By J. R. Jowett, ringside at the Avalon Hotel in Erie, PA: All things must pass, it is said, but thankfully The Annual Erie Classic returned for its 27th reckoning. Normally a Fall event, numerous postponements had pushed it out of 2011 entirely and into June, 2012. The unfamiliar circumstances resulted in a turnout less than half the normally packed house on Saturday night. But the action-packed bouts held up the tradition that has made this a highlight of the calendar.
The main event was only a six, but Chris Hazimihalis, 140, Campbell, OH, 9-0 (7), stepped up a notch and showed he could be a fighter to watch. Hazi put on an eye-catching performance in nearly shutting out game but outgunned Wilfredo Acuna, 140, a Nicaraguan fighting out of San Juan, 14-10 (11), by unanimous decision in a thriller. The visitor suffered a serious cut on the forehead early in the first round, which produced two uncommon consequences. First, it was caused by a clean left hook, rather than the off-the-rack “accidental butt” which often produces a spoiled contest. Secondly, rather than running and covering, Acuna fought his brains out and never stopped trying, even after falling well behind. Hazimihalis was just too poised and sharp, picking punches well and dropping them in with precision. But even more notable was Hazi’s defense. At times, the spirited and willing Acuna would put six or eight punches together, only to have them all slipped or blocked. With the invader fighting out of a deep southpaw stance, their lead feet often got tangled, but Hazimihalis remained poised even through that. It could almost be argued that some rounds were won on defense, but that wasn’t necessary…the favorite was landing punches in non-stop trading.
Hazimihalis’ effort peaked in the third and fourth, when he mixed non-stop, landed blows without serious return punishment, and had the crowd up. Acuna continued to bleed, yet fought furiously despite a low yield of clean shots. The last two were Wilfredo’s best rounds, as he kept attacking vigorously and at last began to get some shots past Chris’ defensive skills. Even though one-sided, the contest action wise was a crowd-pleaser. Alexis Pierce scored 58-56, Dana DePaolo and Phil Rogers 59-55. “It’s a good learning experience, though, to fight a nice, cagey left-handed guy,” the winner observed, “So we’ll take it, learn from it, and keep getting better.” Fans can count on it!
The main event earned double credit by standing up against the preceding bout! The principle interest in the eyes of local fans was the pro debut of the only Erie fighter on the card, Samantha Griffith, 134 ½, in a scheduled four (two minutes) against Jennifer Woodward, 133, Albany. As usual, the women put on a battle royal that had the fans on their feet. What was not usual for a women’s bout was the display of one-shot power that produced a contest with dramatic swings. The physically bigger visitor, also in her debut, started whacking the favorite immediately from long range, forcing Griffith to move in and producing torrid action. Samantha’s eye was closing by end of round one. In heavy trading in the second, Griffith got an arm across the back of Woodward’s neck and forced her to the canvas. Fans thought it was a knockdown, excitement rose, and in the next exchange, Griffith walked into a right and was rocked. But she rallied, forced to the inside and landed a jarring right, then poured it on furiously to the bell, as the house went crazy. Excitement was high as the third started, and Woodward immediately went on the attack. But she walked smack into a booming right that sent her crashing onto one side, a KO at 0:23. Fans frolicked around ringside in celebration while Jennifer remained on a stool for a considerable time.
If those two bouts weren’t enough, it would have been a shame for anyone to lose a sizzling four between Jamell Tyson, 138, Rochester, 3-6-2 (1), and Justin Johnson, 136, Pittsburgh, 3-3-4. And no one did! The two slugged it out furiously at close quarters, with little to choose between them, until Johnson finally faded notably in the fourth. That did not stop Pierce from scoring a preposterous 40-36 Johnson. On Rogers’ card, the southpaw Tyson won 39-37. DePaolo fittingly made it a split draw, 38-38.
Debuting Fred Latham, 219, Pitts., got rid of the usually difficult Rayshawn Myers, 204, Cleveland, 4-14 (3), in a jiffy, scoring three knockdowns in the first 45 seconds of a scheduled four. The attacking Myers met with a left hook counter for a flash knockdown that he protested. There was no protesting the second one, however, as Myers immediately attacked again, got nailed with a solid right, and crumbled forward onto his knees. When Latham then bowled him over a third time, stepping in behind a battering-ram left, referee Rick Steigerwald (all bouts) had seen enough and called a TKO. Myers was never seriously hurt, but looked to be on a collision course.
The show opened with a good, close four between Derrick Moss, 137 ½, Cleveland, 2-0, and debuting Noel Hall, 138, Ann Arbor. Moss had to dodge the judging to gain a majority decision. Hall took the first behind a long jab, but the lanky Moss began to fire back with roundhouse shots that had Noel in some difficulty in round two. Moss continued the punishment in the third, but the game Hall was hanging in. Noel was still desperately trying to turn it in the fourth, but Derrick circled away and had him eating counters. Hall’s determination evidently tricked Rogers into scoring 38-38, but the others gave Moss the deserved win, 39-37.
Promoter/matchmaker Mike Acri presented a plaque in appreciation of The Classic’s traditional ring announcer Jim LeCorchick, who is recovering from heart surgery, while Chris Maras filled in.
June 4, 2012