Thursday, February 7, 2019

South Philly’s Phinest

By Luis A. Cortes III

We are rapidly approaching the first boxing show of the year in the Philadelphia area on Friday night at the 2300 Arena, a show that is being billed by the promoter Raging Babe as “Philly Special.” Aside from the fan friendly matchups that have helped to make this event a sellout, this card will feature two fighters from South Philadelphia that seem to only have the sky as their limit regarding their possible success. Christian Carto (17-0)(11 KO’s) a native of South Philadelphia who is currently a bantamweight prospect from the Carto fighting clan will be in the main event of the card. While Sonny Conto, a former heavyweight amateur standout, who like Carto, also hails from South Philadelphia and is of Italian heritage, will make his professional debut. This is significant for the sport in the city, since there have been musings throughout the local boxing community recently regarding how and if boxing will ever regain prominence in the forefront of mainstream sports fans mindset. Boxing’s relationship with the city of Philadelphia has been covered and is familiar to most boxing fans not just in the city, but throughout the country. 

What makes this card with these two fighters important, is the fact that with their success, there is an opportunity for the resurgence local insiders yearn for. Over the course of the past few years, Carto has proven that while he continues his growth as a young prospect inside of the ring, he is already established himself as a draw at the box office. He continues to fight locally, filling up the smaller venues throughout the city and his fan base has proven they will travel with him to Atlantic City. It is the type of grass roots support and fan base that has eluded many current world champions. Several reasons have caused this problem in the sport which makes the fact that Carto has been able to foster this type of support while remaining a free agent from any promotional company interesting. Sonny Conto on the other hand signed a promotional deal with Top Rank Promotions before even fighting a single round as a professional.

Although there is a contrast to how both fighters are going to progress in their careers from a business standpoint. With the fan base Carto has already shown, the belief is that Conto will not be far off in terms of the type of excitement that he will bring to the area when he fights. 

“Heavyweights are always appealing. Sonny is athletic, strong, well trained, and has good amateur experience,” stated Carl Moretti (Vice President of Top Rank Promotions). “Our belief is that he can transfer all of that into the professional ranks. He has a solid team behind him.” 

While Top Rank is known throughout the sport for nurturing their young talent into future world champions, there are always a select few that transition into superstar attractions.  When it comes to moving heavyweight fighters there are those that may feel the need to move him from future prospect all the way to contender at a rapid rate. Also, since the business at the heavyweight level is much larger in terms of finances, others may protect the talent and try to build him as an undefeated attraction.  “It depends on how well he shows he can handle each test put in front of him. It truly is a case by case basis. Each fighter is different,” suggested Moretti.

Conto is expected to live up to his raw talent and transform that into being a seasoned professional before there will be any discussions about just how far he can take his abilities up the ranks. It doesn’t hurt that he is just twenty-two years old. At 6’5 and weighing around 215 pounds, Conto moves well and is agile. As he matures physically, time will move him towards his physical prime.  It’s no wonder why Top Rank is making an investment into his future.  It also doesn’t hurt that even before fighting a single second as a professional, he also shows promise of having a fan base in the city and beyond. “Of course, that goes into his signing, he has a base that can be built off of. We don’t want him just to be an east coast fighter, he can expand beyond that into much more,” reiterated Moretti.  

Meanwhile in the main event, Christian Carto, as mentioned earlier, is already a major prospect. In fact, he has reached the point in his career where it’s about time for him to turn the corner from prospect to contender.  On Friday night, he faces Victor Ruiz, 22-10 (15 KO’s), a tough and rugged veteran, who has faced some of the best in the world around the bantamweight division. This is the right type of fight for Carto in terms of his progression towards becoming a serious contender at bantamweight. In Ruiz he will face a fighter who knows what it means to be a professional prizefighter with the savviness to possibly show Carto things he may not have experienced just yet. 

Therefore, it helps that his union with respected trainer Billy Briscoe has progressed past the stage of understanding each other. It takes several fights for fighters and a new trainer to build a serious rapport with one another and have an unspoken synergy. This is the type of relationship that seems to have reached that point when you watch them train.  

As for Carto being already the type of attraction that Top Rank hopes Sonny Conto can become soon, Carto and his team, which is made up of his father and older brother, hold all the proverbial cards in terms of business with promoters. 

“Christian has the chance to make it to the big time on his own. I don’t think he has to align himself with any promoter because of his popularity and his ability. He can go it alone,” stated Hall-of-Fame promoter J. Russell Peltz during a recent media event promoting this card. “I really believe that no promoter is going to come to Philly and say I don’t want him on my show cause he isn’t signed to me. That’s not going to happen.” 

As the progression continues for Carto inside of the ring along with his popularity outside of the ring, many believe that at some point he is going to have to sign with a promoter to get the types of fights he is fighting towards. Since he is not far from the role of contender, the pressure may be turned on by promoters looking to align themselves with such a popular and talented fighter.  It is not like most promoters haven’t already tried to sign him to an exclusive deal. “They should stay independent and build their own franchise.  He can help bring Philly back to the way it used to be when boxing was big. I know it’s a lot to put on his shoulders, but I really believe he can do it,” claimed Peltz.

It was mentioned earlier that this card is being promoted by Raging Babe, which is run by Michelle Rosado. Rosado has been active on the local scene in Philadelphia, as well as in North Carolina and Arizona. After learning the trade and craft of promoting from J. Russell Peltz (her mentor), Rosado is putting on her first show in Philadelphia. “She has learned from the best to ever do it in Philly in Peltz,” stated Moretti.  He is familiar with Rosado since she along with Peltz have worked with Top Rank on shows that the promotional company has put on in Philadelphia. “She is great at marketing and its great to have the relationship to continue working with her. Obviously, she knows what she is doing since it is already a sellout, “remarked Moretti. 

So yes, while the show is already sold out and the 2300 Arena will be at capacity, fans can watch all the action, including Sonny Conto and Christian Carto, on the Fight Night Live page on Facebook.

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