Shar’ron Baker – sporting a colorful Nigerian dashiki - into the ring and announced that she will be inducted this year in the 2024 Class of  the Pennsylvania Boxing Hall of Fame, much to the delight and deafening cheers of the capacity crowd. Shortly thereafter, her charge made his way into the ring flanked by the Rosas - manager/cutman Lando and son/assistant Marcus sporting identical dashikis as Coach Baker. In the battle of southpaws - Oyeleye (14 wins – 0 losses – 0 draws – 8 kos)  faced Wilfrido Buelvas  (24 wins – 18 losses – 0 draw – 18 kos) of Barranquilla, Colombia. The Nigerian Nightmare came out at the opening bell working behind his jab – getting a proper reading on the speed and tempo of his opponent. An accidental clash of heads sent the Colombian to the canvas. Referee Dali gave him sufficient time to recuperate and resume fighting approximately fifteen seconds after the collision. The action restarted and shortly thereafter, Buelvas walked right into Oyeleye’s straight left that sent him to the canvas. More surprised than shaken – Buelvas was upright immediately. Nevertheless, the knockdown was acknowledged by the referee. Oyeleye kept his composure – stalking behind his jab while picking off his opponent’s counterattack with his gloves.

The second round commenced with Oyeleye boxing strategically behind his jab – looking for chinks in Buelvas’ armor. Allow me to paraphrase my childhood friend/teammate, the late Bucky Davis and the JBM by stating that “Buelvas didn’t come to lay down – he came to get down.” Yes, despite the early knockdown he showed temerity by returning fire with reckless abandon. A spirited battle unfolded, and the audience was invested in the bout. With approximately a minute remaining in the round, Oyeleye distracted his adversary with decoy shots - a left hook to the body and head – thrown without much force – giving him enough time to shift his weight to the right to deliver the nightcap– a left hook to the body followed by the same shot to the head – both landing with power and precision sending the man from Colombia to the canvas as though he was thrown out of moving vehicle. I nominate Referee Dali for the “2024 Humanitarian Award” because he immediately called a halt to the fight instead of risking serious injury to Buelvas.  Oyeleye was declared the winner by technical knockout at 2:03 of the second round.

 The opening bout of the night was stimulating a shot of expresso – featuring debuting light-heavyweights – thirty-two-year-old Alex James from the Bronx, New York and Rancy Slanger, nine years his junior, from Accra Ghana – fighting out of Philadelphia. The 6 ft 2 inches Slanger pressed the action at the opening bell, connecting to the head and body as the dreadlocked James retreated. Midway in the round, Slanger landed a left hook that got his opponent’s attention. However, James recuperated and finished the round on good terms. The second round followed a similar pattern with the Ghanaian controlling the action with his jab – scoring with another left hook that forced James to clutch to survive further punishment. Slanger threw him to the canvas to get untangled. Upright immediately, James began a conversation with the audience over his protruding mouthpiece.  

Slanger (R.) lands the straight right.


This continued well into the fourth and final round with Slanger getting the better of the exchanges and James addressing the audience with his outbursts – forgetting  that he was a pugilist engaged in combat and not a politician on the campaign trail.  When the decision was  announced 40-36 on all three scorecards (Justin Rubenstein, Robert Rubnitz & Steve Weisfeld)  for Slanger  - James blurted out “My first fight and I ran 12 miles last night!.” It was an impressive performance by Slanger who went about his business, unbothered by his opponent’s antics.


The second bout of the night featured another Coach Shar’ron Baker’s acolyte, hard-hitting Philadelphia southpaw - lightweight Juan “The One” Marrero (2 wins - 0 losses - 0 draws - 2 kos) in a scheduled four-rounder against Darius Somieari (0 wins – 3 losses - 0 draws) of Roanoke, Virginia. It was a game of cat and mouse from the onset as the thirty-five-year-old Somieari – who at 5ft 10 inches – is two inches taller than his nemesis – motored around the ring demonstrating his  fancy footwork -sidestepping and changing directions to offset the advancing Marrero who had destruction etched all over his countenance.


