J. R. Jowett reporting from ringside: Boxing returned to hot & cold Saratoga Springs, NY, on 8/15/14. For a small town, this was a comparative hotspot when Lisa Elovich promoted here a few years back. Lisa was in attendance at the usual venue, the City Center, when promoter Lisa Miller, wife of trainer/manager Bob Miller, brought boxing back to a nice crowd but not a full house of maybe 800.
The Miller family was much in evidence, as Bob’s son Shawn headlined. Bob Miller has been at times a one-man-show holding boxing in Upstate NY together for decades. Diana Rodriguez made the matches. As usual, the show came during the relatively short but highly touted racing season.
The top 10, between Shawn Miller, 174 1/2, Troy, 14-1-1 (5), and Frankie Filippone, 173, Virginia Beach, 16-5-1 (3), wasn’t a barn burner for wide open action, but held the fans’ attention with a tense contest of skills and wills. Most of the rounds followed a similar pattern, the much bigger local favorite advancing cautiously but relentlessly and carefully picking his punches while the southpaw underdog faded back and popped counters. Both fighters were flat on their feet and conservative with movement, but Filippone constantly edged away while Miller dogged him.
Most of the rounds were close, but Miller was controlling the action with more authoritative punches and the bane of lefties, the right lead. In the third, he added the low blow, a blatant shot, and referee Johnny Callas gave Frankie a rest. Then Shawn hit him low again, sending Filippone into protest. Several times Miller jolted Filippone with rights, but not until the eighth did he catch the elusive Frankie on the ropes with a swiping right that sent him to the canvas.
Filippone fought back well and got out of trouble, then continued to pop away through two more good rounds to the decision. Shawn kept his guard up high and tight throughout and blocked many of the punches. There seemed little doubt about the verdict, and Miller won 97-92 from Don Ackerman, 96-93 from Eric Marlinski, and a bare 95-94 from Tom Schreck.
"I go anywhere and fight anybody," said Frankie, a good fighter stuck in a boxing backwater in Virginia, of the daring venture into Miller’s home area. "He throws wild punches and I prepared to box him. It was a close fight."
Shawn commented, "I threw the stronger punches and scored the knockdown. It was a good fight, and my hat’s off to him." The semi eight was nothing short of sensational and produced the most dramatic of three upsets. Rayford Johnson, 182 1/4, 10-16 (4), came in from Longview, TX, against Vincent Miranda, 182 1/2, Albany, 16-2 (9).
The decidedly smaller, compact visitor fought out of a squared stance and just tried to swarm Miranda with both hands pumping in hectic action throughout. The much bigger local used the jab and jarring rights, putting the two together from round three to land solid one-twos that seemed to have the fight under control. Johnson appeared to be fading by the fourth and it looked to be all over in round five when Rayford tried a weak right and Vincent crashed him onto the seat of his trunks with a beauty of a right counter.
The underdog was under heavy pressure but fought back without letup to get out of a punishing round. Then in round six, Rayford came out amazingly fresh, swarmed all over Miranda and smashed over a short right that buckled Vincent’s knees and made him hold desperately.
The fired up underdog was having none of that and shook him off for a knockdown. Vincent was just as game as the Texan had been a round earlier, but was woozy and fighting back on pure grit in sensational action. Johnson never gave him an extra breath, and the looming question was whether the favorite could survive the round and regroup to hang onto what should have been a narrow lead. But that ended with a bang as he stumbled straight into a screaming right that crashed him face first to canvas. With no quit, Miranda still tried to get up, but floundered under his own weight and fell back down, with referee Danny Schiavone calling a KO at 2:38. Rayford was beside himself with the huge win, fell to his knees and pounded the canvas with one glove, then remained on his knees looking up as if in supplication.
A less dramatic upset occurred in a four between Michael Pryor, 143 1/2, Greenwich, NY, 0-1-2, and debuting Anton Williamson, 149 1/2, Brooklyn, in a crisp and well-boxed four. Williamson jolted the local favorite with a right in the first, then the two exchanged rallies. Pryor paid him back in round two, then it was Anton’s turn to fight back. Williamson was coming cautiously forward and setting the pace, while Pryor looked for the big one to turn it around, and brought up his fans whenever he landed a clean right. By the fourth, both were still trying, but there was little to choose between them. Schreck scored 38-38, but Anton had forced the fight and Matt Ruggero and Marlinski both scored 39-37 for Williamson. Aaron Kinch, 253 1/2, Newark, 5-3-2 (1), got some help from the judges in a rare unanimous draw with lefty Kimdo Bethel-Boykin, 226 3/4, Albany, 7-1-1 (5), in a crude, sloppy, but bitterly contested four.
The sharper favorite was outworking the out-of-shape underdog with short, inside punches in a bruising first round, rocking Aaron with a left and having him shaken again at the bell. Kinch gamely willed himself back into the fight in the second with an undisciplined but vigorous attack that made Boykin look bad as he faded back under the pressure. The tiring Kinch was swinging wide with arm punches in the third while Boykin hardly looked sharp but still managed the shorter, cleaner blows. Both were spent but still trying in a fizzle fourth, and again the local at least dropped in some clean counters. The judges went for the body language, though, as Ackerman, Ruggero and Schreck all had 38-38.
It was a good contest while it lasted between William Madera, 135 3/4, Albany, 3-0 (2), and Victor Vasquez, 133 1/2, Bronx, 1-1, in a scheduled four. The rangy Vasquez came out with a sharp jab and established his game quickly. But Madera put the kibosh on that by upping the pressure and digging in with a booming two-handed body attack. Vasquez was draped on the ropes and rocked by a sweeping left when referee Schiavone rescued him, at 1:45 of the opening round.
Louis King, 174 1/2, Amsterdam, NY, 2-1 (1), scored a knockdown in the fourth and final round to gain a unanimous decision over debuting Donovan Scott, 173 3/4, Paterson, in a good four. Both alternately boxed and slugged in a close contest, with Scott getting off to a quick start and King coming on. A right dropped Donovan to open some daylight. Schreck scored 38-37, Marlinski 39-37, and Ackerman 39-36.
Nothing much had time to happen in a scheduled four between Joe Gbolo, 136, Albany, 3-0-2-1 (1), and Phil Nazario, 134 1/2, Bronx, 0-3-0-1. Nazario showed why he’s winless but at least came away without another loss. The two were feeling each other out when they lunged the wrong way and conked noggins. Nazario suffered a cut right eye and allegedly told the ringside doctor that he couldn’t continue. The ruling was No Contest, at 1:01. Dick Pakozdi refereed.