Posted by George Hanson., Jr Esq. on Dec 23, 2014
Boricua! Boricua!—Verdejo Es Espectacular

Boricua! Boricua!—Verdejo Es Espectacular

The Mouthpiece

Boricua! Boricua!—Verdejo Es Espectacular
Hart Gana Por Nocaut
Joey Eye Está Libre!

By: George H. Hanson Jr., Esq.

Date: Saturday, December 13, 2014
Venue: 2300 Arena – Philadelphia, PA
Promoters: Top Rank, Peltz Boxing Promotions Inc. & BAM Boxing Inc.
Coverage: UniMas, Top Rank’s Solo Boxeo Tecate series
Ring Announcer: Lupe Contreras
Referee: Steve Smoger & Gary Rosato

Verdejo (L.) attacking El Ouazghari.

Verdejo (L.) attacking El Ouazghari

On October 4th at Bahia Shrine Temple in Orlando, Florida undefeated lightweight Felix “Diamante” Verdejo (15 wins – 0 losses – 0 draws – 11 kos) sold out the venue with many fans being left outside. Anointed by the great Felix “Tito” Trinidad and endorsed by Wilfredo “Bazooka” Gomez, the 21 year-old Verdejo is the chosen one of Puerto Rican boxing. Despite only two years in the punch-for-pay ranks, the 2012 Olympian has captured the imagination, minds and hearts of the island nation steeped in its rich history of pugilism. Boxing is to Puerto Rico what reggae music is to Jamaica—oxygen—without it the country can’t breathe. Amidst the bellicose buffoonery of prize fighting, the humble and supremely talented Verdejo is a breath of fresh air. And everyone is inhaling deeply.

Having fought here twice as a fifteen year-old amateur, Verdejo is no stranger to the City of Brotherly Love—The Capital of Boxing. When he left the dressing room, decked out in a “Free Oscar López Rivera” t-shirt on his way to the ring—I thought I was at a Michael Jackson concert! The arena—packed tighter than a tin of Jamaican sardines— exploded in rapture as the barely standing room only crowd cheered raucously! Everyone faced the back of the venue awaiting his entrance, camera-phones above their heads filming every moment. Flanked by his handlers and young cousin—Philly amateur sensation, Brandon Pizarro—Verdejo walked briskly to the ring his 1,000 watt smile rivaling the overhead lights. We all were swept up in the gale force winds of this twenty-one year-old hurricane. Felix Verdejo is a superstar!

Spain’s Karim El Ouazghari (16 wins – 5 losses – 2 draws – 4 kos) was a mere extra, a role player in the Verdejo traveling show—cannon fodder for the young gun. I doubt if the fans would have cared had the promoters hung a heavy bag in the center of the ring and Verdejo pounded it for eight rounds. They were there to catch a glimpse of Puerto Rico’s next king of the squared circle before his imminent coronation.

Verdejo standing over his fallen foe.

Verdejo standing over his fallen foe.

The gong sounded and the 5 feet 9 inches Verdejo came out of his corner working behind a stiff jabbing, moving his head, using angles to befuddle the 35 year-old El Ouazhari who seemed lost, responding with an occasional jab and hook. The bout continued at the same pace until Verdejo dropped his opponent with a left hook in the third stanza. Ouazhari got up before referee Smoger reached the count of four and Verdejo attacked hoping to close the show throwing combinations with bad intentions. He connected with another right. However, there was only ten seconds left in the round and Verdejo accidentally tripped his opponent while coming forward. Ouazhari fell to the canvas and the bell closed the round.

Verdejo continued his attack in the fourth round. It was inevitable that the fight was going to end early and not go the distance. Using his opponent as target practice, Verdejo connected with a blistering one-two combination driving Ouazhari into the ropes. Not wasting much time, he drilled the Spaniard with two more punches forcing referee Smoger to rescue the damaged fighter from further punishment. Verdejo was declared the winner by technical knockout at 1:27 of the fourth round of the scheduled eight-rounder.

Undefeated welterweight Nathaniel Rivas (5 wins – 0 losses – 0 draws – 2 kos) of Berlin, New Jersey found himself on the deck early in the first round compliments of a left hook delivered by Juan “The Savior” Rodriguez (5 wins – 2 losses – 1 draw – 4 kos) of Haymarket, Virginia. Rivas got up dusted himself off and was able to dodge a few more bombs while standing his ground and making it out of the round. Rivas turned the fight into a chess match and captured the next three rounds by jabbing and simply out-boxing his opponent. Another left hook found its mark in the fifth stanza reintroducing Rivas to the canvas. He was able to make it to his feet as referee Smoger reached the count of four. Rodriguez seized the moment and rained down on his opponent with every punch in his arsenal forcing Smoger to call a hall at 1:01 declaring him the winner by technical knockout.

Hart and his father ready for action.

Hart ready for battle.

