(Mike Reed lands on Jorge Marquez; photo credit: Trey Pollard, StiffJab.com)
FORT WASHINGTON, Md. — On the same night when Showtime's ShoBox program was living up to its former reputation of giving prospects all they could handle, Keystone Boxing's Friday Night Fights at Rosecroft Raceway was living up to its own regional reputation of making life difficult for its featured young fighters.
The evening began with one of the boxers advertised on the banner getting knocked cold in the 1st round. And the evening ended with one of the D.C. area's top couple pro prospects, junior welterweight Mike Reed, getting a couple rounds of heat from unheralded Jorge Marquez before rising to the occasion and stopping him in the 5th.
The approximately 700 fans in attendance left satisfied, if they were anything like me, with all the good action and matchmaking, and they certainly sounded as though they enjoyed the proceedings. This was my first Keystone show and I expect I'll be back again this year. The philosophy, as explained to me by Keystone's Ross Molovinsky, is simply to "put on good fights;" they don't have any of the fighters on these shows signed, so they don't have the same motive as promoters who want to move their prospects carefully.
That makes Reed, who's both from the region and has been matched ambitiously (bordering on recklessly), a great fit as a headliner. He got the win Friday, but not all of his fellow youngsters were so lucky…
Reed (now 7-0, 5 KO) began slowly in the 1st, something he told me afterward that he's had a habit of dating back to his days as a heralded amateur. For one thing, Marquez was matching his speed, and making use of his superior length to connect solidly, whereas Reed has the dimensions of a boxer who ought to be campaigning no higher than lightweight. It was immediately clear that Marquez, at 4-1 (2 KO) coming in, knew what he was doing, and was tough. Marquez was even better in the 2nd, as the two men took turns landing hard combinations. Both rounds were close but I gave Reed the edge, despite being a bit sluggish and keeping his head too stationary to give the bout an air of danger for the man known as "Yes Indeed."
In the 3rd round, though, Reed came out a completely different fighter. With body language that suggested he was on full alert (albeit still calm), Reed didn't do anything for the first minute and a half but jab and dodge punches. It worked, even when Marquez cornered him along the ropes for a stretch. The rounds weren't close after that. Marquez was still coming forward and throwing and landing a few good ones, but Reed's use of angles and crisp counters — Reed's velocity improved as the fight wore on and as he tightened up his punches — were giving him control of the bout. In the 5th, it turned into a beating with Reed getting into a real groove, while Marquez began to show his visible dismay and his face reddened. Finally, after one more combination, Marquez turned away, pointed to his left ear and the ref halted the bout. Reed said the discussion in the ring afterward was that Marquez heard a "pop," and a member of his team told me he had damaged his eardrum.
Reed was mostly content with his performance. "I think I did pretty good. I worked on my defense a lot. I got real good defense sometimes in the ring," he said. "The punches really don't affect me, so I don't tend to use my defense a lot. I get in the habit of taking punches because they don't affect me, but my dad [and trainer] is a big stickler. After the 2nd round, he was like, work your defense and use your angles."
Of Marquez, Reed said he was never in any trouble, but "He did test me and made me mind my P's and Q's, so that's good."
The challenge for Reed next, said Molovinsky, is the same as always: finding opponents willing to take him on. For this fight, "Just to get a contract back, it felt like my wedding day or something."
My view would be that as impressive as it is that Reed has taken on and beaten such difficult opponent so early in his pro career, there's no need for him to take the next higher step until he masters this level. If Reed is going to be one of the country's top prospects as opposed to the region's, as good as Marquez showed himself to be Saturday, Reed will need to beat guys on Marquez's level for five rounds the way he beat Marquez for three of them.
Another high-profile local prospect, junior middleweight Jarrett Hurd (11-1, 6 KO), had his hands full over six rounds with Chris Chatman, but won by split decision. Almost all of the rounds were close, but I scored it 58-56 for Hurd, same as one of the three judges, mainly because while Chatman was very busy, it was Hurd landing the cleaner, harder blows throughout. One judge had it 59-55 for Hurd, while yet another had it for Chatman, 59-55. The fans weren't sure which way they felt about it — some booed the verdict despite Hurd being the local guy.
