The Pulchritude of Pugilism—Sparrow Edges Burgin – Zapata Upsets Jenkins

By: George H. Hanson Jr., Esq.

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Date: Friday, March 10 2017
Venue: 2300 Arena – Philadelphia, PA
Promoters: Peltz Boxing, BAM Boxing, Raging Babe & Joe Hand

Commentators: Marc Abrams & Mike Mittman
Ring Announcer: Steve Mittman
Referees: Gary Rosato, Blair Talmadge & Ronald Ali Bashir
Photos: Darryl Cobb Jr.

Listen folks, it was Pelé—the greatest football player of all time— who as a seventeen year-old led Brazil to its first FIFA World Cup in 1958 showing the world that the Brazilian ginga style could dominate and defeat the European powerhouse in soccer – “the beautiful game.” I couldn’t help reflecting on the artistry of Pelé and his total command of the soccer ball as Anthony Burgin (10 wins – 2 losses – 0 draws – 2 kos) pursued Avery Sparrow (5 wins – 1 loss – 0 draw – 3 kos) in the opening round of their scheduled eight-round main event. Hands held high, the taller Burgin—built like a racehorse—tall and lean—attacked like a miniature Tommy “Hitman” Hearns unloading while stalking. Sparrow eyes on his nemesis sidestepped, dipped and changed directions like he was auditioning for a fight scene in a remake of “The Matrix.” The audience swept up in the titillating scenery—the beautiful game of boxing—would realize after thirty-two minutes that they had just witnessed the front-runner for the Briscoe Award “2017 Fight of the Year.”

Sparrow (L.) connects with the left hook

It is as unusual to have two fighters with a combined experience of eighteen fights to headline a show as it was to have a 17 year-old in the World Cup back in 1958. But, Brazil had Pelé and Philadelphia has “Uncle Russell” Hall of Fame Promoter – J. Russell Peltz and his two cohorts/ protégés Brittany Rogers and “The Raging Babe” – Michelle Rosado. Unlike so many of his contemporaries who have fallen by the wayside and into the promotional graveyard – Peltz – the greatest chameleon of the sweet science has been able to change with the landscape – using traditional tools and social media to fill venues. Thus, it was no surprise when two North Philly kids – Burgin and Sparrow were pitted against each other in the main event. Philadelphia vs. Philadelphia has always been a recipe for success and when boxing is on the menu Peltz is a master chef. “Bad” Bennie Briscoe vs. Eugene “Cyclone” Hart, Troy “Forty” Fletcher vs. Bryan “Boogaloo” Jones and Derek “Pooh” Ennis vs. “King” Gabriel Rosado are a few examples of the mystique and intrigue of intra-city competition and rivalries.

The mercurial Sparrow – whose sole setback was due to disqualification—secured the services of trainer Greg Hackett in preparation for Burgin. On October 2, 2015 – two fights aback in the same ring—Sparrow’s propensity for hitting Jerome Rodriguez in the lower quadrant caused referee Hurley McCall to call a halt in the last round of the scheduled six-rounder. Hackett the iconoclast and kindred spirit would prove to be the perfect fit for the fighter who many believe couldn’t keep his emotions in check and follow instructions.

Burgin (R.) connects with the straight right.

The opening round was close with Burgin working the body nicely and Sparrow boxing from a distance using his jab and the occasional straight right. Burgin settled into the role of the aggressor as they went back and forth in an action-packed fight round after round much to the delight of the fans. The action reached a boiling point in the sixth round as Burgin engaged Sparrow at close quarters and was driving solid shots to his opponent’s body. Sparrow returned fire and threw an uppercut that is proof that he has a micro-chip for a brain and is always thinking at warp speed. While covering up on the inside, Sparrow instead of bending his legs to split Burgin’s guard, simply rotated his shoulders and brought the right uppercut forward while raising his legs – an awkward looking delivery – but the right one given the circumstances. The punch landed on the tip of Burgin’s chin sending him to the canvas.

