By Phil Doherty
Photos: Sam Cohen and Reynaldo Sanchez
Baseball and boxing competed long ago for the national sports consciousness, with boxing holding a distinct edge. Once upon a time, Jack Dempsey’s ring exploits received more press than Babe Ruth’s legendary home plate endeavors. Yet today baseball continues to be a “major league” sport while boxing struggles to get back on base. The normally nocturnal business of live boxing switch-hit yesterday to a bright afternoon at the Marlins and Cardinals baseball spring training home in Roger Dean Stadium. Promoter Rebecca Valenza of Botanileeko Promotions and boxing manager Thomas J. Hickey tirelessly campaigned to organize the Fight(s) for the Pink event on behalf of the South Florida affiliate of the Susan G. Komen Fight for the Cure®.
Breast cancer survivors entered the ring wearing pink gloves before the main event to give emotional testimony to their life-and-death triumphs. The seven scheduled bouts exhibited the soul of the sweet science in genuine, heartfelt fashion with fifty cents of every ticket going towards the cause. The crisp crack of wooden bats on cow’s hide normally heard with such regularity yielded to the heavy slugging of leather gloves on flesh. One wondered how this unique venue would fare for a boxing event.
Based on the quality of the fights themselves, promoters hit it out of the park. Hopefully they can use the mantra :“If you build it, they will come” to generate even bigger crowds for future shows.
The main event featured Kissimmee-based heavyweight Jason “The Sensation” Gavern (20-7-4, 9 KOs) defending his WBC CABOFE belt against Darnell “The Ding-A-Ling Man” Wilson (23-12-3, 20 KOs) in a 10-round bout. Gavern started the action firing a stiff, sharp jab which set up power shots early. However, the shorter, stockier “Ding-A-Ling Man” found openings to counter with big left hooks.
Things heated up in the second round as Gavern dispensed with the tactical approach and started to brawl with Wilson, who continued to find some range behind his heavy left hook. Gavern controlled the pace with repeated two and three-punch combos, earning him the first two rounds on the press-row scorecards.
Wilson knocked Gavern back with a thudding left hook to the body in the third round, forcing a smile and nod from Gavern in acknowledgement. Gavern responded with 3 jabs and a clean right hand followed by a quick left hook. Wilson answered with a lead left hook that stunned Gavern briefly as he stepped straight back, tasting another left hook for his trouble. Gavern yelled to the crowd as he walked to his corner at the end of the third: “Whooo! It’s getting hot up here!”
Indeed it was. Wilson stepped up the aggression in the fourth and fifth rounds behind repeated left hooks to the body and head, complemented by huge overhand rights to tighten up the scoring and force Gavern to get busier. He did. In the sixth round, “The Sensation” found a home for some stunning straight right hands upstairs. A crisp left jab and sizzling right rang “The Ding-A-Ling Man’s” bell briefly as his head snapped back. Gavern gained some confidence and switched southpaw briefly, starting to toy with Wilson by standing behind referee Frank Santore Jr.
Gavern poured it on to start the seventh with double jabs and overhand rights which prompted a respectful nod from Wilson. Wilson replied with a big left hook when Gavern lowered his right too far. However, Gavern came on with a left hook to the body and stepped deftly to his right to score a crushing straight right and left hook to the head. Wilson immediately stepped back and started to paw at his left eye, which revealed a gaping gash. Wilson couldn’t continue and followed referee Santore to the corner, where the ring physician advised the cut was serious enough to halt the contest.
The official time of the stoppage was 1:44 of the seventh round.
Both men gave each other credit for a close, hard-fought fight. Wilson stated: “I was feeling like I was starting to get my timing in there. He was starting to open up, you know I like to catch guys in between shots. I know that even though he has a great chin, I know that I bothered him and he even admitted it. Even though I moved up from cruiserweight feel very strong at heavyweight and I know I have a lot to offer. I wouldn’t waste my time with it otherwise because this sport is very dangerous. But I had a great time and look for me to do big things in this sport.”
Following the bout, Wilson received 10 stitches to close the wound.
Gavern was all smiles coming out of the ring, asking: “Did it look like I was having fun?” Displaying genuine sportsmanship, Gavern proclaimed: “First of all, Darnell is a class act, man. That guy is the coolest guy, nicest guy in the world. But that kid can punch. This is gonna’ be a sad statement, but I haven’t prayed as much in a long time as I did today. Every time I seen that left hook comin’ I was like: Oh Lord, here we go!” Gavern gave his fight team full credit for whipping him into shape for the bout.
