Story & photo by John DiSanto – PhillyBoxingHistory.com
Joey Eye Boxing returns to Harrah’s Chester Friday night with another promising boxing show that pits two of his regular performers against each other in what figures to be a testy 10-rounder for the Pennsylvania state cruiserweight championship. Tony Ferrante, 12-4, 7 KOs, 1 NC, and Anthony Caputo Smith, 14-2, 10 KOs, have both headlined previous Joey Eye cards before. But on Friday, the Philly-area boxers will square off for local bragging rights, a state title belt, and their Italian pride. Who knows which of these is most important to the fighters?
Ferrante makes his first appearance in the ring since his incredible KO of Isa Akberbayev in New York one year ago. That outrageous upset was ultimately changed to a No Contest after the Philadelphian “failed” a post fight drug test. Ferrante and his team were shocked by the test results and have claimed them to be bogus ever since.
Ferrante underwent subsequent drug testing that showed he was clean. However, the NY Commission left the fight result as a “No Decision”. Ferrante is still barred from fighting in NY until October, but is working to be cleared to fight everywhere else.
“My foot was in the door, but unfortunately those things happened, and I got sidetracked,” Ferrante said. “Greg Sirb (Executive Director of the PA Commission) has backed me this entire time. He knows I’m not dirty. I’m sure just him giving me the license to fight in Pennsylvania will free me with other states.”
Having his best career win diluted by the NY commission still angers Ferrante. He believes that an error was made, and was perturbed by the commission’s tepid response to his protests. The fact that NY wouldn’t budge on their decision, just added insult to injury for Ferrante. So now more than 12 months later, Ferrante is still fuming. On Friday, his opponent, Anthony Caputo Smith, may be the recipient of his wrath.
“I feel very confident in my mind and my heart that there is nothing that he has that can hurt me,” Ferrante said. “He’s not a big puncher. He’s not fast. And I really don’t think the weight he’s putting on for this fight is going to be beneficial to him in this fight. Whatever he has in his arsenal, I have an answer for everything.”
Ferrante is a good puncher who is stronger and more comfortable than ever, now that he’s moved up to the 200-pound division. His tales of horror about making the light heavyweight limit are local legend. So after losing tough back to back decisions to Omar Sheika and Dhafir Smith, Ferrante left the light heavyweights for good and allowed his body to take its natural form as a cruiserweight.
“Oh my God,” Ferrante said. “The things I had to do to make that weight, I would not wish that on my worst enemy. It was horrible.”
Now he’s feeling strong and comfortable, and can even eat meals during fight week. That was not the case before moving up, when Ferrante was forced to starve and dehydrate himself to even get close to 175.
Kennett Square, PA’s Anthony Caputo Smith is a soft-spoken guy outside the ring. He’s approached his fight with Ferrante in his usual quiet way. However, the former PA state light heavyweight champ always comes to fight and figures to go right at Ferrante on Friday night.
“I like it (fighting in Chester), because the fans can come,” Caputo Smith said. “This fight is special because he’s a tough guy, and this is going to be a war. I’m promising a war.”
Caputo Smith washed out in his last fight, a scheduled 10-rounder against undefeated Sean Monahan in Las Vegas. After a good first round, he walked into a big punch in round two and never recovered. The bout ended in round three, but Caputo Smith was still on his feet.
Caputo Smith said himself that his fight with Monahan, or at least the event – a slot on the big Bradley-Marquez PPV broadcast – may have been too big for him to deal with. It was his first trip to Vegas, and all during fight week Caputo Smith’s eyes were as big as saucers. Apparently he carried that numbness right into the ring with him.
However back in Chester, Smith should feel right at home. He’ll be backed by his sizeable fan base, who always comes out in legion. In addition, when he faces Ferrante, Smith will be standing in the same ring where he defeated Dhafir Smith for the PA 175-pound title. That was probably his best career win. So he too should be feeling good on fight night.
The styles of both fighters indicate that when the bell rings, a collision is certain to follow. And the stakes of the fight – the belt, the fighters’ pride, the expectations of their respective fans bases, and career momentum – confirm that this is a fight to see.
“I know it’s only January, but this is going to be the fight of the year,” said promoter Joey Eye.
Playing up the Italian ancestry of both fighters and their inevitable comparisons to the movie hero “Rocky”, promoter Joey Eye fashioned an Italian Stallion-style photo op at the press conference for the fight. Both Ferrante and Caputo took turns pounding a side of beef at a local butcher shop in South Philly’s Italian Market. The stunt demonstrated Eye’s flair for showmanship, and helped to peak interest for this battle between two very popular local fighters.
“Tony Ferrante and Tony Caputo Smith are two of the nicest guys you’ll ever meet in boxing,” said Executive Director Greg Sirb. “And I’m really looking forward to this fight.”
The main supporting bout is an equally interesting lightweight fight between Naim Nelson and Christian Steele, scheduled for 8 rounds.
Nelson, 10-0, 1 KO, has been idle due to injury since last March, which slowed a nice roll of activity that he had going since stepping up and defeating veteran Victor Vasquez in 2012. That win proved Nelson to be a fighter with a future, showing both poise and skill against a battle-tested warrior. The win earned Nelson the PA state lightweight championship, but after two additional mature 8-round victories (over Osnel Charles and Georgi Kevlishvili), Nelson injured a knuckle, and it kept him from hitting everything except air.
Now that he’s healthy, Nelson is ready to go.
“First fight in ten and a half months,” Nelson said. “I’m feeling pretty good. I never really stayed out of the gym. I was in the gym, stayed on top of my running. Obviously I couldn’t punch, but now I’m back and I’m ready to go. Boxing is my passion, and I’m ecstatic to get back in there.”
Christian Steele, 4-7-2, 1 KO, doesn’t have the record to match Nelson’s undefeated resume, but he looked quite strong in his last outing one month ago. In that bout, Steele beat previously undefeated Lonnie Jackson, Jr. by six-round decision.
In his three year pro career, Steele has fought many excellent opponents including Jose Peralta, Tyrone Crawley Jr., and a total of seven undefeated opponents. So he is better than the story that his record tells.
“My job is to fight,” Steele said. “Give me the game plan and I go with it. I’m feeling great about this fight. I’m ready. I’m always ready. I like to stay busy, that’s how you stay sharp.”
In another 8-rounder, Philly featherweight Tevin Farmer, 14-4-1, 3 KOs, faces Noel Echevarria, 11-4, 6 KOs, a Puerto Rican who now lives in North Carolina. Farmer was a busy bee in 2013. He fought seven times during the year and transformed himself into an emerging prospect. During the streak, he beat club-fight kings Victor Vasquez and Carlos Vinan, both of whom had far more experience that Farmer.
But it didn’t matter. Farmer stopped them both.
Tevin starts 2014 against Echevarria, who brings a good-looking record and a far higher knockout percentage into Chester. However, if you look close at the details, Farmer’s experience is much better. That suggests Tevin will register his 8th straight “W”. Either way, he’s always fun to watch.
Five additional bouts are currently slated to fill out the remainder of the show. The bouts feature Derrick Webster, Anthony Prescott, Robert Irizarry, Jarrell Miller, and middleweight import Ievgen Khytrov in his second pro bout.
The first bell rings at 7:30PM.
To read more about the Philly fight scene – past and present – please visit www.phillyboxinghistory.com.