Story by John Di Santo – Philly Boxing History (.com)
Photos by Gary Purfield
North Philly action hero Victor Vasquez got back into the win column Saturday night in his main event bout with Esteban Rodriguez at Harrah’s Chester. Vasquez used a persistent body attack to maintain control of the 6-round bout, and went on to post a workmanlike unanimous decision win.
Vasquez set the tone with his body work early in the first round and relied on it all night long. The fighters exchanged well in the second round, with Rodriguez surprising Vasquez with a left upper cut, and Victor answering with a strong right.
In round three, Vasquez really began chipping away at his opponent’s chances. Added to his body attack was a recurring one-two combination that seemed to land every time Victor threw it.
In the fourth, Rodriguez landed a snappy right, that had Vasquez wiping his brow and checking his glove for blood. Relieved that he was not cut, Vasquez dug in and flurried at close range. Rodriguez had the better of it in this round, but it would turn out to be the only “10” he earned on my card.
That active fourth round however, seemed to kick the fight up a notch or two. In the final two stanzas, Vasquez turned up the heat and became more generous with the excitement that he seemed to be rationing in the first half of the fight.
The pace of the action became furious with both fighters milling on the inside. Rodriguez held his own, but whirlwind inside fighting is Victor’s game, and he finally looked like the old Vasquez.
Victor took Rodriguez to the ropes with a pair of stiff jabs that punctured Esteban’s high guard. Along the ropes, Vasquez fired away. He kept working the body, but also ripped tough shots right up the middle. Rodriguez just could not match the artillery.
In the final round, the heated two way exchanges continued, but Victor was in the zone now. He finished strongly with a flurry of hard shots, that showed he was in total control, even if he could not seriously hurt Rodriguez. The bell rang and the crowd cheered for more.
Judges Alan Rubenstein, Joe Pasquale and Dewey LaRosa all scored the fight 58-56 for Vasquez. That’s one round closer than I had it (59-55), but in any case, Vasquez, 16-7-1, 7 KOs, was the clear cut winner. Rodriguez lost his second in a row, and fell to 6-5-1, 1 KO.
“I give Esteban a lot of respect,” Vasquez, 16-7-1, 7 KOs, said after the fight. “I didn’t really know much about him. I don’t really study nobody. That’s my trainer’s job. I just get in there and fight.”
Although the fight was a little light on the usual thrills and spills that Vasquez bouts usually provide, it still fit nicely into his body of work and kept his streak alive as the most crowd-pleasing fighter on the local scene.
“I just appreciate the support,” Vasquez said of his rabid fan base. “I’m happy and blessed that I’m pursuing what I love to do. Whether I go all the way or I go nowhere, I can say I did it and I tried. That sums it up.”
Next week, Vasquez turns 30 years old. He looks like a kid, but he’s been in many grueling ring wars. Perhaps he’s beginning to wonder about his future in the sport. The wins are getting tougher and so are the losses. Then again, he’s never won more than five in a row, and the truth is that his fans don’t really care if he wins or loses. Of course they root for him to win, but they know they’ll see a great fight either way.
“Victor Vasquez is a warrior,” said Angel Pizarro, head trainer of Vasquez. “He trains so hard. Until he says ‘close the door’ I’m going to be right by his side.”
So will the fans.
Some have called Vasquez Philly’s answer to Arturo Gatti, a blue collar, blood and guts boxer who draws a crowd regardless of the outcome. Win, lose, or draw, Victor Vasquez gives everything he has to give in the ring. The fans appreciate that, and they show it at the box office. They will be at his side for as long as he continues to fight.
In the semi-final bout, Atlantic City junior middleweight Decarlo Perez, 9-2-1, 3 KOs, won an 8-round unanimous decision over Cleveland’s Dante Moore, 8-1-2, 4 KOs. Perez looked strong over the first half of the fight. His sharp jabs and solid power shots peppered a listless Moore in the first four rounds, and gave him the early lead. But just when it appeared that he would pitch a shutout, Perez started giving ground in the fifth round. With his back against the wall, Moore began to wake up and throw punches in round five. His rally came a little too late to win him the round, but he returned to the fray in the sixth fully engaged in the fight.
