Written by Thomas Duffy Friday, 07 August 2009 00:00On July 18, the Plattduetsche Park Restaurant in Franklin Square hosted an exciting day of professional boxing matches.
The public event, billed as the Night of Prospects, was organized by Bob Duffy’s Ring Promotions, a local boxing promotions company, and was fully sanctioned by the New York State Athletic Commission (NYSAC).
A large crowd was on hand to enjoy the spectacle. The event was held outside, in the large open area behind the restaurant, where a boxing ring had been set up surrounded by rows of folding chairs. Spectators were each charged $30 for general admission, while an additional $20 per person could reserve ringside seats. The event got under way shortly after 4 p.m. and featured eight consecutive boxing matches over the span of roughly four hours. Although the production was capable of being moved indoors if rain had occurred, the weather remained sunny throughout the day and perfectly accommodated the outside setting. To supplement the entertainment, DJs and a live band performed intermittently, while vendors served hot food and the Plattduetsche Park bar served cold drinks.
All of the matches were scheduled to last either four or six rounds. Three judges sat around ringside scoring each fight. As it turned out, their scorecards were needed to determine a winner on only three occasions, as the other five fights were all ended either by knockouts or technical knockouts within their scheduled distances.
That several of the boxers showcased in the event hailed from or around Long Island also stirred interest from many of the spectators.
“This will be an amazing summer afternoon for fight fans,” said Bob Duffy of the July 18 event.
Indeed, it was. Every one of the fights was loaded with action and drama from start to finish. The tone of the entire event was set by the very first match, in which heavyweights Jacques “The Haitian Warrior” Louis, from Brentwood, and New York City’s Kimani Cunningham slugged it out through four fast-paced rounds. Cunningham launched an all-out attack in the first round, forcing Louis to the ropes and furiously whaling away with both hands for the entire three-minute duration of the round. Louis fired back with intermittent flurries of punches, occasionally snapping Cunningham’s head back and drawing cheers from the crowd; but for the most part, he preferred to cleverly conserve his energy, allowing Cunningham to tire himself out while blocking many of his punches with his arms and gloves. The second round began in a similar pattern, but as it progressed, it appeared that Cunningham was beginning to tire, and his punches appeared to lose some of their earlier steam. The tide of battle began to turn in the final minute of the round, as Louis went on the attack for the first time in the fight and sent Cunningham staggering. In the third round, the two rivals were trading punches toe-to-toe in the center of the ring when Louis landed a flurry of blows that sent Cunningham down to his hands and knees for a knockdown. The weary gladiator managed to rise before the referee’s fatal count of “ten,” however, and Louis appeared too tired himself to follow up and finish him off. No doubt figuring he must be behind on the scorecards – knockdowns generally cost the floored fighter at least a point on each card – Cunningham staged a furious last-ditch rally in the fourth and final round, backing Louis to the ropes once again and swarming all over him until the final bell rang. As passionate as his effort had been, however, it was not enough: all three judges scored the match 38-37 in points for Louis. The knockdown had been the deciding factor.
Although the day’s opening act appeared to be an incredibly tough one to follow, the other matches nonetheless succeeded in doing that. In the next bout, also featuring heavyweights, New York City’s Tor Hamer, undefeated at 6-0, lived up to his growing reputation as a knockout artist by blasting out San Diego’s Marcus Dickerson in the very first round. A right hand and a left hook thrown in quick sequence left Dickerson flat on his back for the count of “ten.” In the post-fight interview, broadcast to the audience, Hamer said his training had been limited by a bout with food poisoning in June, and he likened his hurried preparations in recent weeks to “cramming” for a college exam. He also said he was scheduled to fight again in late August.
“The kid is a multi-talented fighter, a real crowd-pleaser,” Bob Duffy said of Hamer. “Plus he is a good role model, a real gentleman inside and outside of the ring, and a pleasure to work with.”
