By Lindy Lindell
Photos: Bob Ryder
It took a while. A very serious injury postponed his pro debut for almost a year, but Erik DeLeon finally debuted last night on a card Friday night promoted by Greg Ahrens at Detroit’s Masonic Temple.
In the very first exchange, Toledo’s Eric Ricker never knew what hit him—or rather, he needed at least two more hands to cope with the blizzard of punches that DeLeon threw from all angles. After the first round-one knockdown, Ricker retreated to a corner in an attempt to stave off another salvo; but such an action brought on another flurry from the two-time National Golden Glove Lightweight Champion, and down went Ricker, seemingly more confused by the onslaught rather than the damage done by punches received. Upon rising again, Ricker did make an attempt to move more toward ring-center, but the problem of what to do from DeLeon’s from-everywhere flailing fists was not solved, and in just seconds more, Ricker found himself on the deck and stopped with his third trip to the canvas.
It was the most impressive pro-debut by a Detroit fighter in his hometown since—well, Tommy Hearns. That DeLeon generated the most excitement of anyone on the card, that his train of a large entourage signaling his entrance signaled the first real hope for a revival of Detroit boxing since the death of Emanuel Steward and the closing of the Kronk Gym in what was probably its last incarnation shortly thereafter. Two-thirds of the crowd (including a good number of standees) that packed into the ballroom left after this fight, rather than watch the now-familiar Darryl Cunningham waltz over the woeful Eric Burke of Columbus. Cunningham dropped Burke, now winless in his last 15, in each of the first two, but seemed reluctant to finish him off; the contest was finally stopped in round six.
Matchmaker Carlos Llinas had some of the usual problems with fallouts, but covered nicely, especially in filling on short notice an opponent for the crowd-pleasing James Smith, a 122-pounder who “had to fight” because of an interested party who walks around with a Platinum Gold credit card in his wallet. Llinas found David Warren Huffman on very short notice and while outclassed, Huffman stood in there sturdily and took his whipping over four without tumbling.
Two other interesting fights materialized when Detroit’s Alejandro Hernandez, a junior-middle, hammered a sturdy Dilevery Wolford, Battle Creek, until the fight was stopped just prior to the end of its four-round duration. And native Albanian Afrim Mema, fighting out of Detroit at welterweight, was given an unexpected tussle by a Grand Rapids novice named Cody Stamann, winning a majority over four in which Stamann left everything in the ring and was almost paralyzed with exhaustion brought on by a final flurry that he laid on Mema.
Two heavyweight bouts were embarrassments. Windsor’s Ali Mansour toppled the grossly overweight Robert Feirick in just 42 seconds, and ex-footballer Jeff Kugel of Roseville needs to do something else than box because he’s clueless that one should sometimes lead with a left jab; I don’t know what his cornermen are telling him, but both were barking into his ear pretty good—at the same time, a recipe for confusion. Cincinnati’s Jeremiah Williams lost a majority to Kugel, but complained about the decision in a “fight” in which he did little more than avoid Kugel’s lead rights.
On his way to a ShoBox date, Middleweight James Fortune (now dubbing himself Fortune 500), easily dispatched Shane Gierke in two and Jasmin “Mz Mayweather” Reed easily outscored and stopped the determined but amateurish Tiana Barber in three.