Meanwhile in Philadelphia…
One thing that can’t be stressed enough is the fact that 2018, so far, has been a great year for sports in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Of course, the city doesn’t have what took place on February 4 in Minnesota, far from its minds. However the sport of boxing has been particularly sweet to the “City of Brotherly Love.” The Sixers and Flyers have followed up the city’s first Super Bowl Championship with great finishes to their seasons and now battle in the playoffs, as well as, for the first time in history, both the Super Bowl Champions and NCAA Men’s Basketball National champions hail from the same city. Since the end of January, local boxing has been quietly producing a slew of hit events from multiple promoters. After all, competition is good for the consumer and boxing in Philadelphia this year is a prime example.
Crowds at local shows have always been great, although, since the “Golden Age” of Philadelphia boxing in the 1960s and ’70s, these crowds have been relegated to smaller venues. Lately fans have been making their way to these venues, resulting in consistent sell-outs. So far in 2018, the schedule has been packed to the gills with at least an average of one show taking place in the Philadelphia or South Jersey area per week.
All of the shows mentioned at the end of that piece featured fan-friendly fights that left the crowds satisfied. So as things in the national and international boxing world continue to seesaw, with great fights on the major networks, along with controversies about whether or not you should eat meat from Mexico, it’s been refreshing to take a step back from all of that jazz and focus on the local scene. Especially since this local sports scene, as a whole, has been top-notch this year.
As we move into the next stage of the calendar year, so too does the world of boxing in the city, with a juggernaut of a show taking place on April 28, at the Liacouras Center, on ESPN. (This show will be covered next week.) Along with the recent announcement that Showtime’s “ShoBox” will be returning to the city on May 11, here are some of the thoughts regarding fighters and promoters that have made noise in 2018, as well as a list of the upcoming local shows.
Coming into this year, the top prospect from the area was welterweight Jaron “Boots” Ennis, 19-0, (17). He represented the top of the class in Philadelphia, a class, which coming into the year, was bursting at the seams with talent. While he has competed twice so far in 2018, (scoring two more stoppage wins), his opposition level needs to rise in order for him to answer the questions everyone is eager to ask. Granted Ennis is still just 20 years old and has the natural talent that may make it difficult for him to attract a serious test. However the fear of many is by Ennis continuing to make it look easy against the opponents he faces, his growth may get stunted. One thing is for sure though; he loves to train and gets quality work from the area talent. Complacency and boredom that hurts other surefire talent shouldn’t be an issue with Boots.
Christian Carto, Joseph Adorno and Marcel Rivers are other highly-praised prospects from the area but more on these fighters next week, since they will be fighting on the undercard of the Top Rank/Peltz Boxing mega-ESPN show on the 28th. One quick note regarding Carto: He has looked better in his last three fights that went the distance than he did in his first 11, which he ended inside of the distance.
King’s Promotions, which is owned by Marshall Kauffman, has continued to run a busy schedule. They put on shows both in Philadelphia and the northeast part of the state, utilizing venues like the Sands Casino in Bethlehem. King’s has done a great job in keeping its roster of talent busy. While it has a relationship with Premier Boxing Champions and has been used as the promoter-of-record for some of the PBC midweek shows, King’s has not fallen into the trap of waiting around for the call from PBC to be active. They put on shows that feature good match-ups and are not scared to match their fighters tough, unafraid of the outcome. In doing so, they have created a nice following for their fighters, as well as consistently producing sold out shows in venues such as the Sugar House, 2300 Arena and the aforementioned Sands Casino.
2018 has also been good to another Philadelphia-based promoter, Hard Hitting Promotions. Just like Kings, they have produced sell out shows and have remained active in the area. Hard Hitting’s first show of the year featured Hank Lundy and DeMarcus Corley in the main event at the 2300 Arena. Yes, while this fight should have taken place several years ago (to say the least) it still provided enough action to cap off a nice night of boxing. Hard Hitting Promotions has also taken pride in finding outside-the-box venues to stage some of their shows. This included their most recent show at the Fillmore, a Philly concert hall.
The atmosphere at that venue is top-notch and had many ringside observers relating it to an older classic venue in Philadelphia boxing lore: the Blue Horizon. While it doesn’t have the “old school” feel, I like to think of it in terms of what the Blue Horizon would have looked like, were it gentrified. Like King’s Promotions, Hard Hitting has matched its young stable tougher this year. In the past, they have taken some heat from the local press for offering shows in which you could automatically circle all the names fighting out of the red corner as the winners.
This however has not been the case so far, this year. On March 30, lightweight Branden Pizarro, one of their top prospects, suffered his first professional defeat against Christian Rivera, another top prospect from Puerto Rico, while junior welterweight Jeremy Cuevas was floored but rose to his feet to defeat Efrain Cruz. Pizzaro returned with a victory at the Fillmore but this entire stable is looking forward to the next show by Hard Hitting Promotions on May 11.
As mentioned earlier, ShoBox will return to Philadelphia and the 2300 Arena, as Hard Hitting Promotions features a card with Devin Haney vs. Mason Menard as the main event on May 11. Hank Lundy, who awaits his crack at a lightweight championship, will also be on the card, along with the Hard Hitting stable. Stay tuned as more competitive fights will be signed for this four-bout television card.
Lastly in the South Jersey area, Rising Star and Mis Downing Promotions have been keeping the boxing scene in the Garden state alive. While it’s true that Atlantic City is far from what it used to be, both of these promotions have continued to host local shows that have drawn sizable crowds. They both continue to make strides and the growth of both promotions has been evident in all of their shows. They too will both continue to be active throughout 2018 and, as you can see on the calendar below, will continue to prove that in Philadelphia and South Jersey, competition is good for – and welcomed by – the consumer.
April 21: The Arena, Paramus, New Jersey (Rising Star Promotions)
Anthony Young vs. Enver Halili
April 28: Liacouras Center, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania (Top Rank/Peltz Boxing) (ESPN)
Jessie Magdaleno vs. Isaac Dogboe (WBO 122-pound championship)
Jesse Hart vs. Demond Nicholson
Joey Dawejko vs. Bryant Jennings
May 11: Sugar House Casino, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania (King’s Promotions)
Mykal Fox vs. Anthony Mercado
May 11: 2300 Arena, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania (Greg Cohen/Hard Hitting Promotions) (Showtime)
Devin Haney vs. Mason Menard
Feel free to contact me with comments at Luisacortes83@gmail.com.