By John DiSanto – PhillyBoxingHistory.com
Photo: John DiSanto
For the second year in a row, the main storyline of the Philadelphia fight scene had to be found with the local fighters and not with actual bouts that took place within the City of Brotherly Love. The reason was because fights in this famous boxing city were few and far between in 2013. A measly total of just four fight cards took place in Philadelphia during the year. That’s down from last year’s seven shows, which at the time seemed pathetic. Who would have guessed we’d only get about half that many in 2013? However, many Philadelphia fighters flourished during the year, especially the City’s current top dogs, Danny Garcia and Bernard Hopkins.
In addition to these champions, a number of rising stars made their way to the next level of success, while still another group of veterans fought in high-profile bouts on the national scene. In general, it was a good year, but the lack of local action was depressing. Luckily, neighboring shows in Chester, Bethlehem, Valley Forge, Essington, and Atlantic City helped to pick up the slack. It also helped that the Philly fighters who did well in 2013, did so in a big way.
Danny Garcia fought twice in 2013, beating Zab Judah in a surprisingly tough challenge, and then shattered general expectations with his clinic over Lucas Matthysse. Public opinion on Garcia was certainly off this year. Most expected he would KO Judah with ease and then fall victim to Matthysse. But then again, few expected Danny to pull his previous career upsets either. Garcia has made a habit of believing in himself and surprising opponents, fans and experts alike.
In April before a hometown crowd in Brooklyn, Judah fought his heart against Garcia, coming off the floor to go the full distance in a fight that the former multi-champ made quite interesting down the stretch. Garcia defended his junior welterweight belts by unanimous decision.
In September, the Garcia-Matthysse near-super fight landed on the big Mayweather-Alvarez PPV card in Las Vegas. Talk about added value for your pay-per-view dollar. Fans were licking their chops over Garcia-Matthysse, and the fight made shelling out $75 (in HD) for the overblown Floyd vs. Canelo romp somehow seem worth it.
Outside of Philly, it was hard to find anyone picking Garcia in the fight. Matthysse’s reputation had grown so large leading up to the fight, despite his lack of consistent top-notch opposition. Still it was hard to question Lucas’ power after his annihilation of Lamont Peterson, and most believed that the rugged Argentine would walk over Garcia much in the same manner.
However, Garcia proved them all wrong by not only dropping and beating Matthysse, but doing it in style. Garcia did it all in the fight. The Philadelphian was the better boxer, the smarter fighter, the cooler head, scored the only knockdown, took Matthysse’s punch, and generally had all the answers.
Garcia took home the victory by three close scores of 114-112, 114-12 & 115-112, and finally earned the respect he and his father, Angel, had been seeking. “Swift” finished 2013 with an undefeated 27-0, 16 KOs record (5-0 in world title bouts). Talks of an eventual match between Garcia and current P4P king Floyd Mayweather (who pitched a drama-less shutout over Canelo that same night) are now circulating, and should happen on one of the final four fight dates of Floyd’s career, between now and the end of 2015.
After defeating Matthysse, Garcia said he had one more bout at 140 left in him, before moving up to the welterweight class. However, no 2014 dates or specific plans have been announced yet. Garcia’s two-fight output in 2013 will probably be enough to win him his third consecutive Briscoe Award as Philly Fighter of the Year. His only stiff competition in the category is from the grand old champ (and former Briscoe winner) Bernard Hopkins, who also fought twice in a banner 2013.
In March, the 48-year old Hopkins once again defied the odds, and father time, with an upset victory over then-undefeated IBF light heavyweight champion Tavoris Cloud, in Brooklyn. The unanimous decision brought Hopkins yet another championship belt and broke his own record as the oldest man ever to win a major world boxing championship.
The power-punching Cloud, 17 years younger than Hopkins, could not match wits with the great old champ, and went down to defeat like so many other younger boxers have done in the past. Hopkins outclassed and shutdown Cloud, and lifted his title in the process. Bernard Hopkins continued his knack for hypnotizing younger foes, who seem to choke once they enter the ring with the intimidating ring wizard.
Hopkins’ second opponent of the year, Karo Murat, had much more fire and pluck than most of Bernard’s recent victims. He didn’t seem intimidated or under Bernard’s hypnotic spell. However, the mandatory challenger was in a completely different class than Hopkins, and was handed a one-sided defeat over 12 rounds in Atlantic City. Regardless of its lopsided nature, the fight was the most entertaining Hopkins fight in years. Hopkins, who turns 49 in January, ended his year at 54-6-2 with 32 KOs, and has no intention of retiring.
