By J.R. Jowett reporting from ringside: The eminently successful Hard Hitting Prom’ns (Manny Rivera & Will Ruiz) have evidently run their last show at the Sugarhouse Casino and moved a few blocks to a “new” venue, on Friday night.
In a gentrified section of the crowded and colorful old city, a night spot was recently resurrected from a defunct old industrial building and audaciously named the Fillmore, after rock entrepreneur Bill Graham’s iconic clubs in NYC and SF. The Fillmore isn’t likely to surpass the now extinct Blue Horizon, but it does provide an intimate club environment, with good sightlines and a balcony. As usual with Hard Hitting, the 1300-seat hall seemed full. But it may not have a long life; Hard Hitting is rumored to be parlaying their club success into a move to major venues outside of Philadelphia. It will certainly be a loss to the thriving local club scene.
The show wasn’t especially good, with the red corner sweeping easily in record builders. No one cares, though. Philly sports fans are notoriously tough and discerning, and will turn in the middle of an event. But not this crowd. They enjoy seeing their neighborhood heroes belting out whoever is in the opposite corner. Thank goodness there were only six bouts! One thing revealed to the discerning and disinterested eye, however, was that several of the young hopefuls weren’t as dominant as might have been wished. Nonetheless everyone went home happy. Patrick Michael Fattore did the ring announcing and Kurt Wolfheimer was publicist.
The main eight was a tour de force for comebacking Ray Robinson, 149, Phila., 23-2 (12), against imported fall guy Claudinei Lacerda, 149 ¼, Sao Paulo, Brazil, 18-17-1 (13). One might have expected more from the visitor, but he didn’t have a clue as to the mechanics of fighting a tall, rangy southpaw. Claudinei evidently just wanted to go into the trenches and rumble, but had no idea how to penetrate or make the cutoff. By the third, he did manage to gamely force himself a step closer and that increased the level of action, but only to Claudinei’s further detriment. By round’s end, he was getting battered. The underdog at least couldn’t be faulted for courage or effort, as he tried hard to make it a street fight while getting beaten up. He was rocked several times but stayed on his feet. In the fifth, Robinson hooked him behind the neck and spun him to the canvas, no knockdown. But later in the round, referee Benjy Esteves had to restore order as their lead feet kept getting tangled, as will happen with a lefty fighting out of a deep stance, and had them stumbling. This proved prophetic. In the sixth, the desperate underdog was swinging so wildly that his misses had him spinning around. Robinson had no trouble tattooing him off these misses. And finally, in round seven, Lacerda was being worked on the ropes, tried sliding away along the strands, go his foot tangled with Ray’s and stumbled, and Esteves took that as a cue to stop the fight, at 2:30. Although he had virtually no chance of winning, Lacerda protested vehemently that it was only his foot getting tangled. But on the other side, he had been taking a relentless beating throughout.
Popular Christian Carto’s bout ended abruptly in a scheduled six. Carto, 118 ½, Phila., 8-0 (8), faced experienced Rudolph Hedge, 117 ½, Montego Bay, 10-5-3 (4). The Jamaican had good fundamental skills but didn’t let his hands go as he inched steadily forward. Meanwhile, the favorite maintained poise as he edged away, always working behind an educated jab. Occasionally, Hedge got stung by a right or left hook, but Carto bided his time and never lapsed into wild trading. In the fourth, Christian began hurting Rudolph to the body, but went back to the head. Nonetheless, it did the trick, as Hedge surrendered in his corner at the end of the round.
Crowd pleaser Branden Pizarro, 136, Phila., 4-0 (2), put a little too much into grandstanding and pleasing the crowd against sitting duck Matt Murphy, 137 ¾, St. Louis, 2-10-1 (2), four. A big right had the underdog hurt in the first, but Pizarro wasted effort with showy windmill punches instead of serious work. Late in the second, Branden finally connected again with a big overhand right, and as Murphy spun away, a glancing left hook sent him to the canvas. He was punished to the bell but survived the round. In the last two, Murphy stayed well away and ducked Pizarro’s telegraphed blows. All 40-35 (George Hill, Allen Rubenstein, Justin Rubenstein); generous to the loser.
Jeremy Cuevas, 138 ¼, Phila., 3-0 (2), at least got rounds out of Jack Grady, 142 ¼, Buffalo, 0-5-1, in a halfway decent four. The zany underdog switch hit against the favorite’s southpaw stance and bravely took a pounding through the first two. But Grady bluffed his way along with bravado and defiant gestures of “come ‘n’ fight” even while getting bopped. A prolonged exchange to the final bell brought up an appreciative crowd. All scores (Hill, Justin, Dewey LaRosa) 40-36; generous to the loser.
Touted Vidal Rivera, 129 ¾, Camden, 5-0 (4), didn’t have much in front of him yet was less than impressive in stopping Jesus Feliciano, 126, Manatí, PR, 0-3, in a scheduled four. Fighting out of a too-deep stance and flailing wildly, Feliciano was an easy target for Rivera’s sharp, short punches. Action was brisk with Jesus taking considerable punishment in the first, visibly hurt by a double left hook to the body. In the second, Vidal drilled him with a nice right lead and stepped in for the finisher only to be embarrassed by a jarring right counter. Feliciano made it out of round two and retired in his corner.
Gadwin Rosa, 130 ¼, Vieques, PR, 3-0 (2), had even less in front of him in a scheduled four with Wytama Faulk, 131 ¾, Webster, FL, 1-3. The southpaw foil missed an attempt at a left-right combo and got nailed by a short right counter, taking a knee. He then sat down in his own corner from what looked like nothing much and took the count, all in 2:14 of round one.
In memory of K.O.J.O.