By Frank Bartolini
Tremendous year of boxing in the “City of Brotherly Love” came to an end on Friday December sixth at The 2300 Arena. Washington DC native, junior welterweight, Mykel Fox had his hand raised after winning a ten round unanimous decision over John Arrellano of Texas signaled the end of a fabulous year of pro prizefighting. Fittingly the area’s most active promoter Marshall Kaufman’s Kings Promotions delivered the action.
Kaufman once again was the most prolific promoter locally. In October, Kaufman in conjunction with Premier Boxing Champions, brought world class talent to the area showcasing Robert Easter Jr win over Adrian Grenados and top ranked junior middleweight Erickson Lubin to his hometown Reading PA.. Without Kaufman promoting close to a dozen shows in and around the Delaware River, the area’s fight scene would hardly survive yet alone thrive.
The excitement all started back in February when Michele Rosado’s Raging Babe Promotions kicked the year off promoting her first event in Philly at the 2300 Arena. A solid fight card became mythological when flaming hot prospect, Christain Carto was poleaxed and laid out on the canvas by Mexican tumbler Victor Ruiz in round 2. Leaving the venue on a stretcher Carto’s future was in doubt, meanwhile Rosado cemented her credentials as a promoter within the municipality.
“A night at the opera” It appeared that Hard Hitting Promotions was going to have a phenomenal year when close to 3,500 spectators packed into the newly refurbished Metropolitan Opera House, (The Met) on North Broad Street. That night a couple of home town undefeated participants of Puerto Ri can extraction squared off in the main event for more than victory. On the line for combatants Steve Ortiz and Jeremy Cuevas was neighbor and ethnic bragging rights. Ortiz won easily over eight rounds. Hard Hitting returned to “The Met” a few more times but nothing compared to the virgin experience in the opera house.
TOP RANK PROMOTIONS! Bob Arum has committed to bringing world renowned talent to Philadelphia. Checking the temperature of the water Arum dipped his toe in last march when he promoter Oleksadr Gvozdyk successful WBC light heavyweight title defense against Doudou Ngumbu. Also seeing action that night Philly native “the New” Ray Robinson drew with highly rank and touted Lithuanian Edidjus Kavaliauskis. Many of those ringside believed Robinson deserved the nod. Other spectators felt if Robinson turned it up just a notch he would have clearly been victorious. Egidijus went on to give a good account of himself in his next fight before getting kayoed in nine rounds versus WBO Welterweight King Terence Crawford in December at Madison Square Garden.
The show must go on. After a freak accident had Carl Frampton pulling out of his fight at the Liacouras Center in August, less than two weeks beforehand. No one would blame Top Rank for cutting their losses and canceling the festivities altogether. Instead former junior lightweight champ Jason Sosa was bump up to main event status being pitted against unheralded Haskel Lydell Rhodes. Sosa kayoed Rhodes in seven. With no time to promote the change in the main go the show drew poorly. A few months later Sosa went on to unsuccessfully challenge WBC Super Featherweight Champion Miguel Berchelt getting finished off in four rounds.
Now for the coup de grace occurred when Top Rank chose to come back to the Liacouras Center to pit two undefeated knockout artists In a light heavyweight unification match between WBC King Oleksandr Gvozdyk and IBF Monarch Artur Beterbiev. This pairing would have sold out major arenas in Las Vegas, Manhattan or Chicago. By choosing Philadelhpia Top Rank made a statement that it plans on being a major part of this city professional pugilism. Beterbiev stopped Gvozdyk in the tenth. Quality over quantity is why Top Rank should be considered for The Briscoe Award Promoter of the Year.
Once again the British invaded Philadelphia. Contrary to the American Revolution this time the City of Brotherly welcomed the red coats with open rams. as Matchroom USA promoted Tevin Farmers homecoming at the Liacouras Center in what turned out to be the best night of fights for 2019 . Jono Carrol of Ireland put forth a spirited and gallant effort in trying to wrest the crown from IBF Super Featherweight king Farmer. The undercard showcased two potential Briscoe Award Fights of the Year. Philly resident Gabriel Rosado late round come back against Polish Maciel Sulecki was epic. Rosado lost a ten round unanimous decision but showed he is still a threat in the middleweight division. Unbelievable unless you were in the arena early to witness Hank Lundy vs Avery Sparrow you missed one of the best pairings of two rival Philly boxers in a long time. Dazn cameras had not started rolling when this fight was occurring. Close to 1,500 of Katie Taylor faithful fans flew into Philly from the Emerald Isle to see her easily defend her undisputed lightweight laurels.
I went down to DC to see Philly fighters showcase impressive skills in May where the scraps took place on the abandoned campus of George Mason University. Classes ended the day prior to Julian Williams shocking upset of Jarred Hurd. Not only did Williams ruin Hurds homecoming, he walked away with his IBF and WBA Super Welterweights belts. West Philly had proud moments when Stephen Fulton put on a flawless performance on the undercard.
Happy New Year! Keep Punching