Cartagena Disappoints in Philly Return
J.R. Jowett reporting from ringside: Iconic promoter Joe Hand (Joe Hand Prom’ns) has been devoting most of his efforts lately to MMA. But on Friday(6/29/18), Hand, who founded Cloverlay Corporation that launched Joe Frazier’s career and still runs one of the leading gyms in Philadelphia, returned to boxing at Parx Casino in Bensalem Township, just north of Philly. Teamed with Brittany Rogers’ BAM Boxing, the card was a record builder for young talent as well as a relaunch pad for the career of the main eventer. But with the fabulous J. Russell Peltz as matchmaker, a record builder can just as readily be a record destroyer, as the combatants had to fight for their lives and careers in competitive slugfests that yielded a notable upset in the main event. About 700 fans enjoyed a fine and fast-paced show without any of the usual time-wasting frills. Mike Arnese ran the card for the Commission in the absence of the redoubtable Greg Sirb. Freddie Blumstein kept time.
Once-promising Miguel Cartagena has struggled over the last four years, going 5-4-1, and was looking for a restart after a long absence from home. His main event eight lacked undisciplined fireworks but more than made up in skills, strategy and drama. Cartagena, 112 ½, Phila., 15-5-1 (6), had what looked on paper a soft re-entry against relatively fresh-faced Carlos Maldonado, 112 ¾, LA, 11-2 (7), who had never faced anyone of Miguel’s caliber. The contest proved to be two separate ones, in installments. In the first half, the visitor showed perhaps a bit too much respect, letting the favorite set the pace with experience and careful boxing. Round two started with a bristling exchange which Cartagena won by dint of sharper hands, but Miguel ended by backing off. The rest of the round was nearly even. After a tame third, Miguel seemed to get serious and begin settling down on solid blows in the fourth, bringing up the fans but putting no combos together. Maldonado rallied late with mid-range trading that nearly stole the round, and that turned the tide.
The underdog was a different fighter in the fifth, getting off first while going after the favorite with a purposeful offense. The sixth saw Maldonado contract a bloody nose while being driven back by a crackling right that excited Cartagena’s fans early in the round. But the underdog’s dogged attack still took the round, while fans responded to the mounting tension as it became clearer that Maldonado was not here as a patsy. Carlos walked down Miguel effectively in a solid seventh, cutting him along the bridge of the nose, and setting up the definitive final round.
As if realizing the fight was on the line, the favorite came out aggressively at the opening bell of the eighth, bent on establishing early control. But Maldonado cracked him with double rights that collapsed his knees as Miguel fell to the canvas. The rest of the round was rife with expectation, but a circling Cartagena avoided further trouble while losing the session. And so it was that ring announcer Alex Barbosa faced a tense crowd. The knockdown should have made the difference in the scoring…and did. Steve Weisfeld scored 76-75, Maldonado. Jimmy Kinney had the same score, but for Cartagena. Oh no! Not a draw! No; Marc Werlinsky saved the decision with a 77-74 score for Maldonado. Thank goodness! As has been alluded to before in this feature, Pennsylvania judges are not corrupt and score fairly. Sadly, the same can’t be said for much of the boxing world. Eric Dali refereed.
The six round co-feature was the exact opposite, a wide-open barn burner with every punch bent on destruction! Favorite Isaiah Wise, 155 ¼, Phila., 6-2-1 (3), was in with determined spoiler Anthony Prescott, 151 ½, Cherry Hill, 8-8-3 (2). The crowd was wild with expectation as the fighters entered, and they got it! The two ripped into the action with heated trading from opening bell, and established a dramatically riveting pattern. The muscular Wise charged in from a squared stance and tried to mug Prescott with hooks to the body and clobber shots to the head. The game Prescott repeatedly nailed him with clean shots, especially rights, as Wise charged in, then tried to smother the inside attack. The vigor of freshness gave Wise round one. But Anthony held his own in the rugged inside trading in round two and then got free to mount a charge to the bell behind crashing rights that sent Isaiah to the ropes. The two talked trash and had to be sent to their corners by referee Benjy Esteves, while fans went crazy. Often, such exchanges are followed by lusterless rounds, but not in this one. Round three was even wilder, almost out of control! Wise was hurtling his entire body into the attacks and trying to maul, muscle and clobber Prescott at close range. Anthony for his part landed jarring counters to the charges, tried to throw spokes into the wheels of Isaiah’s inside blistering with defensive grabbing, and then got free to once again drive Wise back and rally to the bell. Benjy had to caution both for the excessive roughhouse early in the fourth. Wise had his mouthpiece knocked out in brutal trading. Both appeared to be ragged from the punishment in the final two, but that did nothing to abate the desperate battling. Isaiah’s persistence may have edged the fifth, while he suffered a cut right eye. But in a blistering final round, while Wise was a human missile, he blindly walked into wide-open shots. There was no telling who won this, and no one did. Kinney had the best score at 58-56, Prescott. But Mark Constantino gave it to Wise by the same score. Finally, Weisfeld evened it at 57-57, a split draw. Everyone booed. It was hard to pick a winner in the frenzied action, but at bottom line, the name of the sport is “boxing”. It’s not MMA. Wise may have gotten a little too much credit for attacking, while it was Prescott who showed the better skills with clean countering. But at least in the dramatic sense, a draw could be said to be fitting.
