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.

Editor's Note:  Michael Polite-Coffie will now face Jonathan Rice (13-6-1, 9 KOs) in the main event of Saturday's PBC boxing card. Gerald Washington was forced to withdraw from this fight after contracting COVID-19. 

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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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