North Philly’s Gabriel Rosado had an interesting year in 2013. He gave up his #1 ranking at junior middleweight for a world title shot at 160 pounds against the formidable Gennady Golovkin in January. Few gave Rosado any chance of taking the title, and most outside of Philly expected GGG to score another clean KO. But Rosado is a tough customer and arguably gave Golovkin his hardest challenge to date.
However, the middleweight champ retained his title at Madison Square Garden Theater, stopping Rosado on cuts in round seven. Rosado’s gruesome collection of wounds included a pair of deep gashes over his left eye and a broken nose. All three injuries bled profusely throughout the bout, which ended dramatically with heartbroken trainer Billy Briscoe finally calling the fight, over the protests by both Rosado and his father.
Rosado was beaten but not bowed, and remained in the middleweight division for a match with rising prospect J’Leon Love in May. The fight held in Las Vegas on the Mayweather-Robert Guerrero PPV card, and was a frustrating one for Rosado fans.
King Gabe was given a golden opportunity when Love made weight for the fight only after a hellish reduction process. He was late for the weigh in, as he tried to shed the necessary pounds right down to the wire. At first Love was still over the 160 pound limit, and needed the full one hour allotment to trim a final 1.5 pounds. The Mayweather protégée finally made the weight, but was clearly in a weakened state that Rosado would be able to exploit.
However, a passive Rosado let the physically drained Love into the fight, and despite dropping him with a right in round six, was unable to finish his foe. Although the Philadelphian seemed to do just enough to squeak out a points win (thanks to the knockdown), the officials gave the fight to Love by split decision.
However days later, the official verdict was changed to a No Decision after it was found that Love tested positive for the banned substance Hydrochlorothiazide, a diuretic that helped him make the weight.
Rosado rebounded with another terrific opportunity in October when he was granted a title fight with WBO middleweight champion Peter “Kid Chocolate” Quillin, in Atlantic City. Rosado came off the floor in round two to rattle the champion a few times. However, Quillin was ahead in the fight when a stinging jab in round nine landed on Rosado’s left eye and reopened those ghastly cuts originally suffered against Golovkin.
Rosado came out for round ten, but after just 40 seconds of mild action, the fight was stopped because of the wounds. The stoppage brought cries of protest, especially from Rosado, who was rallying in the bout. However, the cuts were deep and the TKO ending was the safer route, especially given the official scores at the time. Two of the three judges had Rosado not only hopelessly behind, but the winner of only one round between them. The third judge had Quillin ahead by a reasonable three points. Those two scores were ludicrous, but the champion was winning the fight. Still it was a heartbreaker for Rosado.
In 2013, Rosado earned three big paydays and made a good impression on the national scene, but many fans were left wishing he’d waited out his title shot at junior middleweight, where a world title might have been his for the taking. In 2014, Rosado, 21-7-0-1, 13 KOs, planned to go back down to 154 pounds, for a late January bout.
Cruiserweight Garrett Wilson fought two big bouts in 2013, but came up short in both. In February, Wilson travelled to Romania for a title elimination bout against Alexander Alekseev, and dropped a 12-round unanimous decision. He sat out most of the rest of 2013, but then received an interesting opportunity in November.
Wilson accepted a 10-round heavyweight fight with Vyacheslav Glazkov when Tomasz Adamek pulled out a few days before the fight. It was a risk for Wilson, but the bout was to be televised on a Saturday afternoon on NBC network television. So it was an offer he couldn’t refuse.
Wilson swung for the fences all afternoon against Glazkov and thrilled the crowd with his effort. He stunned the unbeaten heavyweight a few times, but Glazkov won a wide-margin decision after 10 rounds. However, Wilson’s first-ever TV bout, looked like a breakthrough for the always-ready Philadelphian.
Wilson, 13-7-1, 7 KOs, earned a January, nationally televised shot on NBC Sports Network against Thabiso Mchunu, back at cruiserweight. However, a torn Achilles tendon suffered in training, knocked the hard-luck Wilson out of the fight and put him on the sidelines for at least six months. Hopefully his crowd-pleasing effort against Glazkov will be remembered when he’s ready to return in 2014.
Former cruiserweight champion Steve Cunningham continued his heavyweight campaign in 2013 with two more fights at the higher weight. In April, Cunningham fought a memorable grudge match with UK giant Tyson Fury at the Theater at Madison Square Garden.
