Boxing is not just a sport with a rich history, but it also one of the oldest sports and one of the most basic in concept. When you think about the raw element of what is know to some as “The Sweet Science”, this athletic endeavor was always about using one’s fists to cause maximum damage to defeat an opponent. Over the decades the Professional Sports world has grown in popularity but the basic principles of competition still remain the foundation.
But with the “Techno Music” blasting, the men running around working on the lightening for the ring, the young ladies running through their assignments in their provocative outfits – it’s obvious this is an event built around people fighting in a ring. So much time is spent on the presentation that I always question “Is all of this really necessary?” I am not implying that presentation isn’t important, but the way it is done is such a clash of worlds: trying to put on an event that appeals to society in 2018 in a building that is a throwing back to an older era of the city with an athletic activity that has been around for centuries. When Jack Johnson and Rocky Marciano fought long ago, the people showed up for the fights, a stark contrast to today’s sports audience who treats a Boxing event as “Something to do” on a Saturday night. All these people “dressed to impressed” for an event featuring dudes only wearing shorts and sneakers throwing punches inside of ropes.
But as we finally start the event, all the best made plans (or last minute run around, depending on one’s perspective) are coming apart. The Facebook Video cast of the fights has to re-shoot their opening because they got the order of fights wrong while the lightening crew is still figuring out angles with minutes to go before Junior Welterweights Jahmil Dyer (4-0) faces off with Venderley Miranda (0-3) make the walk to the ring. As the announcer begins to present to the audience the fighters, the sound system has numerous issues and at times the microphone sounds over modulated, causing the speakers the make a cringe worthy cracking noises. During the action, the lights go out in what seems to be some unknowing individual turning off a power strip near by.
Speaking of the action in the ring, Dyer appears apprehensive to engage while his opponent Miranda wants to push the pace and get into a slugfest. In the first two rounds, Dyer avoids Miranda’s wild Haymaker punches as Jamil eventually finds his range starts landing to the head and body of Miranda. Venderley is obviously frustrated in the third round as Dyer is staying on the outside and out of Miranda’s reach. In the fourth and final round, the 0-3 Miranda knows he must force the action as the judges probably scored the first three rounds in favor of Dyer. Miranda is in pursuit as Dyer is attempting to cruise to a Decision victory. Then Miranda finally lands one of his Haymaker Punches which staggers Dyer; Jamil never fully recovers as the Referee steps in to stop the damage and Venderley Miranda earns to Upset Knockout Victory.
The energy from the upset in the first bout of the night continues to roll as Ernesto Perez is set to make his Pro Debut versus Steve Moore (0-2). Perez who is from Vineland (about a 40-45 minute drive from Atlantic Cty) has a good group of supporters who came out to see him fight tonight. Perez pushes the action in the First Round and his aggressive style forces Moore to fight defensively, eventually leading Moore to clinch and grab Perez to slow down the pace. In the second round, Moore is feeling a punishment Perez is dishing out as Ernesto wont backdown, making sure every strike he throws the opponent feels. Moore tries to change the course of the fight early in the Third Round with a flurry of punches but Perez weathers the barrage counter-punches accordingly. Moore is getting frustrated and getting sloppy. In the fourth round, Moore puts on his best showing of the bout as Perez gets sloppy; Ernesto starts backpedaling allowing Steve to gain his range. But Perez does enough to make sure Moore doesn’t gain any significant momentum en route to Ernesto Perez winning his Pro Debut in what overall a very impressive performance.
The positive energy in the building would be dissipated in the next match-up with New York’s Tommy Rainone (26-8-2) versus Equador’s Eduardo Flores (23-29-3) in an Eight Round Welterweight Bout that felt like it lasted an hour. Rainone was effective in the first two rounds continuously moving and working shots to the body of Flores. But Flores starts to clinch and employ some “Dirty Boxing” in the Third round with a head butt that slows down Rainone’s momentum. In rounds four through six Flores getting aggressive and reckless, taunting Rainone to engage and when they clinch, Flores throws illegal shots that the Referee and Judges couldn’t see as Eduardo shields their view to cause unneccesary damage to Rainone who looks tired. The fight is becoming less and less aesthetically pleasing with the sloppy action along with Rainone have little to no power behind his punches, instead using his punches to just slow down the reckless Flores, who continues to taunt Tommy. The judges render a pathetic judgment with a Split Draw as one judges scores the fight a tie as the other two judges score for each fighter.
After the Rainone-Flores fight, people in the crowd started looking at their phones as the night feels like its dragging instead of flowing. The next matchup would turn the tide of the night with Junior Welterweights Laquan Lewis (2-8) verus Osnel Charles (11-18-1) even though on paper the casual fight might assume this match-up might be a snooze between fighters with losing records. Charles was committed to an attacking style from the start as he pushed the pace and landing good strikes to the body to break down Lewis defense. In the second round, Charles lands a right hand flush on Lewis’ jaw and puts him down on the mat which grabs the audience interest away from their phones. Lewis recovers and takes advantage of Charles being overconfident and aggressively lands a combination knocking Osnel on the mat. In the third round Lewis fighting cocky but Charles goes back to body shots as both fighters stay active and aggressive. The fourth and final round showcased a flurry of action as Lewis and Charles were both locking for the knockout as the fighters went shot for shot; But Charles lands more damaging shots than Lewis as Laquan is getting sloppier and stumbling, forcing the referee to end the fight, with Charles earning the TKO victory.
