Thursday, July 22, 2021

Coffie Poised For HW Run, But First Must Conquer Mount Washington

By Milo Taibi

Native New Yorker and former US Marine Michael Polite-Coffie finds himself in an enviable position. At 35, he doesn’t appear to have a defined ceiling in boxing’s loaded- and lucrative- heavyweight division. 

A member of Marshall Kaufman’s King's Promotions, the former NY Golden Gloves competitor has made the most of his recent appearances on Premier Boxing Champions. A five-round beatdown of Luis Eduardo Pena cemented Coffie’s arrival on the televised boxing scene. Michael followed this appearance with an injury TKO of the grizzled Joey “Minnesota Ice” Abell. 

In February of this year, Coffie made easy work of undefeated Philadelphia heavy Darmani Rock, despite entering the bout entrenched as an underdog. Following the banner victory, Coffie had already strategized his next move. 

“I’d like to test myself against guys like a Gerald Washington, a Dominic Breazeale, a Charles Martin,” Coffie told Keith Idec of Boxing Scene. “I’d like to test myself against those kind of opponents. That would show me if I’m ready for the next step, which would be guys for the belt.”

On Saturday July 31st, Coffie’s wish will be granted in the form of an all-military clash with Gerald Washington. A veteran of the US Navy and former professional football player, Washington brings a wealth of in-ring experience despite entering the sport at a late age. 

The 25-time competitor has faced division stalwarts such as Deontay Wilder, Jarrell “Big Baby” Miller and Adam Kownacki. While he’s had more defeats than successes when stepping up in class, Gerald boasts a July 2019 KO8 of Robert Helenius. It’s a stoppage that’s aged like a fine wine, as the Swede went on to score an "Upset Of The Year" contender of Adam Kownacki in March of 2020.

While Washington and Coffie are comparable in age, the former has considerably more miles on the boxing odometer. Coffie is undefeated through 12 bouts, while “El Gallo Negro” has been stopped four times...all from 2017-onward. Most recently, Washington turned in a sluggish performance against the tricky and hard-hitting southpaw Charles Martin. 

Despite this, if Washington turns up in tip-top shape, he’ll be far and away the biggest test of Coffie’s young professional career. And perhaps after a right hand or two land, Coffie will wish his call-out had been answered by Martin or Dominic Breazeale. 

Elsewhere on the undercard, New Jersey prospect Vito Mielnicki Jr. will have his shot at redemption against Philly’s James Martin. In April, the 18-to-1 underdog Martin decisioned Mielnicki Jr. in stunning fashion on a televised card. 

PBC prospect Joey Spencer will also be in action, taking on the 13-fight veteran Dan Karpency. Spencer, coming off a KO1 of Isiah Seldon, will no doubt look to be the first to finish Karpency.

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Wednesday, July 21, 2021

Remembering a Philly Hero

In 1976, the movie Rocky hit the big screen and a hero was born. The film showed the heart and soul of Philadelphia pride, the personification of the underdog who could show the world he was so much more. A fighter who worked hard until the very end, and with a bit of dreaming and a lot of heart, goes the distance in a fight and wins in life. The thing is that the hero representing these noble values in that movie was the cinematic depiction of a real man. This man was a true hero of boxing, who was the heavyweight champion, and represented Philadelphia in the ring. He showed the world what hard work, dedication, and Philly heart is all about. 

This man is the late “Smokin” Joe Frazier. Frazier was the greatest heavyweight to fight out of Philadelphia. Check out his record of 37 fights, of which he won 32 -- 27 by knock out! In 1970, Frazier won the heavyweight title by fighting Jimmy Ellis, who he knocked down twice in the fourth round, something that had never happened before in Ellis’ career. Frazier became the World Boxing Association (WBA) Heavyweight Champion and kept his title until 1973. 

During his reign as champion, Frazier stepped into the ring with Muhammad Ali in 1971. Ali returned to the ring after a three-year absence, his boxing license having been revoked for his refusal to be drafted into the Army during the Vietnam War. Ali used psychological warfare (which he was great at) to push Frazier to the edge, but what he really was doing was trying to hype the fight and get in Joe’s head, as he did with all of his opponents going back to Sonny Liston in the 60’s. On the night of their fight, it was skill, will, and hatred, at least on Joe’s part, that made for what was simply called "The Fight of the Century.” 

Joe Frazier looked like a machine designed to do nothing but fight that night. In the eleventh round, he hurt Ali badly, and I won’t spoil the round for you but keep an eye out, because at one point Joe Frazier knocked Ali down with a great left hook that left Ali's jaw looking like he was trying to harbor a baseball in his mouth. 

At the end of the night, Frazier won a unanimous decision, becoming the first man to ever beat the self-proclaimed “greatest of all time”, Muhammad Ali. Frazier eventually lost his title to George Foreman, one of, if not, the hardest puncher in boxing history, in a fight that only lasted a few rounds. He went on to lose two rematches with Muhammad Ali including the “Thrilla in Manila", but their fights were arguably the most epic trilogy of fights in heavyweight boxing history. 

With all his accomplishments, Frazier should have gotten so much respect in the boxing world, especially in Philadelphia. Sadly, only after Frazier’s death were there plans made to erect a statue in his honor. An almost eerie irony is that the sculptor chosen to create the statue, Larry Nowlan, died at age 48 shortly after he was given the assignment. Then there was then back and forth drama over Joe Frazier’s gym. Last I checked the gym was purchased by Broad Enterprises Group L.L.C. in 2011, and was then leased to a discount furniture store that now appears to be closed. After efforts from preservationists and local politicians, Joe Frazier's Gym was added to the National Register of Historic Places in April 2013. In April 2018, a portion of Glenwood Avenue near the gym was named "Smokin' Joe Frazier Boulevard". 

Frazier has two legacies. First, he is a great example that hard work and passion are not always recognized and rewarded like they should be in life. The other legacy, the one I want to remember Joe Frazier for, is he was not only what Philly boxing and sports is all about, but he was what a fighter in life is all about. He was an exceedingly kind and respectful man, but the night he faced Ali, he showed how dangerous he could be. Joe Frazier is a reminder that when life gives you big challenges take everything you have and knock them down. 

