Photo and story by Gary Purfield ringside
Joey Eye Boxing and David Feldman put on a solid night of fights at Harrah’s Casino in Chester Friday night, highlighted by an action-packed light heavyweight bout between local fan favorite Tony Ferrante and veteran Omar Sheika. This was the sixth card the group put on at Harrah’s Casino. Several cards have been well done, but several of the cards were hurt badly by last minute exits from fighters and various other issues. This time the main event stayed in place and the undercard featured several entertaining well-matched bouts to the delight of the packed ballroom.
The main event featured a cross roads bout with young Tony Ferrante looking to make a name for himself and aging veteran Omar Sheika trying to hold on and keep himself in the mix for one last shot at a title. Both fighters came hungry to win and it showed early and often throughout the ten-round fight that was for the BAM (Boxing Association of Machismo) title created to honor tough fighters.
Ferrante looked to make his mark quickly as he opened by shooting straight right hands through Sheika’s guard and posing after landing to make his point. But the former world title challenger was hardly impressed. He came on late in round one, and he controlled round two by pushing Ferrante to the ropes where he began a vicious body attack that continued throughout the fight.
Control of the fight went back and forth, from round to round, and often momentum swung several times within a round. The fighter with more gas in the tank at any given moment looked to muscle his opponent backwards to the ropes where they could do their brand of damage. Ferrante mainly looked to unload big hooks and a sharp right uppercut to the head, while Sheika was committed to slamming the body with both hands when he was in control.
If one factor decided this fight it was the veteran experience of Sheika, who has forty-two pro fights and has challenged for a world title four times. The veteran always seemed to be able take what his opponent dished out and then swing the momentum back, especially by pinning Ferrante to the ropes and unloading to the body.
The fight got rough as the rounds went by. Depending on how you saw it, Ferrante often ducked down or was pushed down, and Sheika would unload shots to the back and behind the head. Ferrante responded by lunging forward and pushing Sheika off his back. Referee Eddie Cotton struggled to maintain control, and then, in a poor effort to gain that control, penalized Ferrante a point in round eight for shoving. It seemed a strange call to make at this point in the fight considering both fighters could have been deducted points for various infractions, but to pull a point from one fighter and not the other in a tight bout late in the fight seemed, well, pointless.
The heavy punches and other tactics showed up on both men’s faces. Sheika was bleeding from a cut over his right eye and bleeding out the nose, causing blood to spill in various spots of the ring. Late in the fight, Sheika returned the favor opening a cut over Ferrante’s left eye. Despite the blood, both men fought hard for all ten rounds and gave the crowd a show. Multiple times the crowd rose to its feet cheering the action, creating an electric atmosphere inside the small but packed ballroom. The local Ferrante had supporters urging him on by chanting his nickname “Boom-Boom” late in the fight to put gas back in their man’s tank. Sheika, who is from not too far away Patterson, NJ, had his share of rowdy supporters who did their best to equal the noise of Ferrante’s fans.
Round nine produced the highlight action of the night. Early in the round Sheika caught Ferrante with a big overhand right that badly hurt his opponent. Ferrante had no choice but to hold and then cover up. Sheika went for broke unloading shots with wild abandon in an attempt to close the show as his supporters egged him on, leaping out of their seats, screaming for the knockout.
“I thought I had him. I got a little excited and that’s when he hit me with the head. I started having blood coming out my nose, my eyes, but I fight through it. I was hitting him solid, I thought I had it but I couldn’t, I hit him with one shot but couldn’t put four, five together. He was very difficult with his head down.”
But the young Philly native was not done yet. Late in the round he found his legs, turned his opponent into the ropes and fired bombs of his own including a right hook that stunned Sheika renewing the “Boom-Boom” chants with a fury.
“Ok, you know what, I got rocked in the ninth round but you know what, I weathered the storm and I even came back in the midst of it and rocked him with a right hook.”
After a grueling round ten, with neither man letting up, it went to the three judges at ringside. Scores were divided at ringside with several writers having it for Ferrante and several for Sheika in a tight fight that could go either way (the Boxing Tribune had it 94-93 Ferrante). It was announced a unanimous decision for Sheika by an understandable 95-94 from judge Richard Hopkins Jr. and two absurd scores of 99-90 from judges Joe Pasquale and Alan Rubenstein. How anyone who watched that fight had it nine rounds to one for either man is ridiculous and they may be in need of a seeing-eye dog. Ferrante was understandably livid with those scores afterwards.
“How the fuck, how do you score a fight like that. Nobody agrees with that decision, not 99-90. I thought I won a split or majority. I thought I got it because of the boxing part. Making him miss and landing the jabs. The right hands I hit him with were landing flush every single time. Every right hand I hit him with was by the ear or above the cheek.”
Sheika, who resides in Patterson, NJ, had his take on winning in his opponent’s hometown.
“If I fought him in Pennsylvania in his own hometown and got the scores, it means I really won.”