In the co-main event with the crowd focused on the back of the venue, Jesse Hart jogged out without a robe, dark sunglasses shading his eyes from the glaring lights—his entourage unable to keep pace with his long strides. Kanye West and Jay-Z blared over the house speakers their provocative little ditty about “balling so hard” in Paris. Swept up in the moment and the pageantry of Hart’s entrance, the awaiting Samuel Miller, hailing from Colombia, “got down” in sync with the rhythm and the lyrics—decked out in #7 Michael Vick Eagles’ jersey. There is little doubt that Miller is intimate with the Medellin nightlife.

It was refreshing to see cutman Joey Eye working again. Decked out in his leather vest and trademark cotton swab perched behind his left ear, the hired gun stood ready in Miller’s corner. Eye who had been banned in November—by Greg Sirb, Executive Director of the Pennsylvania State Athletic Commission—for appearing in a recent Showtime special on bare knuckle fighting was reinstated earlier during the week. It is widely accepted that the avalanche of litigation heading in the direction of Sirb, caused him to reverse his injudicious and unprecedented decision.

Transferring his shades to his father—Philly legend Eugene “Cyclone” Hart—the undefeated super-middleweight made it to the center of the ring for referee Rosato’s instructions. It was evident that the tale of the tapes weren’t accurate or my eyes were once again lying because despite both fighters being listed at 6 ft. 2 in. Hart dwarfed Miller.

During our interview at Thursday’s press conference Hart (15 wins – 0 losses – 0 draws – 12 kos) promised that Miller (28 wins – 9 losses – 0 draws – 25 kos) wouldn’t make it past the fourth round of the scheduled eight-rounder. Thus, when the bell rang Hart swooped down on his opponent like a World War II Douglas SBD Dauntless dive-bomber dropping the heavy explosive early—the big right hand. Hart struck early and hurt Miller who in a moment of machismo dropped his hands and beckoned for his tormentor to “come on!” before returning fire with a tremendous left hook that missed its mark. It was an entertaining opening round with Hart jabbing and launching right hand bombs barely missing their mark.

In the second round while advancing a straight right pierced Miller’s defense and found his cranium freezing him for a split second before his brain sent a distress signal that he was hurt. To avoid further punishment Miller wisely genuflected as though he had entered the Vatican his knee touching the canvas. He took the eight-count in an attempt to dust away the cobwebs clouding his consciousness.

The action resumed and Hart jumped on Miller like a thirsty wino on a newly found bottle of Courvoisier VSOP and unleashed a double left hook sending the bombarded fighter to the canvas. The Colombian made it to his feet on spaghetti legs barely beating the ten-count staggering as though he was inebriated. Referee Rosato saved Miller from further punishment and called a halt bringing closure to the fight declaring Hart the winner by technical knockout at 2:07. Ball so hard!!!

Hart using his long left jab.

Hart (L.) using his long left jab.

Christopher Diaz (7 wins – 0 losses – 0 draws – 5 kos) of Barranquitas, Puerto Rico waged war with the resilient and relentless Jazzma Hogue (3 wins – 5 losses – 1 draw – 0 kos) of Fruitland, New Mexico. Diaz dominated the opening round by sharpshooting with his jab hurting Hogue with a right to the temple. But, Hogue kept marching forward and came out blazing in the fourth round taunting Diaz by smiling and gesturing for him to fight. Diaz obliged Hogue’s machismo and dropped him with a hard left hook to the body in the fifth round. The man from New Mexico made it to his feet before referee Smoger reached the count of three and survived the round.

The fight continued at a frenetic pace with Hogue always in forward gear. With ten seconds remaining in the sixth and final round, Hogue walked into a hellacious overhand right that slumped him to the canvas. Somehow he made it to his feet beating the count. The bell rang concluding the bout. Diaz won by unanimous decision 60-52 on all three scorecards.

Twenty-three year-old middleweight Thomas “Cornflake” LaManna (15 wins – 0 losses – 0 draws – 7 kos) of Millville, NJ is no ordinary cereal. And tonight he proved that he can snap, crackle and pop in an entertaining action-packed six-rounder against rugged Gilbert Alex Sanchez (4 wins – 5 losses – 0 draws – 2 kos) of Camden, New Jersey.

Showing his sartorial splendor decked out in leopard print trunks, the 6 feet 2 inches LaManna attempted to box from a distance at the opening bell but Sanchez’s complicity wasn’t forthcoming. Sanchez, shorter by six inches, closed the distance and forced LaManna to fight on the inside. However, the taller fighter proved that he was equally adept at working on the inside as he connected to the body and head while shoulder rolling and using his length to his advantage.

LaManna (L.) connecting with the counter right.

LaManna (L.) connecting with the counter right.

The crowd cheered wildly during the fourth stanza when they traded toe-to-toe with LaManna hurting Sanchez with two rights before the bell ending the round. The action continued in the remaining rounds with Sanchez pressing the action and LaManna boxing on the inside and from a distance. After six rounds LaManna won a well-deserved unanimous decision 59-55 on all three scorecards.

