J. R. Jowett reporting from ringside: Less intrepid promoters might have given up and postponed or canceled. But not Marshall Kauffman! Despite numerous pullouts, the promoter/matchmaker (Kings Prom’ns) hung tough and delivered a fine card on Aug. 23, 2013. Without local hero Harry Yorgey, the Valley Forge Casino, King of Prussia, PA, wasn’t SRO. But still, a nice crowd of perhaps 700-800 enjoyed an entertaining show. Comebacking ring announcer Dean Calabrese (a/k/a “Dean Stone”) did the honors, sans his catchy theme song.
Like George Washington at Valley Forge (right across the street) nearly two and a half centuries before him, headliner Travis Kauffman withstood an ordeal and prevailed in the end. Kauffman, 233, Reading, 25-1 (18), gained a hard won unanimous decision from Arron Lyons, 225, Easton, TX, via Gulfport, MS, 12-13-1 (9), in a bruising eight. A dangerous sneak puncher, Lyons is no stranger locally. He took out Don Elbaum’s then-unbeaten house fighter Joey Abell at the Blue Horizon. This contest wasn’t a barn burner, nor was it a laugher. Lyons gave the favorite a tough fight in a grueling struggle. The tactful Travis chose to back up constantly in the face of the underdog’s low-heat but steady pressure. Fighters who give ground generally lose, but not when they have the proper tools. Travis kept Arron walking into deft counters, not a lot of them, but enough to win. He balanced that with a good defense and shifting right-to-left stance that kept him from getting tagged with home run punches, or indeed, anything in succession. The result was an interesting tactical battle, not a brain-destroying WWIII.
Lyons tried to overrun Kauffman’s boxing skills by escalating the physical attack and bulldozing him in the fourth. Kauffman countered with more counters, and won the round. Midway through, it was a close fight. Travis had his best rounds in five and six, as Arron was unable to close the gap fast enough and kept getting hit and then smothered. But Lyons remained undaunted, managed to crowd inside to give Kauffman a tough seventh, and then went all out in a last chance eighth, probably edging a close session. With few clear-cut rounds, Dave Braslow scored it a shutout, Allen Rubenstein 78-74, and George Hill 77-75. Blair Talmadge refereed in a rugged match of big men.
“I did the best I could,” Lyons explained. “I took the fight on two weeks training. I hadn’t been in the gym in months…I knew he had a strong amateur background. I knew he could box real good. I knew he could punch a little, but, you know, I have a hard head.” A perfectionist, Kauffman merely commented, “It is what it is. I got the victory. I’ll be back in the gym on Monday and look forward to my next fight.” He defined his strategy, “Because Arron kept putting the pressure on me, I just thought the only thing to do was to keep jabbing and stepping around, stepping around. To me, at the moment, it seemed a little easier to fight backing up and moving. I thought he would lunge in and I could catch him with something.”
The show opened with a non-event. Khalib Whitmore, 178 ½, Phila., 2-0 (1), TKO’d Richard McCombs, 179, Wash., DC, 1-5 (1), in 51 seconds of the first round of four. This was the fifth consecutive bout in which the proud McCombs failed to get out of the initial round. At the press conference, the matchmaker had quipped that the first bout would be at 7:15, and the second at 7:20. He was right. McCombs made zero effort, twice falling to the canvas by way of escape from glancing blows. In fairness, Khalib was national champion as an amateur, and it’s tough getting anyone to fight him at this stage. Commissioner Sirb was unconvinced, and slapped McCombs with a $300 fine for lack of effort.
In stark contrast, the other three undercard bouts featured promising future headliners in tough, competitive matches that produced good fights. Frankie Santos DeAlba, 132 ½, Reading, 9-1-2 (3), prevailed in a six-round contest of southpaws with Luis Esquilin, 130 ½, Phila., 2-6-1. This was a fine style contrast, with DeAlba applying a relentless pressure without getting wild, while the shifty underdog gave him all he wanted with ever-dangerous counters. Esquilin exploded out at first bell and jolted DeAlba with a sharp combo, but Frankie immediately paid him back. The two sized each other up a bit, and DeAlba was beginning to come on as the round progressed. The rest of the contest followed a style pattern. DeAlba walked Esquilin down, corralled him on the ropes effectively, and worked away with punishing shots. But Luis was no patsy, frequently snapping Frankie’s head back with sharp counters. It was a crowd pleaser all the way, but the favorite’s work ethic was just too strong. Frankie won unanimously, 58-56 and 59-55 twice.
Miguel Cartagena, 118, Phila., 8-0 (3), got a good fight out of useful Eduardo Melendez, 117 ¾, Santa Isabel, PR, 4-14 (1), four. The visitor, no setup, had lost to seven straight undefeated opponents coming in, and nine total. For two rounds, he was very much in the fight, winning the second. Miguel came out sharply in the first, immediately ripping his foe with a three-punch body-head combo. It looked like a breeze. Then the lanky underdog got his long punches going and had the hero looking anxiously to his corner. Miguel pulled out a threatening contest by breaking it open in a wild third. Cartagena attacked full-tilt, took away Eduardo’s height and reach advantage by moving in, and dug left hooks to the ribs that doubled him over. Melendez was too preoccupied covering up to mount a counter offense, and twice visited canvas in a mad scramble that Talmadge correctly ruled slips. Even so, the round could easily have been a ten-eight, which one judge called. Melendez was still in the fight in the finale, though, but Miguel was sharp behind a spearing left. Hill scored 39-36, Braslow 39-37, and Rubenstein 40-36.
In a solid pairing of young hopefuls, Damon “Baby Dame” Allen, 136 ½, Phila., 3-0 (1), gained a unanimous decision over Sammy Omar Quinones, 136 ¼, York, 2-2 (1), four. Give Quinones credit for taking the match at all against the former top amateur in Philly. And he made it a good fight, not just a curtain call for the star. Damon opened fast with the jab. But a tendency to get loose with his hands left him open to counters. Sammy drilled him with one straight right and a couple whisker-shot hooks in the first. Allen turned matador and had Quinones almost frozen into the third. But redoubled effort got Sammy back into the fray, and the last two rounds were hotly contested. Quinones jarred Allen with a sneak right in the third, and had his best round in the finale. But the quick hands of the former amateur sensation were outscoring him consistently. Hill tabbed 39-37, the others 40-36.
Kauffman is one of the most durable…and reliable…promoters in Eastern Pennsylvania, if not anywhere. He returns Oct. 12 in Allentown, and the shows are always worth the trip.
August 24, 2013