PHILLY BOXING HISTORY                                                                     December 14, 2013


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by John DiSanto
Photos by Larry Levanti / Main Events


Touted power puncher Amir Mansour huffed and puffed and finally blew Kelvin Price down to score a messy seventh round TKO in the main event at Atlantic City's Resorts International Hotel and Casino Saturday night. The fight was nationally televised by NBC Sports Network.

In another televised bout, light heavyweight Lionell Thompson won a dreary 10-round decision over an outclassed Ryan Coyne. Earlier the same evening, former cruiserweight champ Steve Cunningham continued his heavyweight campaign with a non-televised, one-sided rout of Manuel Quezada over eight rounds.

However, on this night, all eyes were on Mansour to see if the well-publicized puncher's skills could match the hype that has surrounded him since he started knocking foes dead in nearby Delaware boxing rings. Against Price, Mansour collected his KO, and swelled his record to a good-looking 20-0 with 15 KOs. However, his performance left some questions about his future on the national stage.

To be fair, Amir won every round on my scorecard and floored his opponent twice down the stretch. On paper, it was a convincing victory. He did what he needed to do in the fight - win by knockout in his first real exposure on the large stage.

However on the way to disposing his six-foot, seven-inch opponent, Mansour displayed shaky boxing basics and some questionable conditioning. The most disappointing facet of his performance was the disconnect between his reputation as a murderous puncher and the reality of his inability to manufacture a KO.

Apparently it is true that Mansour can punch with power, but he doesn't appear to be able to use it unless he stumbles onto the other fighter's chin.

Mansour knocked Price out, but it came long after Price's will had collapsed, and perhaps just before Mansour's wind would have let him down. Against a more skilled and confident fighter, Mansour's undefeated string might have come to an end, and he may have been forever relegated to the "dangerous but limited" category. However, the fight was matched well, and Price gave Mansour enough trouble to challenge him, but not nearly enough to pull the upset. Thus Mansour earned the right to move forward, learn from the experience, and prove himself better on another night.

Despite my scathing review, all was not lost for Mansour in the fight. Not in the least. There is a major upside to his performance and it may be enough to carry him through more big fights.

On this night when things were not going easily for him, Mansour stayed in there and kept swinging for the fences. He got caught with a few stiff shots, swung, missed, and even awkwardly tumbled to the canvas once. But he never stopped trying to win the fight.

"Unless these guys come in the ring with a shotgun or 9mm, I don't care what they hit me with," Mansour said. "You can hit me with everything you got, which he did. I'm going to keep coming. I will not be denied. I have no quit in me whatsoever."

The case Mansour makes for himself is compelling, and quite possibly true. And in the end, that quality is something very real for fans to root for. He may not be the best rising heavyweight on the scene, but he does have star potential and is extremely likeable outside of the ring.

Against Price, 14-2, 6 KOs, Mansour did most of the work, landed most of the punches, and in the end, bullied himself to an important victory. It will be interesting to see him take his next step. 

In the light heavyweight co-feature, Lionell Thompson improved to 15-2, 9 KOs, with a fairly easy 10-round decision over Ryan Coyne, the "Irish Outlaw" from St. Louis.

Thompson stayed in control most of the way, with southpaw Coyne only winning round three on my card. Thompson had far better skills and landed some sharp blows that cut Coyne in round four and shook him up in rounds five, six and ten.

Round six was Thompson's best, when his punches started to take their toll on Coyne. Ryan began wearing down in that round, and after a sizzling three-punch combination by Thompson, Coyne looked weary and deflated.

The rest of the fight was perfunctory, with the only question being whether Coyne would eventually fold under fire. But he remained tough, survived a wilting right hand and left hook in the last round, and made it to the final bell.

"I actually thought I'd get the KO," Thompson said. "He was a lot tougher than I expected. He took a lot of huge body shots. I hurt my hand in the 6th round and decided for the balance of the fight to just let it ride."

Ride he did, to a wide-margin decision.

Judges George Hill and Joe Pasquale turned in scores of 99-91, while Debbie Barnes saw the fight 99-90. My score was also 99-91.

West Philly's Steve Cunningham cruised to an easy shutout victory over Manuel Quezada in their 8-round heavyweight contest. Cunningham used a stiff jab to set the tone for the fight, and the repeated lefts bloodied Quezada's nose in round two.

