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Smith Defeats Filipino in AC Brawl

J. R. Jowett reporting from ringside: With numerous small promotions keeping the NY to DC corridor thriving, North Jersey’s Vito Mielnicki (GH3 Prom’ns) teamed with “Doc” Nowicki & Dave Price (D&D Prom’ns) on 4/22/17 in Atlantic City, to combine the talents of young NJ and Philly prospects. The compact Celebrity Theater at the Claridge Hotel was SRO, around 600, to see five heroes win and one saved by a gift from the judges. Marc Abrams was publicist, while no one took credit for the matchmaking.

As a boxing match, it wasn’t. But as a crowd-pleaser, it was. The main event eight pitted Keenan Smith, 140, Phila., 11-0 (5), against Edgar Gabejan, 138, Rizal, Philippines, via Queens, 27-34-7 (9). One might have expected that in 67 fights Gabejan had learned how to box, but he hadn’t. Evidently they were little but street fights. It’s hard to win that way against a Philly fighter, who are generally well schooled before they get out of the amateur system. The fireplug underdog lunged, lurched, grabbed and wrestled, frequently going to the canvas as a means of escape or for want of anything else to do. An orang utan could count the number of clean punches on his toes, while it would help to have a calculator to keep track of the number of times Gabejan visited the canvas.

Aesthetically, it was a terrible fight. But one must give credit where credit is due, and the action was at a high pitch while highly unconventional, and the fans enjoyed it. Gabejan was charged with the first official knockdown late in round one when he reeled wildly off balance and the southpaw favorite pushed him over with a glancing left cross, unhurt. The two got tangled in the third and Edgar picked up Keenan and was going into a body slam when referee Ricky Gonzalez intervened and restored order…well, a semblance of it. Among the numerous slips, trips and flops, Gabejan was charged with a second knockdown in the fifth, again unhurt. Finally, in the seventh, Smith decided it was Popeye Time… enough was too much…and went into a higher gear to get rid of him. Edgar was worked over in a corner until a short left sent him down for sure. He got up but was immediately battered along the ropes, Smith now going full tilt with the cleanest punches of the fight, until Gabejan just walked away in surrender. It was 1:46 of the penultimate round of a scheduled eight. Commented Keenan on what it was like against such a physically difficult opponent, “Oh, man, you gotta keep goin’, gotta pick it up, keep mixing ‘til you find something that works.” That he did.

In a scheduled six, Kenneth Sims, Jr., 141 ½, Chi., 12-0 (4), stopped Israel Villela, 142 ¼, Cancun, 6-5 (2), at 1:30 of the third. It was an all-action crowd pleaser, but also all Sims. The Mexican was dead game and had no aversion to wide open trading, but was flat-footed and virtually defenseless against the much sharper, quicker hands of the switch-hitting Sims. Israel was taking a licking and keeping on ticking until Kenneth finished off a bruising exchange by driving him back with three clean rights. Gonzalez stepped in and abruptly stopped the fight. Villela protested vigorously, but the referee had probably just extended the length of his career.

A bad contest was made infinitely worse by terrible scoring when Tyrell Wright, 240 ¾, Jersey City, 9-0-2 (6), got a gift draw with Dan Pasciolla, 249, Brick, NJ, 9-2-2, in six. Normally a light-hitting cutie, the southpaw Pasciolla had Al Cole in his corner, and immediately took the fight to the favorite. The smaller Wright responded by grabbing and mauling. Pasciolla was not landing thunderous, clean shots, but constantly stepped in and popped short punches before Wright could grab. Already by round two, the out-of-shape favorite seemed to be wearying of the wrestling and began giving ground. Finally in the fourth, the flow changed some as Pasciolla was not closing in as quickly, allowing Wright to maintain distance and throw some long punches. It looked briefly as though the contest might pivot, but Pasciolla picked up the pace in round five and again push-punched and manhandled Tyrell all around the ring. John Stewart scored rightly for Pasciolla, 58-56. Paul Wallace just didn’t get it and scored 57-57. And Mark Constantino gave Wright style points for missed punches from long range…because he certainly wasn’t scoring, aside from round four…and turned in an amazing 58-56 for Wright! A horrible decision.

Debuting Emmanuel Rodriguez, 121, Newark, and Jaxel Marrero, 121 ½, Vega Alta, PR, 1-8-2, opened the show with the most competitive fight of the card, four. The bigger visitor attacked vigorously throughout while the contained Rodriguez boxed smartly, popping counters as Marrero came forward. The round were close, but with Rodriguez outscoring into the fourth, when the underdog’s street-fighting tactics began to pay off. Rodriguez was drilled by a solid right in a neutral corner, but rallied to close the fight to applause. The mood was tense waiting for ring announcer Nino Del Buono to give the verdict. All scores were 39-37. Stewart favored Marrero’s relentless aggression, but Constantino and Wallace awarded the split decision fairly to Rodriguez’ slicker boxing.

Nobody was quite sure what the payoff punch was when John Bauza, 141 ½, N. Bergen, 6-0 (3), stormed across the ring at opening bell of a scheduled six, caught Francis Gakpetor, 145 ½, Accra, Ghana, 2-4-1 (2), barely out of his corner, and leveled him for a 17 second TKO! Gakpetor pulled himself up on the ropes but was shaky and referee David Franciosi rightly stopped it. A cornerman said it was a straight left while the southpaw victor called it a right hook.
Popular Dylan Price, 116 ¾, Sicklerville, 2-0 (2), used a crushing body attack to take the undisciplined movement out of spindly southpaw Chris Nelson, 121, Louisville, 1-4, in a scheduled four. The visitor showboated and swung wide, but the favorite’s sharp punching cut him off and quickly broke him down. Still, the underdog hung in gamely and made a crowd-pleasing battle while taking a terrible body beating until he collapsed from a left to the midsection in the third. He struggled up, but Commissioner Hazzard ascended the apron and referee Mary Glover stopped it, at 2:37.

In memory of K.O.J.O.

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