Dichotomy of Light and Dark
By: James Cullinane
On Saturday night, June 11th, at promptly 6 p.m., Orlando-based boxer, Jean Carlos Rivera, made his Madison Square Garden boxing debut.
Rivera’s was the first bout on a busy Garden card that night, a card headlined by up-and-coming superstar, Vasyl Lomachenko. As is the norm when bigger names than yours are on the marquee, there were more empty seats than not at the opening bell. For the lucky few that were in attendance, and those, like myself, watching the live stream on TopRank.tv, Rivera rewarded our patronage with something special.
An undefeated, Puerto Rican, boxing prospect, Rivera began the six-rounder by establishing a lightning fast jab to keep his opponent off balance. As the rounds progressed, Rivera’s boxing skills were on full display, culminating in a thunderous, right that dropped his opponent thirty seconds into the final round. The dazed opponent valiantly rose to his feet to beat the count, but Rivera calmly stalked him into the ropes, landing several more hard blows before the referee mercifully waved the fight off.
It was by far the biggest fight of Rivera’s burgeoning career and, to date, his best. He dominated from start to finish, displaying the skill and strength that have those in the know whispering of a future world champion, some even comparing him to a young, Miguel Cotto.
As one who trains at the same Orlando boxing gym with Rivera, I went to bed Saturday night thrilled about his victory, thrilled about his future and eager to talk with him in the gym next week when he would officially put New York behind him and begin training for his next fight.
When I woke early Sunday morning, my joy for Rivera was shattered, replaced with unmitigated sadness as I began hearing about the mass shooting at Pulse nightclub; a sadness that morphed into numbed emptiness as the scope of the horrific event gradually came into focus.
Even as I sit here now, a full day and a half after this unfathomable tragedy, my mind is overwhelmed. I find myself thinking how terrified those clubgoers must have been once they realized what was happening. I think about the victims – the dead, the wounded, the traumatized survivors who fled for their lives. I think about the friends and families, unable to even remotely imagine their pain.
What I want to think about is Rivera’s debut in Madison Square Garden, how he felt stepping into that famed venue where the shadows of so many boxing greats still linger. I want to think about his future and how his dedication and devotion to the craft of boxing, the hours of training he puts in every day, is finally beginning to pay off. I want to contrast the darkness that has fallen over my city with the brightness of a young, Latino man who is doing things the right way to build a better life for himself and his family; a young man who one day will make all Orlandoans proud.
But I can’t do that right now. The sadness. The madness. It is too overwhelming; too senseless. For now, the darkness is stronger than the light.