In a scheduled eight-rounder junior-lightweight Toka Kahn “T Nice” Clary (13 wins – 0 losses – 0 draws – 9 kos) of Liberia fighting out of Providence, Rhode Island went the distance against the diminutive Camilo Perez (9 wins – 2 losses – 0 draws – 4 kos) of Carolina, Puerto Rico. I was ringside at Boardwalk Hall on March 26, 2011 when Perez dropped Desi Williams twice, knocking him out in the first round of their scheduled four-rounder. It was an impressive showing on the undercard of HBO’s Boxing After Dark–WBA & IBF featherweight champion Yuriorkis Gamboa stopping Jorge Solis in the fourth round after sending him to the canvas five times.

Perez’s career is in a downward spiral having lost two consecutive fights. In his last trip to the City of Brotherly Love, Perez was on the losing end of a unanimous eight-round decision against rapidly rising junior-lightweight Tevin “The American Idol” Farmer on October 25, 2013 at the National Guard Armory. He dropped another unanimous eight-round decision on December 7, 2013 at the Barclay Center in Brooklyn to undefeated Juan Dominguez.

He would fare no better on his second visit to the Capital of Boxing as the southpaw Clary gave him a boxing lesson appearing as though he was being paid by the round and wanted to go the distance. Round after round the Liberian jabbed, parried, drove shots to the body surgically and methodically picking his shots. Perez fought back but he was just outgunned by the bigger and quicker Clary. Two judges scored it 80-72 and the third had it 79-73, all for Clary.

Fred Jenkins Jr. is boxing’s version of “The Incredible Shrinking Man.” The son of legendary Philadelphia trainer Fred Jenkins Sr., the twenty-seven year old fighter out boxed and handled bigger opponents as an amateur heavyweight. I was ringside when he debuted as a light-heavyweight on March 18, 2011 at Harrah’s Chester, Pennsylvania. Jenkins won by second round knockout. Since then he has competed at the super-middleweight and middleweight limits and has been gaining valuable experience as a sparring partner for many top-notch contenders including Curtis “Showtime” Stevens and the Charlo brothers—Jermell and Jermall. Like a stealth bomber, the quiet and focused fighter has honed and refined his skills and is down one more division.

Jenkins (L.) attacking Robinson on the ropes.

Jenkins (L.) attacking Robinson on the ropes.

Jenkins (8 wins – 1 losses – 0 draw – 3 kos) was impressive in his scheduled six-round junior-middleweight bout against James Robinson (3 wins – 1 loss – 2 draws – 1 ko) of York, Pennsylvania. Jenkins introduced Robinson to the canvas with a left hook in the opening round, staggering him again in the third demonstrating his array of skills and athleticism at the new weight. Jenkins won by unanimous decision 60-53 and 59-54 on two scorecards.

Junior-welterweight Julian “Hammer Hands” Rodriguez (7 wins – 0 losses – 0 draws – 6 kos) of Hasbrouck Heights, New Jersey lived up to his moniker dropping southpaw Randy Fuentes (4 wins – 3 losses – 1 draw – 0 kos) of McAllen, Texas with a crushing left hook in the opening round and three more times in the second stanza forcing referee Smoger to rescue the Texan from permanent damage stopping the fight at 2:24. The twenty year-old Rodriguez was impressive and should be on everyone’s radar.

Dominican heavyweight “Gentleman” George Arias (1 win – 0 losses – 0 draws – 1 ko) now fighting out of Bronx, New York resembles a young Cassius Clay but fights like Smokin’ Joe Frazier. Standing a mere 5 feet 11 inches, Arias bobbed and weaved attacking Randy “The Prince of Darkness” Easton (3 wins – 5 losses – 1 draw – 3 kos) of Williamsport, Pennsylvania relentlessly whacking away at his body in their scheduled four rounder. The twenty-two year-old Arias blanketed his taller opponent, staying in his chest imitating the legendary Philly fighter.

For three rounds, Arias never allowed Easton to gain separation and uncork his lethal uppercut. Tiring from perpetual motion, Arias slowed in the final round and was on the receiving end of two uppercuts. He smothered them and got on his toes dancing like Muhammad Ali. No surprise that Arias won by unanimous decision 40-36 on all scorecards.

Arias (R.) landing the overhand right.

Arias (R.) landing the overhand right.

It was an exciting night of boxing in the City of Brotherly Love. Top Rank is in great shape with Verdejo and Hart carrying its banner!

Puerto Rican nationalist Oscar López Rivera is still serving a 70 year sentence in US federal prison at Terra Haute, Indiana. He has been locked away for thirty-three years and is viewed by millions as a political prisoner. Hopefully, he will be out before Verdejo wins a world title.

But, at least for now Joey Eye is free!

Continue to support the sweet science, and remember, always carry your mouthpiece!

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About George Hanson., Jr Esq.

George Hanson., Jr Esq. has written 106 post in this blog.

Hailing from New Forest, Jamaica, Hanson started boxing as a teenager in Philadelphia under the tutelage of former welterweight contender, Dick Turner. He excelled, capturing four Pennsylvania State Amateur Championships—his last while a junior at Drexel University studying Accounting. According to most who have seen Hanson fight, “He is the best fighter never to have turned professional.”

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