From January, 2012, to March, 2013, Philadelphia hosted just two all-local main event fights. One was the showdown between undefeated heavyweights Bryant Jennings and Maurice Byarm. The other was the age-old Philadelphia vs. New Jersey match between Angel Ocasio, of Philadelphia, and Jason Sosa, of Camden, NJ.
These contests brought a different feel to the crowd than any other main events did in Philadelphia during that time period. Even though Ocasio and Sosa are not both Philly natives, Camden is close enough. Take the case of former NABF Light Heavyweight Champion Richie Kates!
Kates, of Millville, NJ, was an outstanding light-heavyweight contender in the 1970s. He won the NABF title in 1974 at the Arena in West Philadelphia when he knocked out Jimmy Dupree, of Jersey City, NJ, in one round. Kates twice fought Victor Galindez, of Argentina, for the WBA world title—he got robbed in their first fight in South Africa– and he fought the best 175-pounders at the time when the division was loaded. His 1978 Spectrum brawl with Matthew Saad Muhammad, in which each man was knocked down, is regarded as one of the most thrilling fights in Philadelphia’s storied boxing history. Kates was an adopted Philadelphian.
Dwight Muhammad Qawi, of Camden, NJ, who boxed in the 1970s and 1980s and won world titles at light-heavyweight and cruiserweight, was another adopted Philadelphian, as was the legendary heavyweight champ Jersey Joe Walcott, also of Camden, years earlier. We had plenty of local champs: junior middleweight Robert Hines, cruiserweight Nate Miller, junior welterweight Gary Hinton, lightweight Charlie “Choo Choo” Brown, bantamweight Jeff Chandler and his high school classmate and adversary Johnny Carter and so many other outstanding fighters who came out of the Philadelphia/South Jersey area. What happened to those days?
Walcott fought Hall-of-Famer Harold Johnson, of Manayunk; Hines boxed Kevin Howard; Miller boxed Qawi; Hinton and Brown collided; Chandler and Carter met for the world title. It seems today that Philadelphia fighters no longer want to fight each other despite the fact that Philly vs. Philly always has been the recipe for success on local promotions. Years ago the Arena and Convention Hall in West Philadelphia and later The Spectrum in South Philadelphia would be filled with fight fans because of the local rivalries. Sure, times have changed but change is not always for the better. Answer this! Is boxing in a better place today or was it in a better place years ago when local matchups dominated the Philly fight scene?
Look at the atmosphere at a Flyers game when Pittsburgh or New Jersey is in town or an Eagles game when New York is in town. Do I need to mention the atmosphere when the Phillies host the Mets? Those games have playoff atmosphere.
In days gone by, when a Philadelphia fighter boxed out of town, the host city knew what it was getting in the way of style and toughness. Today, however, is there anything that separates a Philadelphia fighter from a fighter based in Chicago, Detroit, New York or Boston? Philadelphia is known for being a concrete jungle, a sports city that has more ‘fair weather fans’ then most cities. What we need is a good rivalry. Why can’t the promoters, matchmakers, managers and fighters understand?
I get so tired hearing today’s manager complain that Philly vs. Philly knocks off a local fighter. Baloney! Derek Ennis defeated Gabriel Rosado three summers ago in front of a boisterous crowd at the Asylum Arena, yet Rosado has far surpassed Ennis as a contender and as a viable attraction.
Let Philadelphia crown its own champ! If we could re-kindle these rivalries like we had in Philadelphia’s glory days, then perhaps Philadelphia would have other world champs alongside Bernard Hopkins and Danny Garcia.
I’ve heard stories all the time about “gym wars”, newspaper bouts, smokers, and all the different fights that fighters used to have. Back then the fighters knew each other the same way they know each other now, yet they fought one another and learned more about themselves. That’s the way it should be. Let fighters challenge to be the Philadelphia Champion and make another Philadelphia fighter take it away from them. In college sports a lot of Temple University players know St. Joseph’s players, and Villanova Players. Even in the pros players know one another and compete against one another. When you apply for a job, or try out for a team, people don’t pass up on an opportunity because their friend is working for the same opportunity. Fighters should not pass up an opportunity to move up in the rankings because they know one another. The fighter that who normally turns down the fight simply doesn’t want it bad enough.
It’s up to the fighters, trainers, managers, matchmakers and promoters to put this into play. The fans will love it.
Be the next Robert Hines, Bennie Briscoe, Bobby Watts, Tyrone Everett or Joey Giardello and build a strong reputation instead of building a career off of meaningless fights.
Two rivalry main events in a year-and-a-half? No wonder why the fan base is so much smaller now than it was years ago!