Jersey Fight Journal: Friday Night Fireworks In Atlantic City, Starring Mike Jones And Lanardo Tyner

(Tim isn’t the only one who can exploit patriotic imagery. ‘MERICA!)

Ahh. This is why I spend my hard-earned (don’t laugh) money, trek through hateful traffic, suffer endless intermissions and dreadful undercard fights – because when a boxing card is as good as Friday night’s doubleheader at the Ballroom at Boardwalk Hall was, there is simply nothing better.

The quartet of welterweights that headlined the Peltz Promotions/DiBella Entertainment card – Mike Jones and Irving Garcia in the main event and Antwone Smith and Lanardo Tyner in the co-feature – provided enough action to make the night memorable, but even if they hadn’t delivered I would have been thrilled regardless. The undercard was that good.

Big props to Russell Peltz and Lou DiBella, who don’t have the resources of Top Rank or Golden Boy Promotions but provide consistently top-notch cards through smart, fan-oriented matchmaking, a keen eye for underappreciated talent, and a deep knowledge of the East Coast fight scene.

9:05 – I made a concerted effort to make this trip about more than just the fight card. I’ve always loved casinos but I tend not to spend much time there when I’m in town for a fight. I usually play poker (I’m also cheap at casinos and poker makes it easy to manage the bankroll) but wanted to play a few table games on this night. So I arrived at Boardwalk Hall a little late after finding it difficult to tear myself away from the blackjack table. I figured that, other than the Steve Martinez fight, not much else looked very interesting. Shows what I know.

I showed up in the middle of the 3rd round of a feisty scrap between local favorite Josh Mercado and Kywame Hill (welterweight). The decent-sized crowd was already wholly invested in the action, a great sign at this point in the card. Mercado controlled the work that I saw but Hill was tough and determined, landing enough right hands to make an impression. A non-stop, give-and-take exchange brought the crowd to their feet for the final seconds of the fight. Mercado earned a tough unanimous decision victory in the first of many entertaining scraps on the card.

9:20 – Light heavyweights Anthony Smith Caputo and Walter Edwards were up next, with Caputo in the role of the local favorite. Caputo played the role well, landing at will on the game but limited Edwards. The punches Caputo threw looked slow from my seat but were fast enough to buzz Edwards at will, including a huge right hand that staggered Edwards just before the end of the 1st. The onslaught continued in the second before referee “Smokin’” Steve Smoger stepped in and called a halt at 2:44 of the 2nd round. Good stoppage in a one-sided fight.

9:35 – Here’s the best part about Russell Peltz cards – they move with urgency. There is no down time to break the momentum, which helps the flow of the cards immensely. The just-knocked-out Walter Edwards was still sitting by the ropes talking to Smoger while the next challenger, Jason Thompson, entered the ring for his junior middleweight bout with Steve Martinez. The fight that ensued was a fast and furious war, with both fighters trading bombs and disregarding defense. Martinez took control early in the 1st but Thompson turned the tide when he hurt Martinez’s eye in the middle of the round and began landing shots on his visually obstructed foe. Martinez regained control late in the rollercoaster round, landing huge hooks before the bell.

In the 2nd, Martinez gradually took control of the intense action with his superior strength. In the middle of the round, a gigantic straight right hand dropped Thompson to the delight of the crowd. Thompson showed tremendous determination to get up (as he had throughout the fight), but soon after the knockdown a Martinez uppercut blasted Thompson and sent him hopping backwards. Martinez followed with powerful, accurate shots against the defenseless Thompson and the referee stopped the fight, perhaps a little late. Martinez battled early adversity (his eye was nearly closed by the end of the fight) and outlasted a game opponent in an exciting bout.

9:45 – Junior lightweights Jose “The Machine” Sosa and “Pretty Boy” Raheem Douglas are up next. Douglas is announced as Raheem but listed on virus-befouled Boxrec as Clinton, so I’m going with the announcer. Douglas would draw rave reviews from Joan and Melissa Rivers for his pink sequined “Pretty Boy” robe and matching trunks, should they turn their fashion eye toward boxing.

Douglas reinforced the notion that only tough men wear pink, taking plenty of clean shots from Sosa while firing back bombs of his own. The 1st round was difficult to score, as Sosa was busier but Douglas landed the more impressive shots. The solid action continued in the 2nd, as both fighters maintained a nonstop pace but Sosa probably landed more shots overall. Sosa had his best round of the fight in the 3rd, picking up his work rate and momentarily overwhelming Douglas. The fourth and final round was the best of a very good fight, as both fighters seemed to realize that the fight was within reach and threw everything they had at each other.