With the Lewis-Charles fight reclaiming the audience’s attention, there’s some energy again as more people file into the seats with anticipation of the feature fights still to come. Next up we have Light Heavyweight match-up between Frederick Julan (8-0) versus Edgar Perez (7-23), which looks a physical mismatch as Julan has a shredded physique in extreme contrast to Perez sporting what could simply be referred to as the modern day less athletic looking “Dad-Bod”. The fight would be a lopsided affair as Julan is the more active fighter landing calculated shots to the body of Perez while forcing Edgar to continuously backpedal. The first two rounds showcases Julan’s percise striking and stalking Perez around the ring. The third round was where Julan started to end the fight throwing numerous shots that eventually knocks down the worn down Perez. Before the fourth round, the Referee speaks to the cornermen for Perez and the information they gave him causes him to end the fight as Julan gets the TKO win.
The next bout, a Junior Lightweight fight between Jersey City’s Andrew Bentley (3-2) against Philadelphia’s Donald Smith (5-0) proved to have more action than some anticipated. Despite Smith’s height and reach advantage, Bentley pressed forward in the first round and staying aggressive but Smith had better ring space awareness, forcing Bentley to become wild at times as Donald picked his shots. I might not remember anything from Saturday night as much as the reality that Donald Smith’s nickname is “No Love” as the large contingent of Smith supporters proved to be very vocal and boisterous through out the fight. In the second round Smith chose to attack the body of Bentley to slow down the pace of the shorter fighter. In the third round Smith getting cocky and taunting his opponent but there is no quit in Bentley as he is pushing forward and continues to throw everything he has. The fourth round Smith knows he has the fight in hand but Bentley is still pushing the action and taking risks, staying aggressive with good body shots. Smith turns his opponent against the ropes to slow the pace and work Bentley’s body en route to a Unanimous Decision for “No Love” and his excitable supporters.
Then the entire night hits another stall as the ring announcer says that there is going to be an Intermission before the “Main Event” fight with some of the Alphabet Soup Titles (my wording, as I cant stand the disjointed, duplicitous nature of the numerous Boxing organizations) on the line between Thomas LaManna and Gabriel Bracero. They say 15 minutes, so I figure this is a great opportunity to hit up the bathroom. I ask one of the event security men for directions, which proved to take me to a set of bathrooms with the interior blocked off with 20-30 old very large televisions along with a stench of a room without ventilation and hasn’t been cleaned in awhile. After finding my way back to the other side of what was once the Casino Floor, I asked another Security/Event Official and that Gentlemen was very helpful and gave me very efficient directions to a clean and working bathroom. But the Showboat needs to make sure ALL of their soap dispensers are filled not just a couple of them, just saying! As I return to the Media Area with a few minutes to spare, I prepare my notes for Welterwight Matchup yet after a few minutes I notice its 10pm and no ring announcer center stage. Six Minutes later, halfway through a song, Bracero’s group starts to come out to which they are told its not time for them to come out to the ring. Then the ring announcer implies to some, indirectly off course, that the reason for the delay is the Facebook Live Broadcast team is not ready, to which I found extremely laughable and pathetic. More time passes and by the time 10:20pm rolls around, we finally have Bracero is in the ring with Lamanna bouncing across from him.
Brooklyn’s “Tito” Bracero (24-3) has an obvious height and reach disadvantage against Millville’s “Cornflake” LaManna (25-2) but what Gabriel does have over his opponent is his physique is more developed and mature while the younger Thomas has a body that could use some time with the dumbells. In the first round Bracero makes it evident what his game plan is, to go after LaManna’s body. But “Cornflake” keeps “Tito” on the outside with his reach and counter punching. In the second and third rounds LaManna is less active as Bracero is the aggressor, attacking the body often. In the fourth round LaManna starts slow but starts to move forward, almost surprising Bracero with a variety of strikes. LaManna enters the Fifth Round confidently moving forward but Bracero slows him down feveriously going after Thomas’s body. Bracero continues to fight smart, picking his opportunities to attack LaManna in the Sixth Round but “Cornflake” find his range in the last minute with a flurry of combinations that land and back up Bracero.
In rounds Seven, Eight, and Nine the fight took a turn as LaManna spends more time fixing his shorts than striking as Bracero lands plenty of strikes to LaManna’s body. “Tito” stays aggressive, pushing the pace since “Cornflake” refuses to use his reach to keep his opponent on the outside. Finally in Round Ten is where LaManna gets back to work, becomes more offensive and lands several right hands to back up Bracero. From those of us on Media Row, it appears too late for “Cornflake” who I thought only won three rounds. But the judges again sabotage the event by scoring the fight a Split Draw: one judge scores for “Cornflake”, one scores for “Tito”, and the third scores a 95-95. Which exasperates everyone with plenty of groans from half the crowd, the other half yelling expletives because their fighter “got screwed over”. After the fight LaManna, who previously told the media he would retire before past fights yet came back to fight again, led to that speculation again by emphasizing he has a new child on the way and his focus is going to be on his family and not on boxing or a rematch with Bracero. A fight that was supposed to be a “Crossroads” fight for these Welterweights answered zero questions about their futures.