There are a number of reasons why, at times, Frazier gets overlooked by sports fans outside of the world of boxing. Joe had a feud with one of the most beloved athletes (not just boxers) of all time. Muhammad Ali was named the “Sportsman of the Century” back in 1999 by Sports illustrated. So, it is not a huge surprise Joe never got recognition of Ali (most athletes never did or will). 
 
I would suggest watching the documentary “Thrilla in Manilla”. This film does a good job of telling Joe’s side of the story during the epic trilogy and feud with Ali. It also tells Joe’s story in a way where you see he was a great and humble guy, who not just carved out a niche for himself in boxing, he knocked down the door of boxing immortality with his left hook. 

What happened to the legacy of Smokin’ Joe is terribly disappointing. The fact that the statue of Rocky Balboa, which appeared in the third and fifth Rocky movies, is perceived as a symbol of Philadelphia’s heart is not a disgrace, it just leaves out the story of one of the greats in heavyweight history in his own city. A statue of Joe Frazier should have been erected prior to the great champion’s death. The next time you are in Philadelphia, remember to check out Joe Frazier’s statue at the Xfinity Live! in South Philly in addition to the Rocky statue, both are well worth a visit. 

I think Joe Frazier should have gotten a lot more love in the city that prides itself on brotherly love. To the boxing public that knows anything about great heavyweights, Joe Frazier is a name that always comes up. Randall “Tex” Cobb (the heavyweight contender that made Howard Cosell quit boxing on air after watching him take an unnecessary beating for an entire fight against then champion Larry Holmes) was a guy who wanted to learn how to fight. As the story goes, he took a bus to Philadelphia from Texas. When he got off the bus, he saw two guys, who he referred to as “two winos” or something like that, start fighting. When Cobb saw they were throwing perfect left hooks, he thought to himself, I came to the right place. In the land of great left hooks, Joe Frazier had the greatest left hook of anyone from Philadelphia and certainly one of the best in all of boxing history.

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Monday, July 19, 2021

WWE Money in the Bank 2021

By Steve Ward

With the exception of this year’s Wrestlemania back in April, WWE finally put an end to the Dystopian Era (defined by them as their time spent in the Thunderdome) this past Friday on Smackdown as fans were finally welcomed back - over a year after AEW had already done so. That brings us to tonight where WWE emanated from Dickies Arena in Fort Worth, TX as they hosted Money in the Bank. WWE may actually be starting to feel some pressure from AEW as tonight’s card was one of their better, at least on paper, in recent memory. The event was headlined by two Money in the Bank ladder matches, as well as, Roman Reigns versus Edge for the Tribal Chief’s Universal Championship.

Women’s Money in the Bank Ladder Match

Alexa Bliss vs. Liv Morgan vs. Nikki A.S.H. vs. Natalya vs. Tamina vs. Zelina Vega vs. Naomi vs. Asuka

Winner: Nikki A.S.H.

In one of the most landscape-defining matches WWE holds each year, eight women entered the ring with the Money in the Bank briefcase suspended above the ring. For those unfamiliar with this match, the first participant to scale a ladder and retrieve the briefcase would earn the ability to challenge for any world title over the course of the next year. This bout seemed rather abrupt as far as these matches go historically and it was devoid of any significant death-defying spots. The closing moments saw Alexa Bliss taken down at ringside and subsequently buried with eight ladders by the other competitors. The remaining seven women then proceeded to stage three ladders in the center of the ring as all of them made their way to the top. As the infighting ensued, Nikki climbed the center ladder unnoticed and removed the briefcase without resistance.

RAW Tag Team Championship

A.J. Styles & Omos (c) vs. The Viking Raiders

Winners: A.J. Styles & Omos via pinfall

Following their decimation of The New Day back at Wrestlemania, A.J. Styles and Omos have maintained their reign over the RAW Tag Team Division. Their challengers this evening, The Viking Raiders, the former tag team champions still seeking to regain their footing following the return of Ivar from a lengthy injury absence. The Viking Raiders seemed poised to pull off the upset until they ran into the 7’3” Omos. Erik propelled himself off of the ropes thinking he would be able to mount some form of offense against the towering Omos…well he was mistaken as Omos grabbed him by the head, hoisted him up in the air, and slammed him to the canvas setting up the easy pinfall.

WWE World Championship

Bobby Lashley w/ MVP vs. Kofi Kingston

Winner: Bobby Lashley via submission

Kofi Kingston was absolutely zero competition for the champion as he constantly found himself being tossed around the ring and manhandled like a rag doll. Lashley finally put an end to this one-sided affair as he cinched in the Hurt Lock for the submission victory.

RAW Women’s Championship

Charlotte Flair vs. Rhea Ripley (c)

Winner: Charlotte Flair via submission

After their championship encounter at last month’s Hell in a Cell pay-per-view ended in Ripley getting herself disqualified, these two ladies again found themselves toe-to-toe with championship gold on the line. The Queen reclaimed her spot atop the Women’s Division this evening as she was in vintage form. The beginning of the end for Ripley began after Flair executed the Natural Selection from the top rope. Moments later, she trapped Ripley’s leg in between the steel ring stairs and ring post where she kicked the stairs to deliver a devastating blow to the champion’s knee. This opened the window for Flair to execute the Figure Eight as she captured the RAW Women’s Championship.

WWE Men’s Money in the Bank Match

John Morrison vs. Seth Rollins vs. Shinsuke Nakamura vs. Big E vs. Ricochet vs. Drew McIntyre vs. Riddle vs. Kevin Owens

Winner: Big E

After the women’s match kicked off the show, it was now the men’s turn to determine who would walk away with an opportunity to challenge the champion of their choosing for the next year. Halfway through the match, Drew McIntyre appeared poised to capture the briefcase until Jinder Mahal, with Veer and Shanky in tow, made their way to the ring, ambushed Drew, and dragged him backstage. In the closing moments of the match, Seth Rollins ascended to the top of the ladder after he propelled Kevin Owens out of the ring breaking him, and a ladder, in half. As Rollins reached for the briefcase, Big E climbed up behind him and executed the Big Ending dropping him to the canvas. Big E then quickly climbed up the ladder to retrieve the briefcase.

