J.R.Jowett reporting from the City of Love
Could he be the most active promoter in boxing?
One week after his unreported show in Bethlehem, promoter/matchmaker Marshall Kauffman returned with a card in Philadelphia on 5/10/19. The house was about three quarters full at the approximately 1200-seat 2300 Arena for the inaugural of another ambitious telecasting venture, Warfare Sports.
Publicist Marc Abrams joined with HOFer Al Bernstein for the commentary. Meanwhile, if the press were any farther back, they’d have been in New Jersey. The telecasting delayed the action interminably, but it’s not about the live audience anymore. They’re a prop. The loafers sitting at home are the ones footing the bill. The show moved along at a brisk pace aside from TV delay. Alex Barbosa was ring announcer. Timekeeper Fred Blumstein sadly gave the final count to heavyweight contender and nice fellow Bert Cooper.
In the co-feature eight, rebounding Brandon Robinson, 166 ½, Phila./Upper Darby, 13-2 (8), pounded out a hard earned but correct split decision over cagey Devaun Lee, 166 ¾, Jamaica, Queens, 10-6-1 (5). The first round set the tone, the muscular favorite attacking vigorously and mauling at close quarters, the cautious visitor waiting for mistakes. Both happened in the opening round. Robinson was clearly too strong through most of the round, but seconds before the bell, they both bailed out with rights in a vigorous exchange and Brandon got tagged. His knees buckled, couldn’t keep him up, and one touched canvas just long enough for referee Chris Riskus to give a count. The bell immediately ended it, making for a tough round to score.
After Robinson won a rugged second, hard trading continued into the third where Lee somehow hurt him with short punching on the inside and had Brandon backing up to the bell. In the fourth, Lee seemed to have taken over the contest as Robinson was backing up and giving him room.
The underdog looked for payoffs to end it, and tried switching southpaw. Robinson reloaded and came out vigorously for the fifth, regaining control. Action slowed in the sixth as both had been putting on a rugged physical contest. Lee was back to orthodox stance. Brandon started big again in the seventh, then action fizzled a bit before the favorite punctuated the round with one big right near the bell. Both fought hard in a ragged, mauling and close final round, as the fight may have been on the line. John Gradowski scored 76-75 for Lee, but Dave Braslow and Dewey LaRosa awarded the win to Robinson, 77-75 and 77-74 respectively. Although Lee “won” it in NY, this was emphatically NOT a bad decision. Just a hard fight where Robinson wanted it more.
It emphatically WAS a bad decision that awarded a majority verdict to Antonio Dubose, 127 ½, Phila., 11-2-1 (2), over spoiler Weusi Johnson, 127 ¾, Wilmington, 3-12-1, in a tame but crafty six. The compact Dubose pressed cautiously forward and won the first two by default. The two skirmished to the bell in the second, with Weusi landing last tap. The flow changed in the third. The long-limbed underdog kept distance and began letting punches go. It was still mostly defensive, but Weusi again landed a long right and the two exchanged to the bell. Johnson held the edge in the next two as Antonio plodded fruitlessly after him, trying to lunge with big rights that fell short as he couldn’t gain the necessary step. The last round was brisk and tight, as again it was a close fight. Braslow scored 57-57, the very worst that Weusi should have gotten if the sixth was edged to Antonio. Gradowski scored 58-56 and LaRosa 59-55 for the mildly surprised Dubose.
Most likely, as Weusi wouldn’t stand and fight, the judges mentally penalized him. But Dubose was largely ineffective in getting inside against a rangy opponent, and the name of this sport, just for the record, is “Boxing”, not “Street Fighting”. Weusi should have gotten this.
In the main event, Kalvin Henderson, 166 ½, Ft Worth via Fayetteville, AR, 12-0 (8), blew out Antowyan Aikens, 167 ¾, Mays Landing, NJ, 13-7-1 (1), in 2:14 of the third, scheduled eight. Aikens has been a good fighter and local staple for years, but looked shot, as his legs gave out every time he was reached for a total of five knockdowns in a romp for the Texan. Henderson smartly established his jab in a range finder first.
