Friday, January 31, 2020

David Stevens Interview

By Luis A. Cortes III

During Friday night's Joe Hand's Xcite Fight Night 6 from the Xcite Center at Parx Casino, I had the opportunity to speak with Reading's David Stevens (3-0, 2 KOs) following his first round KO victory over Tahlik Taylor (3-13-1, 1 KO). Following a highly successful amateur career, Stevens looks to find similar success as a professional in the cruiserweight and light heavyweight divisions. 

You can stream our interview on both SoundCloud and iTunes.

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Wednesday, January 29, 2020

Joe Hand Promotions Returns to Parx Casino with Seven Fight Card

By Matt Ward

Joe Hand Promotions returns to the Parx Casino Xcite Center on Friday, July 31st for the sixth installment of their popular boxing series Xcite Fight Night. The seven fight card will be headlined by an eight round lightweight bout between Victor Padilla (7-0, 6 KOs) and Israel Suarez-Olmeda (4-7-3, 1 KO).  

Padilla, a rising prospect in the lightweight division from South Jersey, has won six of his seven fights as a professional by way of knockout. The 21-year-old southpaw last fought on December 5, 2019, a fifth round TKO victory over Fredric Bowen at Terminal 5 in New York. Suarez-Olmeda is winless in his last six bouts. 

Super welterweights Enver Halili (10-2, 3 KOs) will face off against Isaiah Wise (7-2-2, 4 KOs) in a six round contest. Both men look to bounce back in their professional campaigns with victories on Friday night. Halili has lost his last two fights, while Wise fought to a draw last October. Halili, who resides in the Bronx, was defeated by Raymond Serrano in 2017 and Jimmy Williams in 2018. Philadelphia's Wise and Roque Zapata drew in a six round fight at the 2300 Arena on October 4, 2019. 

A full cast of Philadelphia area fighters will also be in action on the card including, Christopher Burgos, Sheldon Deverteuil, Demetris Williams, Tyhler Williams, Shahkzod Atoev, and Charles Brewer, Jr.. 

Brewer is the son of former Philly great Charles "The Hatchet" Brewer, who held the IBF Super Middleweight Title between June 1997 and October 1998. The younger Brewer will make his professional debut in the light heavyweight division against another rookie fighter, North Carolina's Kyl Fritz. 

For more information and to purchase tickets to this great night of boxing, visit the Parx Casino Xcite Center official website.

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Sunday, January 26, 2020

Showtime Stumbles in 2020 Barclays Debut

By Milo Taibi

Showtime executive Stephen Espinoza came under heavy scrutiny in 2019 for the network's boxing coverage. Desirable PBC events went to Fox pay-per-view or Fox cable networks, while Showtime had to settle for pedestrian fight cards. In the wake of HBO's departure from the sweet science, it was fair to wonder if premium TV wasn't long for boxing.

To Espinoza's credit, he and the network remained steadfast in their dedication to boxing, rolling out a stellar schedule for the first quarter of 2020. By the time Showtime arrived in Brooklyn for its Jan. 25th broadcast, the network had already staged two previous events in the year. Claressa Shields kicked the year off with a Jan. 10th title defense over Ivana Habazin, and Shohjahon Ergashev headlined a Jan. 17th ShoBox from Sloan, Iowa. These entertaining events provided upsets- such as Elin Cederroos' triumph over Alicia Napoleon Espinosa- and viral knockouts, like Ergashev's sickening body shot stoppage of Adrian Estrella.

However, it would be a herculean task to maintain this success throughout the year. And indeed, Showtime's momentum fell flat at the Barclays Center. The night featured a triple-header of Stephen Fulton vs. Arnold Khegai, Jarrett Hurd vs. Francisco Santana, and Danny Garcia vs. Ivan Redkach. Many in boxing circles had correctly predicted that Fulton vs. Khegai would steal the show; what pundits didn't anticipate was the co-main and main event being comprised of 22 uncompetitive rounds of boxing.

The super bantamweight scrap between "Cool Boy" Fulton and Khegai offered a terrific clash of styles. Khegai, the bruiser, used relentless pressure and dirty tactics to bully Fulton in early rounds. A pure boxer, Stephen survived these scares and used his superior footwork to claim a wide decision. Similar to fellow Philadelphian Jaron "Boots" Ennis, Fulton used Showtime's exposure to put himself on the map with an early 2020 victory.