Burgin was up before referee Rosato could toll the count of three and dusted his gloves. There was one minute and thirteen seconds remaining in the round and Sparrow seized the opportunity and attacked attempting to end the fight. Burgin the consummate professional, never panicked – kept his composure under adverse circumstances and was able to navigate around the ring – defense intact – fired back while clearing his head and making it to the bell.

The fight continued at the same frenetic pace in the next two rounds with the seventh being close and Burgin claiming the final round showing a sense of urgency. Press-row was split with the fight being scored 76-75 either way. No surprise that one judge had it 76-75 for Burgin, the second judge having the same score for Sparrow with the final judge soring it 77-74 for Sparrow who was awarded a split-decision.

In his last bout, December 2, 2106 at this venue, Roque Zapata (2 wins – 1 loss – 3 draws – 0 kos) from Panama now fighting out of Culpepper, Virginia – handed junior-middleweight Isaiah Wise his first loss in four fights – winning a four-round majority decision in what many called an upset. Tonight, the twenty-one year-old Zapata would prove that his win over Wise was no fluke and out-boxed local fan-favorite Fred Jenkins Jr. (10 wins – 3 losses – 0 draw – 3 kos) dropping him in the opening stanza – winning a unanimous six-round decision 59-54 twice and 57-56.

Zapata (L.) lands the left hook.

Jenkins took command at the opening bell working behind a stiff jab backing up his shorter adversary. Zapata stayed in a low crouch and was unable to neutralize his opponent’s jab which dictated the pace and kept him at bay. But, with barely ten seconds remaining in the round Zapata countered with a short right hand that connected on Jenkin’s chin sending him to the canvas. Jenkins was up immediately and before the action could resume the bell sounded ending the round.

With stablemate, heavyweight contender— Bryant “By By” Jennings yelling instructions, behind press-row the action resumed in the second stanza with Jenkins again setting the pace. Working behind a stiff jab he landed a few combinations to the body as Zapata circled returning fire. The rest of the fight was close with Zapata being the busier combatant by simply out-working Jenkins who didn’t appear to be at this best. The unorthodox Zapata, fighting from a crouch, is difficult to hit and is effective primarily because he fights with much confidence. Maybe, it isn’t a case of him upsetting Philadelphia fighters but one of him being underestimated.

In a scheduled six-round heavyweight bout, former University of New Haven basketball star Cassius Chaney (8 wins – 0 losses – 0 draws –5 kos) of Philadelphia who holds a degree in Sports Management – squared off against Tom Washington (6 wins – 9 losses – 1 draw – 2 kos) of Lansing, Michigan. Despite a six-inch height advantage, the 6 feet 6 inch Chaney was outweighed by his opponent who tipped the scales at 278 lbs. – a thirty pound disparity. With new trainer – former two-division world champion John David Jackson in his corner, Chaney took the opening stanza with his jab and a few hard rights thrown with a curve around his opponent’s gloves protecting the side of his face. The rather rotund Washington came forward and walked into an uppercut in the second round that discombobulated his equilibrium but didn’t send him to the canvas.

Chaney (R.) lands the right.

There wasn’t much action in the third stanza as Chaney kept his distance jabbing with Washington plodding forward throwing a few punches. However, Washington pinned Chaney on the ropes for part of the fourth round and was able to land to the body with a few good shots. His success was short-lived as the last two rounds settled to a pedestrian pace with Chaney jabbing to the head and body hurting Washington with a straight right with thirty seconds remaining in the fight. The fight lived up to the age-old adage that an ugly win is better than a pretty loss. Chaney won a majority decision as two judges scored it 59-55 with the third recording it 57-57 – a draw.

