By J.R. Jowett reporting from ringside: Boxing can be a Phoenix that returns from its own ashes. And so it is fitting that Michael’s 8th Avenue in Glen Burnie, MD, returned to the professionals after a hiatus of more than six years. For two decades, the catering hall presented first-rate club shows on a regular schedule, most promoted by no-longer-active Scott Wagner. But since 2010, the hall has hosted only amateur cards, promoted by affable Jake “The Snake” Smith, who had fought here as a pro. With the game in his blood, Jake finally returned with a pro-am card, on Friday the 13th (’17), no less! Not a hub of “big” fights (they go to DC), the relentlessly blue collar Baltimore area has traditionally been a hotbed of first-rate club boxing between local rivals. About 500 fans turned up to see the tradition upheld with an entertaining and competitive show. Jake did his own matchmaking. “Jumpin’” Joe Gradowski kept time and Brad “The Auctioneer” Dudley was announcer.
The main event marked the return of popular Jessie Nicklow. Not faring splendidly in ventures out of home territory, Nicklow had been off for a year. He needed an easy re-entry, but wasn’t fed a stiff. Nicklow, 164, Brooklyn, MD, 26-8-3 (8), faced Chauncey Fields, 163 ½, Lynchburg, VA, 4-1 (2), in a crowd-pleasing eight. Although unbeaten coming in, the visitor had been severely limited in level of competition, and had been off a year before returning for one fight. Nonetheless, the underdog was solidly built, bigger than his opponent, a game competitor, and had fundamental skills so that Nicklow “got rounds” and the partisan local fans a treat. In a productive clash of styles, Jessie kept up a constant, controlled pressure, firing short punches as he relentlessly dogged his opponent and kept the action at close quarters. For his part, the rangy Fields circled away and tried to counter, although his roundhouse punches were more often picked off by Nicklow’s high and tight defense.
In round four, with fans already enjoying the lively trading, Nicklow upped the ante and started going for the home run. Trying to quell the swelling attack, Fields pushed him down and referee Ken Chevalier ruled a knockdown. The bell ended the round before the situation could develop. Jessie caught back up in the next round as his body punching began to wilt Chauncey. The gasping fields lost his mouthpiece, the got a rest as the referee went from corner to corner trying to find out who was the owner. Jessie punished the tiring foe in the sixth, then became frustrated when Fields eschewed combat and circled wide in the seventh. Nicklow stopped and stood still, inviting Fields to come to him. Chauncey declined, Jessie flourished a bow, and Fields returned it before resuming his circling. But both fought hard in a bristling final round go out on a high note. The judges evidently credited the faux knockdown, scoring unanimously 79-73 for Nicklow.
Jake The Snake did is own fighters no big favors in the matchmaking, as evidenced in an excellent six between touted Donald Wallace, 166, Balto., 2-0 (1), and tough and dangerous Tahir Thomas, 167, Salisbury, 4-1-1 (3). The two began battling immediately, but in controlled and style-dictated combat, not a street fight. The bigger Wallace used his long reach to score straight rights while the stockier Thomas tried to step in with left hooks. Action was close but with Wallace getting the better of it into the third, when he started to settle down on his punches and dig in for a finisher. Loading up his punches left Wallace open and Tahir stepped in and drilled him with a short right that sent Wallace sprawling on the canvas, bleeding from the mouth. It was late in the round and when he arose shaken and referee Brent Bovell took time to look him over, Donald was able to scramble out of the round. Working his corner, Jake the Snake then bought extra time before the start of round four by mopping up spilled water with a diligence that would have done justice to Martha Stewart. To his credit, Wallace boxed smartly while Thomas looked for the finisher, then held his own as trading escalated to the bell, with Tahir’s mouthpiece knocked out and the fighter trying to pick it up himself with a gloved hand. The last two remained competitive, with Wallace outscoring Tahir in close competition for the unanimous win. John Gradowski scored 59-55, Chevalier and Don Risher 57-56.
Having the promoter in his corner didn’t help debuting Roger Caruso, 151 ¼, Dundalk (Balto.), against Aaron Anderson, 154, Balto., 2-0 (2), in a scheduled four. The gangly Caruso looked at the floor during Bovell’s instructions and never got untracked against his purposeful southpaw opponent. Anderson walked him down, floored him with a right hook, and then caught Caruso on the ropes, drilling him with a straight left to the body that doubled Caruso over on the floor for the count at 1:34 of the opening round. Caruso was worked over by the medics for some time before leaving the ring.
A battle of debutees was all Ernest Hall, 130, Balto., as he blew out Cleveland Hemphill, 133 ½, Temple Hills, MD, in a scheduled four. Hemphill couldn’t fight, covered up without punching, and went down in the first from a left hook and glancing right. In the second, he went down twice from rights to the body that didn’t exactly resound, and then failed to come out for round three.
140 Open – Andy Bueno, Lincolnway Gym, York, PA, dec Dorien Bostic, Dave Sewell Gym, Balto., 3.
168 Open – Tyrell Boyd, Mack Allison Gym, Balto., dec Ashton Sykes, Odenton Fitness, 3.
165 Open – Deshawn Chase, Balto. Bxg, dec Eric Walker, Arvin Bxg & Fitness, Balto., 3.
Spr Hvy Novice – Brian Haneschlager, Balto. Bxg, RSC2 Mike Burris, Balto. Bxg.
In memory of K.O.J.O.