In the end, the scorecards were one-sided in the favor of Sosa, the local fighter. He definitely deserved the decision but Douglas should continue to find work at the preliminary level after a spirited showing. The matchmaking throughout the card really stood out, as nearly every fight featured competitive action.

10:05 – Junior welterweights Kevin Carmody and Ryan Belasco were up next, in what amounted to a matchup of journeymen. The fight itself wasn’t bad by any means, as both fighters worked hard and there were few clinches. It could be summed up as workmanlike, as Belasco simply outworked and outhustled Carmody to earn a unanimous decision. I honestly spent a good deal of time watching Antonio Tarver meticulously adjusting his handkerchief while the fight was going on. It was perversely entertaining to watch the former Roy Jones conqueror spending a significant amount of time futzing with a tiny powder blue suit accessory.

10:35 – The final undercard fight before the Showtime telecast was also one of the best, as welterweight Ardrick Butler faced Manuel Guzman. On paper, the fight looked like a mismatch in the favor of the 5-1 Butler, as Guzman boasted an unassuming 6-9-2 record. In the ring, a wild shootout ensued. Butler scored an early knockdown with a right hand and looked to be on his way to a quick victory. Suddenly, a Guzman jab dropped Butler and swung momentum instantly. The fighters traded blows until the bell ended a crazy round.

In the 2nd, the underdog Guzman landed the single punch of the night, a monstrous right hand hayemaker that reverberated throughout the ballroom. Butler crumbled like a sniper victim and the fight was stopped immediately. This was honestly one of the most crushing shots I’ve ever seen in person. In a higher-profile fight, this would have been a Knockout of the Year candidate. It was that impressive.

Butler stayed down for a long time but eventually rose to his feet, to the applause of the crowd.

11:05 – As has become custom for Jersey Fight Journals featuring televised cards, I’ll switch from descriptions of the action to my impressions of the fights for the televised portion. From the onset of the welterweight slugfest between Lanardo Tyner and Antwone Smith, Tyner looked extremely determined. Smith was landing thunderous body shots in the early going but Tyner shook them off (often with a smile) and eventually delivered nasty body blows of his own. Things seemed to reach another level in the 3rd round, as each fighter tried to one-up the other, a surefire recipe for a stirring fight. As the fight wore on, Tyner’s confidence grew, though I don’t think Smith ever grew discouraged. The 6th round was like the 3rd round on steroids. By this point, I was almost enjoying the action too much to bother taking notes. Almost.

Every time I thought one fighter had taken control of the action, the other fought back valiantly. That is, until the 9th round, when Tyner landed a crushing blow on Smith’s weakened body, sending him to the ropes and setting him on a tee for the hook that score the knockout for Tyner. Fantastic upset win for Tyner in a brutal, grueling fight.

12:00 – The main event began at midnight and, given all the action on the undercard and the massive upset knockouts leading up to the main event, the atmosphere was electric. Mike Jones also boasts a strong local following at this point, drawing big cheers from the crowd. In the ring, Jones continued to impress. His physical attributes are striking, he works his jab well, his hand speed is practically blazing for a fighter of his size, and, as he showed against Garcia, he’s tough. Garcia landed some good shots but Jones was undeterred, coming back with spirited rallies when facing adversity. By the 4th, Jones was showing off the entire arsenal, landing uppercuts, left hooks, body shots, and straight right hands in an impressive showing. He finished the job with more of the same in the 5th, though apparently the punch that scored the knockout was a low blow. While it is unfortunate for Garcia to have been stopped on a foul (and the ponytailed guy in his corner was very vocally upset about the ruling), the result was inevitable by this point in the fight.

I think Jones is ready to take on a top-10 welterweight. He now has enough experience to back up his impressive skills. I would like to see him with anyone from Andre Berto to Selcuk Aydin to Delvin Rodriguez.

Overall, this was arguably the best card I ever attended top-to-bottom. Even the ring card girls stood out, especially the young lady from Miami who was particularly, shall we say, aggressive in her presentation. While Top Rank and Golden Boy can’t seem to get out of their own way (or each other’s), Peltz and DiBella continue to show the big boys how its done.

About Tim Starks

Tim is the founder of The Queensberry Rules and co-founder of The Transnational Boxing Rankings Board ( He lives in Washington, D.C. He has written for the Guardian, Economist, New Republic, Chicago Tribune and more.