By Rick Scharmberg
Photos: Rick Scharmberg and Juan Marshall/JM Photography
Wilmington, Delaware’s “Rockin” Ryan Belasco has paid his dues, quietly working at his craft while compiling an 18-5-3, 3 KOs record fighting mostly in Delaware, Maryland, New Jersey, and Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Philly is where the action is, and that’s where Ryan made his pro debut on June 16, 2006. This Friday, Belasco returns to Philadelphia, where he will fight in the main event against unbeaten former amateur standout Angel Luis Ocasio (7-0-2, 2 KOs) at the National Guard Armory in North Philly. They will fight eight rounds for the USBC lightweight belt. The bout, which has generated much regional interest, is promoted by Greg Robinson’s Power Productions.
This crossroads-type fight contains considerable risks, which both men should be commended for taking, especially Ocasio, who is putting his unbeaten record on the line against a fighter who has worked so hard to improve his game.
For the first year-and-a-half of his nearly seven year pro career, Belasco was a crowd pleasing brawler who gave as good as he got. But he also gained a reputation as being a front-runner, whose gas tank would deplete early in fights.
Ryan’s career “hit bottom”, if you will, when he lost by decision to the game but limited veteran Damon Antoine at Delaware Park on September 27, 2007. The bout was brutal and bloody, and his hometown fans were shocked at the amount of punishment he absorbed that night.
Many fighters might have packed it in after a fight like that. At the time, Belasco was an apprentice electrician, and he couldn’t be blamed if he decided to go in that direction exclusively.
But boxing is in his blood. While he eventually became a licensed electrician, he also went back to the drawing board and revamped his boxing style. It all started with improving his conditioning.
“I took my conditioning to another level, and I changed my style from a brawler to being a slick boxer,” said Belasco. “I can still mix it up, but now I have the best of both worlds. Six, eight, or ten rounds, whatever it is, I can do now. My style is a good mesh now, and I can do whatever I have to do. That’s the key, to be able to adapt.”
Naturally, Ryan considers his conditioning and experience to be to his advantage in this fight. “Angel is a good fighter, but he hasn’t been in with anyone with my experience. He has a lot of amateur experience, but the pros are different. Maybe his conditioning can be an issue, and my conditioning is my strength now. I have my losses, but they were learning experiences for me,” he said.
After his loss to Antoine, Belasco’s re-dedication to the sport began to pay dividends. Eight months and three fights later, he took on wildly popular Victor Vasquez in Victor’s hometown, at the New Alhambra in Philadelphia. Ryan’s transformation was confirmed that night after he stopped Vasquez in five rounds.
Another big win came six months later, when he knocked out once-promising Lenny DeVictoria at the same venue. “I got a lot of publicity after that fight, which I took in his back yard,” said Ryan.
Now riding a seven-bout unbeaten streak, Belasco dropped a majority decision to seasoned Dean White on July 24, 2009 in Dover, Delaware. The loss, which came in an attempt to win his first title, still drives Ryan today. “I have to redeem myself for that loss to Dean White. It’s nice to have that shot for a title again, and I will fight my heart out to win it.”
One of the highlights of his career came on the night of July 9, 2010, when he defeated Kevin Carmody at Atlantic City’s famed Boardwalk Hall. Since then, Belasco won seven of his last eight fights, including his last four in a row. His only loss during that stretch came in a hotly contested split decision to Bryne Green in Chester, Pennsylvania. It was a loss that was avenged in his most recent bout last February 8 in Wilmington. Belasco also easily avenged his earlier defeat to Damon Antoine.
“I am well-prepared for this fight,” said Ryan. “I am prepared for all styles. I am in great shape. I went right back into training after the Green fight. I know Angel likes to box, but he can brawl Philly-style too. He likes to bang, but he has a shorter reach. If he wants to come inside, he will have to take a couple. I can bang too, but I can also mix it up.”
Presently on layoff from his electrician job, Belasco has been training twice-a-day at his own gym, the Delaware Barbell and Fitness Club in Newport, Delaware. Ryan and his partner, Mike Donohue opened the gym last January. There is a ring, bags of every type, over 1,000 pounds of weights, and a large area to jump rope and for MMA-style training which also take place there.
“We are in the process of getting licensed to train amateur fighters. We also have the building next door and the plan is to expand,” he said. “Plus, I can come here and work out any time.”
Ryan loves the sport, and wants to fight as often as he can. When asked why he thought Team Ocasio hand-picked him as their next opponent, Ryan said it was probably because of the “year layoff” between his wins over Tyrell Samuel and Bryne Green. A look at his record reveals a layoff closer to 8 months than a year. During that time, he got married and went on his honeymoon, and he also opened his gym.
Delaware Barbell Club already has its first champion. Anthony “The Bull” Caputo Smith upset vastly more experienced Dhafir “No Fear” Smith to win the Pennsylvania State light heavyweight championship last Saturday in Philadelphia. Caputo Smith’s conditioning played a key factor in his ten round split decision win.
“Anthony is so strong, but he used to have to drop weight too close to his fights. He is on a new program here, and he doesn’t have to do that anymore. He is in great shape,” said Ryan two days prior to Caputo Smith’s victory.
Belasco sparred with the much larger Caputo Smith for his upcoming fight, along with lightweight powerhouse Omar Douglas, who also trains at Delaware Barbell.
With a new wife, Nicole, a new gym, and a big fight that can take his career to the next level only days away, Belasco’s confidence is soaring, and his future is bright.
“I want to thank everyone for their great support. It means a lot. I want to especially thank everyone at the Delaware Barbell Club, including my trainers Mario Tiberi and Benny Guerrero. I’ve been with Benny from the start, and I appreciate Mario for traveling here to help get me in great shape,” he said.
Tickets for Philly Barnburner V are priced at $40, $50, and $75 and can be purchased by calling 267-584-5196.