NEW YORK CITY — Lou DiBella kicked butt in the launch of his ninth year of Broadway Boxing. Saturday night at The Roseland Ballroom in New York was one of the best nights of boxing I’ve seen in a long time. The Roseland is next door to the Broadway house where “Jersey Boys” is playing. So I expected punches punctuated by strains of “Who Loves You” coming through the walls. But the house was reportedly sold out (2,000 or so seats), so it was just as likely the more urbane histrionics next door would be drowned out by howls from the Roseland, and a few HooYahs!! as the audience includes a contingent of West Point cadets in full uniform there to cheer on Boyd Melson (more on this later).
There were two draws, incredible displays of heart, and at least three fights in which one fighter seemed to take more punishment than seemed possible but kept coming anyway. Yes, at least half, if not more of the bouts were one-sided, at least they should have been, but the blue corner came to fight on Saturday night, and remarkably, there was only one stoppage. Club fights are back in 2012.
The night opened with a short, brutal affair. Undefeated prospect Alex Perez (14-0, 8 KO’s) launched what was scheduled to be an eight-round bout in the welterweight division versus Josh Sosa (10-1, 5 KO’s) from Kansas. Perez, wearing Puerto Rico colors and fighting out of Newark, started jabbing, connecting in the center of the ring as Sosa moved clockwise, unable to land or avoid the jab. If Perez jab were a second hand you could keep time with it. Bap, bap, bap, as Sosa went from 12, to three, to six, to nine and around again, unable to connect and not bothering to jab.
Perez stopped the clock antics in mid-round, coming forward and connecting with a combo. From then on it was a quick downhill ride. In the second half Perez connected with a series of body shots upper cuts, and hooks, dropping Sosa with twenty seconds left. In the 2nd round he was relentless, dealing brutal body shots and punching him at will. Sosa was courageous, but Perez brutalized him in the second round, dropping him face down with a left. Sosa got up, with more heart than is good for him, and after ingesting a series of thudding shots to the pancreas and more hooks, the ref mercifully ended it at 1:39 of round 2.
Well, it wasn’t pretty, more pit bulls in a trash bag than butterflies dancing, but the second fight, a women’s heavyweight bout between Sonya Lamonakis out of Gleason’s Gym and Carlette Ewell from Winston-Salem, was entertaining as hell. The two human fireplugs fought a six rounder that looked like an illegal backwoods war between Staffordshire Terriers. Ewell, in pink, mocked Lamonakis, smiling, urging her to come in.
Lamonakis got the better punches in, but Ewell got her into the ropes and pummeled, though her punches didn’t have the starch or the accuracy that Lamonakis’ do. By round 3 it was Lomanakis who was talking to Ewell, but it was all action, no strategy breaks, few moments where they stepped back to think. Ewell had Lamonakis against the ropes repeatedly, but the latter dealt the harder, smarter punches. In round 4 Lomanakis connected well, but Ewell was busier, putting Lamonakis against the ropes, firing largely ineffectual jabs and hooks, and using a defense that was nonexistent. Lamonakis again landed big punches at will in the 5th. I would have given it to Lamonakis but the judges called it a draw.
Sometimes the ability of the better fighter bows to the other guy’s ability to take punches and stay upright. Such was the case when Thomas “The Hit Man” Hardwick (3-0, 2 KO’s) faced un-fall-guy 37-year-old Richard Mason (0-3) from Long Island, who surely was supposed to find the canvas before the four-round heavyweight bout reached midpoint. Hardwick, who will fight on the Sergio Martinez/Matthew Macklin undercard at the Garden, was aggressive at the start, landing clean with hard jabs, and in total control, with Mason circling away from Hardwick’s huge punches, but getting caught more often than not. He did land a couple of body shots, a few jabs and a nice hook to Hardwick’s head late in the round, but that was as pebbles thrown at an avalanche.
An entertaining round 2 had Hardwick aggressive again, punching much faster and harder than Mason — though the latter landed a fair pair of body shots, and quick jabs that somehow landed. But Hardwick nearly dropped him toward the end of the round, with hard fast combinations that had Mason on the ropes trying to keep his legs under him. Remarkably, he did and the 3rd round found Mason swallowing huge punches for his trouble. He just about went down again and in the 4th, something odd happened: Hardwick seemed to trip, tangled in his own ankles, which gave an opportunity to an unreasonably game Mason, who briefly took Hardwick to the ropes. But Hardwick came back hard, and it was astonishing Mason lasted that round, too. Round 4, more of the same. The fight ended, a one-sided win, but Mason won something of a pyrrhic victory by ending with his consciousness in tact.