With Moore on the attack down the stretch, Perez began to shrink away from the battle, either from fatigue or caution, and allowed his opponent to pull the fight close. Moore swept the last three rounds, and his peppy left hook closed the show, landing in pairs both to the body and the head. However, his surge came a little too late and Moore ran out of rounds just when he seemed to have settled into a groove.
After eight full rounds, Perez had enough of a lead to make the decision go his way. Judges Alan Rubenstein and Dewey LaRosa both scored the fight 77-75, while Joe Pasquale had it 78-74. My card read 77-75, with Perez winning the first five rounds and Moore taking the last three.
In the fight that many felt would be the most closely fought match of the night, Julio DeJesus shocked Ramon Ellis with a crushing right hand that sent him crashing to the canvas in the opening round.
Ellis somehow climbed to his feet in time, and referee Steve Smoger allowed him to continue on wobbly legs. DeJesus, wasting no time, met Ellis in ring center and launched another right hand bomb that cracked Ellis on the jaw, sent his mouthpiece rocketing into the crowd, and deposited the South Philly fighter on the floor once again. Smoger didn’t bother to count this time, and called the fight a KO win for DeJesus of Millville, NJ. The time was 50 seconds.
It was the first knockout victory for DeJesus, 7-3-3, 3 KOs, since 2006, and it was a beauty. Ellis slid to 4-8-2, 2 KOs.
In a four round heavyweight fight, South Philadelphian, John Mercurio remained undefeated with a sloppy 4-round decision over frequent Philly visitor Lonnie Kornegay, of Baltimore. Kornegay cut Mercurio over the left eye in round one, but the cut did not really factor into the fight.
Mercurio won the first round and Kornegay the second. In round three the fight went down an ugly road with both fighters clinching and wrestling as much as referee Shawn Clark would allow. Both fighters repeatedly rushed each other, tied each other up, and used their elbows in the clinches. Mercurio the stronger of the two, had a slight edge in the round.
In the final round, Mercurio kept a bit more distance and used a good jab to control the action. One stiff jab buckled a tiring Kornegay near the bell.
Judges Pasquale and LaRosa gave Mercurio all four rounds (40-36). Alan Rubenstein had it a bit closer (39-37). My score mirrored Rubenstein’s.
Mercurio extended his undefeated streak to 6-0 with 4 KOs. Kornegay lost his fourth in a row and went home 1-8-2, 0 KOs.
North Philly junior featherweight Alex Barbosa, coming off his first career defeat, fought Lancaster, PA’s Arthur Parker to a 4-round draw. All four rounds were close with southpaw Barbosa taking the first and third rounds, and Parker edging the second and fourth. Judges Rubenstein and LaRosa called the fight even, while Pasquale gave Parker the edge, 39-37, making the result a majority draw.
The fight was a rematch of their September meeting, which Barbosa won by close decision at the same venue. The stalemate left Barbosa 4-1-1, 1 KO, and Parker 1-8-1, 1 KO.
Junior middleweight Javontae Starks improved his undefeated record with a powerful performance against Romon Barber. Starkes jumped on his opponent in the first round. A left hook hurt Barber, before a pair of right hands stunned him and another left hook sent him sprawling into the ropes. Referee Shawn Clark called the trip into the ropes a knockdown. Barber survived the onslaught, but Starks finished the job in the following round.
Starks returned to the same combination to finish the fight in the second. He hurt Butler with a left hook, softened him with a couple of rights, and then blasted him with a big left hook. Butler staggered from the attack and the referee stopped the fight at 1:50 of round two.
Starks, of Minneapolis and now part of the D&D Management stable, improved to 6-0, 5 KOs. Barber fell below .500, at 3-4, 2 KOs.
In the first fight of the night, lightweight Tyrone Crawley Jr., son of the former lightweight contender, won his third straight bout (3-0, 0 KOs) with a 4-round unanimous shutout of Benjamin Burgos (1-3, 0 KOs). The North Philly southpaw was busier and more accurate than his opponent. He landed many flashy right hooks and left hand leads, especially in the second round, and dominated Burgos, of Mt Pocono, PA. The three judges all scored the fight 40-36 for Crawley.
The show was promoted by Joey Eye Boxing Promotions and drew a full house of more than 1,000 fans. Eye has been delivering excellent club shows for two years now in Chester. He returns to Harrah’s with another one on April 19th.
For more on the Philly fight scene – past and present – visit www.phillyboxinghistory.com.