A pair of undefeated junior welterweight prospects, Naim Nelson, of Philadelphia, and Jerome Rodriguez, of Trenton, NJ, collide over eight rounds on Friday evening, May 16, as professional boxing returns to the newly re-named 2300 Arena.
The seven-bout card program marks the first pro fight card at the 2300 Arena since Jan. 21, 2012, when then-unknown heavyweight prospect Bryant Jennings upset Maurice Byarm in a battle of undefeated Philadelphians to open the NBC Sports Network Fight Night series.
Formerly known as the ECW Arena, the New Alhambra and later the Asylum Arena, the 2300 Arena, located at Swanson & Ritner Streets in South Philadelphia, has undergone renovations and eventually will seat close to 2,300 spectators.
First fight May 16 is set for 7.30p.m.
Nelson (right), 23, is unbeaten in 11 fights since turning pro nearly three years ago. He beat fellow-Philadelphian Victor Vasquez for the vacant Pennsylvania Lightweight Title (135 pounds) in 2012, but he wants to campaign as a junior welterweight (140).
In his last fight Jan. 31, Nelson earned an eight-round decision over fellow-Philadelphian Christian Steele at Harrah’s Philadelphia.
After staying busy with three fights in 2011 and six in 2012, Nelson was hampered by a hand injury and he boxed only once in 2013, out-pointing another Philadelphian, George Kevlishvili, early in the year, at Valley Forge, PA.
This marks the second time as a pro that Nelson will have boxed a southpaw. He outpointed Deroy Beaton, of Toms River, NJ, over four rounds in 2011 at Bally’s Atlantic City.
clip_image007 “It’s an honor to be in the main event at the 2300 Arena, especially since it is the first card there in some time,” Nelson said. “I fought on the last show there early in 2012 when it was called the Asylum Arena, but it was only a four-rounder. Now I’m a headliner and I feel good about that.
“As for Rodriguez, I know it’s going to be a good fight. We’re both undefeated so there’s a lot on the line. I come forward and so does he, but I can box if I have to. We sparred once and even though it was only for three rounds I was happy with my performance.”
Rodriguez, 27, is coming off a pair of six-round draws with two fellow-lefties–Darnell Jiles and Brandon Williams, both of Rochester, NY.
A pro less than two years, Rodriguez (left) is 6-0-3, 2 K0s. His biggest win came when he traded first-round knockdowns with Treysean Wiggins, of Newburgh, NY, on June 14, 2013, at the Sands Casino Resort Bethlehem (PA), then finished Wiggins off in round two. Like Jiles and Williams, Wiggins also is left-handed.
This will mark only the second time in his pro career that Rodriguez has boxed outside of his adopted hometown of Bethlehem, PA. Last year he squeezed out a six-round decision over Rafael Montalvo, of St. Clair, PA, at Valley Forge.
“I have to be in the best shape of my career for the May 16 fight,” Rodriguez said. “Naim Nelson is not a tomato can and I am fighting him in his hometown.”
Six additional fights complete the May 16 lineup.