By Jake Donovan
It’s been nearly 35 years since South Philadelphia boasted its last world champion.
Time will tell if Christian Carto can help fill that void; in the meantime, he’ll settle for becoming the area’s next leading gate attraction.
Photo Credit: Christian Carto Twitter Account
The unbeaten bantamweight prospect will headline an eight-fight card on February 8 at 2300 Arena in his South Philly backyard. An opponent has yet to be selected for the charismatic 22-year old, but he’s treating the night as if it’s his first world title fight.
“This is going to be a special night for me,” said Carto (17-0, 11KOs), who was a perfect 4-0 in 2018. “It’s only my second time fighting at the 2300 Arena as pro and I enjoy the atmosphere even when I’m just there to support other fighters.
“A big ‘Thank You’ to Michelle Rosado for including me on her first card in Philly.”
The decision to have Carto top the bill—aptly dubbed “Philly Special”—was a no-brainer for Rosado, whose Raging Babe company makes its Pennsylvania promotional debut with the show. The boxing entrepreneur has flexed her promotional muscle in Arizona and North Carolina-in fact, revitalizing both markets with entertaining action and a lively atmosphere on all of her events.
Rosado’s keys to successful shows in such areas are competitive in-ring action loaded with local flavor, a simple formula instilled by her mentor and Hall-of-Fame promoter J Russell Peltz. Having shown what she’s capable of, the natural next step was to return home to her Philly roots.
“This show is for South Philly,” insists Rosado. “The 2300 Arena is in South Philly and it’s headlined by Christian Carto, the hottest fighter to come out of South Philly in years.
“I look forward to getting him the recognition he deserves locally and nationally through this “Philly Special” card. He is the Philly Special!”
Carto’s roots run deep in the area, coming from a boxing family. His grandfather and two uncles —Nunzio (27-2, 13KOs), Frankie (41-13-3, 21KOs) and Joe Carto (4-2-1, 3KOs)—were all pro fighters in the 1930s and 1940s, having established reputations as no-nonsense prizefighters in the lighter weight divisions. Frankie—a bonafide featherweight contender in the 1940s—and Nunzio were both regulars at the famed Cambria Athletic Club, infamously known as “The Bucket of Blood” given its reputation for presenting club shows loaded with non-stop two-way action.
Still, it’s another Italian-American from Philly to whom the youngest boxing Carto has already has drawn early comparisons in Joey Giardello. The late, great middleweight reigned as World champion from 1963-1965 and owns wins over Hall of Famers Sugar Ray Robinson and Dick Tiger, as well as Rubin “Hurricane” Carter and Henry Hank, conquering all in his Philly hometown.
Giardello’s revenge-fueled win over Hank was hailed as 1962 Fight of the Year, while claiming the scalps of Robinson, Tiger (2-2 lifetime, the second win for the Middleweight crown, coming in Atlantic City) and Carter all within the span of 18 months. He’d lose the title to Tiger in their 4th and final fight in 1965, boxing two more years before ending his career in 1967 on a high-note, avenging a prior loss to previously unbeaten Jack Rodgers with a win in Philadelphia.
None of that history is lost on Carto, whose youth was spent actively in ice hockey and, of course, boxing. The latter became his true love, winning the 2014 National Golden Gloves at 108 pounds and then placing third the following year in the same competition at 114-pounds, where he also claimed a Bronze medal in the U.S. Olympic Trials.
Believing he’d gone as far as he could in the amateurs, Carto turned pro in 2016 still five months shy of his 20th birthday. Less than three years into his career, he’s already created a buzz throughout Philadelphia, particularly in South Philly.
“I look to forward to having a strong start to 2019 and continue building my career,” Carto said. ” My sponsors and my fans show unwavering support every fight and I am indebted to them. A lot of people are behind me and I want to make them proud not only of me, but also of South Philly boxing.”
In due time, who knows—maybe the latest unbeaten bantamweight can become South Philly’s first champ since Jeff Chandler held a slice of the 118-pound crown for much of the first half of the 1980s.
“There’s been a lot of great fighters from South Philly and I hope to uphold that tradition,” Carto humbly states.
UNDERCARD AND TICKET INFO
The rest of the show is still being put together, but in true Raging Babe fashion features plenty of local attractions. Already slated to appear are super lightweight prospect Marcel Rivers (6-0, 4KOs), super bantamweight Alejandro Jimenez (4-0, 1KO) and debutant Jeremy Adorno, whose 18th birthday comes one month prior to fight night.
Rivers made his pro debut at 2300 Arena, in fact his first three fights taking place at the venue. His first career start in Dec. ’16 came on the same night that Joseph Adorno—Jeremy’s older brother—turned pro, both scoring 1st round knockouts on the night.
Tickets to “Philly Special” are priced $50, $75 and $125. They can be purchased online at www.2300arena.com or by calling 215-765-0922. Doors open at 6:30 pm and first bout is at 7:30 pm.