In his first fight since losing to Roque Zapata last December, Philly junior-middleweight Isaiah Wise (3 wins – 1 loss – 0 draws – 2 kos) returned to action in fantastic fashion stopping Jeffrey Wright (4 wins – 5 losses – 1 draw – 4 kos) of Milwaukee, Wisconsin winning by technical knockout thirty-two seconds of the fourth round of the scheduled six-round bout. The slick-boxing Wright fought on even terms with Wise in the opening stanza – slipping and sliding punches while hurting Wise with a right hand. However, Wise was able to counter with good body punching. The Philly fighter came out bombing in the second round and had his opponent on the ropes where he was falling through and had to be rescued by referee Rosato. Wright was losing the round but was able to capture the stanza with a blistering right toward the end sending Wise to the canvas the referee reaching the count of four before he was able to reach a standing position and finish the round.

Wise was able to even the score in the third round when he hurt Wright with an overhand right, followed him to the ropes wailing away with shots to the head and body sending him to the canvas with a right hook to the ribcage. Wright was up immediately and the action resumed with both competitors slugging to the bell. The fourth round was in its embryonic stages when Wise bounced a blistering right off Wright’s dome sending him crashing to the canvas the referee tolling five before he was able to reach a standing position. The referee motioned for the action to resume but Wright still dazed and stumbled forward and Rosato called a halt declaring Wise the victor by technical knockout in an exciting bout.

Wise (R.) lands the right hook.

In the opening bout of the night North Philadelphia flyweight Tyrone Arzeno lost his professional debut losing a close four-round split decision to Basyzbek Baratov (1 win – 1 loss – 1 draw – 0 ko) of Kyrgyzstan now fighting out of Philadelphia. Arzeno boxed brilliantly in the opening stanza working behind his jab as Baratov threw the overhand right with bad intentions, eventually connected with the left hook. Baratov outworked his adversary in the second round by pressing the action with quick combinations to the body. However, Arzeno was able to hurt him in the third round with a hard right. Arzeno landed the more telling blows in the final two rounds while Baratov connected with quick-scoring combinations that are commonplace in the amateur ranks. Thus, I had it 39-37 for Arzeno similar to one judge. However, the other two judges scored it 39-37 for Baratov.

Arzeno (L) mixing it up with Baratov

Eighteen year-old super-middleweight Chris “Sand Man” Thomas (4 wins – 0 losses – 0 draws – 2 kos) of Beachwood, New Jersey won a unanimous four-round decision 40-35 twice and 39-36 over thirty-three year-old Mike Rodriguez (0 wins – 3 losses – 0 draws) of Springfield, Massachusetts. Thomas pressed the action at the opening bell and throughout the bout but had a difficult time because the 6 feet 3 inch Rodriguez grabbed and clutched thwarting the onslaught. Referee Bashir penalized Rodriguez deducting a point for excessive holding in the second round. It was an ugly affair round after round.

Thomas (R) on the attack

With Daddy Yankee blaring over the house speakers on the track Gasolina, a supremely confident Marco Ocano (1 win – 0 losses – 0 draws – 1 ko) of Aqua Prieta, Mexico made it from the dressing room to the squared circle where he waited patiently for several minutes for the arrival of his opponent. With an entourage befitting a world champion, Junior-lightweight Joseph Adorno (2 wins – 0 losses – 0 draws – 2 kos) of Allentown, Pennsylvania—decked out in an exquisite white outfit— strolled to the ring, his fans standing and cheering raucously—one of his handlers carrying a large Puerto Rican flag. If the judges awarded points for the ring walk and pageantry – Adorno had already won by a wide margin. The gong sounded to commence the scheduled four-rounder featuring two seventeen year-old pugilists.

Adorno, who is promoted by Top Rank, didn’t waste much time in getting down to business. In the time it takes to complete the first verse and hook to Gasolina – Adorno had dismissed and disposed his opponent—landing a left to the body then going up top with a straight right that froze Ocano in his tracks as though he had stepped into a bear trap. Seizing the moment Adorno unloaded a three punch combination before referee Bashir rescued Ocano from further punishment calling a halt 45 seconds into the bout – declaring Adorno the winner by technical knockout.