The most thrilling and dramatic fight of the day was probably the fourth one, which featured middleweights (160 pounds) Marcus “The Italian Stallion” Bianconi, from Glen Cove, and Honduran import Juan Zapata. It was a highly anticipated matchup, as each man had the reputation of being a devastating puncher: Bianconi had won all four of his pro fights by knockout, while Zapata had scored a shocking first-round knockout in his prior match against undefeated prospect Mike O’Conner. Ultimately, Bianconi managed to retain his unblemished record, but he had to weather a tremendous storm from Zapata in order to do so. At the opening bell, Zapata launched into a wild, free-swinging attack, tossing punches from all angles. As reckless as his effort was at times – at one point, he missed a punch and very nearly fell on his face – his sheer aggression and intensity forced Bianconi on the defensive for most of the round. Bianconi appeared to be biding his time, patiently waiting for Zapata to inevitably either tire or leave himself open for a counterattack. However, he was forced to take swift action in the second round, after Zapata hit him with a left hook that sent him down to the canvas. Somehow, Bianconi not only managed to rise from the knockdown, but he stormed back later in the round and succeeded in stunning Zapata with some solid punches of his own. With the crowd’s cheers now escalating into a single uniform roar, the fighters stood toe-to-toe in the third round and furiously traded blows. Bianconi scored with several hard shots to Zapata’s body, but a few of his punches strayed below the belt, and he twice received warnings from the referee. Midway through the round, a quick combination of punches from Zapata sent Bianconi’s mouthpiece flying out of his mouth and onto the canvas. In accordance with NYSAC rules, the referee waited until there was a lull in the action to place the piece back into Bianconi’s mouth, but in the meantime Zapata succeeded in driving several solid blows squarely into his opponent’s unprotected chops. In addition, Zapata opened a cut around Bianconi’s left eye. Late in the round, however, the heavily muscled Bianconi drove Zapata into one of the ring corners and dug a crushing left hook into his body. The blow appeared to momentarily freeze Zapata, and Bianoni used the split second opportunity to send over a terrific right hand that nearly spun his opponent’s head around and sent him face-first down onto the canvas. The referee counted out the fallen warrior, and he remained on the canvas for several minutes while the ringside physicians examined him. As a precautionary measure, he was eventually removed from the ring on a stretcher and taken by ambulance to the hospital. (NYSAC rules require at least one ambulance to be present at boxing events.) The crowd heartily applauded his gallant, if losing effort. Zapata returned to the arena later that day to collect his paycheck, indicating all was well.
The fifth fight showcased another unbeaten (3-0) prospect, junior welterweight (140 pounds) Issouf Kinda of Harlem, who vanquished Puerto Rico’s Fernando Basora on a technical knockout in two rounds. Although Basora was the more experienced of the two, having had more than four times the number of pro fights, the taller, lankier Kinda never allowed him to settle into any sort of rhythm. After controlling Basora through most of the first round with his jab, Kinda floored him in the second with a right hand. Basora rose, but Kinda quickly forced him to the ropes and whaled away at him with both hands until the referee stopped the fight.
The sixth fight featured the heavily hyped pro debut of Brooklyn heavyweight Jarrell Miller, who took on Darius Whitson of Winston Salem, NC. Although outweighed by nearly 50 pounds – weighing 204 and one-half pounds to Miller’s 252 – Whitson, a southpaw, made a gallant effort as he stood toe-to-toe and traded punches with his rival throughout the first round. Moments before the end of the round, however, Miller landed a quick succession of blows that left Whitson in a dazed state and staggering back to his corner after the bell had rung. Prior to the start of the second round, the referee elected to stop the fight, claiming Whitson was unresponsive to his questions, and made Miller the winner on a technical knockout.
In the final match of the evening, Greenlawn’s Chris Algieri, the fighter with the best pro record (7-0) coming into the event, took on Jose “The Problem” Guzman, originally from Puerto Rico and now fighting out of the Bronx, in a junior welterweight contest. The battle was defined by both an impressive performance by Algieri and a heroic effort from Guzman. Cheered on by a large contingent of fans, many of whom wore black T-shirts with “Team Algieri” printed on them, Algieri waged a relentless, swarming attack from opening to closing bell. Although tall and lanky, he preferred to mix with Guzman at close quarters rather than fight from a distance. Pressing forward behind a tight defensive guard, he continually scored with crisp, accurate combinations of punches to Guzman’s head and body. In round three, he dug a ferocious left hook into Guzman’s rib cage and sent the Puerto Rican southpaw down onto his hands and knees for a knockdown. Guzman beat the count, but Algieri now targeted that section of his body as though it had a bull’s-eye on it, and moments later another hook to that same spot sent him down again. Although Guzman managed to rise from this knockdown as well, he appeared to be just moments away from being knocked out. However, as Algieri moved in to finish him, Guzman, either intentionally or accidentally, drove a left hook of his own squarely into his rival’s crotch area. The referee warned Guzman for this flagrant infraction while the crowd vehemently booed; but incredibly, Algieri appeared unbothered by the blow, as he went right back on the attack. Over the next three rounds, he continued to pound away at his opponent, but although Guzman appeared on the verge of being knocked down again or even out on several occasions, he somehow continually summoned the energy and courage needed to remain on his feet and continue fighting back. He even provided a few fleeting moments of drama as he occasionally broke through Algieri’s tight guard and scored with some solid blows that snapped his head back. Nevertheless, the strength, skill, and all-around quality of Algieri were simply too much for him to overcome. The fight lasted the full six-round distance, but Algieri was a clear winner at the end. He received a unanimous decision from the judges, who scored the match lopsidedly in his favor, 59-53 (twice) and 60-52.
