We meet up on 89th street in New York City at 2:30 for the two-hour journey up to Hartford. With company like Zach Levin of Boxing News, Sean Sullivan of Boxing Digest and photographer Thierry Gourjon the ride just flies by, speedened by the non-stop boxing talk. One pit stop in around Rocky Hill and we were there in time or the first fight at 6.
The XL Center, the former home of the NHL Whalers is located in downtown Hartford which is a beautiful little old New England city, with some eye-catching older architecture. Now the New York Rangers AHL farm club “The Wolfpack” plays there and there is an upcoming Bruce Springsteen concert.
But this night it’s Chad Dawson and boxing’s night. Zach runs out to meet for the first time in person his e-mail buddy, Connecticut boxing legend John Scully who is over at the Hilton across the street. I stay at ringside with Sean and writer/hip hop expert, the always behatted Kirk Lang. Sullivan said he once shared a hotel room with Lang on a boxing trip and noted that he still never saw the well-liked and jovial Lang take off his ever-present cap. Thierry Gourjon hits ringside to stake his territory and set up his camera equipment among the competitive photo zone area mostly inhabited by “shooters” not “phorographers. Also around is my good buddy Francisco who loves the RA Rugged Man obliteration interview with Mayweather that he has stored it on his iPod. He’s listened to it three times already.
First bout is a four-round heavyweight bout featuring Emad Ali of NYC who is 2-0 with 2 KO’s and goes by the nickname of “Magic” which is stitched onto his trunks. Using two ring names like “Magic” and “Ali” serving as hype, Emad better deliver something here. And he does. Kelsey Arnold (1-3-2) out of Lexington, TN cuffs Ali with a right on the side of the head but after that the young New Yorker shows off his own big, round right which downs the journeyman in round one. Arnold gets up and tries to make a fight of it but after taking a few more licks, he turns his back and it’s over, no mas style. Emad Ali ain’t bad he could try to use that long left jab more effectively. He certainly has some big names to live up to.
Middleweight Tyrone Brunson out of Philadelphia is a name you should remember. “The One” demonstrated excellent skills, conditioning, speed, power, ring generalship and star power. The crowd was small at this early point in the evening but there were a couple of fans behind press row who were very impressed by Brunson’s work. Their running commentary could be heard by everyone for all three rounds: “He don’t like that…There you go…All night…There you go…He don’t like that…All day, all day…Set him up with the jab…He don’t see it…All day, one-two, he don’t see it.” Jose “Hard Hittin” Medina, 15-15-1 (11) also out of Philly, attired in all black, looked like a mini Tua with tattoos but he got picked apart by the artistry of Brunson who drew a nice applause after round two. Round three it continued: “Let it go. Let it go…Get a lil closer baby…Let it go…There you go, left hook to the body.” And one deadly left hook to the ribs and it was over. Brunson is now 21-0-1 with 19 KO’s and will be a future force at 160. Gary Shaw promotes Brunson.
Next up it was middleweight Michael Oliveira from Brazil, now based in Miami who entered the ring to Frank Sinatra’s King of the Heap, as his moniker is Chairman of the Board. He struggled with also Miami-based Colombian Francisco Osorio who suddenly quit after round six. Initially Osorio thought it was over after six and he went to embrace Oliveira and awkwardly had to be told there were still two more rounds to go. Strangely, Osorio refused to continue and pulled a no mas and Oliveira, who looked to be possibly behind on the cards got the win. One of those strange, only in boxing moments. The Chairman is now 9-0 while Osorio drops to 12-7.
Chris Hitman Avalos, a bantam out of Lancaster, CA, moved to 13-0 (10) with a points win over Robert Daluz (12-22-3) of Providence, RI.
Then Octavio Lora of Culiacan, MX got a controversial W 8 over hard luck Nicaraguan Octavio Narvaez, who also got the short end of his New Jersey fight with Vivian Harris last year. Lora is now 27-0-1. Narvaez is 7-8-1.
Plenty of recognizable faces are here at ringside including Marlon Starling, Brian Kenny, Dan Rafael, Keith Idec, Lou Dibella, George Kimball, Moses Vered, Leon Margulies, Cedric Kushner. DiBella says he watched Haye vs. Valuev and after 12 thought the Giant would win the decision based on Haye’s constant backpedaling, as did his viewing mates Margulies and Kushner. Lou was was somewhat surprised Haye got the nod, considering Valuev’s previous good fortunes with the WBA judges. He added that Ruiz will be next for Haye, then a rematch with Valuev.
HBO’s show starts at 9:30 (love those early starts – just like the old days) and Alfred Angulo shows creativity as he enters the ring with dog collar around neck for a prop and amid supporter dog barking for sound effects. Harry Joe Yorgey and El Perro have to wait in the ring for what seems like 10 minutes for Jim Lampley and Max Kellerman to set it up for the HBO audience. Gary Shaw, like everyone, is frustrated and almost explodes before making some heated remarks in the direction of the HBO set-up. It’s a ridiculous wait the boxers have to make for the talking heads, and it seems downright disrespectful to them. A producer must have screwed up. But Yorgey and Angulo never show any annoyance, to their credit. Finally the ring lights come on and it’s fight time. But this is not much of a fight as Angulo is too strong and just obliterates Yorgey. I think Angulo badly hurt Yorgey in round one and the Pennsylvanian had a less than confident expression on his face sitting on his stool after round one. When he came out for the second, Yorgey strangely elected not to move and elude but made himself a sitting target on the ropes. Angulo inflicted some brutal damage and looking a wrecking machine, dropped Yorgey with rights and got his man out of there in round three. It was a complete devastating domination by the blockbuster from Mexicali, Mexico. Angulo is now 17-1 with 14 KO’s and will get a WBO 154 title shot. Yorgey suffered his first loss and is now 22-1-1 (10). Although I witnessed a stretcher was brought to his dressing room post-fight, he was not taken by an ambulance to the hospital. The last word given was that Yorgey was okay, despite taking several minutes to get up from the knockout.
Chad Dawson put on a brilliant, dominating performance against Glen Johnson and cruised to a points victory. Dawson was always in control, using an excellent jab, explosive straight rights and occasional combos, with superb footwork. Glen Johnson looked slower than their first fight two years ago and never came close to hurting the champion. Johnson was ineffective all night and though we thought he never landed any telling blows, photographer Gourjon said he was able to snap two or three shots of Dawson enduring some jolting punches. But it was all Chad Dawson on this night as the unbeaten 27-year-old undoubtedly moves himself up the pound-for-pound rankings with this display. Jean Pascal and Tavoris Cloud will be two very interesting foes for Dawson (29-0, 17) in the future but it’s hard to see any light heavyweight overcoming the excellence of Dawson, who is trained by Eddie Mustafa Muhammad. Dawson’s old trainer John Scully was also very impressed by Bad Chad’s very good night’s work and says he appreciated and enjoyed the pugilism he saw, though understood a segment of the ring observer population would prefer to see more of the sizzling, blood and guts variety of action.
Which, not that anyone needs reminding, is for sure in store for November 14 in Las Vegas.
Bring on Cotto vs. Pacquiao!