The night's malaise started with Jarrett Hurd's tune-up fight with Francisco Santana. A journeyman who was fighting up a weight class, Santana posed no threat to Hurd. The fight amounted to a 10-round sparring session; an opportunity for Hurd to shake off the ring rust after he'd been unseated for the WBA and IBF titles by Julian "J Rock" Williams. As Paulie Malignaggi astutely pointed out on the Showtime Boxing Podcast, there's nothing wrong with Hurd taking this type of fight to ease himself back into contention. The problem is subjecting premium TV viewers to a fight devoid of stakes. Whereas Fulton's fight whetted the public's appetite for a world title shot, Hurd's fight had an opposite effect. Rather, many fans wondered aloud what happened to the old Jarrett Hurd.

Accomplished welterweight Danny "Swift" Garcia closed the show with a stay-busy fight against Ivan Redkach. While not an ideal main event, the fight was practical as each boxer had more preferable matchups fall through in a similar timeframe. Garcia had been slated to face Errol Spence Jr. before "The Truth" was injured in a car crash. Meanwhile, Redkach was reportedly set to fight Adrien Broner, before myriad legal issues sidelined the Cincinnati native.

Redkach's cagey nature, coupled with Garcia's counter-punching prowess, ostensibly could have led to fun exchanges and an early night. This was not to be, as Redkach's inability to close distance led to a shutout decision win for Garcia. The only memorable moment from the fight came when Redkach bit Garcia's shoulder in the eighth round.

Garcia did all that he could to finish Redkach, and in his post-fight interview cited frustration with referee Benjy Esteves for not stopping the fight. The remark was warranted. Following a brutal 2019 which saw two boxers in US events succumb to injuries suffered in the ring, a sport-wide priority needs to be circumventing senseless punishment. After the 7th or 8th round, when it was plainly obvious that Redkach had no path to victory, either Esteves, a ringside physician, or trainer Jack Mosley should have stepped in to stop the contest.

Though the fight won't be remembered as a fan favorite, Garcia's win left him well-positioned for a potential pay-per-view showdown with Manny Pacquiao. And, similarly, Showtime remains primed for a bounce-back 2020 despite Saturday's misfire. ShoBox has two events scheduled through February, and Gary Russell Jr.'s Feb. 8th featherweight title defense against Tugstsogt Nyambayar has the potential to be a Fight of the Year candidate. Boxing is better off with Showtime at the top of its game; let's hope Saturday night proved to be an anomaly.

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WWE Royal Rumble 2020

By Steve Ward

The Road to Wrestlemania commenced this evening as WWE presented the Royal Rumble from the home of the disgraced Houston Astros - Minute Maid Park. The 33rd installment of the event’s main card featured six matches including both a men’s and a women’s 30-competitor over the top Rumble match.

The respective winners of the Royal Rumble matches would be afforded the opportunity to call out their champion of choice at Wrestlemania setting the landscape for the next couple months. Also among the six matches, both of the women’s titles were defended, as well as, the Universal Championship in what one could only hope would be under normal lighting and not the god awful, headache inducing, red light that The Fiend’s matches have recently been shrouded in.

Pre-show Quick Results

Sheamus vs. Shorty G
Winner: Sheamus via pinfall

United States Championship
Andrade (c) vs. Humberto Carillo
Winner: Andrade via pinfall

Main Card

Falls Count Anywhere Match
Roman Reigns vs. King Corbin
Winner: Roman Reigns via pinfall

For weeks, Roman Reigns has feuded with King Corbin, Dolph Ziggler, and Robert Roode leaving Roman as the recipient of several beatings and even being doused with canned dog food. This evening tensions came to a head as The Big Dog and King Corbin did battle throughout Minute Maid Park in a Falls Count Anywhere match. It didn’t take long for the match to spill into the WWE Universe where Reigns was able to gain some momentum back from Corbin as he created carnage in the International announce table area. Roman proceeded to put the king through two tables with back to back Samoan drops leaving the ground strewn with pieces of table and monitors.

This quickly turned into a six-man affair as Robert Roode and Dolph Ziggler came to the aid of Corbin not long before The Usos also entered the fray coming to Roman’s assistance. In the closing moments, Roman shoved Corbin into a port-a-potty and tipped it over before the fight spilled onto the top of the Houston Astros dugout. Personally, I believe it would have been fitting for Roman to beat Corbin down with a trash can but instead he delivered a devastating spear for the 1-2-3.