As the day progressed, the winners of some of the earlier matches returned to the arena to join the audience in watching the later fights. They received frequent and hearty congratulations from others in the crowd, and in turn chatted cordially with them.
From the third fight onward, a trio of attractive young ladies added spice to the event by serving as round card girls. During each minute-long interval that separated rounds, one of the three girls would climb into the ring and hold up a giant card advertising the number of the next round. The male members of the audience voiced their appreciation for their work.
Several of the fights were refereed by Wayne Kelly, originally of Garden City, a former fighter and a well-known and respected referee who has officiated in many high profile matches.
Several celebrities and famous athletes were also on hand to enjoy the spectacle. These included Burt Young, the veteran actor probably best known for his role as “Paulie” in the Rocky movies; Brooklyn boxer Paulie Malignaggi, a former world champion now preparing for a fight later this summer down in Houston, TX; and legendary ex-boxer Emile Griffith, a six-time world champion and an inaugural inductee of the International Boxing Hall of Fame, revered as one of the finest fighters of the 1960s and early ‘70s. All three were introduced to the crowd at one point by the ring announcer and received standing ovations. Throughout the day, they chatted cordially with other audience members, signed autographs, and posed for pictures.
A somber mood came over the event when a traditional “ten bells” tribute was tolled in honor of Alexis Arguello and Arturo Gatti, two revered and popular former world champions who had both died suddenly and tragically in recent weeks. As ten bells were sounded in slow succession, the crowd silently mourned the fighters’ passing.
This was the fifth Ring Promotions event that has been held at the Plattduetsche Park Restaurant since Bob Duffy founded his grassroots promotions company in 2001. The previous show held there, on May 8, drew a capacity crowd. Duffy has professed a fondness for staging fights at that location and said he hopes to arrange another event there as soon as possible.
Duffy, who hails from Massapequa Park, is a former NYSAC deputy commissioner who has worked within the sport of boxing for more than 20 years. Although he has been involved in promotions throughout the country, and occasionally even overseas, he has dedicated most of his recent work with Ring Promotions to bringing fights to Long Island and the surrounding tri-state area. His shows consistently draw large turnouts, a fact that he attributes to his penchant for deliberately matching rising prospects with opponents that are likely to test them.
“No one wants to pay good money to see one-sided fights and first-round blowouts,” he explained. “We are committed to bring the fans an exciting night of action and competitive fights that they deserve.”
Duffy’s shows have received rave reviews from critics.
“If you have ever attended a Ring Promotions boxing event you know you will get your money’s worth,” reads an article on BrickCityBoxing.com, a website that chronicles boxing news in the tri-state area. “It’s promoters like Duffy who put on shows that give young talent a stage to develop as well as allow them to move their careers forward. Without professional boxing events like these, young fighters would have lots of trouble finding bouts that would progress their careers.”
Duffy’s efforts to stimulate the boxing scene on Long Island have also delighted many local fans of the sport.
“I think that Bob Duffy does a great job bringing fights to Long Island,” said Wantagh resident Bobby Cassidy, Jr., son of longtime world title contender “Irish” Bobby Cassidy and a noted boxing writer and historian. “I hope to see more of his fights come to Long Island.” He also praised Duffy’s commitment to providing opportunities for local fighters to showcase their talents and develop fan bases.
Duffy has stated that his aspirations as a promoter are fairly modest, saying that he enjoys his role as one of the few grassroots promoters operating in and around Long Island.
“I don’t care about ever becoming the next Don King or Bob Arum,” he said, referring to two of the most high profile promoters in boxing today. “I just want to keep treating people right, putting on competitive shows, and doing what I love to do.”
However, he noted, “Maybe someday, some young promoter will be interviewed and he’ll say, ‘I want to be the next Bob Duffy. He treated fighters fairly, put on competitive matches, and was always true to his principles.’ Wouldn’t that be something?”
For now, however, he said, “I’m just happy to be doing what I love. Not a lot of people can say that.”