WWE Universal Championship Match

Roman Reigns w/ Paul Heyman vs. Edge

Winner: Roman Reigns via pinfall

After Edge won the Royal Rumble, his championship opportunity turned into a triple threat affair as Daniel Bryan was inserted into the match - an action which essentially may have been the determining factor in his loss. Following several weeks away from Smackdown, Edge returned to challenge The Tribal Chief for his title in a singles match. Roman Reigns controlled much of the early portion of this bout as he attempted to slow Edge down with several submission holds as he imposed his will. This strategy worked well until Edge regained momentum with the Edgecution just moments before he speared Reigns through the ringside barrier.

The action then returned to the ring where Reigns managed to execute a Superman Punch that propelled Edge into referee Charles Robinson leaving no referee. With no referee present, Edge proceeded to cinch in a crossface with the use of a chair leg. The Usos attempted to put an end to this, however, their interference attempt was thwarted by the Mysterios. Next, Seth Rollins made his way into the ring and delivered a kick to the head of Edge which broke the crossface. Edge again overcame adversity and delivered a spear to Reigns, however, there was not referee to count the pinfall. A referee finally made his way to the ring but was only able to count to two.

As Edge sized up Reigns for another spear, Rollins again climbed up to the ring apron which caused enough of a distraction for Roman to recover and deliver a spear of his own to secure the retention of his title. Following the match, Rollins and Edge engaged in another brawl that spilled into the crowd leaving Reigns and Paul Heyman alone in the ring. As Reigns proceeded to address the crowd, he was interrupted by the return of John Cena clearly setting up their rumored showdown for Summerslam.

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Monday, July 5, 2021

The Willie Pep & Sandy Saddler of Our Time

By Mike I.

Many people may claim to be the biggest boxing fans, and still have never heard of these two great feather weights Willie Pep and Sandy Saddler. Known as the folkloric moniker “Will o’ the Wisp,” Pep was involved in a situation that became boxing folklore type of situation when he won a round of boxing without throwing a single punch. It has been disputed throughout the years, and probably always will be, seeing how Roy Jones Jr. in the fourth round of his fight with Vinny Paz became the first fighter in (CompuBox) history to go an entire round without being hit by his opponent. Pazienza was credited with throwing five punches and landing zero. No matter the case, if there was ever a boxer besides Jones who could have possibly went a whole round without getting hit even once, it was Pep.

Pep faced off with Sandy Saddler, the perfect boxer to offset such a slickster Like Pep, with an impressive record that included 104 knockouts in 145 fights. The “Tommy Hearns of the featherweights,” standing at around 5’10 and always weighing in for his fights at 126 pounds, the lanky and wiry Saddler was the worst nightmare to any of the great featherweights of his day. These two men fought a total of four bouts, match ups that were a sight to behold. Pep put his amazing speed and ring generalship on display, while Saddler stalked and hunted his opponent down with a vicious jab and that right hand “from hell.” They were not above taking it to a dirty level in the ring either. Their fourth and final fight was called “one of the dirtiest fights in history,” with both men not simply hitting low, but stepping on feet and tripping and wrestling each other to the ground.

If you want to see two great little men show skill, guts, and put on just one hell of a show for you in the ring, find some footage on those fights. I say that because if you want to see the closest thing to that style match up, at least in my opinion, you want to see Gervonta Davis, the newly crowned WBA junior welterweight champ, take on the recent comeback star Vasyl Lomachenko.

Arguably, outside of Manny Pacquiao, Davis seems to be the biggest puncher in all of boxing right now. He just jumped two weights classes and KO’d a much naturally bigger man, Mario Barrios, for the title. Davis has a punch to be reckoned with, and much like Sandy Saddler, he is a force to be reckoned with. For a smaller fighter, he has punching power and boxing ability, even though he lacks the Hearns/Saddler frame. He still packs a great shot in the more compacted container of 5’6, and in the weight classes under welterweight. 

His potential opponent Lomachenko is possibly the closest thing to Willie Pep in this generation. Lomachenko just knocked out Masayoshi Nakatani in their fight, much like Davis did to his opponent.  Nakatani is a wiry boxer, like Saddler, and Lomachenko KO’d him.

Now the question must asked, can Lomachenko beat a man with the power of Saddler? Davis clearly has the power even though he does not have the frame. Lomachenko has the speed and type of ring generalship Pep had. I say that because Pep would do bizarre things in the ring and still get away with them because of his grace and speed. These “bizarre things” included grabbing an opponent by the wrist (they had gloves with the thumb free back then), and pulling the opponent towards him while hitting him with the same hand right before dogging underneath and getting out of the way of a counter punch.

In Pep’s folkloric cult classic fight that he won a round of boxing without throwing a punch, Pep allegedly wound up behind his opponent, tapped him on the shoulder, and said, “Here I am pal.”

If there is one guy people could see having the same type of style, one in which a fighter makes his opponent feel like he is surrounding him all by himself, it is Lomachenko. He was given the moniker “the Matrix” for his ability to be in front of his opponent, and then seem like he is just teleporting into another position around them.

Also, like Pep was in the fights with Saddler, Lomachenko will be the matador of a show down with Davis. He has no power compared to Davis, like Pep had no power compared to Saddler.

Although, I do not see a matchup out there that would come closer to Pep vs. Saddler, Davis’ great jab and boxing ability coupled with his unbelievable power against Lomachenko’s speed and awkward, and unique style of swarming an opponent from all angles would come close to these legendary fights.

Davis is the perfect bull for the matador Lomachenko, as although he could KO him with one shot and yet he will have to show his other great talents and boxing skills to land against such an elusive and tricky opponent. Lomachenko it seems from his recent victory that he learned from the Lopez fight about how to deal with a bigger puncher. With Davis he would be learning how to deal with a huge puncher, who also has amazing reflexes and style. This fight is interesting to see if Lomachenko, like Pep, is great enough to learn during his fights and pull-out wins, rather than just learning from a defeat.