Shortly afterward, Cunningham began opening up, testing the Californian's chin. He landed solidly, but didn't get anywhere upstairs. So, Cunningham shifted to an all-out body attack, and loudly whacked at Manuel's midsection.

Round after round, Cunningham continued to pile up points - both upstairs and down. It was a methodical and workmanlike performance, technically solid, but lacking of drama. Clearly Quezada didn't have the tools to press Cunningham, but he was tough and sturdy. So the Philadelphian punched the clock, went to work, and grinded out his 26th career victory.

In addition to getting the win and keeping his heavyweight campaign alive, the fight was a therapeutic effort, designed to help shake off his far too dramatic and ugly encounter with Tyson Fury eight months ago. This fight was a rebuilding assignment, and Cunningham handled it in stride.

All three judges scored the fight a perfect 80-72 for Cunningham. My score concurred. Cunningham moves on with a record of 26-6, 12 KOs. Quezada fell to 29-8, 20 KOs.

I can't help but think that Cunningham and Mansour will eventually collide in the ring next year. It would be an interesting affair, with Cunningham having all the tools needed to neutralize the crude slugger, and Mansour possessing that refuse-to-lose attitude. That would be interesting. So we will just have to wait and see if that fight ever happens.

Darnell "Ding-A-Ling Man" Wilson spoiled the long awaited return of David Rodriguez in their scheduled 6-round heavyweight fight. In a grueling give and take battle, Wilson eventually wore down, cut, and then finished Rodriguez with a perfect left hook that came just one second before the end of the 6th and final round.

It was a rousing brawl with both fighters landing big left hooks throughout the night. Rodriguez, bigger and with the better jab, tried to gain control, but Wilson was just too tough and battle-tested. It wasn't pretty, but Wilson slowly drained Rodriguez of his strength with a good body attack and assortment of hard shots to the head.

In the 6th and final round, with Rodriguez ahead on two of the three official cards, Wilson wobbled the favorite with a pair of left hooks early in the round. Moments later, more punches left Rodriguez bleeding from a cut over his right eye. Then with the clock almost exhausted, Wilson let fly a wicked left hook that knocked Rodriguez cold.

As Rodriguez slammed to the floor, referee Lindsey Page stopped the fight without a count and called it a knockout at 2:59 of round six. It was an exhilarating end, but a real heart-breaker for Rodriguez, who was coming back from two injuries that kept him out of action for more than two years. 

The KO snapped a five-bout losing streak for Wilson (25-17-3, 21 KOs) and ended Rodriguez' 36-fight undefeated string (36-1, 34 KOs).

At the time of the stoppage, I had Wilson up 48-47. One of the official agreed with me, but the other two favored Rodriguez, 48-47 and 49-46.

Super middleweight John Magda remained undefeated, 4-0, 3 KOs, with a 6-round unanimous decision over Jess Noriega, 2-9, 2 KOs in their preliminary bout. Judges Pasquale and Barnes scored 60-54 for Magda, while George Hill saw it 60-53. My score was 60-54. 

Middleweights Trent Laidler, Palm Beach, FL, and Philly's Vincent Floyd (above right) fought to a 4-round draw. It was the pro debut for each, and it appeared to me that Laidler had done enough to win, including scoring a first round knockdown.

Debbie Barnes had it 40-35 for Laidler, George Hill scored 38-37 for Floyd, and Joe Pasquale saw it even at 38-38. I thought Laidler had the edge 40-35.

In the exciting walkout bout, Aaron Leonard won for the first time as a pro with a first round stoppage of Andrew Peurifoy of Sicklerville, NJ. After drawing and losing in his first two fights, Leonard, of the ABC Rec Center in North Philly, dropped Peurifoy with a hard right and then battered him until referee Lindsey Page stepped into save him. The time was 1:50.

It was an electrifying win for Leonard who was certainly expected to lose against Peurifoy, a PA Golden Gloves Champion and Joe Hand protégée. 

Threatening weather may have thinned the walkup crowd, but by the time the feature bouts began, the legendary Superstar Theater was pretty full. Main Events and NBC Sports Network return to Resorts on January 24th.




John DiSanto - Atlantic City - December 14, 2013
Photos by Larry Levanti / Main Events