J. R. Jowett reporting from ringside: Give promoter/matchmaker Marshall Kauffman credit; when both of his headliners fell off the card, he went ahead anyway with a six-bout show, drew a fair house, and had five of the matches prove competitive and entertaining.
Injury-prone heavyweight prospect Travis Kauffman, the promoter’s son, was intending to put some momentum behind his stop-start career coming off a solid win this summer, but had to withdraw with yet another injury. And Ronald Cruz, who packs ‘em in over in nearby Bethlehem, suffered a recent upset defeat and wasn’t ready yet. The show Nov. 10 at the familiar and long-time venue Riveredge Restaurant went on anyway, and made up in competition anything it lacked in star power.
The main event turned out to be a gem, in both action and drama. Unbeaten in five bouts, Grayson Blake, 156, State College, took on a dangerous sleeper in the improbably-named Robert Sockwell, 156, E. Stroudsburg, 5-2-1 (4), over six rounds. Not only was the action good, but the contrast in styles was fascinating to anyone who enjoys the nuances of the game. Both are stylists, which might have been expected to produce a ho-hummer. No way! Blake set the pace and was the aggressor while Sockwell constantly retreated while looking for opportunities to counter. This is a risky tactic, as judges often score on body language more than clean blows. And indeed, they nearly did so in this one, but referee Gary Rosato ultimately saved it for the just winner.
“I went into this with a broken finger and I may have broken another one,” Sockwell explained later. “So I was a little hesitant to throw my punch.” Indeed, Robert was conservative with his shots but made them count, jolting his opponent on several occasions. The contest started right off at a brisk pace, with Blake “making” the fight while the southpaw Sockwell twice measured him for solid left counters. After Grayson took the first, Robert’s counters started clicking in the second, with one prolonged volley punctuating the round. With the pace of the battle escalating, it reached peak in a hotly-contested third. Sockwell started fast with another volley of short counters until Blake answered back with a crisp left hook. Robert fell back and regrouped, then quickly mounted another counter offensive when Grayson attacked. Blake was jolted in a crackling exchange but it died out once he wasn’t playing into Sockwell’s hands by going after him. A small detail amidst the solid action, however, would ultimately prove Grayson’s undoing. He lost his mouthpiece three times during exchanges, although the last might be excused as a clean shot sent the mouthpiece flying shortly before the bell. Grayson also came out of the round with an egg under his right eye.
After such a hectic third, the next two rounds were cautious and largely tactical. Instead of standing ground and countering, Sockwell began back pedaling to such an extent that it may have cost him the fourth despite still landing his counters. Grayson was still trying to corral him through the fifth, but nailed Robert along the ropes with a good right late in the round. And then came the climactic sixth!
The fight was on the line, and Blake came out purposefully, picked up the pace, and seemed to be taking over until rocked by a three-punch counter combination that sent him into reverse. Sockwell took over the action and had a strong round. And then it happened. Grayson lost his mouthpiece again, and Rosato followed the sage advice of Popeye when he said, “Enough is too much,” and took away a point. The verdict was up for grabs, but Sockwell had taken the high ground and appeared to deserve the win. “My heart was racing,” he said, awaiting the decision. Announcer Larry Tornambe (a/k/a “Torma”), who had his lone pro fight in this room, proclaimed that while George Hill had it 58-55, Dave Greer and James “Meatball” Condon both scored 57-56, the point deduction giving Sockwell the unanimous win, and his first by decision.
In a scheduled six, Yordenis Ugas, 143, Miami, 12-1 (7), had little in front of him with Dedrick Bell, 138, Memphis, 7-16 (6). Bell tried to be cute by covering on the ropes, but Ugas broke up that tactic by smoking the body. Dedrick’s elbows were kept pinned to his sides, unable to fire back any answering counters, and he showed little offense. Shots to the Everlast were visibly hurting in the second, and Dedrick slumped to the canvas when Rosato broke them, no knockdown. Shortly after, Yordenis went to the head with a solid right to send him down for the first time officially. Bell barely got out of the second, but another right folded him for the count at 0:46 of the third.
Although Frankie de Alba won handily in a good bout, the local heroes were given no soft touches in the four-rounders. De Alba, 131, Reading, 5-1-2 (1), had too much savvy for willing Benjamin Burgos, 130 ½, Mt. Pocono, 1-1, in a lively bout. Burgos forced the action throughout, but the southpaw favorite had him missing and getting tattooed with well-placed lefts. The game underdog would not be deterred, and had his best round in the fourth. Scores: 39-37 twice, 40-36, all de Alba.
In a bruising crowd-pleaser, Jeremy Stauffer, 186 ½, Reading, 7-2-2 (6), escaped with a majority draw against Elvin Sanchez, 195, Paterson, 5-2-1 (4). He almost didn’t escape the first. In an in-your-face slugfest with both at southpaw, Sanchez beat the loose-limbed favorite to the punch repeatedly, wobbled him, and bloodied his nose. But the determined Stauffer turned the contest at the start of the third, nailing and staggering the now-orthodox Sanchez with two straight left sucker punches. Elvin faded notably but still fought gamely, with the verdict fair. Scores: 39-37 Stauffer, 38-38 twice.
Aaron Kinch, 262, Newark, 4-0-1 (1), clobbered his way to a split decision over debuting Aaron Bratton, 256 ½, Balto., in a brutal, punishing struggle. Bratton had better hands and started with sharp, straight punches. But the roundhousing Kinch, though crude, was nothing if not persistent and just kept coming. Kinch battered the body and deserved the win despite a split call. Scores: 39-37 Bratton, 39-37 and 40-36 Kinch.
Charles Mack, 137, Phila., was debuted tough against hard-luck David Warren Huffman, 136 ½, Milwaukee, 2-9 (1), and lucky to come away with a majority draw in a scrappy contest. Mack was more skillful and countered backing up, while the aggressive visitor “made” the fight. Round three was pivotal, as Huffman pinned Mack on the ropes and flailed away, though with little on the punches, while Charles landed fewer but cleaner blows. Scores: 39-37 Huffman and 38-38 twice.