Then in the second, as Antowyan tried to step in with his own left, Kalvin swiftly countered with a beauty of a left hook and Aikens collapsed as if shot! He bounced up, seemingly unhurt, but immediately walked straight into another left hook and down! Finally, Antowyan went to the canvas a third time, more from trying to avoid glancing blows than from a single punch. A forbearing referee Benjy Esteves let him out of the round. But the hard luck underdog wasn’t to last much longer.
It looked as though his back foot may have slipped off the apron just as Kalvin launched a straight left to drop him in the third. Then a combo left and right behind the ear dropped him yet again and it was Popeye Time; “enough was too much”, as Benjy stopped it.
Fans got little out of a women’s six as Alycia Baumgardner, 130 ¼, Fremont, OH, 7-1 (5), got rid of non-competitive Gabriella Mezei, 128 ¼, Covasna, Romania, 9-18-5 (3), in 1:08 of the first of six. A right to the kidney that didn’t look anything more than a routine body shot had Mezei collapsing to her knees. Baumgardner opened up for the KO and the underdog looked like she just wanted to get out of there in time to watch Jimmy Fallon. This time, a HARD right banged her kidney and she doubled over is if in pain without going all the way to the canvas. Riskus mercifully stopped it.
Another import who looked like he didn’t want to miss the last train was Ramiro Robles, 124 ¼, Querétaro, MX, 15-9-2 (9), who got stopped by promising Raeese Aleem, 124 ½, LV, 14-0 (8), in 1:51 of the first, scheduled eight. The underdog tried to come over the top with a left hook but was beaten to the punch by a short inside right and dropped. An accumulation of blows topped by a left-right felled him a second time, and finally a thudding right to the ribs dropped him and Benjy called a TKO.
Fans loved a brief but exciting shootout between ticket-seller Ryan Umberger, 158 ¼, the only fighter ever out of Chestnut Hill, Phila., 2-0 (2), blasted out Daryl Fenton, 160, London, Eng., via Wash., DC, 1-5-1, in 1:34 of the first, scheduled four. The bigger visitor came out purposefully and looked menacing, stalking flat footed. The southpaw local favorite moved back but suddenly dropped Fenton as he walked straight into a sharp, straight left. With fans going crazy, Umberger went wild and battered the stricken Fenton into a neutral corner and down under a two-handed barrage capped by another solid left. The underdog gamely struggled up using the turnbuckle for leverage, but ref Riskus thought better of it and stopped the contest.
Promising Paul Kroll, 146 ¼, Phila., 3-0 (3), got rid of a dangerous opponent surprisingly quickly, stopping Vincent Floyd, 147 ½, Phila., 4-7-1 (2), in 2:27 of the first of six. The stocky amateur standout Kroll against the lanky and experienced southpaw Floyd promised to be a hard struggle either way. But after some good back and forth, Kroll came out of an exchange with a solid right, sending Floyd rocking back onto the ropes. Vincent tried to use his height to lean away against a barrage, but was getting tagged until Benjy pulled the plug over his protest.
The opening four was the only upset, as Hector Mercado, 155 ¼, Veracruz, MX, 3-10, gained a majority decision over LaQuan Evans, 154 ¼, Phila., 1-1, in a good, rugged, and close battle. The visitor clearly took the first two as he charged flat-footed and swarmed all over the confused and retreating local favorite. In the third, the lanky LaQuan began to get some range to get off with punches before Hector could swarm inside, and the contest appeared to be changing. But in the decisive final round, both were getting arm weary under the heated pace and while it was close, Mercado was making the fight. Robert Rubnitz had it a draw, 38-38, while LaRosa scored 39-37 and Gradowski had a shutout.