Marrero attacked the body early in the second round and referee Dali warned Somieari for excessive holding. Marrero pinned Somieari on the ropes and unleashed a vicious combination – beating him down to the canvas – forcing him to genuflect as though he had just entered a Catholic church early Sunday morning. Referee Dali reached the count of five and Somieari was upright – had his gloves wiped and the action resumed.

Marrero wasn’t going to allow the fight to go into the third round and hopped on his opponent like an exonerated death-row inmate in a Nevada brothel with a vivacious vixen. He ripped off another vicious combination reintroducing the Virginian to the canvas on one-knee as though he was an NFL quarterback leading a huddle. He was upright at the count of four and referee Dali checked his vitals and instructed him to walk back and forth. Dali ended the fight after noticing that Somieari was severely impaired and in no shape for combat. Marrero was declared the winner by technical knockout 2:14 of round two.

Marrero (L.) connects with the uppercut.


In the third fight of the night – a scheduled four-round middleweight bout, fan-favorite John Hawks (0  wins 1 loss –  0 draws) of Voorhees, New Jersey, and southpaw Michael Scott (0  wins – 1 loss –  0 draws) of  Dover, Delaware fought to a four-round majority draw – one judge (Justin Rubenstein) had it 40-36 for  Hawks, overruled by the other two who had it identical 38-38 (Robert Rubnitz & Marc Werlinsky). The thirty-six-year-old Scott who lost a split-decision in his professional debut on November 14, 2023, captured the opening round on my scorecard by landing a more effective jab while switching stance throughout the round. Unlike Scott, Hawk was stopped in his professional debut on November 11, 2023 – losing by technical knockout in the first round of a scheduled four-round bout. However, tonight he not only heard the bell for the second stanza, but he also dominated the round, beating his adversary around the ring from pillar to post continuously for about a minute on the verge of scoring a technical knockout. However, Scott survived  and in the next round he was sticking and moving – using his jab with Hawks in hot pursuit. It was an extremely close round that could have been scored for either combatant. I gave the final round to Hawks who was not only the aggressor but also landed the more effective shots. It was a close fight – thus 38-38 isn’t far-fetched.

Hawks (R.) lands the right.

Debuting Philadelphia middleweight Jason Moreno who was escorted to the ring by former two-division World Champion Danny “Swift” Garcia and his father/trainer Angel Garcia had to overcome adversity in the first round to score a technical knockout over fellow Philadelphian - Antonio Allen (1 win - 16 losses - 2 draws - 1 ko). With trainer Greg Hackett in his corner, Allen a  6 ft 3 inches southpaw who evokes fond memories of fictitious World Middleweight Champion Bootney Farnsworth played by Jimmy Walker in the action crime comedy film “Let’s Do It Again” - dropped Moreno in the opening stanza with a well-placed jab. The advancing Moreno was attacking and walked into the punch which introduced him to the canvas. Unshaken, he was upright immediately and continued his onslaught, landing and hurting Allen with a hook then storming him with a combination - forcing him into survival mode until the gong sounded ending the round.

Moreno dominated the second round as Allen attempted to evade punishment. Midway, Moreno delivered a blow south of the border – below the beltline – forcing referee Dali to call a temporary halt in the action – giving the debilitated boxer time to recuperate. Allen could have taken the allowable five-minute respite – however – a few minutes elapsed, and the action resumed. Moreno didn’t waste much time and pinned Allen in a corner and unleashed everything from his arsenal, connecting with hooks to the body and head  - sending him sideways – destination - the canvas. However, referee Dali must have been an excellent baseball player because he caught Allen – preventing him from going to the deck and held him up – later declaring Moreno the winner by technical knockout 2:21 of round two.

Moreno (R.) on the attack.

