Thursday, September 26, 2013

'Legends of Boxing' fight night is a knockout

Not your typical fight night at The Sands Event Center in Bethlehem, PA Thursday night as the boxing royalty that was in attendance made it feel more like you were inside a Las Vegas casino versus one in this old steel town. However, such was the case as 'The Legends of Boxing' tour kicked off their inaugural event with a seven fight card that featured a hometown hero in the main event.

Put together by Hall of Fame promoter Russell Peltz out of Philadelphia, 'The Legends of Boxing' event included former multi-division champion Thomas 'The Hitman' Hearns, former heavyweight contenders 'Gentleman' Gerry Cooney and Earnie 'The Acorn' Shavers and local favorite, former heavyweight champion Larry Holmes of nearby Easton, PA. Their attendance along with the fireworks provided by the next generation of fighters featured made for an exciting and fun evening of fights.

Before the main event the crowd in attendance stood as a memorial 10 count was tolled for former heavyweight champion Ken Norton, who passed away just last week before this gala featuring three former opponents from his own legendary career. In the main event, Bethlehem's own Ronald Cruz rode the wave of a second round knockout victory just six weeks ago and upped his record to (19-2, 14 KO's) with another KO win over a game Alberto Morales (11-3, 8 KO's) from Miami, Florida by way of Nicaragua in a welterweight contest; but it wasn't as easy as his last fight that's for sure.

Cruz, needed almost all 30 minutes of a 10 round war before finally catching Morales in the middle of the last round with a looping right cross that dropped the Nicaraguan in his corner. Morales beat the count and it looked like he may even survive the round, however Cruz (pictured above) caught him with another left-right combination that dropped him face first on the mat; this time there was no getting up as the ref waved it off.

Before that KO finish it appeared to be anybody's fight and many in the arena, including myself, thought Cruz may actually be losing. Apparently his corner thought so as well as in between the ninth and 10th round, Cruz's trainer Lemuel 'Indio' Rodriguez yelled at him and told him, "You need to get going." Cruz's manager and corner man Jimmy Deoria told me after the fight, "We told Ronald we felt he was losing by a point."

In my post fight interview with Cruz, I asked him what he thought when his corner told him they felt he was losing? He said, "I just thought to myself I can't let this happen again; I've worked too hard for this." His team's frantic requests for him to get going resulted in the kid known around his hometown as 'Hands of Steel', using those same heavy hands and possibly pulling victory straight out of the jaws of defeat; definitely an exciting finish to a back and forth main event that had the crowd on its feet at the end. While the thought before Thursday was to get Cruz one more bout before the end of 2013, time will tell if this fight took more out of him than it appeared.

In a featured bout, junior welterweights Jerome Rodriguez (6-0-1, 2 KO's) and Juan Serrano (3-8-1, 2 KO's) put on an entertaining six rounds of boxing. Ironically, it was a right hand from the upset minded Serrano of Killeen, Texas, which wobbled Rodriguez and seemed to stop him in his tracks for a moment; that inevitably woke up the slick southpaw from nearby Allentown, PA though. Before that punch it was pretty even, but after that it was all Rodriguez using a nice combination of head and body punches en route to earning a unanimous decision.

Junior lightweight Jason Sosa of Camden, NJ needed less than two rounds to up his record to (10-1-3, 7 KO's), as a punishing left to the stomach of Tyrone Luckey (5-4-1, 5 KO's), proved nothing but unlucky for the 130 pounder from Middleton, NJ. Sosa looks like a prospect to keep an eye on.

First fight of the night featured a scintillating debut as Berlin, New Jersey's Chris Diaz, fighting at 122 pounds, earned a second round TKO finish over Johnny Portillo out of Lancaster, PA. Diaz used crisp combinations capped off by a repeated vicious left hook to knock down Portillo three times in the second before the ref mercifully stopped it. While Diaz wins his first pro fight, Portillo drops to (0-2) with the loss.

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