By Gary Purfield
Philadelphia, the fighting city of Philadelphia, well known for many great fighters and great fights over the years. It has a rich history of fights inside the city limits. However these days not so much. These days it is a rare occurrence that a card is actually hosted inside the city.
Sure the city is still producing top fighters. The legends of Joe Frazier, Bennie Briscoe, Joey Giardello, Jeff Chandler, and so many others still pass the torch to the current crop. Danny Garcia stands on top of his division, holds several belts, and is quickly becoming a star. Bernard Hopkins up until the last year was still a P4P lock. Plenty of others are marching their way up including Gabe Rosado and Bryant Jennings, while other tough vets that have fought for titles remain including Yusaf Mack and Teon Kennedy.
While the fighters are here, the fights are not. Various issues contribute to the decline each year in fights. The city imposes ridiculous taxes and charges. Atlantic City and other casino cities such as Chester and Bethlehem have provided attractive deals to promoters. Throw in the closing of the legendary Blue Horizon and South Philly Arena. With higher fees and virtually nowhere to fight is it any wonder the “Fighting City” ain’t got no fights.
Saturday though the city will get a rare treat these days with a card inside the city limits. Sure fights in AC or close locations provide the fighters and the fans with their fix. So you ask what is the difference. There is a difference. There is something about a fight in the city. Would a Phillies, Flyers, Eagles, or Sixers game be the same in the suburbs or down the shore. Heck no. Same or even more so with a fight. There is a flavor to a fight in the city. That it means something more when Philly fighters fight in Philly. So Saturday night gives those fighters and those fans that treat.
So in Philly they will fight Saturday night. As an added bonus it will be televised as part of Main Events NBC Sports Fight Night series. Sure it will clash with the big PPV but it starts an hour earlier so they may gain some attention.
The venue will be McGonigle Hall at Temple University in North Philadelphia. A taste of the past exists in this one. An arena that used to be a hot spot for Philly fighting will be brought back. It has been nearly twenty years since McGonigle hall at Temple has hosted a fight but Saturday they will look to make resurgence.
Headlining the act is Philly’s rising heavyweight Bryant Jennings (15-0, 7 KO). The North Philly native who will be fighting very close to home at Temple in North Philly has had a remarkable year. He kicked down opportunity’s door in January when he jumped on the chance to headline the inaugural Fight Night card on only five days’ notice after the top bout was canceled. Jennings defeated fellow undefeated prospect Maurice Byarm and has been rolling since.
He followed up the Byarm win by stopping former heavyweight champ Sergei Liakhovich on the next Fight Night card. Add in a tough but one sided decision over Steve Collins and thirty five second first round KO of Chris Koval and it has been quite a year for Jennings. Now he gets to finish his breakout year right in his back yard.
Jennings faces Tonga native Bowie Tupou (22-2, 16 KO). Tupou will provide a solid test as he is more experienced and will have the edge in height and weight. Jennings should come out on top as Tupou has been stopped twice giving Jennings an opportunity to possibly score an impressive knockout on TV and for his hometown fans.
In the co-feature another Philly fighter gets a big chance to shine. Featherweight Eric Hunter (16-2, 9 KO) will take on undefeated prospect Jerry Belmontes (17-0, 5 KO). Hunter has been somewhat of a gym legend around the city. For years people in the city called Eric Hunter the best young fighter the city had to offer. Inactivity and a poor perforce in a DQ loss to Luis Franco back in 2010 have cooled the fire on Hunter but the talent remains.
Hunter didn’t fight for nearly two years following the Franco loss but returned earlier this year with a quick KO of overmatched Jason Rorie. Now Hunter is determined to put his talent to use and get back into the mix. Belmontes however is also a skilled young fighter. Hunter will have the chance to show just what he is made of and what he has left.
Rounding out the Philly loaded card are several other young talents looking to make a name for themselves on the Philly and national scene on the non-televised undercard. Another North Philly native lightweight Angel Ocasio (6-0-2, 1 KO) takes on Esteban Rodriguez (6-3-1, 1 KO). Ocasio is a fast and talented fighter who is looking to rebound after two highly competitive draws against Jason Sosa where Ocasio couldn’t get the win but gained a ton of experience and showed a fighting heart early in his career.
Uber talent Jesse Hart (4-0, 4 KO) will continue his young career as well. The Philly native is the son of Philly fighting legend Eugene “Cyclone” Hart and just barely missed making the 2012 Olympic team. Hart is yet to be tested but looks to succeed where his father could not in eventually winning a world title. Dad provided incredible tough action in many city fights. Hart wants to show his mettle for the city and work his way towards surpassing his father’s legend.
The aforementioned Jason Sosa will also be in action (6-1-3, 2 KO) against Isaac Suarez (7-1, 3 KO). Temple graduate Alex Barbosa (4-0, 1 KO) looks to stay unbeaten against Joshua Arocho (2-6-2, 2 KO). Barbosa should bring out the Temple students cheering on the Owls Alum in typical college rowdy fashion.
Todd Unthank-may (5-0, 2 KO) takes on Taneal Goyco (4-4, 1 KO). Unthank-may has shown good power in recent bouts and will get a good fight out of the tough Goyco. Also Hasan Young faces (1-1-1) Josue Rivera (0-1).
Finally talented amateur Anthony Burgin (1-0, 1 KO) faces Kenneth Brown who is making his pro-debut. Burgin had a solid amateur career and is looking to make a name for himself as a pro.
It’s a good card with some good fights. More importantly it’s a card inside the city limits featuring Philly fighters. At the very least the crowd should be high energy with so many Philly natives packed into the card that will draw local fans, friends, and family for an electric and passionate environment.
This was once a city with great fighters and great fights. It still has the fighters. It simply needs the fights. Saturday at Temple University Philly boxing looks to make its return. It looks to make the moniker “Fighting City of Philadelphia” a thing of the present instead of a revered idea of the past.
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