In the resurgent fight scene in the Tri-State area, KEA promotions has been playing its part in Whippany, New Jersey. The cards at Birchwood Manor lack the gaudy prospects showcased in Lou DiBella’s Broadway Boxing series; there’s less bling inside and outside the ropes—you know you’re west of the Hudson. But these cards have more of a genuine club show vibe. You’re there to see competitive fights, not get distracted by a bunch of Mr. T’s, draped in platinum and ice.
The featured fighter of the night was Wayne Johnson, a Jersey kid promoted by a Jersey-based outfit, Main Events. He weighed in at 162, but has fought many times over the light heavy limit.
Sucking weight becomes him. An overhand right by Johnson laid out the appropriately named Josh Hammock 33 seconds into the first. The ref initially began his count and then abandoned it, realizing the kid on canvas was counting sheep. With the win, Johnson moved to 14-1 (9) while Hammock took his first loss and is now 7-1 (5).
Even though Johnson is with a major (if struggling) promoter in Main Events, he isn’t a serious prospect expected to lift the company out of the hole they currently find themselves in. This isn’t Jason Litzau or Joel Julio. He’s basically a good-looking local white kid; in other words, a draw. And Hammock, who fights out of Arkansas, would be looking for his first win if he were plying his trade within a 30-mile radius of Gotham. Along with the low-caliber opposition that exists down South, Hammock’s previous seven opponents had a combined record of 0-4. Maybe he should’ve stayed put and been content being a big fish in a small pond?
Heavyweight Kevin Johnson, who’s with Star Boxing, was a last-minute addition to the card. Earlier in the year he was being hyped as a serious prospect and gained some national exposure when he fought Robert Hawkins on ESPN2. It was a snoozer. I’ve subsequently caught other live fights of his and think of his in-ring style as high concentrate NyQuil—not to his opponents but to the fans. Still, he upped his record to 12-0-1 (5) in winning a six-round UD over a short and grossly overweight (350) Michael Rhodes, now 3-1-3 (1). Scores were 59-55 twice and 58-56.
Johnson’s a massive man—6’5’’ and looks in-shape at 240—but he’s got nothing on his punches and lacks killer instinct. He’s blessed with fast hands and loves to work the jab. Problem is, he only uses a jab. It sets up nothing but more jabs. Normally, I’d say that’s not a bad punch, if you had to choose just one. But Johnson’s doesn’t remind you of Sonny Liston’s ramrod left that could decapitate anyone. Nor is it Larry Holmes’ gorgeous whip that shot out like a lizard’s tongue. It’s more of a don’t-hit-me punch. Not meant to inflict damage but keep you strictly at bay.
Johnson is said to be an engaging man with a gift for gab. All he needs is a right hand and Joe DeGuardia’s Star Boxing might soon get over Antonio Tarver’s letdown against Bernard Hopkins. Don’t hold your breath.
Lightweight Nicky DeMarco, now 2-0 (2), only began boxing about two years ago. By day, he works for Con Edison, providing electricity throughout New York. At night, he’s been short-circuiting out-classed opponents. He sticks with it, he might have to quit his day job and come up with a cute moniker like “Lights Out.”
In the second round, the southpaw DeMarco threw a perfectly-timed, short counter left over Alex Matos’ right. Matos went down in a heap but beat the count. He was undoubtedly on Queer Street as he drunkenly made his way back to his own corner, who threw in the towel at 2:08 of the round.
Welterweight Henry Crawford, another Main Events fighter (but the best one on this card), won a UD 6 over trial-horse Christopher Henry. All three judges scored it 60-53. Crawford moved to 13-0-1 (5), Henry fell to 22-15 (16).
In the evening’s opening bout, bantam JV Tuason scored a TKO 3 over Anolan Rigal in t
Lightweight Antonio Espinoza won a UD 4 over Felisiberto Fernandes.