Chatman, 11-3-1 (5 KO) came in with the higher-level experience, having lost a decision to Demetrius Andrade, drawing with Charles Hatley and getting knocked out by Jermell Charlo. He simply outworked Hurd in the 1st, although by round's end Hurd began to find the range on his long right hand. By the 3rd Hurd was in control, and had Chatman in a bit of trouble before stifling his own momentum with an extremely low blow. At the end of the round break Chatman kicked an ice bucket over, which bought him some time whether intentional or not, not that he managed to make much use of it in the 4th as Hurd began to catch Chatman backing up following flurries. The 5th and 6th were nice and chippy, with several nice exchanges and some harsh words from Chatman after Hurd popped him with a couple after the 5th round bell; in the 6th, Chatman caught Hurd with a sneaky uppercut that was nullified by Hurd wobbling him with a temple shot.
Afterward, for some reason, Chatman took or was given the microphone and said he'd like a rematch, while adding, "Thank you for coming out to support our sport and keep it alive because it's dying." It was… odd, for the visiting fighter to get to address the crowd but not the hometown fighter.
(P.S., the Raceway is kind of a depressing place, a reminder of the decline of another sport — horse racing — that once ruled America but no longer does. Fortunately the space for boxing was just fine. Molovinsky said that it happens to have a lower overhead than, say, the Washington Convention Center, and even if he didn't mean it literally, it just so happens that the physical ceiling is really low. Wladimir Klitschko, were he to fight at the Raceway, might get scalped. And the venue, and series, serves another purpose, with Molovinsky echoing Chatman: to "keep boxing alive in PG County," aka Prince George's County.)
D.C.'s Marcus Bates weighed in five pounds over the agreed-upon number, and one witness said that when given time to try to cut the amount, he came back to the scale a half-pound heavier. Either this is a young man who isn't a bantamweight anymore, or he's someone who doesn't give enough of a damn to be a professional. Either theory might explain what happened next.
Bates and his (now) featherweight opponent Stephon McIntyre dueled on even terms through one round, before Bates — who moves around the ring with the fluid arrogance of a natural, vaguely resembling the posture of Yuriorkis Gamboa — took over completely in the 2nd. That is, until McIntyre caught him with an overhand right that dropped him hard. Bates won the next two rounds by fighting with urgency, even though the 4th had some sizzling two-way action. Since I scored the 1st for McIntyre, I had it the same as the judge who gave it to McIntyre 38-37. The other two judges had it 38-38, making the decision a majority draw. Maybe this was the wake-up call Bates (3-0-1, 2 KO) needs to fix whatever the problem was that led him to so badly miss weight.
Landover, Md. junior middleweight Larry Recio (3-0, 2 KO) got one of the night's two devastating 1st round knockouts, connecting on a left-right that sent Malcolm Green through the ropes and nearly onto the floor beneath the ring before the referee, a fetching ring photographer and others came to his aid. It was Green's pro debut. Welcome to boxing, man.
Marq Johns and Carlos Alcala faced off in a meeting of junior featherweights where somebody's "0" had to go, but not in the usual sense — both men were looking for their first pro win in a combined four fights (Johns with one draw, Alcala with three losses). It was Johns who snagged the win in the 2nd in a controversial stoppage; Johns and his funky beard-that-didn't-connect-to-his-hair-but-also-kinda-was-like-porkchop-sideburns-and-had-a-point-on-the-chin facial hair configuration was winning the fight, to be sure, and might even have had Alcala hurt, but he didn't seem to be in inordinate danger. Still, he was against the ropes, and I'm not gonna hate on the ref for that stoppage.
George Peterson-trained Immanuwel Aleem beat Timothy Hall and lost no more than two rounds, but it was no easy fight. Aleem, of Richmond, Va., moved to 7-0 (3 KO) but struggled a little with Hall (7-16, 4 KO). Hall found a home for his overhand right repeatedly. After starting off stalking, Aleem began backing up. To his credit, he fought capably from that posture, and after abandoning his good body punching in the 1st round, he returned to it in the 4th, and it made all the difference. Hall had less energy and Aleem took and kept control. One of his limitations might be height; he's listed at 5'10", decent but not exceptional for a middleweight, and he looked shorter than that to me, keeping in mind that I was ringside and peering up at him and therefore possibly distorting my perspective.
If anybody left unhappy, it was the vocal cheering section for District Heights' Md.'s Dimitrius Nolan, who was making his pro debut in the red corner as a super middleweight, although he too came in overweight by my reading of the bout sheet. The debut didn't last long — P.J. Cajigas (0-3-1 before Friday) caught him with a couple shots that hurt him, then landed a three-punch combo, some of them after Nolan was already unconscious on his feet. The muscular Nolan dropped like a stone and needed a long time to recover. Welcome to boxing, man.