J. R. Jowett reporting from ringside:On May 24 (2013), boxing returned to the Westchester County Center in White Plains. In the style of local boxing venues built before the electronic distractions and irrelevant razzmatazz of modern facilities, the beautiful structure is constructed along the lines of the old-fashioned convention halls, slightly scaled down to fit the community. Boxing has been a staple here longer than anyone now in the game, but only sporadically of late. Rory Calhoun fought here! So did Saoul Mamby and Larry Barnes in a contest that was as good as the decision was bad. (There were no bad decisions this night, but some bad scoring; we’ll come to that later.)
Ubiquitous promoter Diane Fischer (Dee Lee Prom’ns) gained some local business support and plans a series. A miserable rainy night delayed the start to give people more time, but only a relatively small crowd of around 500 showed up. The event warranted a packed house! Nick Tiberi made the matches. The undercard featured three bad/good matches. That’s not a typo; we’ll elaborate later.
As nearly always, women put on an excellent and competitive contest, in the main event. The bout featured the house fighter, Ronica “Queen” Jeffrey, 126, NYC, 13-0 (1), against no easy mark in experienced Olivia Gerula, 125 ½, Winnipeg, 13-14-2 (3), over 10 2-minute rounds.* The action never stopped, and there was barely a lull. It started as a potential shocker. The visiting underdog stormed out and effectively walked down the favorite, looking as though she was about to chase Ronica out of the ring! After some careful boxing, Jeffrey began to let her hands go, but Gerula consistently beat her to the punch with sharp counters. Round one Gerula. This ended up as probably the only round she won on two cards, which wasn’t right. Round two was a scorcher! Gerula went on the attack and had Jeffrey giving ground. It was now Ronica’s turn to counterpunch, and she landed some clean shots, but generally after getting hit! The judges evidently “Scappoosed” this round to the favorite; that is to say, gave her extra credit for coming back late in the round rather than objectively winning it. Round two Gerula.
At this point, it looked as though Ronica was in over her head and this would be a big mistake insofar as building the local prospect. But round three was a revelation! It illustrated what boxing is all about, as opposed to fighting. Jeffrey came out circling away and countering. Action was still non-stop, but now Ronica was landing clean, sharp counters without getting hit first. She swept the next six rounds, without question. The rounds were all similar; good action, crowd pleasing, but dominated by the favorite. Jeffrey slowed a bit in the final two, not as to footwork, which kept her fully mobile, but without letting her hands go as before. This was largely anti-climactic, but round nine was pretty much a tossup, and Olivia managed to finally corral Ronica and took the last round. No doubt that Jeffrey won; not a homer by any yardstick, but 6-3-1 might have been a more representative score. The judges went entirely with Ronica’s skills, Frank Lombardi 98-92, Julie Elizabeth Lederman and Don Ackerman 99-91. Scoring generally leans too much toward a perceived “aggressor” rather than good boxing, so at least if they “erred” at all, it was in the right direction. Ron Lipton was the referee.
Styles make fights, but so do strategy and corner work. The winner explained her dramatic turnaround in understated fashion. “I’d say it was just a mixture of warming up and having my corner see things that I couldn’t see in the ring and just letting me know…a lot of angles and corners and just not being there after a combination…”
Gerula was analytical and offered no excuses. “I’ll have to watch it [the fight]. Being on the inside is a little bit different than being on the outside to see what’s going on…I knew I was throwing one…one…one, so I knew I had to double it up. I could hear my corner yelling for left hooks and I just couldn’t land ‘em when I saw ‘em. I don’t know if the year off affected me or if I just couldn’t catch her on the ropes, runnin’ around.” There was no sour grapes about fighting on the winner’s home ground. “I really had planned to not leave it to the judges’ decision, in terms of winning each round successfully all the way through, and that I couldn’t pull off today.”
The show opened with a tame but tightly contested four. Luis Esquilin, 133, Phila., 2-4-1, won a unanimous shutout over David Warren Huffman, 131, Cinc., 4-15-1 (1). Despite the seeming one-sidedness, the rounds were all close. The frail Huffman has little physical presence in the ring, but is a difficult spoiler, hard to lure into trading. The southpaw Esquilin, with Billy Briscoe, hero of Rosado-Golovkin, in his corner, wanted it more, forced the contest and landed the cleaner, harder blows.