The co-main event showcased the skills of rising Cuban heavyweight Luis “El Mercedes” Ortiz (7-0, 5 KOs) in a 6-round affair against sturdy Bahamian Jerry “Big Daddy” Butler (8-11-1, 8 KOs). The southpaw Ortiz physically towered over Butler and used quick straight lefts and uppercuts to split the guard of the Bahamian. “El Mercedes” pressed the action with a determined, angry look on his face as he sought to pile drive Butler to the canvas with big left hooks behind a snapping jab.
Ortiz kept his hands low to his side in an obvious editorial of his opponent’s power and potshot the overmatched and overweight Butler with one-twos throughout the third round. Butler tried to fire back but couldn’t sustain any real attack. Ortiz finally let his hands fly midway through the round and abused Butler with a left to the body followed by an overhand right and three straight jabs. Ortiz fired a solid right-left combo upstairs to force Butler back to the corner where he withstood a hurricane of blows from the Cuban. That was enough for Butler’s corner as they stepped to the ring apron at 1:40 of the third to stop the assault.
Queens NY-based super flyweight Patricia “Patty Boom-Boom” Alcivar (5-0, 3 KOs) completely dominated her opponent Savanna “The Lioness” Hill (7-9, 4 KOs)to score a unanimous decision victory in their 6-rounder. Displaying exceptional movement and combination punching, Alcivar blooded Hill’s nose in the second round and picked her apart while moving away from the tough opponent from Ft. Hill Arkansas. Though Hill possessed the heart of a “lioness” she had no answer for Alcivar’s superior technique and judges scored it 60-53 and 60-54 (twice) for Alcivar.
Swedish heavyweight David Loy (2-0, 1 KO) overcame visa issues to showcase his talent in a US debut against Justin “Rage” Riegle (3-6, 1 KO). The former Swedish national amateur champion’s serene countenance never changed during his clinical administration of pain upon his overmatched Ohio opponent.
Loy displayed surprisingly good movement and footwork for a big man as he stepped into Riegle with sharp jabs and hurtful right hands. Three straight rights dazed Riegle to start the second round and he backed to the corner ropes. Loy used the opportunity to unload a devastating overhand right that reverberated up to the nosebleed sections of the stadium. Although Riegle stayed standing, the fight had left him and referee Frank Gentile mercifully waved it off at 58 seconds of round two.
Demonstrating a heavyweight heart matching his talent, Loy graciously donated his entire purse to the Susan G. Komen charity following the bout.
Cuban super-bantamweight Kadel Martinez (1-1) lost a unanimous decision to Puerto Rican Arturo Santiago (7-2-1, 4 KOs) in a 4-rounder. Overcoming an accidental head butt and resulting cut above the hairline that rained blood down his face in the first round, Santiago assaulted the Cuban with digging hooks to body and head. Martinez displayed better footwork, movement and defense but couldn’t match Santiago’s power or aggression and he ate a left hook from the Puerto Rican while stepping straight back at the end of the second. The punch staggered Martinez and he continued falling backwards to the canvas, followed by a standing eight count from referee Frank Santore Jr. after the bell.
Judges scored the bout 38-37 and 39-36 (twice) for Santiago.
Possibly the most impressive display this afternoon belonged to fellow Dream Team Boxing featherweight Yoandris “El Niño” Salinas (6-0, 3 KOs)as he destroyed Bahamian Ivan Moxey (2-2, 1 KO). Salinas was the third Dream Team fighter on the card, along with teammates Luis Ortiz and Kadel Martinez. Displaying a knowing smile and baby-faced exterior, Salinas seems to own an assassin’s heart within the ring. Moxey started the fight as the busier fighter, moving and jabbing to try and slow Salinas from advancing towards him.
However, the relentless Cuban started opening up with heavy-handed shots midway through the first and didn’t let up until the beginning of the third round. Following a dominating second round that could easily be scored 10-8(despite no knockdowns) Salinas stepped to Moxey to start the third.
Moxey pitched the Cuban weak, slow jabs while dancing to his left. Salinas waited, waited and swung- crushing Moxey with a single straight right hand to leave the Bahamian crumpled in a heap in the center of the ring.
It was a home run.
Physicians helped Moxey to a stool and attended him for several minutes following the knockout, which came at just 24 seconds of the third round.
In the first bout of the afternoon, local Palm Beach Gardens heavyweight Sanlee “Sean” Bennett (1-0, 1 KO) scored a TKO victory in his professional debut over Mexican Alex Cruz “Funky Cold” Medina (1-10-1, 1 KO). Bennett’s superior stature and conditioning allowed him to easily outpoint Medina until the third round. Bennett stepped up the attack and backed the Mexican into a corner to unload a flurry. Medina’s corner had seen enough and stepped to the ring apron at 1:22 of the third round.