Under cover of night, Boxing left town. Fight shows went to casinos in Chester, Bethlehem, and Atlantic City; The Blue Horizon closed; Russell Peltz absconded. Before anyone noticed, one of boxing’s traditionally great cities, Philadelphia, was down to few, if any, shows.
Thankfully, the picture has brightened. The lone constant, Greg Robinson, has run a card already this year. And now a new promotional venture, Cool Boxing, has their second card coming up and promising regular dates barely a month apart.
A division of a larger sports promotional organization, Vengeance Promotions, that runs all shades of combat sports and other competitions, Cool Boxing is the ambitious creation of Richie Caraballo, Manny Rivera, and former Pennsylvania boxing commissioner Humberto Perez. On March 10, they presented a press conference at the Penn Treaty Building on the Philadelphia waterfront to promote their second card, this Friday, March 14, not far away at the Sheet Metal Workers Hall, 1301 S. Columbus Blvd. The conference was organized and hosted by Kurt Wolfheimer, and lovingly catered by Darling’s Café.
Matchmaker Will Ruiz had the group’s young hopefuls there to meet press and fans. Leading off was debuting Jihad Wise, an amateur standout from the tough Bozy’s Dungeon. He faces James Gooding, at 1-4-1 but coming off a draw with a 3-1 prospect.
"I’m not expecting a knockout; whatever comes, comes. That’s it," the serious Wise stated matter-of-factly. "I can brawl; I can also box, counterpunch, whatever I have to do to win."
The promoter’s son, Ricardo Caraballo, returns after a year hiatus, and having dropped the decision in his pro debut. "After my first fight, I wasn’t there mentally," Ricardo explained. "Now I’m more mentally there. During my layoff, I learned you do it the whole way. It’s not a halfway sport."
Caraballo, out of aptly named Badlands Gym, the home of hero trainer Billy Briscoe, meets debuting Jose Garcia. Nelson Acevedo was a debuting sensation on Cool’s first show, and returns in a tough match against Jesus Gonzalez, 2-4 (2).
Nelson will be meeting a renewed Gonzalez, who destroyed a debuting local amateur ticket seller in his last fight, in Niagara Falls, as reported on SecondsOut.
"I just heard he’s a strong fighter, come-forward fighter. I’m ready to do whatever I’ve gotta do," Nelson stated. Boxing out of Rivera Rec as well as alternating trips to his native Puerto Rico, Acevedo explained his shifty style,
"I pretty much learned that here in Philadelphia they teach you how to be slicker, how to be a better boxer. In Puerto Rico, they just go toe-to-toe."
Multi-titled national amateur champ Milton Santiago makes his third professional appearance. Facing 17-bout trial horse William Lorenzo (3-14), this one isn’t just about winning but how the 17-year-old prospect will deal with his opponent’s experience.
The casually confident Santiago, guided by Eddie Woods and Moz Gonzalez, stated, "No real difference to me…I just go out there and keep my hands up…do my job." Asked about "pressure" from coming off a storied amateur career and high expectations, Santiago explained,
"I don’t feel no pressure at all. The spotlight? When I go in the ring I just block everything out; I don’t hear the crowd." Still in high school and asked about bullying, Milton smiled, "They know better."
Other undercard bouts feature another marquee amateur, Damon Allen, 5-0 (2), in training and unavailable for the conference, versus a challenge in Hector Marengo, 6-6-4 (4), who Wolfheimer described as a "gate keeper". Also, two 1-0 fighters clash as Johnson Jajoute meets Martin Brown. In the co-feature, Derrick Webster, in his second contest after a year layoff, faces another veteran road warrior in Lester "El Cubanito" Gonzalez, 12-11-4 (6), in an all-southpaw pairing.
"I don’t really know much about him," said the confident Webster, "I think HE needs to worry about who he’s fighting." Quizzed about his slow start in the bout coming off the layoff, which then ended in an explosive final two rounds as reported on SecondsOut, Derrick explained that a quick KO in the prior event deprived him of warmup in the dressing room.
"I had to warm up on him. After thirteen months of being off, you don’t want to just run in there and get hit with anything crazy…I just wanted to get in there and get a lot of the rust off of me and break him down mentally."
After the crowd got restless and Derrick opened up, he explained, "You gotta be fan friendly…when they reacted, I reacted." His colorful nickname,
"Take It to the Bank", originated early on when, still inexperienced, he was sparring with then-veteran amateur standout Joey Dawejko, and then-trainer Wade Hinnant kept yelling, "Take it to the bank!" Oh, yes…there IS a main event.
Another local favorite returning to the wars, Derek Ennis, arrived just in time after waiting for relief on his job as a bus driver. Ennis, 23-4-1 (13), faces Emil Gonzalez, 11-6-1 (8). Never in a bad fight, Ennis doesn’t have a laugher here either. Note the "8"! Derek is as unpredictable as his up-and-down career, other than always coming to fight and taking it to his opponent.
Asked about the canceled fights, opponents pulling out and subsequent inactivity, he commented, "A lot of people fighting for a lot of good money, and me just…[drifting into thought]…I always wanted to be in there but I don’t know…"
Fans can see if Derek finally starts the road to ultimate success with a steady promotion behind him. Plus a preview of the rising stars hoping to follow the same path. And not least…four, count ‘em, four Gonzalez’, if you include manager Moz. Tickets and info: 610-864-0945, 267-456-0842, 267-325-9963, 352-476-8477.