By Jason Pribila – ringside in Bethlehem: Boxing returned to the Sands Casino Resort in Bethlehem on Saturday Night. The eight bout card featured several match-ups pitting Mexican against Puerto Rican fighters. The main event saw Gamalier Rodriguez (22-2-3, 15KO) defend his NABO featherweight title via unanimous decision against Jorge Pazos (19-6-1, 13 KO).
Rodriguez came out early and used his quickness to get inside. Once there he landed several shots on and slightly below the beltline. Pazos never winced and intermittently found success when trying to counter. Rodriguez did what a baseball pitcher would do who was getting strikes called on the corners. Keep venturing further outside until the umpire calls a ball. In this case, Rodiguez continued to pitch until the fourth round when of his pitches landed squarely on Pazos’ cup, and well, referee Shawn Clark had no choice to call a foul.
Although there were several rounds of give and take, Rodriguez was doing enough in each round to earn 10 points on the judges’ cards. After seven rounds I felt that if Rodriguez stepped on the gas he may have been able to score a stoppage. On cue, Pazos landed a counter upstairs that momentarily wobbled Rodriguez. The flurry that followed up caused Rodriguez to cover up and hold for the first time.
The championship rounds would be anti-climactic as Rodriguez implemented the 4-corners defense. He got on his bicycle and opted to play it safe by running out the clock, rather than engage and give Pazos an opportunity to steal a victory.
The official scores read: 99-91, 99-91, 98-92 in favor Rodriguez who has not tasted defeat since August of 2009.
The co-feature was highlighted by Puerto Rican super prospect Felix Verdejo. The 2012 Olympian from Puerto Rico entered the ring for the seventh time since turning pro in December. Like many successful amateurs their competition on the professional level is a step back from those they faced in high level tournaments as amateurs.
That was not the case for Verdejo on Saturday night. In the blue corner was 34 year-old Guillermo Delgadillo, who was unfazed by Verdejo’s credentials. Delgadillo attacked from the opening bell firing hard shots to Verdejo’s body. That effort was rewarded by tasting a force fed left hook delivered by Verdejo. Another counter left sent Delgadillo to the canvas for the first time.
Verdejo fought with the skill and patience of a fighter well beyond his years. He kept Delgadillo at the end of his punches, and he used superior footwork to avoid any return fire.
The last round ended much like the first. Delgadillo threw caution to the wind and let his hands go hoping to land a fight changing shot, and instead he got buzzed with another left counter that resulted him in beating a count for the second time.
Verdejo won by shutout scores of 60-52 across the board. The fighter labeled by many as Puerto Rico’s “next big thing” is penciled in to support Miguel Cotto’s ring return on October 10 in Orlando, FL.
The final bout of the night featured another fast track prospect with a lineage that has fight fans in Philadelphia very excited. Jesse Hart improved to 9-0 and scored his eighth KO when he dropped the over-matched Steven Tyner (3-12-2) three times in 1:22 when the bout was mercifully waved off.
Hart, 24, is the son of 1970’s middleweight contender Eugene “Cyclone” Hart is on the fast track, and is hopeful of being a head-liner by the end of 2014. Nicknamed “Hard Work”, Hart put in his time in the amateurs when he won a gold medal at the 2011 Olympic Trials.
Toka Kahn Clary improved to (7-0-1)by shutting out Jose Valderrama (3-5, 3KO).