Adorno (R.) unleashing on Ocano

Adorno was a hard act to follow. But, undefeated eighteen year-old lightweight Victor Padilla (2 wins – 0 loss – 0 draws – 2 kos) of Vieques, Puerto Rico now residing in Berlin, New Jersey was equally impressive in his bout which followed Adorno’s domination and destruction of Ocano. In a scheduled four-rounder the southpaw Padilla dropped twenty-eight year-old Carlos Castillo (4 wins – 4 losses – 0 draws – 3 kos) of Tucson, Arizona with a left uppercut a few second in the opening round. Castillo who attacked at the bell with reckless abandon was countered with the perfectly placed punch that sent him to the canvas. More surprised than shaken, Castillo was up immediately and referee Talmadge wiped his gloves and signaled for the action to resume. Unabashed, Castillo attacked and was met with an overhand left that ricocheted off his chin re-introducing him to the canvas. Again he was up quickly and appeared willing and able to continue. But, referee Talmadge ended the festivities awarding Padilla the victory by technical knockout at 48 seconds of the opening round.

Padilla (R) sends Castillo to the canvas

In a bout featuring debuting Philadelphia fighters, eighteen year-old junior-featherweight Crystian Pequero was impressive winning by technical knockout 2:12 of the third round of a scheduled four-rounder against twenty-nine year-old Alonzo Davis. Both fighters rushed to the center of the ring at the opening bell and stood toe-to-toe unleashing bombs some landing most missing. After the initial fireworks, Pequero settled down and started going downstairs with hard shots to Davis’ body resembling a mini version of Hall of Famer Mike “The Body Snatcher” McCallum. Davis fought valiantly returning fire but Pequero was winning the war of attrition out landing and hurting him to the body. The bout continued at the same pace into the third round. Pequero continued his assault to the body with Davis fading but still fighting back. Davis was tough but was unable to withstand a well-placed right uppercut to the solar plexus that sent him to the canvas on one knee where he stayed unable to rise before referee Talmadge tolled the ten-count.

Pequero (R.) going to the body

In another all-Philly match-up featuring debuting flyweights, Ernesto “Pete” Almodovar was much too polished for southpaw Steve Lopez—dropping him in the opening round winning a four-round unanimous decision by scores of 40-35 and 39-36 twice. Unlike many fighters in their first professional bout, Almodovar seemed relaxed and was able to land with pinpoint accuracy. Toward the end of the opening round he dropped Lopez with a well-timed right as the southpaw tried to corner him on the ropes. Lopez was more surprised than hurt and was up instantly as referee Rosato began the count. The fight followed a similar pattern with Lopez coming forward and Almodovar using the shoulder roll to evade punishment while countering with straight rights that found their mark. It was an impressive debut for Almodovar who is trained and managed by his cousin Octavio Pineda.

Almodovar (L.) on the attack.

The capacity crowd was treated to a beautiful night of the sweet science in “The Capital of Boxing” – Philadelphia. The main event exceeded expectations as both boxers demonstrated that boxing is truly an art wrought with decisions and consequences at warp speed. The lessons learned by both combatants can only make them better boxers as they continue to move up the ranks.

In the audience were the “Dynamic Duo” – Luther Chiles and Fred Rock – these two are omnipresent at Philadelphia fights, Julian “J-Rock” Williams and trainer Stephen “Breadman” Edwards, Tevin “The American Idol” Farmer, Jesse “Hard Work” Hart and North Carolina Boxing Aficionado/publicist Christopher Williams.

Also enjoying the action and scouting were Bobby Keyes, Chairman of the Board of Directors of The Urban League of Philadelphia and his beautiful wife. Next to Keyes were Kathryn Epps Robertson and Sue Jacquette co-founders of AEC Partners – – the events planning firm that has undertaken the Urban League’s centennial fundraiser – “Night at the Fights” which will grace the Liacouras Center on April 29th—featuring professional boxing and celebrities donning the gloves and headgear. To say that Keyes was bookended by pulchritude is an understatement.

See you April 29th at the Liacouras Center.

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


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