The only abbreviated contest was a slam-banger between Yuchua (Josh) Nieves, 130, Bronx, 2-2 (2), and touted Edwin Cotto, 128 ½, Willimantic, CT, 1-1 (1), scheduled four. Nieves scored a surprise upset KO at 2:29 of the third. Cotto exhibited better skills in winning round one, but Nieves wouldn’t be discouraged from vigorous attacking. Both visited canvas in a torrid round two, but neither were scored knockdowns. Cotto folded from a left to the belt line that might have been called either way. Shortly after, a fired-up Nieves missed a wild swing and lurched off balance as Edwin poked a short right. Referee Johnny Callas ruled a slip. The already hot action escalated further in the third. Nieves came out loaded for bear. The slicker Cotto had outboxed him, but Yuchua was on a mission and Edwin’s skills couldn’t hold him off. Nieves walked him down and folded him to all fours in a corner with a left hook under the ribs.
It wasn’t a thriller, but Antowyan Aikens, 173, Atlantic City, 7-0 (1), did an effective and thorough job of outboxing Yasin Abdur Rashid, 175, Bklyn, 7-4 (2), in the only non-controversial six. The muscular Rashid attacked with bad intentions while the tall, standup Aikens played matador. Rashid could never get past Antowyan’s long-range punching and movement. Every time he stepped in, Aikens was already gone and he’d paid for the effort. The favorite won by two shutout scores and one 59-55.
Now the antics and the unexpected began to ratchet up. House prospect Dorsett Barnwell, 257, Norfolk, 9-0 (4), had a good opponent in useful David Williams, 221, Phila. via Yonkers, 6-7-2 (2). Action was heated from the start, with Williams on the verge of an upset win when a left uppercut rocked Barnwell during first-round trading. The favorite fell back, managed to cool the action and regroup, then came on strong to punish the underdog and win the round. The next three were slow-paced but hard-fought. They spent time looking at each other and waiting for someone to commit, mostly one punch at a time and no extended trading. But it was a bruiser, with nearly all the shots punishers. The bigger, stronger Barnwell consistently got the better of it, but Williams was by no means giving it away. David mounted an attack in the fifth, but late in the round, came forward but couldn’t make up his mind what to do, and a rugged contest suddenly became a thriller. Almost as an afterthought, Barnwell seized the opportunity and tossed a strange, overhand right that caught Williams flush and sent him sprawling! It was all he could do to get up, and the bell rang.
The final round was a doozy! Williams came out as if to make up for the knockdown and landed some good rights in no-nonsense exchanges. Action then slowed a bit, but Barnwell regrouped again, catching David coming in with a booming right uppercut-left hook combo. Williams was out on his feet but refused to yield! Lipton might justifiably have stopped it, but the gritty Williams miraculously stayed erect while the heavy-armed Barnwell seemed to punch himself out. Then, with the round nearly gone, a crushing left hook had Williams tottering again, but the bell rang in a split second. With Williams out on his feet twice, this might have been scored 10-7 or worse. But the judges kept to the book, 60-53 and 60-52 twice.
Next, Ahmed Samir, 225, Alexandria, Egypt, via Queens, 11-1 (4), faced tough trialhorse Alexis Mejias, 241, Humacao, PR, via Paterson, 12-9 (5). As boxing, this was garbage. As entertainment, this was reality TV! Samir can’t box a lick! But he’s tough, game and oh-so willing. He hurtled his whole body into the attack, flailing punches wildly. They were largely “arm” punches with little behind them, but thrown so vigorously that they wowed the crowd, and evidently the judges too. For his part, Mejias was clearly the superior boxer, but seemed befuddled and did so little to take advantage that he was inviting the judges to “steal” the fight. They almost did! Let’s see…there was prolific rabbit punching, numerous kidney punches, holding and hitting, wrestling, shoving, lunging and missing, lunging and grappling, complaints to the referee, complaints by the referee…and amid the mayhem the main thing happening in terms of quantifiable action was Mejias landing left hook counters as Samir lunged.