By Scoop Malinowski
Atlantic City, NJ — A good ESPN2 show is taking place at the Superstar Ballroom at Resorts International in Atlantic City. I really want to see my friend and BoxingInsider.com blogger Richard Pierson take on Farah “Quiet Storm” Ennis for a top 15 world ranking. Hank Lundy, the WBC #1 contender is also on the bill against Rey Beltran for the NABF Lightweight title. It’s a broiling hot day in New Jersey, well over 90.
As I walk into Resorts, the old memories flow back. The first time I was here for a show was in the late 1980’s when Carl “The Truth” Williams upset Bert Cooper on a Saturday afternoon ABC TV heavyweight match. I arrive early, before six, and engage in some boxing talk with other writers. George Hanson reveals that a sparring partner of new champ and Amir Khan conqueror Danny Garcia told him that he sparred with “Swift” before the the Khan fight and noted that Garcia was “so much physically stronger now” than he was the previous time he got in the ring with him about two years ago. Rich Scharmberg informs me that Christian Guidice, has penned his second boxing book, about Alexis Arguello. His first was about Roberto Duran.
The first person I see inside the arena is the aristocratic looking, renowned referee Tony Perez who is sitting and waiting with his wife Barbara, both who are judges for the night. Perez, if you remember, worked the Ali-Frazier II fight at Madison Square Garden, as well as many other big fights like Ali-Wepner, Cooney-Norton, Jones-Griffin I. We talk a bit and Perez tells me the hardest hitter he remembers was Cooney when he clobbered Norton who was taking punches while sitting on the bottom rope in the first round. Cooney kept blasting away at the limp Norton and Perez screamed to stop but Cooney, like a ruthless beast, kept on unleashing his wicked strikes until Perez had to leap in and push and elbow Cooney. Perez ended up catching a punch from Cooney for his efforts. Moments later, Cooney, returning to his non-competitive, gentleman state, begged for forgiveness, for fear of disqualification and sorry for hurting the right-minded referee.
Perez also said he once got a black eye from a Wilfred Benitez punch during a world title bout he officiated at The Garden. Dwight Muhammad Qawi is entering the arena. The Hall of Famer looks sharp in a black pinstripe suit but is hobbling a bit on an ankle which he recently had surgery on. Qawi is legendary for his exciting light heavyweight title fights and also his amazing story. While in jail, Qawi was watching Galindez-Rossman on TV and said to himself, “I can beat both of them.”
A few years later, Qawi got out of jail and turned pro and defeated Matthew Saad Muhammad for the WBC Light Heavyweight title. There’s a big crowd eager to see this show, and lots of boxing celebrities are in the house. Zab Judah will work with Joe Tessitore on ESPN2 because Teddy Atlas is on assignment. Ivan Robinson and Buster Drayton are also in attendance.
After the first two exciting scraps – Ismael Tito Garcia stopped Kenneth Moody in the first round and local favorite Josh “No Limits” Mercado beat Corey “Lighting Rod” Sloan on points over four – I see a man who resembles Mike McCallum. He has the regal, calm demeanor of a former champion, dressed in a blue warm-up suit. On his way out to get some food, he tells me he is Richie Kates. Richie Kates!
I remember as a kid I loved Richie Kates! For the two reasons that he was one, from New Jersey, and two, I remember seeing his action photo from a world title fight in one of the old magazines and liked him just from that photo. Never saw him fight but I loved that photo. I do a Biofile with Mr. Kates and learn he trains kids at his gym in Vineland, and about his fights with Pierre Fourie and Victor Galindez in South Africa. For the Fourie fight, Kates said he spotted the famous old horror film actor Boris Karloff at the hotel the day of the fight and met the man who portrayed the Frankenstein monster as well as many other Universal horror roles. Karloff, who was an Englishman before making his way to Hollywood, traveled all the way to South Africa for the fight. I had heard from LeRoy Neiman that Karloff was a huge boxing fan and would get to his ringside seat before the first fight to watch the full night of action.
Richard Pierson is set to take on Farah Ennis in a pivotal 10 round 168-pound fight. I’m sitting next to Qawi and the first observations he makes is that the taller Pierson may be a gym fighter. And Pierson is not using his jab. And that he seems to have a “sparring partner mentality” because of his lack of activity in the first few rounds. Ennis is much busier, initiates the action, and has a more creative array of punches. A few rounds later, as Ennis is in control of things, Qawi remarks that one punch could turn the fight around. And sure enough, as if Qawi could feel the rhythm and flow of the fight before something happens, Pierson suddenly, out of nowhere, lands a couple of huge shots which wobble Ennis badly.
Ennis, eyes almost vacant and his eyelids looking heavier, is still hurt, says the Camden Buzzsaw but Pierson, strangely does not follow up as you would expect. Instead he lets Ennis recover. “Sparring partner mentality.” Ennis is much more careful over the next few rounds and his allowed to regain his senses and confidence. Eventually he resumes his role as dictator of the fight. Ennis resumes control of the fight as Pierson does not utilize his very good jab and size and reach advantages. Ennis is a very talented fighter, Qawi says he reminds him of the former WBC Light Heavyweight champion Montell Griffin. Ennis, a little more athletic, has more creativity and more punches in his arsenal while Pierson, though bigger and stronger, only uses about four punches.
It’s a very good fight that Qawi watches closely throughout. Except for that one rocky patch earlier in the fight, Ennis is the clear winner and takes the unanimous decision. Even Pierson seems to know he was second best on this night as he applauds his gloves together for Ennis before Joe Antonacci reads the cards. Ennis is now 20-1 (12 KO’s) while Pierson’s three-fight win streak ends and he is now 11-3 (8 KO’s). Hank Lundy is a short squat lightweight with a lot of energy but he gets clobbered on the ropes in the early rounds by Rey Beltran and barely survives the round. The fight changed from that point and Beltran stays in charge as the predator hunting his prey.
Lundy cannot change this dynamic as he seems not to have the power to shake Beltran, the former sparring partner of Manny Pacquiao. Qawi likes how Beltran maintains his focus and keep the pressure on Lundy, who he notes, appears flat, like a fighter who had sex before a fight. Beltran (now 26-6) wins the close ten-round decision, by two points from two judges (one had it a draw) and is the new NABF champ. Lundy is now 22-2-1 (11 KO’s). What a pleasure it was to sit next to Dwight Muhammad Qawi in the third row for two fights, and to listen to his comments. Among them:
The feelings of regret he has sometimes for having to beat a man he admired so much, Matthew Saad Muhammad…the Eddie Davis fight which he was losing and then suddenly he decided to change tactics and let Davis come to him, which resulted in him landing a huge counter which turned the fight around, and then he stopped the #2 ranked Davis one round later…how his mom did not want him to box because she feared he would get a battered face which inspired Qawi to work extra hard on his defense to not let him get hurt to the head or any kind of facial damage…Kates and Qawi talking and laughing about a move where you fake like you’re backing up and then suddenly unleash the right hand, Qawi saying that’s the exact move he used to win the title…the Johnny Davis fight which he thought he had Davis out of it in the first round but somehow Davis got up and lasted the distance.
As I exit after saying goodbye to Qawi after the main event, Danny Garica, the new Philadelphia hero is being swarmed at ringside by fans for photos. I manage to do a quick Biofile with him. Stay tuned next week for a talk with Garcia, and also Qawi discussing his fights with Foreman and Saad Muhammad, Robinson talking about his enounters with Arturo Gatti and also the Richie Kates Biofile.