If this matchup has the potential that I think it does, we as fans would want to see Davis and Lomachenko have four matchups just like Pep and Saddler did. Davis and Lomachenko are the same quality of athletes as Pep and Saddler not only in style, but in their willingness to want to be the best. So, even though styles make fights, great competitors who bring more than talent to the table make even better fights at times. Pep and Saddler sure did for their era, and I can only hope Lomachenko and Davis do the same for modern times. The boxing world should crave this fight the way a person who hasn’t eaten in days wants a four-course meal.

Some fans may ask what about a Lomachenko vs. Teofimo Lopez rematch? Well, that is going to happen sooner than later as Lomachenko said, “I want people to remember my name I fight for this, I fight for legacy.”

Davis and Lomachenko are the kind of guys who are throwbacks to when fighters were not just hungry for fast fame and fortune, but proud about what they did over the course their careers. 

Willie Pep

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Sunday, June 27, 2021

Unfinished Business with the Pittsburgh Kid

By Mike I.

Unless you are a very casual boxing fan or a huge fan of Logan Paul’s, no one was shocked Floyd Mayweather beat him easily in their recent bout. However, any hardcore boxing enthusiast, loyal to boxing was shocked he didn’t knock him out in two or three rounds.

It can be debated that Floyd is getting older, or Paul was so much bigger and younger, despite being completely out matched experience wise. No matter the circumstance, there is no other reason Floyd did not destroy Paul other than he just carried him for multiple rounds. Many could say there are all kinds of reasons for that, but in the end, that seems to be what he happened in this bout.

There is literally video of Mayweather hitting Paul and holding him up to keep him from hitting the canvas. What may be the real reason that Floyd looked like a king cobra playing with a little mouse instead of looking like a Jack Russell Terrier viciously nipping away at an awkward and confused St. Bernard is simple:  Paul was just no challenge for the greatness of Floyd.

This bout looked more like a glorified sparring session than a bout of any quality. Although it looked like a sparring match with Paul, there was an actual sparring match years ago with another Paul. That Paul is Paul Spadafora. Known as “The Pittsburgh Kid,” his roots in the tough fight city of Pittsburgh was where Spadafora became one of the purest boxers of Floyd’s time.

Spadafora is the one fighter who would be a challenge for Floyd. Spadafora was one of the true greats of Floyd’s time, and whipped him handily in a sparring session some time back. That sparring session was recorded and the footage leaked on the internet. This footage made the boxing world curious, as it was rumored the Floyd camp was even interested in giving Paul a shot at him to set the record straight about who the better fighter was.

Unfortunately, Spadafora had multiple problems outside the ring, and to promoters and matchmakers, the fight must have seemed like too much of a risk as the contest never happened. Now Spadafora is in boxing exile.

For anyone saying, “Well that was just a sparring session,” or, “Floyd was out of shape for that session,” I respond with this: Floyd is never out of shape, and there was a rumor that Floyd said this sparring session made him commit to never be out of shape again. So, if there is nothing to fear now and he is always in shape, what does he have to worry about now?

Some may ask why Floyd would risk his undefeated record for a guy who blew his chance with Floyd years ago because of his bad behavior outside of the ring. The simple answer is it is not worth it. Yet, Floyd is a special athlete, and I think for him there can be special rules in place for a potential matchup between Spadafora and Mayweather. Seeing how Floyd breaks the rules all the time with these crossover fights, who is to say what the rules need to be right?

My proposed rule for a decision in a potential showdown with Spadafora is if by some chance Floyd loses to Spadafora, the loss will be expunged from his record. This would make it worth Floyd’s time to even consider a guy who is a risk in more ways than one. I’m confident Floyd would have his hands full with Spadafora. The main thing that makes this interesting is the footage of Spadafora beating Mayweather up round after round in that sparring session years ago.

To be clear, I am not mad that Floyd is making a mockery or circus out of boxing. Boxing has always been a bit of a circus and has always had crazy circumstances around it. Jack Dempsey, arguably one of the most famous boxers in history, went around the country to bars and asked owners to let him fight the troublemakers in the bar simply for a steak dinner and some whiskey in return. It is hard to think Floyd is doing something to diminish the respectability of boxing. As Mike Tyson said about the bout on Logan Paul’s podcast, “How low could boxing go? Boxing can only go up. You can’t take it any lower.”

I agree with Mr. Tyson. Boxing can only go up, and one way for that to happen would be a fight between Floyd and a respectable fighter who Roy Jones started fighting after a comeback to the ring, Paul Spadafora. To paraphrase Mr. Tyson in that same Logan Paul podcast interview, he said things like crossover matches can broaden the public’s horizons about boxing, and it can show the sport as a skillful art form.

Now that Floyd has maybe done that with this last bout, maybe he could take it even one step further and show people the real art boxing is and bring the guy who is the other true pure boxer of his time to the main stage with him, so they can show the world in style the real beauty of the craft. However, if he continues to literally carry opponents like he did with Logan Paul, then I don’t see how he is showing the public the beautiful side of boxing. Maybe that is just me though.

Another point for a Mayweather vs. Spadafora fight is that it would be a dream come true Spadafora, and Floyd would be giving the mainstream public and hardcore boxing fans alike a great show. Spadafora, who has the potential to be a modern-day “Cinderella Man” with a victory, has a history worth looking into. After losing his father at a young age, having a mother who really wasn’t able to support him, and having multiple alleged problems with drugs alcohol and with the law, Spadafora was still one of the most talented, yet unrecognized fighters of Floyd’s time. If there is one thing boxing fans love more than a great match up between two greats, they love a great comeback story. That comeback story potential is there for Spadafora, who is a walking, talking comeback story.

That being stated, if there is nothing to fear now that Floyd is always in shape, and we have this special rule for Floyd remaining officially undefeated despite the outcome, what does he have to worry about?