Entering his 54th year at the Athletic Recreation Center in North Philadelphia, legendary trainer Fred Jenkins Sr. is still active – churning out prodigies – leaving us to believe that there is something special in the water at 1400 North 26th Street. With Jenkins in his corner, nineteen-year-old debuting junior-middleweight Richard Johnson sent fellow debutant and Philadelphian, twenty-nine-year-old  Desmond Carr to the canvas three times, forcing referee Shawn Clark to stop the one-sided affair at 2:15 of the opening round of the scheduled four-rounder - declaring the teenager the victor by technical knockout. The initial journey to the canvas was a body shot to the breadbasket. Allen was up as the referee reached the count of six. The second knockdown was caused by a well-placed left hook to the liver. It was somewhat unbelievable that Carr was on his feet at the count of seven. We will never question Carr’s mettle and tenacity. Shortly after the second knockdown, Carr was on the canvas for the third and final time writhing in pain from right hook to the body. It was an impressive victory by Johnson who is now on everyone’s radar.

Johnson (R.) heads to the neutral corner.

I made sure that I was seated – no distractions – for the sixth bout – a scheduled six-rounder between Philadelphia welterweight Tahmir “The Don” Smalls (10 wins - 0 losses - 0 draws - 7 kos)  trained by #1 trainer Derek “Bozy’ Ennis and southpaw Bruno Leonardo Romay (22 wins - 12 losses - 0 draws – 19 kos) of Buenos Aires, Argentina. Smalls’ last four victories all ended in  the opening round and Romay has only one win in his last nine fights. There was a higher probability of former USA President “Dirt Dumb” Donald Trump being truthful during cross-examination than the Argentinian making it to the second round against Smalls. Call me Hansodamus because Smalls was deadly at the opening bell – landing an overhand right that had Romay doing his version of the famous  Tik Tok “That’s My Dawg” dance meme. The Don seized the opportunity to continue his knockout streak and jumped on his victim like a fat man at a $10 All-You -Can-Eat buffet. Referee Dali – consistent in his humanity – stopped the fight – declaring Smalls the winner by technical knockout – 30 seconds of the opening round. The streak continues, Small now has five consecutive first round knockouts.

Smalls (L.) unleashing on Romay.


Twenty-five-year-old debuting Philadelphia heavyweight Jesse Hayward won a unanimous four-round decision 39-37 on all three scorecards (Justin Rubenstein, Robert Rubnitz & Marc Werlinsky) over  forty-two-year-old Daniel Fry (0 wins – 1 loss - 0 draws)  of Cincinnati, Ohio. At 275.5 lbs. – the 6 ft 2 inches Hayward outweighed his opponent by 51.5 lbs. It was a spirited contest with Hayward’s cousin – former light-heavyweight prospect, Charles “The Cobra” Hayward – sitting next to me ringside, yelling instructions – reminding his kinfolk that the jab opens up all opportunities. His vociferousness didn’t fall on deaf ears as Hayward captured the opening round by landing the more consistent jab while probing for bigger shots. I gave Fry the second round because Hayward abandoned his jab looking for the knockout blow. He won the round by, as we would say in boxing parlance – “sticking and moving” – jabbing while circling – never standing still in one spot. How fortuitous that the Cobra got louder, and it appeared that his cousin took heed to his instructions and captured the last two rounds with a consistent jab, even connecting with two overhand rights in the third round. Congratulations young Hayward – please keep your cousin ringside within earshot.

Hayward (R.) nails Fry with the right.


Hopefully, you are following the order of the show despite me beginning with the main event – the last bout. In the eighth fight of the night, Philadelphia lightweight - southpaw Joshua “The Real War” Jones (8 wins - 0 losses - 1 draw – 3 kos) faced rough and rugged Ryan Schwartzburg  (4 wins - 13 losses – 3 draws – 2 kos) of Dania, Florida in a scheduled six rounder. The Floridian was first out of the dressing room with “Gonna Fly Now” the theme from the movie “Rocky” blaring over the house speakers. Schwartzburg understood his role as the underdog. However, that did not deter him from going out in the first round and hurting Jones with an uppercut which sent him to the canvas. It was ruled a slip by referee Eric Dali who wasn’t in position to determine that the punch landed. Jones was shaken and relied on his innovative skills as a thespian to mask his condition and dissuade his opponent from attempting to close the show. It demonstrated the awareness and development of the Philadelphia fighter who realized that the one-minute respite between rounds would serve him well.


