J. R. Jowett reporting from ringside: Club boxing is back in Philadelphia, but not without some rebirth pains. On May 30, 2014, Cool Boxing, promoter Richie Caraballo and matchmaker Will Ruiz, ran their third show at Sheet Metal Workers Hall. The site is a good little venue and not poorly situated, on the river front. But the 700 seat hall was less than half filled and rumor had it that they were unable to cover the cost of the main event, Derek Ennis vs Lester Gonzalez. The show went on and still provided some good bouts, plus the obligatory bad decision.
The remaining six became the main event and failed to excite. Derrick Webster, 167, Glassboro, NJ, 17-0 (8), took a ho-hum unanimous decision over road warrior Michael Gbenga, 169, Accra, Ghana, 19-14 (19). Despite his knockout prowess, the underdog failed to connect with anything remotely dangerous. The lanky southpaw favorite used his long jab and pecked from outside while moving away. The visitor was unable to penetrate effectively, with his attack reduced mostly to lunges. The last two rounds picked up the action a bit, with Webster winning by 59-55 from Dave Braslow and Rose Vargas, 58-56 from Allen Rubenstein. The scores were generous to the loser.
Nelson Acevedo, 122, Phila., 2-0 (2), lit up the undercard in a battle of southpaws with Jose Garcia, 120, Aguada, PR, 0-2, scheduled four. The compact Acevedo put together short, snappy combos, banging the lanky Garcia’s ribs inside Jose’s long reach. The relentless shelling quickly broke Garcia down, had him careening until the ropes kept him from falling out of the ring, and then folding to the canvas. The bombardment continued to the bell, and Jose failed to answer for round two.
Debuting Ramir Hilliard, 129 1/2, Phila., flounced into the ring all gilt and flash to face winless prole Pedro Andres, 131 1/2, Bridgeton, NJ, 0-3, in a scheduled four. The bigger favorite came out confidently, let his hands go, and had Andres on the floor when he dug underneath with a low left hook. In the second, Hilliard was again taking care of business when the stubby opponent ducked low inside and Ramir again tried to bring up the left hook to the body. As Hilliard stepped back with hands low, Andres straightened up and popped him with a right that sent him staggering. After some frantic scrambling, Hilliard appeared to have escaped when Pedro popped him again, this time with a left hook. Hilliard went limp against the ropes and took a couple more shots until referee Shawn Clark, not one to let the grass grow, stopped the bout over Ramir’s protest, at 1:29.
The judges satisfied the bad decision requirement quickly, with the opening four. Imani Bell, 267 1/2, Phila., 2-0 (1), faced debuting Ashwin Trail, 244 1/2, Phila., in a bruising mauler. The straight-up, hulking lug Bell, said to have been a Penn State football player, lurched forward, threw sidearm punches and landed few clean blows, but managed to shove the more compact Trail around. Ashwin boxed, speared him steadily with the jab, bloodied Bell’s nose, and staggered him with a swiping right as the second ended. But Trail, himself bleeding from the nose, gave ground and did a lot of holding, although referee Hurley McCall never took a point. So while Ashwin was landing the clean punches, Imani was winning the battle of body language. Only Braslow interpreted this correctly, 39-37 Trail. Vargas had the same score for Bell, and Rubenstein turned in a mind-boggling shutout for the undeserving Imani.
Gilbert Alex Sanchez, 152 1/2, Camden, 3-4 (2), came out firing on all cylinders and his steady, smooth attack earned him a 2-point opening round, at least on one card, over game Juan Aguirre, 153, Jacksonville, 6-12-1, in a scrappy four. The underdog began popping counters in round two but was still getting clocked, with a swelling under his right eye. Sanchez seemed to lose some vigor in the third but did not fall apart. He changed tactics, circling and choosing counters carefully as Aguirre was now on the attack. Sanchez was still the cleaner puncher and won 40-35 on Rubenstein’s card and 40-36 from the others.
After a cautious first between Saud Clark, 145, Phila., 3-1-1 (2), and William Lorenzo, 145, Aguada, 3-17, action picked up. The southpaw Lorenzo began attacking and Clark, sliding along the ropes for escape, got a foot tangled with Lorenzo’s and went down hard. The crowd thought it was a knockdown and went wild, but ref McCall rightly ruled a slip. This nonetheless ratcheted up the action as well as the fans and in the excitement, Clark drew a caution from the ref for holding and hitting. Saud mounted a crude but vigorous two-hand barrage to take round three, and while William was coming forward, he wasn’t letting his hands go. In a wild fourth, Saud got a rest after a gonging of heads in the free-swinging exchanges and otherwise landed some jarring counters to earn the unanimous win. Vargas scored 39-37 and the others 40-36.
A somber moment started the show as ring announcer and ex-pro boxer Alex Barbosa read a tribute to one of the city’s greatest warriors as well as a friendly and gracious gentleman, Matthew Saad Muhammad. The audience remained respectfully quiet, and timekeeper Mike Milloy gave Matthew the final ten.