Boxing fans just want to see the guy who may have quite literally whipped Floyd into shape for the rest of his career, and they want to see how much of a fluke that really was. I will tell you this:  Even if it wasn’t a fluke, Floyd adjusts in the middle of rounds and throughout fights. He has one of the highest ring IQs of all-time, so no matter what, Spadafora will have the fight of his life on his hands against Floyd.

In closing, I urge Floyd to give boxing fans one last show in a fight against the one guy of his era who needs a shot more than ever. That will give us the type of fight worth paying the money people put out for the Logan Paul fight. 

Paul Spadafora (Photo Courtesy of BoxRec)

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Monday, June 21, 2021

WWE Hell in a Cell 2021

By Steve Ward

WWE emanated, once again, from the Thunderdome within the confines of the Yuengling Center on the campus of the University of South Florida as they push on with their Dystopian Era. Thankfully the WWE has announced they are returning to the road next month with actual people in attendance but it still demonstrates questionable decisions on their part as AEW has successfully, and safely, hosted fans for over a year in nearby Jacksonville while progressing to full attendance with their pay per view last month. This has all occurred while Vince McMahon has been moving forward with budget cuts in the form of mass talent releases - including stars Braun Strowman and Aleister Black. 

Now onto the evening’s card…while this show always brings a glimmer of hope to me that we will be treated to a Hell in a Cell match that will make a valiant attempt to pay homage to The Undertaker vs. Mankind from way back in 1998, I am sadly disappointed time and time again. Perhaps it’s the PG rating they’ve carried for several years now or even the talent they book for these matches who couldn’t lace the boots of the Dead Man or Foley. Nonetheless, this evening’s card only featured six bout and showcased two Hell in a Cell Matches with blatant omissions of some of their top tier stars such as Randy Orton, AJ Styles, Rey Mysterio, Jeff Hardy, and Roman Reigns.

Smackdown Women’s Championship Hell in a Cell Match

Bayley vs. Bianca Belair (c)

Winner: Bianca Belair via pinfall

The main card kicked off this evening with the squared circle encompassed by the ominous Hell in a Cell structure as Bianca Belair defended her Smackdown Women’s Championship against former champion, Bayley. This match didn’t exactly have the effect that the bookers for the event intended, I would presume, as the fans lining the arena on the TV screens seemed mostly disengaged while the cell was barely used in this contest and fake crowd noise was clearly filtered in at the conclusion of the match after Belair mercifully finished Bayley off with the Kiss of Death (her version of the Death Valley Driver) onto a ladder.

Cesaro vs. Seth Rollins

Winner: Seth Rollins

The next chapter in the rivalry between these two combatants, one that really built momentum with Cesaro’s huge victory over Rollins at Wrestlemania, was written this evening following weeks of endless ridicule directed at the Swiss Superman. This bout wasted no time getting off the ground as Rollins jumped Cesaro during his entrance and a brawl ensued that spilled down to the ring. Rollins appeared to be in dire straits late in this bout as Cesaro was beginning to systematically break him down with a series of submission holds - specifically the Sharpshooter and Crossface - after he executed the Cesaro Swing. As Cesaro was about to attempt to cinch in another Sharpshooter, Rollins rolled him up out of nowhere for the shocking pinfall victory.

Shayna Baszler w/ Nia Jax & Reginald vs. Alexa Bliss

Winner: Alexa Bliss via pinfall

Since “The Fiend” Bray Wyatt has been held off of TV for several weeks now, Alexa Bliss has assumed his role so to speak and has targeted The Queen of Spades recently leading to their showdown this evening. Under normal circumstances, this could have been a phenomenal match, however, WWE continues to push the envelope with the theatrics surrounding Alexa Bliss’ current character. After she used some “mind control” tactics on both Baszler and Jax, Bliss finally finished off Baszler with the Twisted Bliss for the win.

Sami Zayn vs. Kevin Owens

Winner: Sami Zayn via pinfall

Is it just me or does it seem like every time WWE creative has no idea what to do with Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn, they book them in another program together? Well this appears to be the case once again as they‘ve found themselves embroiled in yet another feud. This match evolved after Zayn cost Owens his match with Apollo Crews’ muscle, Commander Azeez, on Friday Night Smackdown which left him at the receiving end of the Nigerian Nail. After selling his “throat injury” from Friday night and seemingly injuring his shoulder at the hands of Zayn this evening, Owens only real offense mounted was in the form of a Stunner on the arena floor. Aside from that, Zayn controlled the tempo of this entire bout before he finally solidified his victory with the Helluva Kick.

RAW Women’s Championship

Charlotte Flair vs. Rhea Ripley (c)

Winner: Charlotte Flair via disqualification

Charlotte’s quest to ascend to the top of the Women’s Division once again continued this evening as she finally found her way into a singles bout with the reigning champion, Rhea Ripley. Charlotte tactfully targeted the knee of Ripley for the duration of the match by utilizing the steel ring stairs and a figure four leg lock seemingly positioning herself for an eventual attempt at the Figure Eight. This match met its abrupt end as the action spilled out of the ring where Ripley used the cover of the announcer’s table to strike Flair in the face leading to her disqualification. As we all know, this means Charlotte was awarded the match, however, the title cannot change hands in this situation.

WWE Championship Hell in a Cell Match

Bobby Lashley (c) w/ MVP vs. Drew McIntyre

Winner: Bobby Lashley via pinfall

Another chapter…perhaps the final chapter…would be written into the rivalry between WWE Champion Bobby Lashley and former champ, Drew McIntyre, this evening. Not only was this bout contested in the ominous Hell in a Cell, but also held the stipulation where McIntyre would never be able to challenge for the title again as long as Lashley holds it in the event he were to lose. Late in the match, McIntyre turned the tide of the contest after an onslaught of kendo stick shots at the hands of Lashley with the use of a steel chair. Unfortunately for Drew, he inadvertently took out the referee with the aforementioned chair before he took out Lashley with a Future Shock DDT. 