Jones came out for the second round rejuvenated and implemented his fight plan. With his celebrity friends (Ennis, Fulton, Garcia, and Dargan) yelling instructions from ringside, Jones got the ship back on course – working behind his right jab landing his trademark left bolo uppercut up the middle. It was an action-packed bout with both combatants working assiduously – much to the delight of the boisterous crowd. However, Jones was getting the better of the exchanges with Schwartzburg more than willing to return fire. The rounds were fought in similar fashion and the crowd yelled throughout the entire bout. The fifth round was close with Schwartzburg connecting with a left hook and straight right. Jones boxed brilliantly in the last round – playing the role of  the matador with his opponent coming forward.  It was an entertaining fight and well-needed experience for Jones who appears to be back on track to fulfill the expectations of his potential. The judges had it 60-54 (Robert Rubnitz) and 58-56 twice (Steve Weisfeld & Marc Werlinsky), all for Jones who won by unanimous decision.

Jones (R.) landing the jab.


The co-main event featured a four-round bout between debuting junior-lightweight Noah “Cannon” Norman of Coatesville, Pennsylvania, and Dan Van Fossen (0 wins – 1 loss – 0 draws) of West Deptford, New Jersey. I now understand the rationale behind Norman’s moniker because the echo of the gong had barely dissipated in my ears when he was atop Van Fossen across the ring as though he had been shot out of a cannon. He beat Van Fossen from one side of the ring to the other side, landing with everything in his arsenal. Under tremendous fire, Van Fossen attempted to take cover while firing back. However, Norman didn’t allow him to the weather the storm – and rained down on him with great vengeance. I was somewhat bewildered by what I was witnessing and found myself reaching for my phone to dial 911 to get the Philadelphia Police to end this massacre. Fortunately, referee Shawn Clark stopped the fight as I was about to press the #9 on my I-phone – calling an end – declaring Norman the winner by technical knockout at 56 seconds of the opening round.

Norman (R.) looks on as Referee Clark stops the bout.

It was another amazing night of boxing by R&B Promotions in the greatest boxing town on the planet. It was a great way to end the week that was not only happy but also sad. Congratulations again to Coach Shar’ron Baker for being elected to the 2024 Class of the Pennsylvania Boxing Hall of Fame. I will have to buy a new suit for the induction ceremony.  Job well-done Coach – you are a living legend. A debt of gratitude is owed to my good friends, Nicole Ross and  Dawn Rosa, Lando Rosa’s wife. Both were pivotal in getting Prince Yomi Garnett, Dr. Victory Anyiam“The Greatest Chiropractor on the Planet” – who ensures that Oyeleye’s and his stablemates’ muscles, tendons, and ligaments are in perfect condition, and the Nigerian contingent – comprised of doctors, PHD fellows and MBAs – to the fights tonight.  We all know that it is only a matter of time before we are all headed to Nigeria for a world title fight featuring “The Nigerian Nightmare.”

A victorious Oyeleye and his Team.

In closing, I will miss watching Kelvin Kiptum – poetry in motion – the man who ran effortlessly as though God was gliding him across the landscape to victory. You and your coach will live forever in our minds, in our hearts and in our stories. Gone but will never be forgotten.


Continue to support the sweet science, and remember, always carry your mouthpiece.


Date:                      February 17, 2024
Venue:                   2300 Arena – Philadelphia, PA
Promoter:               Alex Barbosa—R&B Promotions
Ring Announcer:     Steve Peacock
Referees:                Shawn Clark & Eric Dali           
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Photos:                   Darryl Cobb Jr. & Nicole Ross (1st photo)
Editor:       Kahlil Small
Gloves:                  “Put Up Your Dukes” brand -




George H. Hanson Jr., Esq. - South Philly - February 17, 2024