Fury ultimately won the foul-filled contest by KO in round seven. However, the fight will be best remembered for the lightning bolt landed by Cunningham in round two that sent the 6′ 9″ Fury crashing to the canvas. For a moment, the fight appeared to be over, but Fury climbed to his feet and went on to win.
In a strange turn, Cunningham left behind the ugly sentiment of the fight, its build up, and its aftermath, to later join forces with Fury, agreeing to help him prepare for another fight in the UK. Cunningham, 26-6, 12 KOs, finished the year with a stay-busy 8-round shutout of Manuel Quezada in Atlantic City.
Heavyweight contender Bryant Jennings, 17-0, 9 KOs, spent most of the year in business upheaval, changing promoters and settling in with a new manager. He declined a proposed match with Tomasz Adamek over money, and only managed to fight once in the year, a nice TKO of Andrey Fedosov in Bethlehem. Of course Jennings spent the rest of the year in the gym, but 2013 was a far cry from the five-fight schedule that made him an emerging star in 2012.
However, convinced he now has the proper team in place, Jennings looks forward to his HBO debut on January 25th against undefeated Artur Szpilka at the Garden. 2014 figures to be the make or break year for Jennings, and all of Philly has high hopes that he’ll earn his crack at the title by December.
California-based, Philly native Malik Scott appeared to easily defeat Vyacheslav Glazkov in a heavyweight bout on NBC Sports Network. However, the judges turned in an outrageous Draw decision. The performance validated Scott’s suspect 35-0 record, but left him with his first career blemish. In his next fight, Scott traveled to London and was stopped by Dereck Chisora in round six. There was mild controversy when Scott appeared to beat the referee’s count after the sixth round knockdown, but was ultimately counted out while standing firmly on his two feet.
Junior welterweight Hank Lundy split two fights in 2013. In March, he dropped a decision to Viktor Postol in Ukraine, but rebounded in July with an impressive win over Olusegun Ajose on ESPN2. The win pushed his record to 23-3-1, 11 KOs, but he remained inactive through the end of the year.
Teon Kennedy returned from a one-year rest after his title bout loss to Guillermo Rigondeaux, by jumping to the junior lightweight division and posting two solid wins over Carlos Vinan and Joselito Collado. However, Kennedy, 19-2-2, 7 KOs, suffered a broken jaw against Collado and is still sidelined by the injury. He plans to return in 2014 under new management.
Super middleweight Farah Ennis, split two nationally televised fights. He beat Anthony Hanshaw on ESPN2, but then was nearly shutout by Badou Jack, in a disappointing ShowBox performance in July. Ennis, 21-2, 12 KOs, remained inactive for the rest of the year.
After closing 2012 with a KO loss to Carl Froch in a world title bout, light heavyweight veteran Yusaf Mack returned in 2013 for two fights. He lost them both by decision to undefeated risers, Cedric Agnew and Thomas Williams Jr. Mack fell to 31-7-2, 17 KOs, and perhaps ended his days as a perennial contender.
Similarly, junior middleweight Jamaal Davis lost three fights to fresher foes, Patrick Majewski, Yuri Foreman and Jorge Melendez. At 14-11-1, 6 KOs, Davis is at a crossroads.
Welterweight Ronald Cruz lost his first fight of the year (L10 Ray Narh), but rebounded with three rebuilding KOs against safer opponents. In a thriller, Cruz had to rally to KO Alberto Morales in the 10th and final round, but looked fresh and powerful in his last outing, KO3 Hector Munoz. All four of his fights were at home in Bethlehem, PA. Cruz ended the year at 20-2, 15 KOs.
Cruiserweight Tony Ferrante scored one of the best KOs of the year with a stunner against previously undefeated Isa Akberbayev in New York. However, Ferrante failed a post-fight drug test and the 10th round KO was changed to a No Contest. Ferrante was suspended for one year, and is scheduled to return January 31st in Chester.
The top young Philly prospects of 2013 were:
Junior middleweight Julian Williams who went 4-0 with one No Contest and three KOs against increasingly tough opposition like Orlando Lora, Joachim Alcine and Jeremiah Wiggins. “J-Rock” was blanking Hugo Centeno before a clash of heads in round four made the fight a NC. Williams ended the year 14-0-1-1, 8 KOs, and the 23 year old appears on the brink of a major breakthrough in 2014.
Super middleweight Jesse Hart cruised through his sophomore year as a pro with six easy wins that upped his record to 11-0 with 10 KOs. Hart looks like a future star and is ready for tougher competition.