Yet another fight followed in which I marveled at one man’s ability to stay vertical. World-rated cruiserweight Ram “Sweet Dreams” Nakash (25-1, 18 KO’s) went against Derek Bryant of Philly, 20-6 (17 KO’s), in a cruiserweight fight. In round 1, Nakash seemed a lot smaller than Bryant, but his punches much cleaner. At one point he had Bryant on the ropes, stepped back and Bryant ushered him back in. Not a good idea. In round 2, Nakash’s punches found their way straight up the middle again and again. Bryant was clearly a good foil for Nakash, since Bryant punches from a distance with hooks and not a lot of power, while Nakash comes in low and throws them like speed balls, with leverage, right up the middle. When his punches land, you hear them. Bryant? Not so much. Wait, there was one good punch by Bryant, but again, the more telling lobs were Nakash’s.
Round 3 came and went with Bryant trying to come on, his punching volume higher. Then a big punch from Nakash puts Bryant on ropes, so Nakash wailed on him. Could it be over? No, Bryant came back, amazingly. In the 5th round Nakash thrice had Bryant on the ropes, battering him with lefts, rights, hooks and straights punches. What was keeping the man up? His head, I mention to the reporter next to me, must be full of cement. Nakash must have felt some frustration at having thrown everything at this man’s head but the kitchen sink, and not only was Bryant still standing, he was coming on. Indeed, in the 6th round Nakash was, really for the first time, on the defensive. But he recovered in the 7th round, hammering with big rights and brutal straight jabs putting Bryant on his heels, but nowhere near the canvas. The 8th and final round had Nakash cruising to a one-sided win.
And then the precise opposite. In a junior welterweight bout, Danny “Little Mac” McDermott (9-3-1, 4 KOs) out of Jersey City, who comes off of a TKO of Bryan Abraham fights Terry Buterbaugh (6-6, 3 KOs), fought a six–rounder in which one guy swung a lot, the other was cagey, and in the end it ends up two guys battling it out. In round 1 Buterbaugh was the aggressor, on paper, since that’s essentially what he’s throwing at McDermott, who’s moniker could be “Dancing” Danny. Buterbaugh (not the best name for a boxer) was throwing millions of punches, literally millions, and they look great, but they are hitting molecules of atmosphere (though he made that “whoosh” exhalation sound with his mouth when he punches which should count for something).
By round 3, McDermott’s body was a map of where Buterbaugh HAD connected, namely around the sides, the back, and once to the ear. But he was aggressive and has the punch output of a Gatlin gun. McDermott, however, when he was ducking and weaving away from the human cotton gin, connected with the meaningful punches. Maybe four total. That’s right, my unofficial punch-stat says McDermott –who at this point looked like he’s spent a day at the beach in Cancun without sunblock (but splotched in places that suggest Buterbaugh connected in the clinch) — has landed maybe five hooks. Buterbaugh’s best round was the 3rd, where he landed five and bloodied McDermott left temple out of sheer relentless punching, connecting by sheer volume of punches. McDermott seemingly hoped to get Buterbaugh into the ropes, which he did at times, connecting with looping hooks. Round 6, the final stanza, gave a rousing finish, with both fighters wailing. Buterbaugh of the fast, ineffectual hands and McDermott finally seeming to say to himself, “aw fuck it” and pressuring Buterbaugh against the ropes and connecting finally with solid hooks again and again. Too little too late? Well, maybe not. It was a split decision in a fight that would have gone to the Butter Man if McDermott hadn’t come on late.
Don’t brawl with a brawler. In a junior featherweight bullfight wherein Puerto Rican Luis Del Valle (14-0, 11 KO’s) played matador to a Ricardo Mayorga-like horns-first Mexican brawler Jose Angel Beranza (34-21-2 26 KO’s) Del Valle learned that lesson, but he learned it in time. Luis was the man here Saturday, with a huge following. It must suck to be the other guy. But the other guy was much more effective in the 1st round. The 2nd round found Del Valle finding his distance, though Beranza connected up close. Midway though the round del Valle connected with jabs midrange, but the Mexican was effective with the uppercut and hooks thrown widely.
Del Valle definitely controlled the ring, with a much tighter defense, backing the Mexican up and throwing quick straight rights and jabs, while Beranza threw lunging, looping hooks that connected when Del Valle played into the brawling infighting. By round 4, Del Valle had taken over counter punching effectively because of Beranza’s tendency to dive forward leaving himself open. But when Beranza got him, always the pursuer, he got Del Valle on the ropes and the latter ate punches, wildly thrown. And for a while Del Valle had trouble getting away from the right of Beranza, making the mistake of circling to the left. In round 6, Del Valle rejiggered his defense, recovering control of the ring and boxing. Beranza doubled down on the Hail Mary offense, charging in with gigantic roundhouses that largely missed. In the 8th and final round, del Valle closed the show boxing very well, pulling out a unanimous win in a fight that could easily have gone the other way, and had that happened, it would have ended in a knockout.
