BAM on boxing: Bethlehem in Review

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Last Friday night I watched Philadelphia heavyweight contender Bryant Jennings bust up Russian Andrey Fedosov at the Sands Casino Resort Bethlehem. Fedosov’s left eye was swollen and he had trouble with his vision, causing referee Steve Smoger, on the advice of the ringside physician, to stop the fight between the sixth and seventh rounds of the scheduled 10-round bout. Jennings continues unbeaten at 17-0, 9K0s, and the fight was a terrific learning experience for him in front of the NBC Sports Network cameras (for the fifth time in his last six fights).

Fedosov proved not only to be a viable opponent, but also much more. His heart was strong and he came to fight, pumping hooks to the body and head and displaying a chin clip_image002made of granite. Jennings usually takes the first round or two to figure out his opponent, but this time he jumped on Fedosov from the first bell. You could sense he was hungry. Fedosov was stronger and quicker than expected, but none of that mattered because Jennings was prepared. He hits like a heavyweight and moves like a featherweight. More important, Jennings made another statement–he is here to stay among the heavyweight division’s elite. Congrats, B.Y!

Junior middleweight Arturo Trujillo, of Easton, PA, turned pro and needed only 29 seconds to score two knockdowns and stop fellow-lefty Anthony Watson, of Philadelphia, also making his pro debut. We look forward to Trujillo’s return Aug. 10 at the Sands.

If you didn’t know who Sergey Kovalev was before last Friday, you do now. The Russian light-heavyweight, who faced Cornelius White, of Houston, TX excelled as usual by stopping White in the third round of their IBF eliminator. Kovalev’s nickname should be all business because once he enters that ring it is clear that there is only one thing on his mind–to stop his opponent. He may be the strongest 175-pounder out there, with a record of 21-0-1, 19 K0s. His lone blemish was a technical draw due to a foul.

Former heavyweight champion Rocky Marciano used to train with a 200-pound heavy bag, which was unheard of back in the 1950s. Marciano was 49-0, 43 K0s, yet he was just under 5-foot-11 and had a short reach of just about 68 inches, yet he rolled over everyone in his path. Kovalev must be training with that same 200-pound heavy bag.

Bethlehem welterweight Ronald Cruz wasn’t much of a hometown hero Friday night. The durable Cruz lost a unanimous clip_image006[2]10-round decision to Ray Narh, of Ghana. Narh’s fans kept a steady chant going and, although Cruz’ fans would drown them out here and there, the consistency of Narh’s backers stuck in my head. Cruz went into that fight with changes in his corner–a strength trainer and a nutritionist. I heard fans and writers saying that he’s just an opponent now; I disagree.

I don’t see Cruz that way. He has the heart of a champion and has lost just twice in 19 fights, both times to skilled fighters. Cruz could have been like other so-called prospects, taking an easy fight to get a win after his first loss last fall to Antwone Smith. Instead, he went back to war. Cruz followed Narh around the ring all night and all I kept hearing was ‘Cruz looks slow, he can’t keep up.’ I never thought of Cruz as being quick. He was peaking when he was breaking down opponents by going to the body. Too many critics say he is one-dimensional.

I believe Cruz will come back strong on the Aug. 10 card at the Sands. If something is not broke, don’t fix it, but his team tried to make things better and it backfired. Cruz should go back to the basics and stick to what he does best–breaking guys down by going to the body. Old-school fight fans enjoyed his wars.

At 26, Cruz has plenty of time to play his cards in the boxing game. I wish the fans and the press would stop jumping off the bandwagon after a fighter loses now and then.

Boxing wouldn’t have the history it does today without fighters losing. Meldrick Taylor, Bennie Briscoe, George Benton and many more, including our own Gabriel Rosado, suffered back-to-back losses, yet remained at or near the top. If those guys are considered to be opponents, then Cruz should be honored to be in their company.

Allentown native Billy Marks faced Randy Easton, of Williamsport, PA. These heavyweights lacked speed and simply wanted to throw punches. They put on a entertaining show. Marks won by majority decision after four rounds.

The fight that stole the show was between a pair of undefeated junior welterweights. Jerome Rodriguez, of Allentown, and Treysean Wiggins, of Newburgh, NY, went to war in the second bout of the night. Rodriguez knocked Wiggins into the ropes and the referee gave him a standing-8 count early in round one. Then, near the end of the round, Wiggins hurt Rodriguez and knocked him down. I learned a lot about these two fighters in that round. Both were strong, both were skilled, but only one didn’t like to get hit.

In the second round, Wiggins kept his range. Rodriguez did the opposite; he kept coming forward and made Wiggins go toe-to-toe with him. Rodriguez ended up stopping Wiggins in a fight that reminded the old-school fight fans of Tommy Hearns-Marvin Hagler or, in recent years, the Alfredo Angulo-James Kirkland bout. They are the type of fights that can turn a first-time attendee into a boxing fan. Kudos to both fighters for giving the fans what they paid for.

In the opening bout we got to see junior welterweight Hasan Young, of Philadelphia, shake his ring rust and out-school Ariel Duran, of Queens, NY. This was Young’s first real fight in almost nine months; his knockout victory over Josue Rivera in December didn’t last one round. This also was the first time as a pro that Young was able to showcase his talent–and he did. It would have been nice to see the jab doubled up, or more combinations thrown, but he outclassed his opponent and is looking to stay busy.

Congrats to everyone involved–the fighters the managers, Peltz, Main Events and NBC Sports Network. It was a great show!

The author is a Temple University graduate who is now a part of Peltz Boxing. Follow us on twitter @Peltzboxing and BAM @BAMboxinginc.

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