Junior lightweight Tevin Farmer was the little engine that could in 2013. He began the year with an average 7-4-1 record, but turned into a prospect right under all of our noses. After seven straight wins in 2013, Farmer, 14-4-1, suddenly looks like a fighter with a future. TKO wins over Victor Vasquez and Carlos Vinan were highlights in a year that was marked with excellent activity and a willingness to fight anyone put before him.
Camden’s Jason Sosa, 11-1-3, 7 KOs, went undefeated in four bouts (all KOs) and appeared to be coming into his own in 2013. His wins included stoppages of Joseph Perez (10-1), Georgi Kevlishvilli (12-5), Tyrone Luckey (5-3-1), and Bryne Green (7-7-1).
Junior welterweight Hasan Young, 4-1-1, 2 KOs, scored a pair of good wins in the year. Young decisioned Ariel Duran and stopped Julio DeJesus.
Bantamweight Miguel Cartagena, 10-0, 3 KOs, won four fights against limited opposition. He won all four going away, but appeared to be spinning his wheels in his last two bouts. Cartagena is so much better than his easy opposition, that the fear here is that he is beginning to fight down to that level. To be fair, Miguel is still just 21 years old. However, Cartagena, an amateur superstar, needs a big step up as a pro. He is ready, and it’s time to take some risks.
Four excellent rookies made their professional debut in 2013.
Leading the pack was lightweight Damon Allen, who posted four wins (4-0, 1 KO). “Baby Dame”, a product of Grandfather Mitchell Allen’s Boxing program at the Sheppard Rec Center, was an amateur star and continues to adapt to the pro ranks. He looked especially sharp in his last outing, and 2014 figures to bring more solid development.
Shuler Gym featherweight Antonio Dubose looked good too, going 3-0 with 2 KOs in the year, and beginning to earn his “Tony the Tiger” nickname.
Lightweight Sultahn Staton, 2-0, 2 KOs, impressed with his skills and attitude and looked like one to watch.
The sleeper of the bunch was junior featherweight Emmanuel Folly, 2-0, 1 KO, of the Rock Ministries Gym, who style-wise looked better suited for the pros than most rookies that come along.
With little action within Philly to speak of, the best fights of the year were local, but outside the City. The memorable bouts included:
Harry Yorgey W8 Julius Kennedy; Harry Yorgey W6 Julius Kennedy; Bryant Jennings TKO6 Andrey Fedosov; Ronald Cruz KO10 Alberto Morales; Anthony Caputo Smith W10 Dhafir Smith; Julio De Jesus KO1 Ramon Ellis; DeCarlo Perez TKO5 Julius Kennedy; Hasan Young TKO5 Julio DeJesus; Mike Oliver DQW1 Eric Hunter; Josue Rivera TKO2 Tyson Maher.
New Jersey -
Peter Quillin TKO10 Gabriel Rosado; Teon Kennedy W10 Joselito Collado; Bernard Hopkins W12 Karo Murat.
Ray Robinson TKO7 Ray Narh; Samuel Kotey Neequaye W10 Dorin Spivey.
PENNSYLVANIA BOXING HALL OF FAME:
The PA Boxing Hall of Fame welcomed ten new inductees in May of 2013: Tyrell Biggs, Charley Burley, Ivan Robinson, Mario Saurennann, Roy “Tiger” Williams, and non-boxers Chuck Hasson (Historian), Fred Jenkins (Trainer), John Mulvenna (Trainer), Steve Smoger (Referee), and Norman “Reds” Torpey (Trainer).
In 2013, there were three notable deaths among the Philly boxing fraternity. Welterweight Tony Martin, 52, who once fought Julio Cesar Chavez, was murdered in March. Rugged middleweight of the 1950s, Marvin Edelman was 82 when he passed away in July. Undefeated South Philly welterweight of the 1950s, Jimmy Carlini, was also 82 when he died in December.
The sixth Annual Briscoe Awards were given to Danny Garcia (2012 Philly Fighter of the Year), Bryant Jennings and Maurice Byarm (2012 Philly Fight of the Year), Steve Cunningham (2012 Performance of the Year), Garrett Wilson (2012 KO of the Year), Jesse Hart (2012 Rookie of the Year), Bryant Jennings (2012 Prospect of the Year), and Rasheen Brown (2012 Amateur of the Year).
With 2013 now closed, expectations are high that the new year will bring more fight cards inside Philadelphia. It won’t take much to top 2013. Thus far, two shows are scheduled for Philly, one each in January and February. That leaves just two more needed to equal last year’s total. However Philly fans are hoping for far more than that.