Sunday, February 25, 2018

Rising Star Promotions Presents Boardwalk Boxing Crossroads: LaManna vs. Bracero - Saturday, February 24th (Atlantic City, NJ)

Professional boxing returned to the Showboat Hotel in Atlantic City last night after a ten year hiatus. The Showboat itself is a shell of its former self. The games, restaurants, and bars that once graced the main floor of the building are now gone or closed up, and what remains is a cavernous and gloomy building. The card, which will be remembered by most spectators as one of the biggest and longest in recent memory, featured eleven professional bouts and was promoted by New Jersey's Rising Star Promotions. The ring and surrounding chairs were set up on a former casino floor where I'm fairly certain my grandmother played slot machines throughout the better part of the 1990's.

The main event featured a welterweight bout between veteran contenders, Thomas LaManna (25-2-1, 9 KOs), the defending WBC FECARBOX Welterweight Champion, and Gabriel Bracero (24-3-1, 5 KOs). LaManna, who had a clear height advantage over the shorter and stockier Bracero, attempted to use his advantage in reach early in the opening frame. In the second round, Bracero got inside and effectively worked "Cornflake's" body. LaManna, who is not known for his knockout power, caught his opponent's attention in the third round with a straight right hand to the head. Through four rounds, it was evident at times that Bracero was having some issues adjusting to LaManna's style. In the sixth round, Bracero caught LaManna with a right hook to the head that appeared to hurt the "Pride of Millville, New Jersey". Bracero picked up momentum and connected on a series of head shots in the eighth that sent LaManna to his corner with a bloody nose. A low blow to LaManna briefly stopped the action in what appeared to be a close fight at that point in the ninth round. LaManna, looking to stay ahead on the cards in the tenth, pinned Bracero up against the ropes and landed a series of big punches to his challenger's head and body. The judges scored the bout 97-93 for Bracero, 98-92 for LaManna, and 95-95 a draw. The competitive matchup ended in a split draw. Former world champion, Paulie Malignaggi, who was ringside covering the fight for Fight Night Live!, asked the two men in the post-fight interview if they would consider a rematch. Both fighters appeared open to the idea of facing off again in the near future.

Junior lightweights, Andrew Bentley (3-3) and Donald Smith (6-0, 3 KOs) fought in a four round bout. Bentley, a Jersey City native, had former light heavyweight fighter, Bobby Rooney in his corner. Smith, the Philly fighter who was looking for his sixth professional victory, got the "award" for largest entourage of the evening. Bentley, a scrappy fighter, who gave Smith problems on the inside at times over the course of the bout, could not solve the height and reach problem that he encountered with his opponent. Smith was able to control every round by landing the bigger shots and cleaner punches. Early in the fourth round, Smith tried for the knockout by throwing big hooks at the head and body of his opponent. Bentley survived the round only to lose on the cards by unanimous decision. All three judges scored the bout 40-36 in favor of Donald Smith.

Frederic Julan (9-0, 7 KOs) fought Edgar Perez (7-24, 3 KOs) in a light heavyweight bout that was scheduled for six rounds. Julan, a transplant to New York City from France, controlled the bout from the opening bell. The veteran Perez appeared unconditioned and soft in the abdomen. Julan put his power on display in the second round by landing a vicious multi-punch combo that fazed his opponent. In the third round, Julan knocked Perez down with another multi-punch combo to the head and body. Perez pulled himself up from the canvas only to be stalked around the ring by his opponent. Julan landed a series of big shots to Perez' head and body, but had difficulty cutting off the ring. Had Julan been able to, the fight would have been over in the third round. Perez, who had enough after the third round, refused to answer the bell marking the beginning of the fourth round. Julan, the winner by TKO, has won his sixth straight bout by knockout.

In a battle of junior welterweight fighters with losing records, Brooklyn's Laquan Lewis (2-9, 2 KOs) fought the hometown fighter, Osnel Charles (12-18-1, 2 KOs). Lewis came out swinging for the fences in the first round, and landed a big left hand to Charles' head during the round. Charles replied with big body shots that pushed his opponent backwards. In the second round, Charles hit Lewis with a left hand to the head that appeared to stun the fighter. Lewis answered this shot with a left hand to the head of his own that sent Charles to the canvas. In the fourth round, Lewis answered the bell with a swollen right eye. Charles, hungry for a knockout, landed a multi-punch combo to the head and body of Lewis that ended the bout at the 33 second mark of the fourth and final round. Charles celebrated his victory with the Atlantic City fans by jumping over the ringside guard rail into the crowd.

