By Kurt Wolfheimer
Photos: Kathryn Warburton
Thursday night at the Sands Casino in Bethlehem, PA, hometown welterweight star, Ronald Cruz (19-2, 14 KOs) was put to the test for the first time in his comeback, before pulling out a thrilling tenth round knockout of feisty slugger Alberto Morales (11-3-1, 8 KOs) in the ten round main event of the evening. The seven bout card promoted by J. Russell Peltz’s Peltz Boxing Promotions, BAM Boxing & Legends of Boxing. it was a night to celebrate some of Boxing’s greatest fighters yesteryear that have graced the squared circle. The legends present included six division world champion Tommy “the Hitman” Hearns, former world heavyweight champion Larry “The Easton Assassin” Holmes, and heavyweight world title challengers “Gentleman” Gerry Cooney and Ernie “Acorn” Shavers.
It looked to be another step on his way back to getting back on the national scene for Ronald Cruz as he faced heavy handed thirteen fight veteran Alberto Morales, who had produced eight knockouts in his eleven victories.
Cruz, normally a slow starter, came out snapping hard jabs out top and a he picking his spots to land to both the head and body. Morales was eager to go and was swinging away in the opening three minutes, even though Cruz avoided many of them.
Cruz went on the retreat in the third as Morales continued to press with wild flurries. In a bad sign, Cruz found himself constantly on the ropes in rounds three and four, ducking and avoiding many of Morales’ wild swings. Though Cruz avoided most before countering, it looked like the rounds were getting hard to call as Morales seemed to be the consistent aggressor.
It changed a bit in rounds six through eight as Cruz started to impose his will with heavy single shots. Late in the seventh, Cruz banged a hard straight right up top and followed it up with a heavy combination which forced Morales to clinch. Cruz continued the onslaught with solid shots and had Morales retreating. Cruz continued to methodically swing away with hard timed shots as the round came to a close.
Morales changed the tide in early the eighth with a wild four punch combination. Cruz would not back down and pushed his opponent back with a few hard right hands that had Morales bleeding from the nose. Morales seemed to be angered and went on the attack with several stinging rights that caught Cruz by surprise.
The ninth round was again back and forth with each fighter having their moments as the crowd went wild from the back and forth action. Cruz looked tired and he was switching back into the southpaw stance to confuse Morales as the round came to a close.
The fight appeared to be close entering the tenth and final round and each fighter looked tense in their corners. Morales’s confidence was high as he looking for the big shot while backing up Cruz with wild swings. Just when it seemed like Morales would find the big shot, a Cruz counter right stunned stunned him and he went on the retreat. Cruz would not give him a moments rest, finally dropping Morales on his back in the corner with a hard right up top. Morales went on the retreat again, but a Cruz uppercut caught him again. Morales was in dire straits, as he swung away in a desperate attempt to slow the Cruz attack before clinching. Cruz continued the assault, which had Morales stunned and desperately trying to clinch. Cruz found his mark with a huge right on the temple and Alberto Morales collapsed face first to the canvas. Referee Gary Rosato immediately waived the fight off giving Ronald Cruz the much needed knockout victory at the 1:29 mark of the tenth and final round. Hall of fame Promoter, Russell Peltz seemed to regain the youth of his younger years as he jumped for joy after the explosive knockout.
It was learned just how close the fight was going into the tenth, moments after the victory was announced. One judge had it 86-85 for Morales while the other two officials had it 86-85 for Cruz heading into the final round.
Though Cruz’s hand was raised in victory, much to the delight of the hometown crowd, he was not happy about his performance. “I am much better than what I showed in this fight,” said Cruz. “I really should have listened to my corner more. They were telling me all the right things to do and I wasn’t doing them. I got to get that mentality out of my head that “I am going to catch this guy. I am going to catch this guy” I just need to go out there and do my job like I did in that last round. “
Rising junior lightweight Jason Sosa upped his record to 10-1-3, 6 KOs with a devastating second knockout of dangerous southpaw, Tyrone Luckey (5-4-1, 5 KOs).
Sosa controlled the fight right from the opening bell, finding his punching range quickly with a good mixture of head and body work which had Luckey on the defensive and on the retreat. Sosa hurt him in the closing moments of the opening round with hard right hand and followed up with another good flurry at the ten second mark.
It was more of the same in the second as Sosa methodically mixed his shots that had Luckey on the defensive throughout. A hard right sent lucky to the ropes late and Sosa seized the opportunity with two hellacious body shots. The second body shot, was a snapping right hook that seemed to take everything out of Luckey, who collapsed to his hands and knees in serious pain for the ten count, giving Sosa the knockout victory. The official time of the knockout was 2:58 of the second round.
Jason Sosa is quickly becoming rising star in the junior lightweight division. After two consecutive draws against undefeated lightweight Angel Ocasio, Sosa has reeled off six consecutive victories against very good competition in moving his record to 10-1-3, 6 KOs. Sosa appears to be ready to make his mark on the national scene soon as he rises up the junior lightweight ladder.
In a four round heavyweight swing bout, Dan Pasciola even his record at 1-1 with an unpopular four round unanimous decision victory over local favorite Billy Marks (1-1) of nearby Allentown, PA.
