A Philly special

Super middleweights Jesse Hart (left) and Demond Nicholson. Photo credit: Mikey Williams/Top Rank

Super middleweights Jesse Hart (left) and Demond Nicholson. Photo credit: Mikey Williams/Top Rank


It’s been over two decades since a major boxing event took place inside of the city limits of Philadelphia. For a city that is steeped in boxing tradition, the absence of such a major event has partially been due to the landscape of the sport. January 18, 1992 (Meldrick Taylor vs. Glenwood Brown) and December 16, 1995 (Mike Tyson vs. Buster Mathis Jr.) were the last two times the world of boxing was seriously focused on the city for an event. This drought comes to an end tonight when Top Rank and Hall of Fame promoter J Russell Peltz present a night of boxing action, live on ESPN. Other than the return of major boxing to Philadelphia, what also makes this event special is that it will feature local talent from the city and surrounding areas.


Both the undercard and the ESPN-televised fights feature various levels of the major talent that is on the rise from the city, while each fighter has his own individual stories that will endear him to the viewing audience. This event taking place in Philadelphia couldn’t have picked a better time, with the success of college and major sports franchises from the area adding to the sport’s history currently being written. From the sound of things, the current sports landscape is helping at the box office as well.


“Temple University (Liacouras Center) has done a great job of online ticket sales,” states Peltz. The Liacouras Center holds 10,000 seats during Temple Owl basketball games but, for this event, it will be configured for half of that with 5,000 seats available. “Around 4,000 tickets have been sold already. It looks like the Sixers won’t be playing on Saturday, so, with the walk-up sales, we should be more than fine.”


One would think that a 5,000 seat sell-out of an arena that holds double that figure should be far from considered a successful promotion. This, is however, an impressive figure, when you consider that all of the other promotions in the area, and even in Atlantic City, have been in venues that hold, at most, 2,000 seats. Yes, even in Atlantic City, the city in which Arturo Gatti would have Boardwalk Hall packed to the gills with 10,000 fans, 15 years ago, has fallen on hard times and any of their venues would love for a promotion to bring in 5,000 fans.


Rumors of an event of this magnitude were first circulated back in October. As time passed, many local observers started to believe the rumor would be like all of the others, regarding a major promotion in Philadelphia, and would not come to fruition. “I want to thank (Top Rank CEO) Bob Arum, Peltz and everybody in Philadelphia that helped put this together,” stated Jesse Hart. The former super middleweight world title challenger is no stranger to the pressures being a Philadelphia fighter can bring, which is why, even though he has fought in front of his hometown crowd in the past, considering tonight’s platform, it’s easy to see why this fight is already special to him.


It’s more than a certainty that, during the ESPN broadcast, the “Worldwide Leader” will provide the context to just why this event is special to the Hart family. (Coverage of this unique Philadelphia boxing story has been done by UCNLive.com in the past.)


“I’ve had nothing but learning experiences in my last couple of fights,” comments Hart. “My loss to (Gilberto) Ramirez, my fight here in Philly when I got knocked down against (Dashon) Johnson are learning experiences for me to get better. That’s going to be the difference in the fight on Saturday night: Experience.” Hart will battle Demond Nicholson for the NABF title and a victory will help beat the drum for a rematch against current WBO world champion Gilberto Ramirez. After his tough, back-and-forth slugfest with Ramirez, last September, despite sustaining a close decision loss, Hart arrived at the elite level of his division and is now seen as a surefire, future world champion. A victory in an event like this, especially an impressive one against a tough fighter like Nicholson, would continue to solidify this notion.


Also on the television portion of this card is the all-Philadelphia showdown between two hard-punching heavyweights. “I’m a promoter, so that’s what I do: promote fights,” quips Peltz. “(Bryant) Jennings and (Joey) Dawejko is just that: a fight.” Along with the Hart-Nicholson match up, Bryant Jennings vs. Joey Dawejko has the local boxing scene salivating at the possibility of a historic fight, one that will rank among some of the other legendary all-Philadelphia battles. “This is the type of fight that we need if we’re not going to have to wait another 20 years for a major fight card in the city,” states Peltz.



If anyone is aware of just what it will take for major boxing events to find their way back to Philadelphia on a consistent basis, it’s Peltz, which is what makes this night so important to the future of boxing in the city. For far too long, Philadelphia has been viewed as just a historic boxing town that once had a rich culture of fights and fighters, at one point, a great boxing Mecca that produced tough fighters who were all left hook and heart. Unfortunately as that narrative continued to grow, the effect was that new talent from the city would travel to other locales to ply their trade and grow their careers.


Three of the undercard bouts will feature local prospects. These three fighters have so far been mainstays in the area, as they continue to nurture their craft. Junior lightweight Joseph Adorno is originally from Puerto Rico but now lives and trains in Allentown, Pennsylvania. Allentown is part of Lehigh county and is home to the Sands Casino in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, a stone’s throw away from Allentown. Outside of Philadelphia, this area in the Northeast part of the state is home to the second largest Puerto Rican population in Pennsylvania. Adorno has fought four of his first six fights in the state, three times in smaller venues in Philadelphia and once at the Sands. One thing is clear, aside from his skills: His supporters are vocal and they like to travel.


Adorno, who is signed with Top Rank, has the skills that excite a passionate fan base like Puerto Ricans. On more than one occasion, he has been compared to Miguel Cotto, in terms of his temperament, especially inside of the ring. Adorno does everything right. He is technically sound and it’s easy to see that hours upon hours have been spent with his father/trainer Anibal Adorno, making sure that the fundamentals are not neglected.


South Philadelphia native Christian Carto is another example of a local prospect who has stayed in the area, while growing as a fighter. Carto has had 14 fights (with eleven stoppages) and all of them have been in the Philadelphia area or Atlantic City. Like Adorno, Carto has formed a solid fan base in his hometown. Carto is the type of fighter who promoters gush over. He has the looks and humble demeanor that has mainstream crossover appeal. His family is Italian from South Philadelphia and they already have a group of supporters that continues to grow after each performance. And by the way, yes, this young man can flat-out fight.


Carto has national amateur experience and can punch for a bantamweight. He is also technically advancing. After stopping his first 11 opponents, his last three fights have gone the distance. However these three fights have been his most impressive victories yet. In a short amount of time, he is already such a ticket draw that he almost fills the smaller 1,200-seat venues on his own and, as a result, has been the main event on several occasions. Carto supporters are not all boxing or even sports fans; they are Christian Carto fans. This Saturday may provide the first step for Carto to see just how good a prospect he really is. It’s been said that his competition level needs to continue to increase. So far, when it has, Carto has risen to the occasion.


Marcel Rivers also hails from Philadelphia and spends his days in the boxing gym and as a worker for the city. He is a hard man, who has only fought four bouts, all in the city, but has put on exciting performances each time. Rivers is the type of Philly fighter who would be considered a throwback to the old days. He comes forward looking to take out his opponents. Boxing will always have a place for that type of fighter.


That said, it’s clear just why having tonight’s card be a success is so important. If the remaining seats are filled, the arena is raucous and the fans live up to all of the good things Philadelphia sports fans are known for – passion and pride – fighters like Jesse Hart and fights like Jennings-Dwejko could pave the way for the future to cash in on the fan bases they are creating now.


While everything aforementioned about Philadelphia is the focus of everyone inside of the city, Peltz stated the following, as the media day for the show, came to its conclusion: “All of this may be the focus of everyone in Philadelphia but you are aware that (WBO junior featherweight titlist Jessie) Magdaleno and (Isaac) Dogboe is the main event, right?”




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