PHILLY BOXING HISTORY                                                                           August 15, 2013


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Story by John DiSanto
Photos by Gary Purfield


South Philly light heavyweight Charles Hayward won a 6-round unanimous decision over visiting Antonio Liles in the main event at The Deck in Essington, PA Thursday night. By fight time, the fight card had been stripped down to just four bouts, but this little club show, the second installment of the new "Champions of Tomorrow" series, packed plenty of action into the mere 14 total rounds that played out.

Unfortunately the main event was the slowest of the night. The problem was that the combatants were both looking  to counterpunch, which made two-way action relatively rare throughout the six rounds. However, there was an interesting swing, at least from my vantage point.

After Hayward took a quiet first round, "The Cobra" fell silent for a few rounds while the far less experienced Liles began using his jab as effectively as a snake charmer. The steady stream of lefts seemed to lull Hayward to sleep and allowed Liles to put together a few rounds.

After four rounds, it appeared that Lies was up 3-1. Hayward's output was slight, but he did manage a few hard power shots. Liles, however, took them well.

But just as it seemed Hayward had given the fight away, the South Philadelphian awoke in round five and started an effective body attack which cooled Liles off and sent him into a stupor. For the final two stanzas, Hayward stayed busy and Liles went silent. It was a see-saw battle, but not the thrilling kind.

At the end of the bout, I had the fight deadlocked  at three rounds apiece. However, the little tide-shifting drama that I witnessed was apparently all in my head. The official judges came back with a verdict that was a slam-dunk for Hayward.

Judges Lynn Carter and Bernard Bruni gave every round to Charles, scoring 60-54. Judge Dewey LaRosa thought Liles had managed to win one round, and returned a 59-55 card. The unanimous decision for Hayward improved his record to 9-5 with 4 KOs. Liles, a Virginian who deserved better on this night, slid to 1-3 with 1 KO.

The semi-windup fight WAS the type of see-saw battle that brought crazy thrills to the modest crowd of about 300. It isn't often that the semi is scheduled 4-rounder populated by a fighter making his pro debut and a winless 2-bout pro, but this one ended up stealing the clipped show.

Junior welterweight Tyson Maher came all the way from Queensland, Australia to fight for the first time as a professional, and had what figured to be some easy prey in 0-2 Josue Rivera of South Philly. In his two previous bouts, Rivera had never made it out of the first round, losing both times by opening round TKO.

Against Maher, it first appeared that old habits would die hard for Rivera when the Australian floored him with a powerful right hand in the first. There was plenty of time for Maher to finish the job, but Rivera fought back gamely the moment he got off the deck. Rivera's heroics changed from simple gameness to serious advantage when his punches started finding a home on Maher's jaw.

The Australian didn't take the incoming shots very well, wobbling and staggering during the sudden turnaround. By the end of the first, Maher was out on his feet, but the bell prevented Rivera from finishing the fight right there. The reversal in the round was so solid for Rivera, that I scored the session 10-9 (for Maher), instead of a typical 10-8 knockdown round.

In round two, the fighters immediately clashed. Maher jumped out to another early lead, hurting Rivera with everything he threw, but then once again, Josue rallied back miraculously. He dropped Maher with a wilting barrage, and when the visitor rose to his feet, he pounded away until referee Benji Esteves stopped the battering. The time was 2:16 of round two.

The fight was a terrific battle, the type that the reputation of club shows have been built on through the years. If they could all be like this, local boxing events would be packed every time.

Even though the stakes in the fight were low for all of us watching, they were sky-high for the two fighters. And that usually makes for a great fight. Maher was making  his debut before a very large rooting section and Rivera was battling his reputation as a guy who always gets knocked out early. Both fighters went in and tried their best to win. It was fun to watch.

Rivera left 1-2, spoiling Maher's debut, 0-1. 

The night started with another second round KO. Lancaster, PA welterweight Evincii Dixon, just 1-1 going into the bout, took on South Philly's Ramon Ellis, at 4-8-2, 2 KOs, a far more experienced fighter. The fight was scheduled for four.

Ellis was coming off a crushing January KO loss to Julio DeJesus, but showed against Dixon, that he was not gun shy in the slightest. Despite his inexperience, Dixon was more than willing to jump right into the  fray, thus things heated up immediately.

Dixon used his jab well, spearing Ellis from the outside. Never one not to try, Ellis began leaping in with wild power shots. One of them, a right, landed with authority, but Dixon took the opening round with his better accuracy.

In round two, Ellis opened strong, roughing Dixon with hard shots that tested his newbie attitude. Dixon  stayed cool under fire. As the pair circled back toward Ellis' blue corner, Dixon drove home a right uppercut - left hook combination that sent Ellis to the canvas. He was seriously hurt, but did his best to rise. However, he need more than 10 seconds to make the full trip.

Referee Benji Esteves, who worked every fight this night, counted Ellis out and Dixon earned his first knockout victory. It was another exciting fight that had the crowd on their feet. 

In a four round middleweight bout, Robert Sweeney of Virginia made a successful pro debut by winning  a majority decision over Ruben Ortiz, of Philadelphia, who was also making his professional start.

In a good action fight, Sweeney took an early lead and never lost control. Southpaw Sweeney landed more easily as the bout progressed, and began taking chances in round three, looking for the knockout. Over and over he timed a left lead power shot into Ortiz' face, but the Philadelphian remained steady.

Ortiz rallied in the final round. He was in the groove and landing more, but he was too far behind in the fight to squeak out a win.

One judge, Bernard Bruni scored the match a draw, 38-38, while the other two, Carter and LaRosa, both gave it to Sweeney 39-37.  My card agreed with the majority.

Before the four fights began, there was a 3-round exhibition between Philadelphians Anthony Patanella (whose scheduled opponent fell out earlier in the day) and South Philly's Maurice Amaro. They warmed up the crowd with a surprisingly spirited clash that didn't count. Still the action was pretty fierce.

The next installment of Champions of Tomorrow is scheduled for Thursday, October 10th with Tim Witherspoon Jr. in the main event, presumably back at The Deck in Essington.




John DiSanto - Essington, PA - August 15, 2013
Photos by Gary Purfield