With no referee to count the pinfall, the second referee outside the cell needed to remove the padlock and enter the cage. McIntyre again attempted a pinfall only to be stopped this time by MVP who followed the new ref into the cell. After Drew laid waste to MVP, Lashley reemerged to cinch in the Hurt Lock on the arena floor only to have McIntyre break the hold by propelling Lashley and himself through a table. This reopened the door for McIntyre to continue his assault on the champion with a steel chair until Lashley stopped him in his tracks with a choke slam that propelled Drew from the ring apron through a table staged outside the ring. The match reached its conclusion as McIntyre was sizing Lashley up for the Claymore Kick only to have MVP grab his ankles allowing Lashley the opportunity to roll him up for the pinfall to retain his title.

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Sunday, June 6, 2021

Kings Promotions Returns to Philadelphia with a Doubleheader

By Frank Bartolini

On Saturday, June 5th, a day/night doubleheader took place in South Philadelphia, as Major League Baseball’s Phillies were competing at Citizens Bank Park down the road. This doubleheader took place at the 2300 Arena, and the participants wore boxing gloves not baseball mitts. 

Kings Promotions delivered a six fight appetizer during the midafternoon before a seven bout evening entre. The two fight cards were the first since prior to the COVID pandemic that allowed full capacity, and liberated the vaccinated from wearing masks. 

In the main event, super middleweights Brandon Robinson of Upper Darby, PA faced off against Genc Pllana of Hagerstown, MD in a scheduled eight round contest. A good match up on paper that did not disappoint, Pllana scored an upset eighth round knockout victory. 

Strong and awkward, Pllana always provides a difficult challenge for his opponents. Robinson, 166.9 lbs., was able to successfully navigate past Pllana’s, 168 lbs., uncourtly style winning two of the first three stanzas by being more active. Pllana was cut around the eye by an accidental head butt in the second. Getting inside Pllana’s long arms, Robinson was scoring straight stiff jabs followed by right hands during the first three sessions. Fighting out of a conventional stance, Pllana was scoring to the body with an unorthodox right hook/uppercut just under Robinson's left elbow. These body blows by Pllana were accurate and accompanied by loud thuds. Midway through the fourth, one such blow backed up Robinson as Pllana unloaded a right to his jaw. Badly wobbled, Robinson was saved when a Pllana uppercut went south of the border. After taking time to recover, Robinson went on the attack when the action resumed and buckled Pllana’s knees with left hooks to the chin. Robinson returned to his corner on wobbly legs at the bell. 

Looking to be on his way to victory, Robinson stuck to his game plan until Pllana landed a right hook/uppercut to the body near the end of round seven. Backed against the ropes, Robinson could not fend off Pllana’s barrage of punches. A right to the jaw dropped Robinson, who was able to rise to his feet to be saved by the bell. Beginning with the sound of the gong to start the last round, Pllana landed a barrage of head and body shots until a solid right to the jaw made Robinson crumble in his corner. Referee Shawn Clark jumped in and called it off 33 seconds into the session. 

Robinson stayed down for a few minutes as the ring doctors checked him out. Robinson is now 15-3, 10 KOs, with all three losses coming by way of knockout. During the post-fight interview, Pllana yelled out “Berlanga!” in an attempt to call out the young super middleweight prospect Edgar Berlanga. Pllana’s record now stands at 9-3-1, 5 KOs.  

All seats were filled in the evening portion of the day's activities, with several dozen more spectators standing around the perimeter of the arena. In the semi, wind up popular welterweight ticket seller Elijah Morales, 146.5 lbs., Trenton, NJ, improved his record to 8-0, 4 KOs by winning a shutout unanimous four round decision over Andres Abarca of Normandy, WA. Never relenting his attack, Abarca flew across the country in hopes of taking home a “W.” Abarca, 145 lbs., is now 2-5. 

In the afternoon most of the seats were filled to watch Devar Ferhadi of Frederick, MD outpoint Blake Mansfield of Cary, NC in an eight round super middleweight matchup. Mansfield, 167.75 lbs., put forth a spirited effort. Ferhadi, 167.75 lbs., won a unanimous decision by scores of 80-72 and 79-73 twice. Ferhadi continues his career with a record of 9-0, 7 KOs. Mansfield drops to 7-4-1, 4 KOs.

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Monday, May 31, 2021

AEW Double or Nothing 2021

By Steve Ward

All Elite Wrestling returned to pay per view this evening with Double Or Nothing. The event emanated from Daily’s Place in Jacksonville, Florida in front of, not only a sold out crowd, but also one sold to the venue’s capacity - much unlike WWE who are still performing in front LED screens a couple hours away. This evening’s stacked card featured the defense of every AEW championship and was headlined by a double main event - Kenny Omega’s defense of the AEW World Heavyweight Championship against PAC and Orange Cassidy in a triple threat affair, as well as, a Stadium Stampede match between The Inner Circle and The Pinnacle.

The Buy-In Pre-Show:

NWA Women’s Championship

Serena Deeb (c) vs. Riho

Winner: Serena Deeb via submission

Deeb and Riho more than warmed up the capacity crowd on the lone pre-show bout as the ladies left nothing to spare with the NWA gold on the line. After targeting Riho’s knee for much of the contest, Deeb finally forced her to tap out in the end with a modified half-crab.

Main Card:

Brian Cage vs. “Hangman” Adam Page

Winner: “Hangman” Adam Page

The main card kicked off with the FTW World Champion Brian Cage representing Team Taz going toe to toe with Adam Page. These two competitors set the bar high for the remainder of the card keeping the raucous crowd on their feet for much of the bout. Brian Cage had requested that the remainder of Team Taz remain out of the match, however, that only lasted so long. In the closing moments, Brian Cage executed a spinning liger bomb, however, Hook and Ricky Starks made their way to ringside after a failed pinfall attempt. As Hook distracted the referee, Starks tossed the FTW belt to Cage so he could use it against Page. As Cage and Starks argued, Page capitalized with the Buckshot Lariat to solidify the victory.