Long Island's Tommy Rainone (26-8-3, 6 KOs) fought Ecuador's Eduardo Flores (23-30-3, 14 KOs) in an eight round, welterweight contest. The two fighters spent the first round feeling one another out. Rainone controlled the tempo of the bout in the second round. Rainone had to be examined by the referee, Eric Dali, after being hit with what appeared to be an accidental headbutt in the third round. Flores spent much of the remainder of the round landing rabbit punches to the back of Rainone's head and neck, that went unnoticed by the referee. By the fourth round, Flores appeared winded and desperate to make it through the eight round contest. The dirtiness of Flores' fighting style especially became evident in later rounds when he continued to hold and punch Rainone in the back of the head. Rainone caught Flores' attention in the fifth round when he hit him with a nice right upper cut to the body. The judges scored the bout 78-74 for Flores, 77-75 for Rainone, and 76-76 a draw. To the displeasure of the crowd, the fight ended in a split draw.

Welterweights, Ernesto Perez (1-0), in his professional debut, fought Steve Moore (0-3) in a four round bout. Perez, the South Jersey fan favorite, controlled the tempo of the fight. Both fighters let their hands go in the first round and fought a fan pleasing and action-packed round. In the fourth round, Moore, realizing he was behind on the cards, threw big punches at his less experienced opponent. These blows had no impact on Perez, who went on to win the contest by unanimous decision (39-37 twice and 40-36).

The opening bout of the evening featured a four round bout between junior welterweights, Jahmal Dyer (4-1, 2 KOs) and Venderley Miranda (1-3, 1 KO). The action began in the second round when Dyer pinned Miranda up against the ropes with a multi-punch combo that hurt his opponent. Miranda was the aggressor in the fourth and final round. He threw several big right hooks, a few of which found their mark. One of these hooks stunned Dyer, who attempted to escape the onslaught. Seconds later, Miranda hit Dyer in the head with a right hook that left him dazed and defenseless. Referee Benjy Esteves Jr. saw enough at the 2:14 mark of the fourth round and stopped the fight. Miranda, the underdog on paper, won his first professional bout by TKO.

The evening's card also featured four bouts that followed the conclusion of the main event. Heavyweights, Darius Taylor (0-3) of North Carolina and Mike Rashid King (1-0, 1 KO) of Arizona by way of Brooklyn fought in a bout that was scheduled for four rounds. Rashid King, a 40-year-old rookie, knocked out his opponent at the 59 second mark of the first round with an overhand right to the head of Taylor.

The first swing match of the evening featured Larry Pryor (10-17, 5 KOs) and Alvin Varmall Jr. (15-0-1, 12 KOs). Varmall Jr., a cruiserweight who trains out of Cus D'Amato's Gym in Catskill, New York, knocked his opponent into the ropes with a right hand to the head in the second round. In the third round, Varmall again went on the attack when he pinned his opponent up against the ropes with a multi-punch combo. Pryor, although clearly hurt, covered up enough to prevent his opponent from finishing him off in the round. Varmall controlled the late rounds of the contest, but Pryor fought a defensive focused fight that allowed him to make it to the final bell. The judges scored the bout 60-53 and 59-54 twice for the winner by unanimous decision, Alvin Varmall Jr.

Corey Weekley (0-1) and Robert Terry (1-0), fighting their professional debuts, fought a four round, middleweight contest. Terry was the aggressor in the first and second rounds, when he landed a series of multi-punch combos to Weekley's head and body. Weekley demonstrated his toughness by absorbing these blows. The abuse continued into the fourth round when Terry tee'd off on his opponent at will. Weekley, desperate to not be kayo'd, wrapped up with his opponent for the bulk of the round. The judges' scorecards all read 40-36 in favor of the winner by unanimous decision, Jersey City's Robert Terry.

The final bout of the evening featured middleweights, Omar Kabary Salem (2-0) and Leon DeShields (0-3). Salem, who is known as the "Egyptian Magician" (Not Tarbash from the Jerky Boys...), landed big body shots, consisting of left and right hooks, on DeShields in the first round. A Salem left hand to DeShields' head in the second round hurt his opponent. The judges' scored the bout 40-36 three times for Salem. The final bout ended at 12:40 AM on Sunday, February 25th.

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