Yet another controversial decision occurred in yet another good and crowd-pleasing contest, a six between ever-willing Victor Vasquez, 136 ½, Phila., 21-11-1 (9), and bold Vinnie DeNierio, 138 ¾, Elmira, NY, 3-5 (1). With no boxing in decades in the once-active Elmira (probably since the Michalerya-Fratto riot), Vinnie has to boldly go, and in this case his best bet was that she shopworn local favorite was shot. He wasn’t. The action started cautiously but still held the crowd, as the fighters split the first four rounds. The slightly bigger southpaw visitor sometimes reached Vasquez with long left leads. But Victor began to take control in the fourth as he edged closer behind the weapon of choice against lefties, a popping straight right. Vasquez then seemed to nail the lid on it in good action in the fifth, steadily working the right lead and then mounting a rally to the bell that had the crowd up. But the stubborn underdog wouldn’t say die. Action was heated with the fight on the line in the final round. Victor took early control behind the busy left, but the trading had him wilting and giving ground late, inviting a dramatic come-from-behind rally by Vinnie with a couple good right-left combos. The verdict rested on the interpretation of the final round. Weisfeld called a draw, 57-57, while Constantino and Kinney awarded the majority decision to Vasquez, 58-56. Neither of these scores was bad.
Hard-punching Marcel Rivers, 145 ¼, Phila., 6-0 (4), got all he wanted from tricky southpaw Michael Crain, 145 ½, Smyrna, DE, 2-3-0-1 (1), in a frustrating yet still riveting six. The bigger, stronger Rivers had difficulty finding the shifty lefty, and didn’t exactly go on a search & destroy mission either. Crain encircled his waist and wrestled him to the canvas in the second, indicative of the awkward contest that consisted mostly of circling and potshotting. Neither put anything together while missing often. But Marcel finally landed a combo and ignited the crowd, closing strong in the fifth and at last taking control in the sixth. In the only action round of the fight, Rivers came out determinedly, spun Crain off balance with a left and buckled his knees with a followup right. With Crain bleeding badly from the nose, Rivers at last mounted a sustained attack and punished him to the bell. Constantino scored 58-56, Weisfeld and Werlinsky 59-55, unanimous for Rivers.
In the only contest lacking genuine competition, Gerardo Martinez, 137 ½, Coatesville, 3-1 (1), rumbled to a unanimous shutout of merely surviving Nyrome Lynch, 136 ¾, Phila., 0-2, four. The switch-hitting underdog circled and tried to shut down the action, only offering defensive punches. When the stalking Gerardo got close, Nyrome grabbed. But Martinez kept hands free enough to dish out punishment, to the point that referee Dali penalized Lynch in the third for holding. Lynch was in trouble from a volley of rights at the final bell. All scores 40-35.
By contrast, a four between Kieran Hooks, 154 ¼, Phila., 3-0-1 (1), and Sharif Jones, 160 ¾, Phila., 0-2-1, opened the show with a good contest. The stocky, muscular Jones forced early action and edged the first despite the final scores. But the lanky Hooks got in gear and began letting his hands go in the second, scoring jabs and long rights and then falling inside to solidly work the body with both hands. Jones was wobbled by a long left-right in the third, then battered at length to the body. But Sharif was still in there pitching as Hooks coasted a bit in the fourth. Constantino scored 39-37, ignoring the extra beating that Jones took in the third, while Weisfeld scored 40-35 and Werlinsky 40-36.
Debuting Adolfo Serrano, 131 ¼, Phila., was stopped at 1:58 of the fourth and final round by hard-luck Christopher Burgos, 134 ½, Phila., 1-2-1 (1). Burgos exploded out in a slugfest and took immediate control. The rangier Serrano had some eye-catching volleys when he could get room, but tended to throw sidearm punches that didn’t stop the resolute Burgos from closing inside and smoking his body. A left hook to the ribs visibly hurt Serrano in the second and had him giving ground. The third was a showdown, with Adolfo flurrying desperately when he could get room, but Burgos constantly closing inside and battering the body. By the final round, the body attack had made its mark and when Serrano twice turned away from crunching body blows, ref Benjy waved it over.
In the walkout four, Emmanuel Rodriguez, 117 ¼, Newark, 3-0, got a respectable effort and decent contest from Ndira Spearman, 117 ¼, Hagerstown MD/Lavergne, TN, 1-2. Rodriguez smartly found the retreating southpaw with lead rights to cleanly dominate the first two. Spearman flurried at times and made the last two close, while suffering a cut right eye in the fourth. But it was still Rodriguez who was setting the pace and controlling the fight while the underdog’s actions were merely a fruitless effort to turn the contest around. All 40-36.