AEW Tag Team Championship

The Young Bucks (c) w/ Don Callis & Brandon Cutler vs. Jon Moxley & Eddie Kingston

Winners: The Young Bucks via pinfall

After The Young Bucks turned their backs on Moxley several weeks ago on Dynamite and realigned themselves with Kenny Omega, Don Callis, and The Good Brothers, they in effect painted crosshairs on their backs. Following several weeks of accosting the Bucks, Moxley and Kingston found their way into a tag team title bout. Before the opening bell, a melee broke out between the two teams that finally spilled back into the ring allowing for the opening bell to sound. Not before long, The Young Bucks assumed control of the match and played the numbers game with Eddie Kingston. Just as it appeared it could be a short night for the Bucks, Moxley found his way into the match and quickly turned the tide. In what evolved into a back and forth affair, the final moments of the bout witnessed the Bucks take Kingston out of the equation before they brutalized Moxley with a Superkick Party and, not one, but four BTE Triggers. This allowed The Young Bucks to pin a bloodied Moxley to retain their titles.

Casino Battle Royal

Winner: Jungle Boy

This 21 man battle royal had high stakes at hand as the winner would receive a future world title shot. The match would see four groups of five enter the ring in five minute intervals before the “Joker” would join the fray. The groups were as follows:
Group One - Christian Cage, Matt Sydal, Dustin Rhodes, Powerhouse Hobbs, and Max Castor

Group Two - Matt Hardy, Isiah Cassidy, “Ten” Preston Vance of Dark Order, Nick Comoroto, and Serpentico

Group Three - The Varsity Blondes (Brian Pillman Jr. & Griff Garrison), Colt Cabana, Anthony Bowens, and Penta El Zero Mieda

Group Four - Jungle Boy, Marq Quen, Aaron Solow, Evil Uno, and Lee Johnson
The Joker - Lio Rush

The final four competitors in the match were Christian Cage, Matt Hardy, Jungle Boy, and Marq Quen. Marq Quen was quickly eliminated off the ring apron by Jungle Boy. Matt Hardy next attempted to form an alliance with Cage who seemingly was in accordance with his plan until he backstabbed him and tossed Hardy from the ring. This left Christian Cage and Jungle Boy as the final two competitors. In the final moments, Jungle Boy appeared in dire straits as he stood on the ring apron. As Cage charged him, Jungle Boy delivered a headbutt to the stomach and vaulted Christian out of the ring.

Anthony Ogogo w/ QT Marshall vs. Cody Rhodes w/ Arn Anderson

Winner: Cody Rhodes via pinfall

Former Nightmare Family member QT Marshall put forth his student, Olympic bronze medalist boxer, Anthony Ogogo as the challenger to Cody Rhodes this evening. Anthony Ogogo made a nice showing for himself in his pay per view debut as he mixed his boxing background in with a strong wrestling acumen which included a perfectly executed frog splash. In the end, Cody executed the Vertebreaker to secure the win.

TNT Championship

Miro (c) vs. Lance Archer

Winner: Miro via submission

Archer noticeably made his way to the ring on his own as Jake “The Snake” Roberts was assaulted by Miro at the weigh-in on Saturday. “The Murderhawk Monster” wasted no time taking the fight to Miro as he attacked him on the entrance ramp. Miro quickly reasserted himself until Jake Roberts made his way to the ring late in the match with the snake bag in tow. Miro intercepted Roberts and tossed the bag up the ramp, however, this distraction allowed Archer an opening to choke slam Miro and get himself back in the match. This wasn’t enough as moments later Archer found himself passing out at the hands of Miro in the Game Over to retain his title.

AEW Women’s Championship

Dr. Britt Baker D.M.D. w/ Rebel vs. Hikaru Shida (c)

Winner: Dr. Britt Baker D.M.D. via submission

The longest reigning champion in AEW history, Hikaru Shida, found herself facing a legitimate threat to her title this evening in the form of “The Doctor” - a woman who has climbed the women’s rankings over the past couple months to earn this opportunity. Rebel distracted the referee late in the match allowing Dr. Baker to execute a curb stomp of Shida’s head onto the women’s title, however, Shida rebounded with her patented running knee. Dr. Britt Baker was able to kick out of the subsequent pinfall and quickly cinched in the Lockjaw to secure her first 

AEW Women’s Championship.

Sting & Darby Allin vs. Ethan Page & Scorpio Sky

Winners: Sting & Darby Allin via pinfall

The icon Sting made his return to the ring in a sanctioned match for the first time in six years as he tagged with his protégé Darby Allin as they fought the new tandem of “All Ego” Ethan Page and Scorpio Sky. It was hard to believe that Sting is 62 years old as he moved around the ring arguably better than he did in his short-lived WWE stint that ended with a devastating injury six years ago. Sting pulled out all the stops as he executed multiple Stinger Splashes, the Scorpion Deathlock, and finally the Scorpion Death Drop which allowed him to secure the pinfall on Scorpio Sky.

AEW World Championship Triple Threat Match

Kenny Omega (c) w/ Don Callis vs. PAC vs. Orange Cassidy

Winner: Kenny Omega via pinfall

The “Belt Collector” Kenny Omega found himself in a three way dance this evening as PAC and Orange Cassidy wrestled to a no contest recently on Dynamite in a number one contender match. In what had to have been one of the most outstanding title bouts in AEW history, the final moments saw PAC, Cassidy, and the referee all laid out after Omega assaulted all three with his variety of championship belts. Orange Cassidy then emerged from nowhere to deliver the Orange Punch to Omega. As he covered the champ for the pin attempt, referee Aubrey Edwards made her way to the ring to make the count. Omega reversed the cover attempt at two into a crucifix pin to retain his title.

