Friday, February 3, 2023

Inside the Ringside with Frank Bartolini

By Frank Bartolini

With holiday celebrations behind us and decorations being stored away in attics, I traveled to Washington, D.C. for the first of two shows I attended in January. Boxing began in a big way in D.C.

1/7/23 - Washington, D.C.:

Nearly twenty thousand fight fans filled the seats at the Capitol One Arena to cheer on every punch the World Boxing Association Lightweight King Gervonta “Tank” Davis, Baltimore, MD, threw. Appearing to be a bit distracted at times, Davis, 134 lb., did not seem to be in top condition going into his title defense against Hector Luis Garcia, San Juan de la Maguana, Dominican Republic.

This evening was about the excitement “Tank” creates. Gates opened at 4 pm, and soon afterward, the fighters on the first undercard bout were being called into the ring by announcer Mark Fratto. Seats remained empty as the corridor was packed with revelers until around 9 pm.

Once the semi wind up ended, the house heated up in anticipation to see the tatted Davis throw his gloved fists. An explosive roar rocked the house when Jimmy Lennon, Jr. announcing the boxers' names and particulars.

Both boxers launched their arsenal of punches from a southpaw stance. Bumping up a weight class, Garcia, 134 lbs., won the WBA Super Feather Championship in his last fight. Fighting to the top of his ability, Garcia landed to the head and body. After three rounds of feeling his opponent out, Davis opened up in round four exploding bombs to Garcia’s midsection and head. After the halfway point in the seventh stanza, Davis, 134 lbs., unleashed his fury, smacking punches off of Garcia from the outside. Davis countered well with a straight left to Garcia's chin.

The eighth round proved to be the last one of the fight, but not before drama outside the ropes interrupted and stopped the action. It turned out Gary Russel, Jr. and his brothers Gary Antonio and Gary Antuane got into a verbal scuffle with rapper Meek Mill. Both combatants paused to check out what was going on. Once the action resumed, Davis tore into Garcia. As the bell rang to conclude the session, Garcia returned to his corner complaining he could not see out of his right eye and did not come out for the ninth round.

This was the first loss of Garcia’s career; his record dips to 16- 1, 10 KO’s. By representing himself well in this title challenge, Garcia's stock may rise regardless of this loss. With his skill set, Garcia will find success defending on to his super featherweight belt.

Garcia did a great WWE impersonation after the stoppage of the contest by doing a backflip off the top rope and landing perfectly on his feet as the audience roared. At the young age of twenty-eight years old, Davis has ten years' experience and an impressive resume that includes titles in three different weight classes. Tank’s record stays perfect at 28-0, 26 KO’s.

Immediately in the days following the event, talks between PBC head honcho Al Haymon and Oscar De La Hoya, CEO of Golden Boys Promotions, on pairing Davis and Golden Boy promoted Ryan “Kingry” Garcia for a super fight this spring. As of this writing, De La Hoya states he has the contract in hand.

De La Hoya may be trepid as he holds out for a larger percentage of the split. “Tank” has become a legitimate superstar who drew the largest monetary gate for an event in the history of The Capital One Arena. Paid ticket receipts totaled over five million dollars, and it has been reported pay-per-view proceeds added another twenty million dollars to the gross earnings. Another large source of revenue is the celebratory disposition of Davis's fan base transfer into the arena as patrons at the concessions stands. Add a few million bucks more to the proceeds from that revenue. Hence, De La Hoya has few bargaining chips at the table and will try to squeeze PBC for all he can without blowing the deal. April 15th is the projected date for the matchup, but no venue has been selected.

1/20/23 - Bethlehem, PA:

Two weeks later, I found my way to the Wind Creek Casino in Bethlehem, PA. Wind chills had the temperature in the teens. Entering the casino portion of the former Bethlehem Steel Mill, I saw a lively night brewing as the gaming house was filled with patrons.

The Wind Creek Event Center was packed with close to fifteen hundred fight fans that came to watch a Kings Promotions fight card that was part of The Showtime Network SHOBOX The New Generation fight series. Kings CEO Marshall Kauffman filled the card with first rate local talent.

Undefeated super middleweights Sean Hemphill, New Orleans, LA, fought David Stevens, Reading, PA, in a scheduled eight round bout, a ho hum affair that was even after six rounds. Midway through round seven, Stevens',165 ¾ lbs., constant forward pressure was squeezing the strength out of Hemphill, 166 lbs. Battling aggressively until the end, Stevens pressed ahead in the last round. Then with seconds left in the fight, Stevens pummeled a cornered Hemphill. After absorbing a pounding, Hemphill slumped to the canvas. Using very questionable judgment, referee Shawn Clark let the action go on. Brutally aspiring to finish off his foe, Stevens assaulted Hemphill with three bombs to the head. As referee Clark stepped in to call a halt at 2:58 seconds while Hemphill collapsed to the ring apron. Stevens' record stays perfect at 12-0, 9 KO’s. Hemphill suffered his first blemish to his record and slides to 14-1, 8 KO’s.

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