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Witherspoon headlines final Philly-area card of 2013

Story and photo by John DiSanto –

Philly’s Tim Witherspoon Jr., the son of the former two-time heavyweight champion, tops the final 2013 boxing show of the Philly area when he takes on kamikaze warrior Josue Rivera in a 6-round welterweight bout at the Marple Sports Arena in Broomall, PA, Saturday night. Five additional bouts, loaded with local talent, fill out the remainder of the Philadelphia-suburb show, about 10 miles from Center City.

The long and lean, 29 year old Witherspoon, 10-3-1, 2 KOs, is cut from a different cloth than his famous boxer-puncher father. More of a slickster, Tim Jr. relies on his jab to out finesse his opponents. Trained by his uncle, Steve Witherspoon, Tim Jr. turned pro in 2005 and went 6-1-1 through last year.

In 2012, Witherspoon split his four fights, 2-2, beating Cassius Clay and John Willoughby, but losing two terrific battles against Tevin Farmer and Ramon Ellis. All four bouts went the limit.

So far this year, Witherspoon has won both of his starts on points. Past fights show that the contests he controls with his boxing ability usually go his way. But the more reckless encounters tend to cause him problems. This may be an issue with Rivera. On Saturday, Witherspoon will do his best to keep the action calm and steady against his dangerous and often wild opponent.

Josue Rivera, 2-3, 2 KOs, proprietor of South Philly’s Warriors Boxing Gym, always enters the ring with a “kill or be killed” attitude, and whether he wins or loses, usually steals the show because of that mindset.

Rivera began his career in 2012 with two straight KO losses that had people thinking he couldn’t make it out of the first round. However this year, Rivera roared back with two unruly KOs of his own that transformed him into a crowd favorite.

In August, Rivera came off the deck in round one to ruin the pro debut of Tyson Maher. His 2nd round TKO before a very pro-Maher crowd was a gutsy, thrilling and memorable win. One month later, Rivera jumped out at the first bell to swarm and stop a come-backing Jesus Barbosa in the opening round. It was club-fighting at its best.

In his most recent fight, Rivera reverted to his old trend, losing by 1st round TKO to Cornelius Whitlock. So the South Philly brawler will be fighting with his back against the wall against Witherspoon, trying to regain his previous momentum. His wild style should give him a puncher’s chance against the more experienced Tim Jr. The fringe XBC welterweight title belt will be on the line.

The rest of the show is filled with more local fighters in good-looking club matches.

The main preliminary bout pits Philly lightweight Lonnie Jackson, Jr., 3-0-1, 1 KO, against Chris Steele, 3-7-2, 1 KO, in another 6-round XBC title fight. Jackson is a brash boxer who stunned the usually rock-solid Travis Thompson this summer with a first round TKO. It was not a surprise that Jackson won, but a real shocker that he easily stopped the rugged journeyman. Jackson returned in October with a 4-round decision over journeyman Josh Beeman.

Steele, of Staunton, VA, has been on a hard-luck run of late, going 0-3-2 in his last five. However, four of those setbacks came against undefeated fighters, and the fifth was against the talented Jose Peralta, then 9-1. Steele will try to use his tougher experience to out-mature Jackson.

In another 6-rounder, Lancaster, PA welterweight Evincii Dixon, 3-3-1, 1 KO, faces undefeated Russian Sukhrab Shidaev, 6-0, 5 KOs. Dixon is better than his record indicates, but it remains to be seen if Shidaev is as good as the story his resume tells. In any case, Dixon should have the chops to test the apparent puncher.

In a 4-round cruiserweight fight, Philadelphia brawler-extraordinaire Brian “Wildman” Donahue, 2-5-2, meets Bristol, PA’s Mike Moore, 0-1, in what figures to be a rowdy encounter. Another XBC belt will be the prize for the winner.

Other 4-rounders include:

Anthony Abbruzzese, of Philadelphia, makes his professional debut against fellow first-timer Allen Burris.

Super middleweights AJ Williams, 0-1, Cockeysville, MD, and Lavon Slade, 0-1, Philadelphia, will try to topple each other for their first professional win.

As is often the case with club shows like these, the players can change at the last minute. Although the top part of the card appears steady, a few of the 4-rounders may see some substitution in the 11th hour, an unfortunate factor with his type of event.

The fights, presented by The Celebrity Team and XBC, are scheduled to begin at 7:30 PM. Tickets are available at the door for $25.


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