Pasciolla seemed to be the busier fighter, but Marks’s punchers were cleaner and appeared to do the most damage throughout. Billy Marks appeared to be easily ahead on the scorecards when the final bell sounded. Surprisingly, all three judges saw it the other way, by scores of 39-37 x 3 in favor of Tom River New Jersey’s Dan Pasciolla, which elicited a loud chorus of boo’s throughout the venue.
In other heavyweight action on the card, heavy handed Joey Dawejko (8-2-2, 3 KOs) bounced back from just the second loss of his career with a solid six round unanimous decision victory over Kevin Franklin (4-7,2 KOs) by scores of 58-56 x 2 and 60-54 respectively.
Highly touted welterweight prospect Arturo Trujillo (3-0, 1Ko) had to get off the canvas to win an exciting four round unanimous decision slugfest over formerly undefeated Terrell James (1-1).
The Philly bred Terrell James immediately gained the attention of Trujillo in the first round with a big one to combination in the closing moments which had him on the retreat. Trujillo quickly regained his senses and both fighters slugged it out as the round came to an end.
Trujillo was back on his game early in the second as he moved in and out of the pocket, landing a few hard right uppercuts whenever on the inside.
Terrell was game though and pressed forward with wild heavy swings few that found their mark early in the third. Trujillo was stronger and his footwork was better, which allowed him to continue to find his mark with sold combinations and hooks, slowing Terrell’s attack.
It looked like it was going to be a knockout victory for the Talented Arturo Trujillo as he was setting down on some big power shots and James was on the retreat. Trujillo got careless though and dropped his hands as he dug a hook to the body, leaving him wide open for a counter. Terrell saw the opening and banged a right hand on the button that sent the shocked Trujillo to the canvas. It was more of a trip than a knockdown and Trujillo was clear eyed as he rose to his feet. The knockdown seemed to anger him and he popped James’s head up with two heavy straight lefts. Trujillo went for the knockout, landing hard shots. James, to his credit, did not falter and fought back. Trujillo started to tire from the punch output and seeing that James would not go down, went back to boxing safely from the outside to make it to the final bell, capturing the unanimous decision victory by scores of 40-35 x 2 and 39-37 respectively.
Junior welterweight prospect Jerome Rodriguez (6-0-1, 2 KOs) remained undefeated with a harder than expected six round unanimous decision victory over journeyman Juan Serrano (3-8-1, 2 KOs).
Rodriguez, a natural southpaw, appeared to trying new things as he spent most of the opening round boxing out of the orthodox stance. Serrano took advantage of the opportunity and pushed the attack, landing several flush overhand rights in the opening round.
Rodriguez switched back to southpaw in the second and targeted the body when on the inside. Serrano continued to press the attack with many flurries, forcing Rodriguez to box on the retreat.
The fight changed in the third as flurries from Serrano started to lose their steam. Rodriguez pushed forward in the fourth round and hurt his game opponent with a right hand. Rodriguez bounced of several big shots as Serrano covered in the corner before clinching. Once again Rodriguez found the spot for a hard right uppercut that pierced his opponent’s defense. The shot bloodied the nose of Serrano, but he wouldn’t quit and continued to fight back.
Serrano was game in the final two rounds, but the more skilled Rodriguez picked he spots to bang vicious right hands. Serrano’s tank was almost on empty and his punches had lost their steam, but he was able to do enough to outwork Rodriguez in the sixth and final round.
One judge scored it an unbelievable 60-54 while the other two officials had it more respectable at 58-54 x 2 in favor of Jerome Rodriguez, giving him the well-deserved six round unanimous decision victory.
In the opening four round super bantamweight bout of the evening, debuting Chris Diaz looked impressive as he scored a convincing second round knockout of Johnny Portillo (0-2).
Diaz took control in the second with a hard left hook-right hand combo that stunned Portillo who retreated to the ropes. Portillo tried to fight his way out of the corner, but Diaz continued the attack and dropped him with a hard overhand on the temple. Portillo made it to his feet at the count of eight, but another right hand up top returned him to the canvas for the second time. Once again, the valiant Portillo rose to his feet, but it wouldn’t matter as a Diaz crushing straight right sent him crashing to the canvas for the third and final time. The official time of the knockout was 2:36 of the second round.
The card was also the 44th anniversary of Russell Peltz’s foray into the boxing game and he spoke about what keeps him energized about the sport throughout the years. “I just like to make good fights and see a young prospect like Jason Sosa grow until they become impossible to deal with,” chuckled Peltz. You always hope that this is the guy who will listen.”
Peltz also spoke on the status of the fight game today: “In the good old days, it was the Promoters who made the best fights that made the most money. It is not like that today. It is shows like this one that are to get the promoter’s fighter wins and to get them to the next level and on HBO or Showtime. Everybody looks at the Mayweather fight and says the game is healthy, but it is not, especially down at this level. It’s now about how many tickets a fighter sells. Who would have though when I was a kid that you would even give a fighter tickets to sell. In those days you made a good fight and the sporting public came to see a good fight. Promoters need to get back to promoting the fights better to get boxing back to where it needs to be.”
In this writers eyes though, you can see a roots level resurgence beginning to grow. Many of the fans are coming for the entertainment and they are getting to know these fighters and it is up to the promoters and publicists to get their names out there to the mainstream fans.