Although there were several rounds of give and take, Rodriguez was doing enough in each round to earn 10 points on the judges’ cards. After seven rounds I felt that if Rodriguez stepped on the gas he may have been able to score a stoppage. On cue, Pazos landed a counter upstairs that momentarily wobbled Rodriguez. The flurry that followed up caused Rodriguez to cover up and hold for the first time.
The championship rounds would be anti-climactic as Rodriguez implemented the 4-corners defense. He got on his bicycle and opted to play it safe by running out the clock, rather than engage and give Pazos an opportunity to steal a victory.
The official scores read: 99-91, 99-91, 98-92 in favor Rodriguez who has not tasted defeat since August of 2009.
The co-feature was highlighted by Puerto Rican super prospect Felix Verdejo. The 2012 Olympian from Puerto Rico entered the ring for the seventh time since turning pro in December. Like many successful amateurs their competition on the professional level is a step back from those they faced in high level tournaments as amateurs.
That was not the case for Verdejo on Saturday night. In the blue corner was 34 year-old Guillermo Delgadillo, who was unfazed by Verdejo’s credentials. Delgadillo attacked from the opening bell firing hard shots to Verdejo’s body. That effort was rewarded by tasting a force fed left hook delivered by Verdejo. Another counter left sent Delgadillo to the canvas for the first time.
Verdejo fought with the skill and patience of a fighter well beyond his years. He kept Delgadillo at the end of his punches, and he used superior footwork to avoid any return fire.
The last round ended much like the first. Delgadillo threw caution to the wind and let his hands go hoping to land a fight changing shot, and instead he got buzzed with another left counter that resulted him in beating a count for the second time.
Verdejo won by shutout scores of 60-52 across the board. The fighter labeled by many as Puerto Rico’s “next big thing” is penciled in to support Miguel Cotto’s ring return on October 10 in Orlando, FL.
The final bout of the night featured another fast track prospect with a lineage that has fight fans in Philadelphia very excited. Jesse Hart improved to 9-0 and scored his eighth KO when he dropped the over-matched Steven Tyner (3-12-2) three times in 1:22 when the bout was mercifully waved off.
Hart, 24, is the son of 1970’s middleweight contender Eugene “Cyclone” Hart is on the fast track, and is hopeful of being a head-liner by the end of 2014. Nicknamed “Hard Work”, Hart put in his time in the amateurs when he won a gold medal at the 2011 Olympic Trials.
Toka Kahn Clary improved to (7-0-1)by shutting out Jose Valderrama (3-5, 3KO).
The eight bout card was presented by Peltz Boxing, Top Rank, and BAM Boxing. The announced crowd of 1,152 may have been less than other cards held at the Sands Casino, but due to the timing I felt the turnout was a success. When the Sands first opened their doors for boxing they had an undefeated fighter in welterweight Ronald Cruz, as well as a curiosity factor. Fans of 1,800 and 2,000 followed as Cruz continued to win and the popularity of the NBC Fight Night Series added to the attraction.
On this night, many people were in Bethlehem, but most were there for the city’s 30th annual Musikfest festival. Basically the center of the city is blocked off as vendors featuring many different ethnic foods, and more importantly for many, beverages. As for the music, there are tons of free music from several different gendres. Main acts feature the annual exhuming of bands like Styx, Foreigner, Kansas, Peter Frampton, and even BB King.
The other issue is that Cruz had lost two straight bouts, and the main event featured two fighters without any local ties. The positive was that Cruz rebounded, and exciting fighters were also able to sell tickets including Arturo Trujillo from Easton and Jerome Rodriguez of Allentown.
As a Bethlehem resident I could not be happier that I am able to see top level fighters a few minutes away from my house. After seeing Saturday night’s turnout, I’m confident that Bethlehem will be hosting many important fight cards for years to come.
Jason Pribila is a full voting member of the Boxing Writers Association of America. He could be reached for questions or comments at firstname.lastname@example.org and followed on Twitter.com @PribsBoxing.