Women’s Royal Rumble Match
Winner: Charlotte Flair

Notable Entrants:
1: Alexa Bliss
2: Bianca Belair
28: Tegan Knox
29: Santina Marella
30: Shayna Baszler

Final Four:
Charlotte Flair
Beth Phoenix
Shayna Baszler

Final Two:
Charlotte Flair
Shayna Baszler

Entering the match, there was great speculation as to who would comprise the field as there were only seven confirmed participants. While there were a number of the slots filled by NXT Superstars, fans were treated to four surprise entries. Might Molly (aka Molly Holly) entered at number three, Beth Phoenix at number 19 (who made an outstanding showing for herself despite a gash to her head that turned her hair color from blonde to crimson), Kelly Kelly at number 21, and lastly Santina Marella at number 29.

Yes, you read that correctly…Santino Marella made his way to the ring dressed as a woman. Before he could make any waves in the match he was confronted by Natalya and Beth Phoenix. Rather than suffer a lashing from them, he pulled out his old cobra sleeve, struck himself in the neck, and toppled over the top rope.

The final four competitors in the match were Charlotte Flair, Beth Phoenix, Shayna Baszler, and Natalya. First, after double teaming Baszler with Natalya, Beth Phoenix eliminated her old running mate. Next, Baszler quickly eliminated Phoenix as Charlotte was hanging for dear life on the opposite side of the ring leaving us with our final two women. As Flair continued to hang from the top rope, Baszler approached her with victory seemingly seconds away. Charlotte, however, prevailed as she reached her legs up around the head of the Queen of Spades and propelled her over the top rope.

Smackdown Women’s Championship
Bayley (c) vs. Lacey Evans
Winner: Bayley via pinfall

Despite a strong showing by Evans, Bayley withstood a late moonsault attempt to roll up Lacey with a handful of tights for the pinfall.

WWE Universal Championship Strap Match
“The Fiend” Bray Wyatt (c) vs. Daniel Bryan
Winner: “The Fiend” Bray Wyatt via pinfall

After being dragged under the ring and having his hair torn out by The Fiend several weeks ago, Bryan reemerged looking like Bryan Danielson as the reinvigorated leader of the Yes Movement. Following a barrage of mind games recently on Smackdown, Bryan proposed a strap match for this evening so that Wyatt could no longer escape through the ring. The two competitors were bound by a 13 foot leather strap with the winner being declared via pinfall or submission.

The WWE Universe was completely disengaged in the early going of this match as Wyatt was in total control and relentlessly assaulted Bryan with the leather strap until his back was peppered with welts. Bryan eventually turned the tables as he was able to cinch in a LeBell Lock with the use of the strap shortly followed by a running knee. The match reached it’s conclusion as Wyatt rose to his feet, withstood a lashing with the strap to his chest unfazed, and finally trapped Bryan in the Mandible Claw. Wyatt, with the Mandible Claw still engaged, lifted Bryan from his feet and slammed him into the mat for the pinfall.

RAW Women’s Championship
Becky Lynch (c) vs. Asuka
Winner: Becky Lynch via submission

This match was all about redemption for Becky Lynch. Lynch lost via submission to Asuka at last year’s Royal Rumble and recently found herself the recipient of multiple attacks including being sprayed in the eyes with green mist. In another uncommon occurrence, The Man called out Asuka for this match - behavior not normally becoming of a champion. Asuka brought the fight to The Man, however, the champ withstood several vicious kicks and the Asuka Lock. In the closing moments, Lynch avoided the green mist as the referee was briefly disposed to trap Asuka in the Disarmer which lead her to a submission victory.

Men’s Royal Rumble Match
Winner: Drew McIntyre

Notable Entrants:
1: Brock Lesnar
2: Elias
28: Aleister Black
29: Samoa Joe
30: Seth Rollins

Final Four:
Drew McIntyre
Roman Reigns
Randy Orton

Final Two:
Drew McIntyre
Roman Reigns

In an unprecedented move this year, WWE Champion Brock Lesnar declared he would enter the Royal Rumble match as entrant number one so that he could dominate the 29 other participants. Brock Lesnar tied the record for eliminations at 13, however, Drew McIntyre entered at 16 and while Lesnar was preoccupied, Ricochet struck The Beast between the uprights allowing McIntyre to kick him right out of the ring.

