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23 MAY 2018

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Pierce Upsets Holmes In Bethlehem

Jason Pribila – Ringside in Bethlehem: You will not see too many fight cards headlined by a fighter with an 0-1 record as a professional. When the fight takes place in Pennsylvania’s Lehigh Valley a few miles away from where that fighter’s Hall of Fame grandfather put the city of Easton on the map you have a reason for a venue to host their inaugural fight card. Jeffrey Dorsey Holmes entered the ring to face Marquis Pierce in a four round featherweight bout, with his legendary grandfather sitting ringside.


Holmes made his boxing debut in 2012 after a 6-2 amateur career. Holmes took up boxing after completing a successful collegiate wrestling career and hoped to earn his first victory as a professional. Across the ring was another area fighter who was hoping to make his professional debut a successful one.


Both fighters were in great shape, and early on Holmes put his athletic ability on display. He kept Pierce off balance by showing good lateral movement and yes, an effective jab. He captured the first round on my card.


Pierce turned the tide in the second by rocking Holmes with a pair of uppercuts. He got the attention of Holmes and the enthusiastic crowd when he traded on even terms as the second round came to an end.


By the third round Holmes had abandoned the jab, and Pierce was able to cut off the ring and force Holmes to the ropes. Pierce was finding it easier to score with a stationary opponent in front of him, who was unable to let his hands go until the end of the round after Pierce had momentarily punched himself out.


The fight was on the table as the fighters touched gloves to begin the final round. Holmes started well by again using his legs and sticking his jab, but Pierce eventually caught him with the punch of the fight. A counter right hand caught Holmes on the chin and knocked the mouthpiece out of his mouth. He survived the flurry that followed, and the groggy Holmes went back to his corner salvaging a draw on my scorecard.


His fate, however, would be determined by the judges at ringside. The official scores read: 38-38, 39-37, and 39-37 for the fighter from Philipsburg, Marquis Pierce.


The Undercard: If there was a mistake in the promotion, it was putting the cruiserweight bout between David Valycko (2-0) and Martez Williamson (1-2) in the co-feature slot. Williamson came out of the corner with a style that I have not seen since Jim Carrey played Andy Kauffman in “Man on the Moon”. Chin tucked and arms flailing made me wonder what had inspired Williamson to decide to lace up the gloves. Valycko was able to get inside and score during the first two rounds, before he suddenly became a spectator.


The final bell finally rang, and the judges turned in scores of 40-36, 39-37, and 39-37 in favor of Valycko. In all honesty I had the bout scored a draw, but I’m thankful the judges erred on the side of caution by ruling in Valycko’s favor. A win for Williamson may have been seen as encouragement, and heaven knows that there were impressionable fans witnessing their first professional boxing show.


John Lennox (12-2) and Joseph Rabotte (11-25) traded a ton of leather in a heated heavyweight scrap. Lennox came out with his left arm at his side, and seemed determined to simply walk down his opponent. A right hand landed on the top of Rabotte’s head and sent him to the canvas at the end of the first. That early success turned out to be fool’s gold as Rabotte rose and fought the rest of the fight on even terms.



Lennox is a strong kid, but relying on toughness is not going to take him very far.  He ignored the advice of trainer, Buddy McGirt, who pleaded with Lennox to let his hands go.  Lennox was content to walk forward trying to land a big shot.  


He did find success when he went to the body, but ate punches whenever Rabotte committed to throwing counter shots.  


When both fighters decided to trade in the final round, it was Lennox that got rocked and sent into the ropes.  It turned out to be too little, too late for Rabotte who was on the losing end of scores that read: 58-55, 57-56, 57-56.   The flash knockdown was the difference in a bout that saw one man win the fight, but lose the boxing match.


There was one local fighter that got his hand raised on the evening.  Easton’s Rashad Bogar (5-3) out fought the game, but overmatched Damon Antoine (11-47).  Bogar landed several sizzling left hooks, one of which split Antoine’s lip.  Bogar also showed good defense, and remained poised when Antoine tried to make things rough by using his head.  It made me wonder who were the three guys that bested this kid?


The judges’ cards reflected the action that took place in the ring, and Bogar was a unanimous winner by identical scores of 40-35.


The knockout of the night came at 2:59 of the third round of a light heavyweight bout between Antonio Liles (1-0) and James Danson (5-11).  It is not often that any fighter makes their pro debut against an opponent that has 15 professional bouts to their credit, but Liles’ team was willing to roll the dice.  Liles patiently landed punches and seemed poised to win his first bout by decision until he unleashed a counter right hand that sent Denson face down to the canvas.   Referee Gary Rosato gave Denson a moment to try to get up, but after a closer look he waved it off before counting to ten.

In the opening bout of the evening Ibrihim Shabazz evened his record to (2-2) as he outpointed David Huffman (4-15) in a junior welterweight bout.  Scores were 40-36 twice, and 39-37.


The Venue:  I’m sure that you will not find too many more attractive venues to stage an intimate fight card.  ArtsQuest is a three story building built on the property of where Bethlehem Steel was once a world-wide producer of steel.  The fight card took place on the third floor in a venue that has become a popular venue for musical acts.  They had to remove their stage so that the ring could be constructed.  Fans surrounded the ring with floor seating and a balcony that overlooked the ring with the iconic blast furnaces serving as a backdrop.  


Mark Demko of ArtsQuest told me that capacity was set at about 980 seats.  I did not get the official attendance but the organizers seemed pleased with the turnout for a fight card that did not begin to sell tickets until May 3.


Tickets were sold for $25 and $60, and the fans in attendance were able to get up close to not only a boxing legend, but also one of his most famous dance partners, “Gentleman” Gerry Cooney who was also at ringside doing commentary with Holmes for a regional television broadcast.


The card was promoted by Jay Newman who earlier stated that he wanted to establish a good atmosphere for boxing so that fans will want to come back again.  I would say that everyone involved accomplished that goal.


Boxing will return to Bethlehem on June 14 a few blocks away when Peltz Boxing and Main Events present their popular Fight Night series down the street at the Sands Casino.  That card will feature Sergey Kovalev, Bryant Jennings, and Ronald Cruz.  The tripleheader will be televised on NBC Sports Network.


Jason Pribila is a full voting member of the Boxing Writers Association of America.  He could be reached for questions and comments and followed on @PribsBoxing.


June 6, 2013

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