By J.R. Jowett reporting from ringside: Despite a lurking snow threat on 12/16/16, intrepid promoters Manny Rivera and Will Ruiz (Hard Hitting Prom’ns) again filled the circa 800-seat Sugarhouse Casino ballroom in Philadelphia for a local-talent presentation. Ruiz did the matchmaking, Kurt Wolfheimer the PR, and Patrick Michael Fattore was ring announcer. Fred Blumstein was timekeeper. Telemundo will present the show on one-week delay.
The main event eight featured the second local appearance of Luis Lebron, 125 ¼, San Juan, 7-0-1 (3), against substitute Roberto Rodriguez Corea, 125 ¾, Leon, Nicaragua, 9-12-4 (4). Lebron was held to a disappointing draw by a difficult spoiler in his local debut and eager to redeem himself in the eyes of local Latino fans. Corea was coming off two big wins in Mexico over foes with solid winning records, so figured to be no pushover. He wasn’t…for the first half. The more compact underdog took the fight right to the hero at first bell, outworking the rangy Lebron in steady if not spectacular trading. Luis was able at times to nail him with harder punches when he could get room to draw a bead, but had his hands full in close. Action was tight and heated into round four, when the fight peaked. Both traded back and forth in a hectic session, but the favorite was now more able to get just enough distance to drill his tormentor with punishing shots.
The second half was a different contest, and all “Popeye”, as Lebron is known. Corea had evidently broken from the pace and Lebron’s harder shots, no longer able to penetrate audaciously but instead began circling and switch-hitting to buy time. It was still a good fight because there was no quit in the underdog, but Lebron was now in complete control for the unanimous win. Steve Weisfeld scored it a shutout while Gail Jasper and John Poturaj had 79-73. The bout was also notable in being refereed by one of the game’s most illustrious third men, the Sextuple S, “Sweet, Super-Smooth Strawberry Steve” Smoger.
Local fans get to see the stars developed by the extensive amateur system for a brief time until they get whisked away by the Big Bux Boys to places like Buffalo Casino in Oklahoma. Case in point: Danny Garcia. To that end, Jaron Ennis appeared in a six, and it was a darned good fight. Ennis, 146 ½, Phila., 8-0 (7), met a game and willing opponent in Marcus Beckford, 149, Lafayette, LA, 3-5-3 (1). The taller, standup underdog constantly marched forward and applied pressure, giving the slick, switch-hitting favorite the opportunity to dazzle fans with the fancy defensive dodging that was a trademark of Philly fighters in the Old Days but has become less indispensable in the rush to the quick bucks afforded by many titles but no champions. By the fourth, however, the blue collar persistence of the southpaw visitor was beginning to pay off and Jaron tried to steal back the round with flashy bolo punches. In the fifth, Ennis cut out the showmanship and settled down to the task, stopping Beckford’s advances with crunching body shots and punishing him into conceding ground for the first time. Ennis rose as Beckford faded, finally nailing him with a right hook from southpaw that sagged Marcus limp onto the strands. Referee Eric Dali gave him a count, and the bell rang. In the final round, Jaron was going all out, the crowd was going crazy, and the game visitor was merely giving ground and getting battered until Dali mercifully stopped it, at 0:55. Beckford protested, but was wobbly going to his corner.
Another six pitted a promising pair, but proved a poor contest. Local favorite David Murray, 174 ¾, Wilmington, 5-1-1 (4), risked unbeaten Kenmon Evans, 173 ¼, New Smyrna Beach, FL, 3-0-1, in a hard fought and grueling but unpleasing and inconclusive struggle. Both threw with mean intentions, but had trouble scoring. The bigger visitor had a reach advantage and tried counter punching, but his longer arms only seemed to get in the way. The favorite tried to force the fight and would occasionally walk in with a battering ram jab or land a jarring straight right. But he never put anything together. Then they would tie up and wrestle. They were earnest enough, but ineffective, so it was little wonder that the contest ended in a majority draw. Weisfeld seemed to have the better score, 58-56 for Murray, who had at least forced the fight. But the others tallied 57-57.
The lead four rounder was a somewhat risky match for popular and confident Branden Pizarro, 136 ¾, Phila., 2-0 (1), against well-known local campaigner Jesus Lule, 137 ¾, a Mexican out of Ft. Myers, FL, 9-20-1 (1). Lule has no punch but never stops trying and can wear an opponent out on pure volume. As a contest, it didn’t disappoint. Far from it! Lule threw himself into the fray as always with total abandon while the much bigger favorite wowed his fans with good movement, slipping punches, and taking target practice on his willing opponent. Action crested in the third when a ripping left hook to the body visibly hurt the nearly indestructible Lule early, Pizarro tried to pour it on and take him out, and fans went wild! The atmosphere was well over the top for a four rounder. But Lule stoically weathered the storm and Pizarro punched himself out. Jesus was too worn himself by that time to turn it around, and both were spent in the final round of an entertaining contest. All scores 40-36.
Another popular local youth, Christian Carto, 117 ¾, Phila., 6-0 (6), kept his KO record intact with an impressive domination of hapless shmoo Harold Reyes, 117 ¼, Fajardo, PR, 2-7-1, in a scheduled four. Reyes was outclassed from the start as the poised favorite showed snappy combos and punished him with both hands. In the second, Reyes was sent to his knees coming out of an exchange by a left hook to the liver and unable to right himself, counted out at 1:14. Sextuple was the ref.
In a match of southpaws, ticket seller Jeremy Cuevas, 137 ½, Phila., 2-0 (2), took on Tom Mills, 136 ¼, Vero Beach, FL, 1-7 (1), scheduled four. The visitor, fighting for the first time outside the friendly confines of his home state, tried but threw crude haymakers. This enabled the favorite to entertain his fans by winding up with punches like Popeye getting ready to take out Bluto. That was only a deception, though, as Mills was dropped twice in the first with solid right hooks to the body, barely making it out of the round and gasping in his corner. He did come out for the second, but a left cross to the head floored him again and the corner waved it over, despite Mills’ protest, at 0:33.
Kevin Johnson, 142 ½, Las Vegas, debuted in a laugher against late weigh-in Austin Ward, 144, KC, 0-3, scheduled four. Ward crouched and retreated, never threw a punch while Johnson fired at will, until Dali had seen enough and stopped it, at 1:42 of the first.
In memory of K.O.J.O.