Now to Boyd Melson and the West Point contingent. Junior middleweights Melson (6-0, 3KOs) fought Sean Rawley Wilson (6-5, 1 KO). Melson (“Rainmaker”), a West Point cadet, a lefty, and the second Jewish fighter of the night (judging from the Star of David on his trunks) is not a terribly good fighter stylistically, but his body-first strategy paid off. Wilson was effective with his big right at times, beckoning Melson on but the body shots got to him. In a great final round Wilson, having been hammered all night, came back with strong lefts and rights straights, eating punches but delivering as well. Melson was actually on the defensive in the last round as Wilson, with his face well minced and a largish mouse under his eye, landed a few big shots. Melson got the unanimous decision.
Seanie Monaghan (10-0 7 KO’s), a Long Beach fighter, met one Billy Bailey of Bakersfield, Calif., (11-13-1 4 KO’s) in the most entertaining bout of the evening, a throw-back club fight in which Bailey, a moose, a slab-sided brawler who looks as if he stepped right out of “The Harder They Fall,” came in with no finesse, little defense, not much speed, but an entertaining combination of masochism and savagery that made up for his deficits. The man flat out enjoyed getting hit, nodding his head and smiling whenever Monaghan connected, as if Monaghan had just served him a particularly good espresso. It seemed, early on, as if the fight would end quickly, though, as Bailey, in one of his windmill charges, got dropped by a sharp Monaghan counterpunch combo. Saved by the bell, Bailey came out slugging in round 3, his best, with Monaghan getting hit with wild blows to the head and face, walking to the corner at rounds end with freshets of blood running down the perimeter of his right eye.
Then round 4 was an absolute hoot, with the entire place on its feet, as Bailey hammed it up, smiling and windmilling, and jogging in place whenever Monaghan lambed him. In what was turning out to be a Micky Ward-Aruto Gatti type slugfest without — if it were possible to say this — that level of finesse, Monaghan punched surgically while Bailey walked through it all throwing bombs that now and then connected. In the 5th round Monaghan was actually having some trouble connecting while Bailey seemed to be able to get his punches in more frequently, making it a dead heat, though not on the scorecards because of the knockdown in the 1st. Monaghan stayed cool, close mouthed, while Bailey actually seemed to evince something nearing atavistic lust (never since Gatti have I seen a fighter so in love with the savagery of it). Was there a third man in the ring? I forgot there was until Bailey’s mouthpiece came out in the 7th. And I don’t even know what to say about that round. I’m at loss for words. Again, Bailey gets hit, does this pogo dance, then comes in swinging. And Monaghan won it, finally in the 8th round, with his body shots and clear tactical superiority.
Finally, the main event: NABF light welterweight titlist Gabriel “Tito” Bracero (18-0, 3 KOs), defended his title against could-have-been legend former junior welterweight world titleholder DeMarcus “Chop Chop” Corley (37-10-1, 22 KOs), who is getting a little long in the tooth, but in the right hands could have been a great. As is his wont, Corley came in dressed in outrageous trunks, something like a lime green shower curtain cut and stitched into panels. My first thought: “How far DeMarcus has fallen from his big paydays against the likes of Mayweather, Jr. Here he is fighting in Roseland Ballroom. He almost looks as if he doesn’t want to be here.” Corley was roundly booed. I felt bad for him. But in round 1, Corley showed his experience, and his amazing speed and reflexes, a remarkable poise, standing stock-still, ducking punches without physically seeming to move, and throwing nothing but the occasional body shot. Then in the 2nd round, Corley landed a huge shot that got Bracero bleeding badly. The ref stopped the fight to have the doctor look. Then Corley floored Bracero. It seemed Corley was on another level, a level that would level Bracero. And he did, a second time and then again in the 3rd round, I think. By all counts this was looking like death by a series of cobra bites, with Corley stalking Bracero in that reptilian style he has of kind of slithering forward and pouncing with a single counter punch.
The change happened at the end of round 4, when Corley came in on Bracero on the ropes, hit him with combinations, but Bracero spun him around and tried to take the initiative. Then in round 5, Corley knocked Bracero into the ropes, but Bracero caught Corley several times, which seemed to make Corley decide to make it a brawl, which was less effective, and suddenly in the second half Bracero took over landing the meaningful punches by round 6. In the following set, Corley slipped (I thought) and it was ruled a knockdown, meaning it was just possible Bracero could pull off something miraculous. And though he took control in the 9th, with Corley resorting again to the odd body punch, and seemingly out of steam, the unanimous decision went to Corley, which gave him possession of the belt. And in a fitting end to a great club-fight night, cups of ice and booze were thrown into the ring in protest.