Now it is past 11pm Eastern Time which is perfect for the next bout, an online Pay-Per-View solo fight featuring Fitness Industry Entrepreneur Mike Rashid making his Professional Boxing Debut. Rashid, who is a celebrity in the Fitness Community with large social media following (over 706K followers on Instagram and 62.6K Followers on Twitter), Mike is the owner of his own gyms and supplements company. Pushing the time of Rashid’s fight was a calculated move to ensure that his fans (a large portion who live in the Pacific Time Zone) would be able to see the fight online at a time that would be conducive for an online PPV event. His opponent was Darius Taylor, who sports an 0-2 record along with an interesting hair style.
Rashid, who has an Amateur Boxing background, is a physical presence in the ring thanks to his years of dedication to lifting weights and nutritional discipline and a definitive contrast to his opponent as Taylor’s body has less muscular definition and looks like a heavyweight more so because his diet has less restrictions compared to Rashid. Mike presses forward from the start of the opening bell, eventually finding his range after Taylor lands a couple strikes. Rashid is landing harder and harder strikes, eventually knocking down Taylor after a combination of punches that made a sound that made you feel the power ring side. Taylor never got up off one knee and the fight was ended early in the first round. Rashid said after the fight he was disappointed the fight ended early as it did but anyone who knows anything about the Fitness Entrepreneur understands that he is goals driven individual with an intense work ethic and that Knockout vitory was a statement as much as a win on his boxing record.
After Rashid’s fight was over, despite three more fights on the schedule, the crowd began to thin out and the Facebook broadcast crew was done for the night and was breaking down during the final fights. This is the greatest difference between MMA and Boxing – When you watch or attend a UFC or Bellator or PFL event, the final fights of the night are the Main Events, the crescendo of the event, what everything is building towards while the undercard fights are still covered and not ignored. The fact that the “celebrity commentator” and his crew were done for the night with 3 fights left was, to put it bluntly, cheap and pompous in nature. The Cruiserweight bout between Larry Pryor (10-16) and Alvin Varmall (14-0-1) was originally on paper an eight round fight, was announced as a six round bout which confused members of the media. Varmall won the fight in an entertaining contrast of fighting styles but half the audience didn’t care cause it was placed AFTER the feature fights of the night. I was staying to see the Middleweight match-up of Corey Weekley from Philadelphia versus Robert Terry of Jersey City, which was the Pro Debut for both fighters.
Terry dominated the fight in every round, stalking Weekley in the first two rounds, forcing Corey to backpedal against Robert’s constant forward attack. In round three, Terry because more aggressive in his attack, throwing his punches with more ferocity and showing the desire to not let the fight go the distance. In the fourth and final round, Terry starts out with a slower and more deliberate pace, then halfway through the round he puts Weekley against the ropes as Robert digs into his opponent hard with body shots with violent intentions. Terry wins via unanimous decision after an impressive performance that, AGAIN, many people did not get to see cause this fight was after midnight and the crowd left was a quarter of what it was 3-4 hours earlier.
I finally walked out of the Showboat in Atlantic City around 12:48am with three specific post event thoughts:
1. I would like to see more events, boxing and MMA, at the Showboat Hotel – the use of what was formerly the Casino Floor was a unique setup and the people who work at the property did good with security.
2. Rising Star Promotions provided an event that was more literal than I expected – every fight card, Boxing and MMA, has up and coming fighters but this was a great collection of young talent that I got to see from Ernesto Perez to Frederick Julan to Robert Terry. But also the promotion is young as they had issues with the sound system, miscommunication with the timing of the Title Fight, along with placing three interesting fights after the Featured Fights while allowing a lopsided fight (Julan win) and less than mediocre fight that had a pathetic judgment as bad as the fighters’ performance (Rainone-Flores Split Draw). As a fight fan, give me Robert Terry, Omar Kabary Salem, Alvin Varmall and Larry Pryor instead early on instead of around midnight.
3. Saturday Night only emphasized how far MMA has to go and how much Boxing needs to fix. There is not one being better or more successful than the other. Instead realize that Boxing is almost 120 years old versus Mixed martial Arts which is 25 years old. MMA is much more organized with it's Title fights and organizational differentiation, this whole Alphabet Soup of WBO and WBA and WBC, like how are people supposed to keep track? But MMA lacks the emphasis on presentation; Bellator is trying the use the old PRIDE model mixed with pro wrestling but that mix is unproven how effective and UFC is almost "too big to fail" despite their constant evolution of their brand. Boxing does not have as good of match making as MMA but it would help if guys couldn't pad their records. Everyone can get better, no one is perfect, but will people learn and get better? Ask me again next year and I might have the same concerns with both sports.