While the surprise entries were a bit on the light side this year, they certainly resonated with the fans in attendance as MVP entered at number 12 and in an even more shocking turn of events, Edge entered at 21. Fans may recall that Edge was forced into retirement back in 2011 due to a neck injury that required triple fusion neck surgery. Rumors had swirled recently that Edge had been cleared to return to the ring and tonight he substantiated them as the 46-year old was absolutely shredded and looked like he hadn’t missed a step.

The final four of the match were Drew McIntyre, Roman Reigns, Randy Orton, and Edge (which I found amusing after his wife, Beth Phoenix, also made it to the final four in the women’s match). Initially, Randy Orton tried to turn on Edge as he stood poised to deliver an RKO, however, The Rated R Superstar shocked The Viper by tossing him over the top rope after catching him in the act. Next, Edge and Roman found themselves fighting on the ring apron until Edge was finally shoved to the floor.

This left us with McIntyre and Roman remaining. Roman attempted to finish of McIntyre, however, he fell victim to a Claymore Kick and was subsequently thrown over the top rope. Assuming McIntyre decides to remain within the RAW brand and Lesnar retains his title in the coming weeks, we should see the two engage in an epic showdown at Wrestlemania.

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Friday, January 24, 2020

Branden Pizarro Returns to Action on Feb. 8th Edition of Christy Martin's Fight Night

Philadelphia's Branden Pizarro (14-1-1, 7 KOs) returns to action on February 8th in an eight round super lightweight bout against Argentina's Gonzalo Carlos Dallera (6-7, 4 KOs). The fight is scheduled to be the main event on a 15-fight card from the Hard Rock Hotel in Daytona Beach, Florida. 

Pizarro is coming off a ten month break from boxing, after fighting to a draw with Tre'Sean Wiggins at The Met Philadelphia last April. This bout, which all three judges scored 76-76, was for Wiggins' Pennsylvania Super Lightweight Title. 

Dallera, who lost six of his seven fights in 2019, was last knocked out by former Irish amateur star Stephen McKenna in November. This will be Dallera's first fight scheduled for more than six round as a pro.

The card, promoted by 2020 International Boxing Hall of Fame inductee Christy Martin, will be the sophomore edition of Christy Martin's Fight Night at the Daytona Beach hotel. Christy Martin Promotions held their first card, a nine fight affair, there on November 1, 2019. 

The card also features a number of young fighters looking to remain undefeated in their professional campaigns, including 22-year-old Evan Holyfield (2-0, 2 KOs). Holyfield, the son of former World Heavyweight Champion Evander, will square off against Travis Nero (1-5, 1 KO) in a four round super welterweight matchup. 

For more information on Christy Martin's Fight Night at the Hard Rock Hotel in Daytona Beach, you can visit the official Christy Martin Promotions website

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Wednesday, January 22, 2020

Tuesday, January 21, 2020

Boxing at the Red Bank Armory

By Matt Ward

The Red Bank Armory is located at 76 Chestnut Street in Red Bank. The historic building dates back to 1914, and was the home of the New Jersey Army National Guard’s Troop B of the Cavalry. A major feature of the armory was the 100x144-foot equestrian riding hall. By the 1950s, the armory was used as a storage space for old tanks. In 1998, the armory was purchased from the state and converted into an ice rink. The rink is home to a number of local hockey teams including the Red Bank Generals of the New Jersey Youth Hockey League and the nearby Red Bank Catholic High School Casey’s hockey team. The facility’s rinks are also used for ice skating lessons. I had the opportunity to tour the building in May of 2017, and was amazed by how wonderfully preserved the building is. It is a standing testament to the value of repurposing historic buildings for the sake of preservation!

Red Bank Armory in Modern Times
Other than for military and ice hockey purposes, the building has also hosted a series of professional and amateur boxing matches. The most notable professional bouts occurred in 1925 and 1948.

A charity card for disabled children was put on by the Asbury Park and Long Branch Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks at the Red Bank Armory on August 7, 1925. The card was arranged by John Leon, a matchmaker for Coney Island Stadium in Brooklyn. This event attracted over 4,000 fans that enjoyed an evening of thrilling fights. The main event of the card featured flyweight boxing champion Frankie Genaro and bantamweight pugilist George Marks, who agreed to fight at bantamweight.

