Photo and story by Gary Purfield
Shulers Gym Promotions hosted a five fight card with two additional exhibition bouts from First District Plaza in West Philadelphia Saturday night. The card featured several fighters who train out of Shulers Gym as owner Percy “Buster” Custus looks to get experience and exposure for his young fighters. Several bouts were dropped in the last week for various reasons, but the show must go on. Despite the shuffling of bouts, it turned out to be a decent card with plenty of action.
Headlining the night was Shulers Gym resident Dhafir Smith who found himself on unfamiliar ground. Smith is known for going to other people’s hometowns on short notice to fight marquee names, where he has little chance of getting a decision no matter what he does inside the ring. Tonight Dhafir was at home and he was the featured attraction against an underdog brought in from out of town.
Smith, who usually fights at Super Middleweight, took on late replacement Quinton Rankin out of Charlotte, SC in a six round Light Heavyweight bout. Rankin came in with only five professional bouts and was seen as someone Dhafir would easily dispose of. While Smith got the win, it was not easy, as the southpaw Rankin made the night a project.
Smith, who is known as a slow starter, had to get the feel of things early and took some time to really get into the fight. The first two rounds were close and could have gone either way. In round three, Smith seemed to start finding a home for his jab and began getting the hometown crowd into the fight.
Round four saw the action heat up as Rankin looked to jump all over Smith early in the round. He pushed Dhafir into the corner several times taking him off his long-range game plan and making it a rough, close-quartered contest. But halfway through the round, Dhafir found his rhythm and started unloading some heavy shots from long range that were set up with the jab and an effective use of the ring.
Round five saw the rough action continue but with Dhafir fully in control. Mid-way through the round, he landed several body shots and Rankin hit the canvas on what seemed to be mostly from a slip during the body attack. It appeared at first referee Eddie Cotton was calling a knockdown but then it was ruled a slip. Round six was fought on even terms and could have again gone either way.
The judges saw it 59-54, 59-54, and 58-55 all for Smith (the Boxing Tribune had it 59-55 for Smith). While the scores were wide, the action was close throughout, but Smith threw and landed a higher volume of punches and threw the harder more accurate shots as well. Smith 25-22-7 (22 KO), who has high expectations for himself and is far more talented than what his record suggests, was visibly unhappy with his performance afterwards.
“I don’t like southpaws. I did what I had to do and got the win”.
Smith was not the only one unhappy. Despite clearly not doing enough to win rounds, Rankin 4-2 (3 KO) felt he should have gotten the nod and threw a tirade in the dressing room after the fight, screaming and slamming tables.
Smith is known for having to get into a rhythm and being a fighter that does his best work late in a longer fight. He is probably better suited to ten and twelve round fights as opposed to a six-rounder, and certainly has no love for fighting lefties.
“I’m a slow starter. I like going eights and tens. I really got a problem with southpaws, I don’t like fighting them. I can’t do good against them. I couldn’t get off like I wanted to. It’s a learning lesson.”
“D minus, next fight will be better, I promise.”
Smith though, was glad to be fighting at home in front of his fans and is confident that his next time out he will deliver a better performance. While he was not thrilled with his performance, he had the opportunity to fight at home where he was the crowd favorite. It is something he has earned after years of fighting in hostile territory.
“Yes, it was [good fighting at home]. Next fight is going to be even better. Hopefully against Rayco Saunders for the State Title, end of March.”
Althea Saunders and Daverne Morrison showed that girls can fight too as they went at it for rounds of spirited lightweight action. Morrison fought on even terms in the first but the strength and skill advantage of Saunders took over in round two. Saunders began pumping the jab with accuracy to control the ring and set up the overhand right which stunned Morrison late in the round.
Rounds three and four were more of the same as Saunders landed heavy jabs, straight rights, and attacked the body when in close. Morrison was game to keep fighting hard but Saunders was just too much, causing more and more damage as time went by. Saunders won going away on the cards by scores of 40-35 twice and 40-36. Saunders moves to 3-0-1 and Morrison drops to (2-12, 2 KOs).
Alex Barbosa of Philadelphia and Luis Rivera of Puerto Rico put on a good action fight over four rounds in the Super Bantamweight division. Barbosa (2-0, 1 KOs) won by scores of 40-36 on all three scorecards but the fight was more competitive than the lopsided scores. Barbosa won every round scoring with his southpaw uppercut but the action was tight and Rivera (0-2) had his moments, especially with a short left hook over the top. But in the end, Temple University graduate Barbosa had the aggression and activity needed to win the rounds.
Kareem McFarland (1-0, 1 KOs) of Philadelphia made it a short night in his pro-debut with a first round stoppage of Joel Nieves of Allentown, PA. The welterweight bout was scheduled for four, but the rounds were hardly needed. McFarland charged across the ring at the opening bell ready to rumble in his first pro fight. He began his assault and never let up landing several hard shots that stunned Nieves (0-3). With his man pinned in a corner, McFarland landed at will forcing referee Hurley McCall to jump in, stopping the action at 1:01 of round one.
Skender Halili of New York, NY put on an impressive performance stopping Tyrell Boggs in the opening bout of the evening. The first round, of a scheduled four, in jr. middleweight action was competitive with each man giving and getting but Halili clearly had the heavier hands and seemed to cause more damage. Those heavy hands made the difference in round two as Halili landed to the head and body hurting Philadelphia’s Boggs several times. Boggs (0-3) barely survived the onslaught and looked done as the bell sounded. Indeed he was as the towel was thrown in when he hit his stool. Halili (3-0, 3 KOs) got the win by TKO at the end of round two.
- Prior to the two top bouts a tribute was dedicated to the Great “Smokin” Joe Frazier including a presentation to Frazier’s daughter Jacqui Frazier-Lyde.
- Light Heavyweight contenders Yusaf Mack (29-4-2, 17 KOs) participated in a four round exhibition after the main event.
- Former IBF Middleweight Champ Buster Drayton (40-15, 28 KOs) and Richard Floyd participated in a three round exhibition bout mid-way through the night.
- Julian Williams and Gerald Nobles were scheduled to be on the card but both dropped out. No opponent was found for Williams and no reason was given for Nobles.
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