J. R. Jowett reporting from ringside: Boxing in Upstate New York is but a remnant of its glory days when Carmen Basilio was a fixture on home TV. But a shadow remains, and it was enough to have several hundred fans lined up outside the Armory in a snowstorm, waiting for the doors to open. Mercedes Vasquez-Simmons (Pretty Girl Promotions) put on her second show 3/21/13, and matchmaker Diana Rodriguez did a bang-up job. All bouts were competitive, yet all the “heroes” won, although one needed the usual help from the judges.
The eight-round main go was a hot local showdown between Willie Monroe, Jr., 159, 12-1 (4), and Russell Jordan, 161, 15-9 (10), both Rochester, both southpaws. Monroe has suffered from inactivity, but nothing in comparison to the skid-skidding Jordan, who hadn’t fought since ’10. It didn’t show on Willie; on Russell, it did. The tall and spindly Jordan pressed the action all night, but it was more of a zombie walk. He looked stale and had little snap on his punches. Meanwhile, Monroe was putting on a masterful tactical display. Willie backed up through the whole bout, barely took a step forward, but constantly peppered the trudging Jordan with sharp combinations. The crowd was riveted by the contest despite its lopsidedness.
Finally in the fifth, Jordan began showing some pep, and briefly looked as though he might mount a finish-line charge. But Willie dished out a punishing round in the sixth and regained control. Russell tried again in the seventh, but just didn’t have it and the attack was not sustained. Both were spent in the final round, as action had been constant, but both went all-out in a wild round that had the crowd going crazy! Jordan was still trying to find something…anything…but Monroe was outfighting him on the inside. All scores (Eric Marlinski, Tom Schreck, Don Ackerman) 79-73. Some rounds could have been two point, as Jordan landed almost nothing in some sessions while Monroe kept up a steady tattoo.
Willie explained his winning strategy, “He’s longer but we knew that if I took a half step back, when he jabs, he jabs down. So that’s why, when I took a half step back, I’d come over the top with my left…I’d get that power off the back foot and it’s force on force, because he jabs down…That bolo, the overhand left, caught him so many times…but he’s a game guy…”
The requisite bad decision came with a gift to Darnell Jiles, 135, Roch., 9-3-1 (3), against Guillermo Sanchez, 135, Buffalo, 13-8-1 (5), in an at-times unruly six. The scoring was a case of form over substance. Formerly known as “The Vampire”, now calling himself “The Destroyer”, Guillermo’s casual, fadeaway style didn’t help him on the cards. Though both are southpaws, Jiles’ lurching attacks led to several head clangings. In the second, referee Charlie Fitch took them both to the doctors. At the bell, they woofed in each other’s faces as cornermen poured into the ring, ready to fight. Another fracas followed round four. Yet ironically, when Sanchez knocked out Jile’s mouthpiece in the third, he stepped back and pointed to it, rather than take advantage.
Darnell was the aggressor, but when he corralled Sanchez he would lean and flail with sidearm punches that obviously convinced the officials. Often the fighters leaned on each other without tying up, worked inside, and then tried to pull back and fire a finishing shot. Guillermo consistently got the better of these exchanges with shorter punches, and clearly won the third and last two rounds. But Jiles got the verdict, 58-56 from Ackerman and Schreck, 59-55 from Terry Beecher-Johnson.
Hot prospect Efrain Cruz, 134, Vieques, PR, 3-0 (1), impressed (or did he?) with a unanimous shutout of tough Bryan Acaba, 133, Arecibo, PR, via Bklyn., 3-3 (2), in a good four. Efrain exploded out for round one, flurried to the body to bring the hands down, then cracked a left hook to the chin that sent Acaba reeling and bouncing off the bottom rope for ref Dick Pakozdi’s count. Hard-nosed purists would demand a quick execution, but Acaba hung in grimly for the remainder. Bryan was never a factor against the bigger and stronger opponent, but by the fourth, Cruz appeared to be getting frustrated trying to reach him. Efrain began jiving and switch-hitting in an effort to draw him out, and managed to get on a punishing roll that brought up the crowd to the bell.
In a tame yet entertaining four, Marcus Hall, 142, Roch., 6-5-1 (2), barely managed a majority win over Ibrihim Shabazz, 143, Newark, 1-2-1. Yet another pair of lefties, Hall came out making the fight while Shabazz, a good technician, boxed well within himself. By the third, Hall was lulled into Ibrihim’s fight, then tried to open it up by jiggling his midsection and making faces. Marcus did just enough to take the fourth, meanwhile continuing to jiggle like he had more on his mind than boxing. During the announcement, Marcus was still jiggling. Marlinski appeared to punish him for this tactic, at 38-38. Ackerman and Johnson edged it to Hall, 39-37.
Debuting to a rousing ovation, Brandon “Eyes Wide” Williams, 128, Roch., got a good fight out of debuting Ahmad Shukoori, 129, Toronto, four. The slick southpaw favorite showed good defense and quick counters. But the rugged visitor was persistent and an ever-present threat. Shukoori nearly turned it around when he stepped up the pressure in the third. But Williams wisely kept his distance and boxed to victory in the crucial fourth. Johnson and Schreck scored 39-37, Marlinski 40-36.
Another popular local, Lavisas Williams, 132, Roch., made a sensational debut in a scheduled four against Jeremy Graves, 135, Niagara Falls, 0-2. Two more southpaws! What’s going on in Rochester? The two mixed it up in sizzling action until a short, inside left hook rocked Jeremy. He stumbled away, then grabbed and pulled Williams to the canvas. Ref Paul Brown correctly gave a count to Graves. Upon resumption, Williams drove him back with a straight left and buried him with a sweeping right, a KO at 2:17, round one.
Greg Brady, 197, Buffalo, 1-1 (1), scored his first win the hard way, in a scheduled four. After Brady dominated most of round one with counters, the attacking Kalven Jenkins, 201, Troy, 1-2-2, stepped in and buckled Greg’s knees with a big right sucker punch just before the bell. Brady had to hold to get out of the round, but was back in form in round two. A short right uppercut inside as he tried to duck folded Jenkins to the canvas. Shortly after, a long right deposited him again, and Pakozdi waved a TKO, at 1:50.
Hector Jr. and members of Basilio’s family were present for the ceremony as timekeeper Bob Caico tolled the final ten count for Carmen and “Macho”. A fine crowd turned out, estimated 1500-1800, indicating that boxing in Rochester has an encouraging future.