Stadium Stampede Match

The Inner Circle (Chris Jericho, Jake Hager, Sammy Guevara, Santana, & Ortiz) vs. The Pinnacle (MJF, Shawn Spears, Cash Wheeler, Dax Harwood, & Wardlow) w/ Tully Blanchard

Winners: The Inner Circle via pinfall

The main event of the evening pit Chris Jericho’s, Inner Circle, against MJF’s, The Pinnacle, in a Stadium Stampede match within the confines of TIAA Bank Stadium located adjacent to Daily’s Place. In another match with high stakes, the Inner Circle would disband if they failed to emerge victorious. This match, while starting at the ring set up in the center of the football field, quickly dispersed to various locations around the stadium - including the head coach’s office where Jericho and MJF brutalized each other as Jaguars coaches Urban Meyer and Charlie Strong observed. The match eventually concluded after the action spilled back over into Daily’s Place as Sammy Guevarra and Shawn Spears brawled in the ring. Guevarra sealed the deal for the Inner Circle as he drove Spears head into a steel chair wedged between two turn buckles and then scaled to the top turnbuckle to execute a 630 Senton Splash.

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Monday, May 17, 2021

WWE Wrestlemania Backlash 2021

By Steve Ward

Following two nights of Wrestlemania in front of a capacity crowd at Raymond James Stadium last month, WWE reverted back to their dystopian setting this month as Wrestlemania Backlash emanated from the new home for the WWE Thunderdome, The Yuengling Center on the campus of the University of South Florida. This is a curious development since AEW will present their annual Double or Nothing pay per view in two weeks and have announced they will sell Daily’s Place to capacity - a venue which stands only a couple hours away in Jacksonville. Nonetheless, this evening’s event represented a culmination of the fallout from the “Showcase of the Immortals” as five titles were contested on the six bout card with the headline bout featuring Roman Reigns stepping toe to toe with Cesaro for the Universal Championship.

RAW Women’s Championship Triple Threat Match

Charlotte Flair vs. Asuka vs. Rhea Ripley (c) 

Winner: Rhea Ripley via pinfall

Charlotte firmly reasserted herself in the RAW Women’s division the night after Wrestlemania as she brutally assaulted new champion Rhea Ripley and manipulated her way into a title opportunity. This of course did not sit well with the former champion, Asuka, hence the table being set for our triple threat match this evening. Charlotte established her dominance for much of this bout, however, she would not factor into the decision. In the closing moments, Flair stood on the ring apron and delivered a kick to the face of the charging Asuka. The momentum not only drove Charlotte to the arena floor, but also set up Asuka for the Riptide which solidified Ripley’s title defense.

WWE Smackdown Tag Team Championship

Robert Roode & Dolph Ziggler (c) vs. Rey Mysterio & Dominik Mysterio

Winners: Rey & Dominik Mysterio via pinfall

This contest was originally supposed to feature Rey teaming with his son Dominik until Roode and Ziggler brutally attacked him backstage during the Kickoff Show. Rather than find another partner, Mysterio elected to challenge for the titles on his own. Rey put forth a valiant effort to open the match, however, it did not take long for the numbers game to eventually overwhelm him. After being the recipient of a vicious beat down, topped by a Fameasser delivered by Dolph Ziggler, a hobbled Dominik Mysterio made his way to ringside to aid his father. Dominik’s presence revitalized Rey as they turned the tide of the bout. In the closing moments, Rey executed the 619 on Roode. Rey then proceeded to tag in his son who delivered a Frogsplash from the top rope crowning the first ever father-son tag team champions in WWE history.

Lumberjack Match

The Miz w/ John Morrison vs. Damian Priest

Winner: Damian Priest via pinfall

After being embarrassed by Damian Priest and Bad Bunny at Wrestlemania, The Miz sought retribution this evening. Following his victory over John Morrison on Monday night, Priest was able to name the stipulation for tonight’s match and elected for a Lumberjack Match. With the event being sponsored by Dave Bautista’s movie Army of the Dead, WWE elected to make all of the lumberjacks…zombies…yes, you read that correctly. In the closing moments, Priest was able to withstand a running knee from The Miz and finished him off with the Hit the Lights for the pinfall. Following the match, The Miz was swarmed by the zombie lumberjacks as Priest escaped the ring.

Smackdown Women’s Championship

Bianca Belair (c) vs. Bayley

Winner: Bianca Belair via pinfall

Belair found herself in the crosshairs of Bayley following her victory at Wrestlemania as the former champ has made it a point to regain her title especially after being left off the card at WWE’s signature event. I’ll be quite honest, this match didn’t hold a candle to the triple threat contest that opened the show. The closing moments saw Bayley attempt a pinfall only to have Belair use her excessively long hair to create leverage and reverse the pin to retain her title.

WWE Championship Triple Threat Match

Bobby Lashley (c) w/ MVP vs. Drew McIntyre vs. Braun Strowman

Winner: Bobby Lashley via pinfall

Following his retention of the WWE title over McIntyre at Wrestlemania, Bobby Lashley again found himself set to defend his championship against him at Backlash following Drew’s victory over Randy Orton recently on RAW. As if this weren’t enough, Braun Strowman reestablished his dominance in recent weeks and manipulated his way into the bout as well stacking the deck against “The Almighty” Bobby Lashley. Early in the match, Lashley and McIntyre found themselves engulfed in a brawl at the top of the entrance ramp that concluded with Drew thrusting the champion through an LED display which erupted in sparks. McIntyre and Strowman proceeded to demolish the arena and each other as Lashley was out of the equation. In the closing moments, McIntyre delivered the Claymore Kick to Strowman before he was ambushed by Lashley who ejected Drew from the ring. Lashley proceeded to deliver a devastating spear to Strowman setting up the pinfall victory.

WWE Universal Championship

Roman Reigns (c) w/ Paul Heyman vs. Cesaro

Winner: Roman Reigns via submission

Following monumental wins over Seth Rollins at Wrestlemania and recently on Smackdown, Cesaro found himself competing for his first world title in WWE. Cesaro had one of his finest matches, however, it just wasn’t enough in the end as Roman also put worth one of the most well-rounded efforts I’ve ever seen where he actually utilized more than three moves and demonstrated legitimate technical expertise. In the end, Roman cinched in a guillotine choke that rendered Cesaro unconscious and allowed him to retain his title. Following the match, Jey Uso entered the ring and praised the “Tribal Chief” for his victory. As if this wasn’t enough, Seth Rollins then made his way to ringside and proceeded to lay waste to Cesaro with a steel chair and a curb stomp to close the broadcast.

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