Regardless of the scores it was an excellent fight that could have gone either way. For Sheika 32-11 (21 KO) he gets to continue moving forward and looking for that elusive title that has evaded him in an impressive career of hard, crowd-pleasing fights. Sitting in a chair, and looking worse for the wear with tired legs and a face banged up from trading shots, he acknowledged that it can be tough at thirty-five, and late in his career, to get up for the smaller fights against younger opponents looking to rise at his expense.
“Fucking hated it. I know these guys are tough. When they find out they are fighting me, like my trainer told me, they are more motivated than I am to tell you the truth. I get up for the bigger fights but you can’t get to the bigger fights until you pass these fights. These fights are tougher than the bigger fights because they’re tougher, more hungry. If I want to get to the bigger fights I need to prepare myself better.”
Sheika credited his attitude and toughness for getting him through a fight against a the motivated young challenger and was proud that he performed well for the fans.
“Balls, toughness, not wanting to lose. I don’t like to lose and I know I got one more shot at this and I got to come like this. As long as the fans get their money’s worth, that’s what counts but at the same time, it’s not easy.”
Ferrante 12-3 (7 KO) takes the loss, but likely gained more in this fight than any of his previous outings in going toe-to-toe with a rugged veteran that has seen it all. The young fighter was clear that he would love another crack at Sheika to settle the score.
“I would love a rematch with him, love it. That was bullshit, that was complete bullshit.”
Anyone in attendance last night would agree with the rematch sentiment. Another go round between these two would be welcomed by fight fans with open arms.
In the co-feature, a young prospect out of Philadelphia, Naim Nelson, stepped into his first six-rounder and fought his toughest opponent to date in Atlantic City, NJ product Linwood Hurd. The two fighter’s styles blended well and often featured exchanges in the center of the ring where both men landed several punches at a time. The fight was very tactical, but at the same time, very entertaining for the fans.
Nelson started well using the jab to set up his combinations while sneaking in a quick lead left hook. But Hurd, who had experience on his faster, more athletic opponent, stayed in the fight and began to make an impression in the third round when Nelson developed a mouse under his right eye causing him to fight with more aggression and less discipline.
“He hit me with a shot, you can see I’m a little swollen. It made me angry so I wanted to hit him back hard instead of setting up the right shot.”
Nelson came on strong in the final two rounds to close out the show and appeared to have done enough to take the decision in the eyes of most at ringside. Two judges agreed, turning in scores of 58-56 and 58-57 while the third had it a draw 57-57. Nelson 5-0 comes away with the majority decision and his undefeated record still intact, but, more importantly, a fight that will provide valuable on-the-job learning experience. Nelson knows he did enough to win against the crafty veteran Hurd 3-3-4 (1 KO) but would like to do more in future bouts.
“It was tough, he was experienced. I knew coming in he had four draws against popular fighters so that could easily be four wins. I was coming in with the mindset he was a 7-2 guy.
“Relax a little more, work behind the jab. Without a doubt, best learning experience. Hopefully I can do better next time.”
Five hundred and fifty-five pounds was in the ring when local fan favorite Jamie Campbell of Ridely Park, PA took on Lonnie Kornegay of Baltimore, MD in heavyweight action over four rounds. Campbell weighed in at 288 lbs with Kornegay coming in at 267 lbs. Despite their significant size, each man gave their all and produced a pretty entertaining big man brawl.
Campbell took the first round, but Kornegay came on strong in round two with slick counter punching to land several heavy left hooks. In round three, Campbell got back in control and scored a knockdown that sent the large man Kornegay to his knees from a right hand to the chin. Kornegay beat the count and survived but seemed to have little left the rest of the fight allowing Campbell to control the action. Campbell won by scores of 39-36, 39-36, and 38-37. Campbell moves to 4-2 (2 KO) while Kornegay falls to 1-6-2.
Philadelphia native Fred Jenkins Jr. remained undefeated with a hard fought win over John Michael Terry in a four-round light heavyweight bout. Terry, who was listed on the bout sheet as a “veteran of 27 pro-fights” left the night with a record of 3-22-3 (1 KO) after dropping the decision to Jenkins 5-0 (2 KO) by scores of 39-37 on all three cards. Terry fought hard but Jenkins was simply the better fighter and got the best of each exchange in a rugged fight with both men landing solid blows.
Danny Mills of nearby Glen Mills, PA and Mike Haynes of Wilmington, DE made their pro-debuts in a four-round middleweight bout. After a close and wild first round, Mills took control in the second. Pushing his opponent back, Mills landed an overhand right that sent Haynes 0-1 to the floor. He managed to get up, but referee Eddie Cotton correctly saw he was in no condition to continue and ended the fight. Mills 1-0 (1 KO) got the TKO win at 1:50 of round two.
In the opening bout, Tyrone Crawley Jr. won his pro-debut dominating a four-round welterweight fight against Hamid Robinson who was also in his first pro fight. Both fighters are from Philadelphia. Crawley 1-0 is the son of former popular Philly boxer by the same name, and he used superior speed and skills to land punches at will from the southpaw and orthodox stance. Robinson 0-1 did what he could to survive but was simply overmatched. Crawley won by scores 40-36 on all three cards in the four-round bout.
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