George Marks
Frankie Genaro was a boxer from New York City who fought professionally from 1920 to 1934. Prior to turning professional, the five foot and one inch boxer captured a gold medal at the 1920 Antwerp Olympic Games as a flyweight boxer representing the United States of America. Over the course of his long career, he fought over 100 times and captured titles in the flyweight division. Following his long boxing career, Genaro pursued a career as a horse jockey in France. He died in 1966 at the age of 65. Genaro was inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame in 1998.

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Frankie Genaro (front) with Primo Carnera
His opponent that summer night in Red Bank was an English born fighter billed out of Los Angeles, George Marks. Marks was a contender in the bantamweight division who captured the Pacific Coast Bantamweight title during his nine year professional career that lasted from 1917 to 1926. In 1933, Marks was tragically killed at the young age of 32 in an automobile accident in Azusa, California. 

This was the second encounter between the two men in the squared circle. Genaro had defeated Marks in June of 1925 at Coney Island Stadium in Brooklyn. The actual events of the contest, that was billed as “one of the most stirring boxing events ever carded in the state of New Jersey”, differed based on what local newspaper you read. According to The Red Bank Register, Genaro took five rounds and Marks won two. The two fighters split the other three rounds. Reporters from the Asbury Park Press were also in the press section that evening. They reported that Marks won every round with the exception of possibly the ninth “when Genaro probably conscious that Marks was getting the better of the breaks attempted to make a desperate try to even things up.” 

Because reporters from both papers saw the fight differently, the fight was ruled a newspaper decision draw. A newspaper decision was utilized in the early 20th century after a fight ended with no decision from the judges and referee. In this scenario, reporters from a local newspaper(s) would decide who won the fight. As you can imagine, these decisions were, at times, heavily lopsided in favor of a hometown fighter. This method of scoring is no longer utilized in modern boxing. 

The evening also had three other boxing matches featuring Tommy Jordan versus George Levine, Rene De Vos versus Lew Ferry, and Willie Dillon versus Erwin Bige. Belgian middleweight champion Rene De Vos, who is often listed as one of the greatest boxers not in the International Boxing Hall of Fame, took on Lew Ferry of Newark, New Jersey. Ferry was a veteran of the Jersey Shore fight scene, having fought there on numerous occasions. De Vos walked away the winner via newspaper decision after both The Red Bank Register and the Asbury Park Press scored the bout in favor of the Belgian.

Rene De Vos
Brooklyn based boxer Tommy Jordan and California’s George Levine squared off in a welterweight contest. The fight was described by the local media as having “all the earmarks of a championship bout from the start.” Levine won the bout via newspaper decision after The Red Bank Register scored the contest a draw, and the Asbury Park Press scored the fight for Levine. 

The opening bout of the evening featured Omaha’s Erwin Bige, who weighed in at 121 pounds, and New York’s Willie Dillon, who weighed seven pounds heavier than his opponent. The weight advantage had no impact on the fight’s outcome, as Bige cruised to a newspaper decision over his opponent after ten rounds of boxing. Both The Red Bank Register and Asbury Park Press scored the fight in favor of the Nebraskan. 

Professional boxing returned to the Red Bank Armory on October 12, 1948. This card had far less star power than the show 13 years earlier, and featured a card loaded with fighters from the tristate area such as Philadelphia’s Danny McCall, Newark’s Jimmy Stamford, and Asbury Park’s Don Layton. The main event featured middleweights Milton Lattimore and Billy Ellison. Lattimore, a New York City fighter, was originally supposed to face Tony Rose. Rose was replaced prior to the bout by Billy Ellison of Newark. The six round main event ended in favor of the replacement fighter, Ellison, who won by points. Before retiring in 1949, Ellison fought three of his final four bouts in Atlantic City. Lattimore retired in 1951 with an even professional record of 26-26.   

This venue was also the site of numerous amateur boxing shows from the 1930s to 1970s. These cards often pitted local Police Athletic League (PAL) chapters against one another, including the Red Bank and Middletown PALs. The rich sports history of this building coupled with the building’s current position in the world of hockey will ensure that the Red Bank Armory will be an important part of the Red Bank community for many years to come. 

The Armory Red Bank New Jersey

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