By J.R. Jowett reporting from ringside:The old farming town of Lebanon, in Upstate Pennsylvania, has kept a low profile in boxing for years, always with a fighter or two and an occasional amateur show but never developing into an ongoing success story. Towns all over Upstate PA ran regular cards up until the ‘60s. There is only an echo of that now. The last promoter here ran one professional show in 2014 before falling ill. On 3/10/18, veteran grass roots promoter Julio Alvarez (A&D Prom’ns), owner of the venerable Lincolnway Gym in York, elected to promote a show at the cozy and agreeable Eagles Hall in downtown Lebanon. The venue is excellent for club boxing, a mini Blue Horizon. The show sold out in advance, some 400. The card was lively and had fans on their toes. But the heroes lost. At least matchmaker Chuck Bayley can be lauded for not bringing in setups. The quality of the show profited from hotly contested bouts. But the local future may be dimmed by the results. George Rodriguez pumped up the crowd as ring announcer, Madra Clay was timekeeper, and Fenton Lemmon managed the logistics.
The top bout pitted popular Nick Rodriguez, 154, Reading/Lebanon, 8-3 (1), against tough spoiler Roque Zapata, 152 ½, Culpeper, VA, 5-2-3, over six ruggedly contested rounds. The southpaw local favorite relied on trying to nail the aggressive Zapata with haymaker lefts as Roque charged in. Each time he did, fans went wild. But it wasn’t near enough to match the visitor’s hectic work rate. Roque just kept chugging, unfazed by the occasional big counters, while walking Hernandez down. Nick just wasn’t strong enough to hold Roque off, and his best shots lacked the power to turn it around. Nonetheless it was a competitive fight in its own way, although the judges (Bernard Bruni, Adam Friscia, John Gradowski) scored a unanimous shutout for Zapata. Tim Shipley refereed.
The upset winner commented casually, “I was very confident. I’ve done this plenty of times. I’m always the underdog.”
In the semi six, Tobias Green, 142, W. Palm Beach, FL, 7-1 (2), used quick boxing rather than relentless slugging to upset Jesus Saucedo, 144, York, 7-3-1 (4). The way the much bigger favorite exploded out for round one, it appeared the visitor would be a quick sacrifice, as had occurred in the prior bout. Both bailed out in full-tilt exchanging, but the stronger Saucedo was sharp and punishing with his shots. The slender visitor didn’t look as though he could hold the favorite off, but once the starting-gun excitement calmed down, action moved to the inside and Green hung tough. In round two, the action changed dramatically as the underdog began to circle and box, popping away with long range punches as the hero followed in the dance. Round three was fought both inside and out, with the fading favorite, whose career has been marred by inactivity, puffy under the left eye by round’s end. Tobias continued to fight his fight through the fourth. Jesus seemed to up the pressure a bit in the fifth, but late in the round was visibly hurt by a left hook to the ribs, possibly swinging the round to the visitor. The final round was close, with exchanges back and forth. But the verdict was well-called by the judges, Gradowski 58-56 and the others 59-55, Green.
Make no mistake; at many corrupt venues with unschooled fans, these verdicts would have gone to the locals. But PA judges are not homers and score fairly, as was well in evidence here.
The only one-sided bout was a blastout by Montana Love, 145, Cleveland, 10-0 (5), of Jon Charles, 144 ½, Corpus Christi, 9-14 (1), in an all-southpaw scheduled six. The flashy Love was too much for the proletarian Charles, who was never really in the fight. In the first, Jon was in a neutral corner when an overhand left and short right folded him to his knees. Montana was merciful and didn’t press the advantage, allowing Charles to make it to round two. Love stepped in smartly with a short left at center ring to send the underdog to his knees again. The two mixed for a while and then a left-right-left combo wowed the crowd as Charles’ feet flew out behind him like jet exhaust and he went horizontally to the canvas for a KO at 1:25.
In another pairing of lefties, Tre’Sean Wiggins, 143, Johnstown, 9-3-1 (6), won a unanimous decision in a lively scrap with Luis Rodriguez, 145, Lancaster, 3-8 (2), four. After taking a feelout first, the favorite Wiggins opened fast in the second, a long left driving Rodriguez into a neutral corner where he was battered with both hands. Action slowed and Luis gamely fought back into the contest. But when he tried to open up with Wiggins against the ropes, Tre’Sean lashed back with a short right-left, wobbling Rodriguez just before the bell. The last two were seesaw, with Rodriguez bailing out with left leads. Wiggins generally managed to duck, but wasn’t particularly on target with counters. Nonetheless he edged the action and got a fair unanimous decision, Bruni scoring a shutout and the others 39-37. Gary Rosato refereed.