Photos by Jessica Chen for StiffJab.com
by Gautham Nagesh
WASHINGTON, D.C.—There’s no disputing the excitement of title fights, or close bouts between evenly-matched contenders. Such events are the pinnacle of boxing, and undoubtedly the goal for any person involved in the fight game. But there is something special about watching young fighters grow up, find their feet, and fulfill their potential.
A groundswell is coming in the DMV boxing scene, and Dusty Harrison is at the center. Harrison doesn’t possess the same amateur pedigree as some of his peers, and it’s far too early to tell how good the teenager can be. But after his tenth pro victory on Saturday at Washington Convention Center two things are clear: Dusty Harrison can fight, and D.C. loves watching him do it.
The local welterweight prospect stopped the overmatched Nalo Leal in the third round of the main event, capping a night of stylish stoppages by local prospects on the Keystone Boxing card. A number of local pros notched their second wins including Jarrett Hurd, Kevin Rivers Jr., Joshua “Moe” Parker and Dillon Hayman. In addition, Iraqi prospect Devar Ferhadi made a jaw-dropping debut at light heavyweight, drawing a scream of pain and capitulation from Anthony Madden after a razing him with a devastating left hook to the body.
Harrison has looked more comfortable in the ring with every bout, and is also growing more accustomed to his role as the headliner. He seemed extremely loose on this night, with Leal’s record of 4-16-1 with no knockouts the likely cause. This was the first scheduled eight-rounder for Dusty, but there was little chance of the fight lasting that long. Leal entered the ring looking like he had already been in a fight. Dusty, in contrast, appeared lean and ready.
Harrison was perhaps a little too relaxed early on, switching needlessly from southpaw to orthodox and allowing Leal to stand his ground at times. But Dusty scored a knockdown in the 1st with a right hand over Leal’s left, quickly establishing his superiority. Leal backed off a bit and tried to hold in the second, but a series of hard rights from Dusty quickly drove him back outside.
A final right hand over the top from Dusty in the 3rd forced the referee to stop the fight at 31 seconds of that round. It looked a bit premature, but the fault belongs to the matchmaker, not the referee.
New York’s Phil Jackson-Benson improved his record to 9-1 (8 KOs) in the co-feature, stopping William Prieto at the end of the first round. Benson dominated the action in the first as both fighters switched stances frequently, hurting Prieto with a left to the body followed by a right to the head. He later staggered Prieto again with uppercuts, before sending him to the mat at the bell with a hard right hand. Prieto stayed on the mat and was unable to beat the count, drawing boos from the crowd. Unsurprisingly, given his showing, Prieto is from Ohio.
Rivers provided the evening’s most economical encounter, as he needed only one punch to stop Bobby Wooten in a match-up of featherweights fighting at 130 lbs.(Rivers weighed in at 127). The fact Wooten listed Wilson, N.C. as his hometown should have been a dead giveaway, as was the look of fear on his face in the corner before the bout.
Wooten still charged forward at the bell, wildly trying to hug his foe while Rivers shook him off. Kevin unleashed a single left hook, which found his foe’s temple and sent him to the mat. Beer poured down my back as the crowd exploded and Wooten looked unable to get up. Asked afterward to describe his first professional knockout, Rivers offered an equally punchy quote:
"Hook left, get slept."
Rivers clearly deserved an easy outing after being matched against the tough David Huffman in his first professional fight. Aside from testing Rivers, Huffman has upset two unbeaten local prospects in recent months. Rivers was well-served by his introductory lesson, but it was also nice to see him delight his many vocal fans on Saturday night. We expect big things from the Palmer Park native, who will hopefully be fighting frequently over the next year.
Clarksburg, Md. junior middleweight Dillon Hayman (above) provided the night’s most colorful entrance, entering the ring wearing a Grim Reaper’s robe in accordance with his nickname, “The Stalker.” It is an appropriate moniker, as Hayman’s ring approach is to basically stalk his opponent behind the guard, with no jab or head movement to speak of, and unload power shots.
It worked against Christopher Baynes, who found himself hurt by punches that were partially blocked. Baynes was still standing but had stopped responding when the referee jumped in at 1:51 of Round 1. The ref later told a ringside observer that he had saved Baynes from further damage, which is more than likely true. Hayman’s potential is uncertain, but he has some pop, and looks like the type to engage in entertaining fights.
Middleweight prospect Jarrett Hurd (above) looked smooth and in control early against the game Coy Lambert of Columbia, S.C. Hurd has solid technique and good balance, which enabled him to stay calm in the face of Lambert’s pressure and pick his spots. He is also very slick, allowing him to dodge and counter effectively. But Lambert came willing to fight, and took a great deal of punishment in the early rounds without going down. Hurd’s flagging pace in the 3rd prompted doubts about whether he had punched himself out.
Unfortunately for Lambert, Hurd was merely taking a breather. He recovered and began pushing the pace again in the 4th, eventually finding home with a left that put Lambert out on his feet at 2:08 of the final round. Coy fell forward face-first, finding the mat with a thud. It was small reward for his courageous performance, but further evidence of Hurd’s quality. The youngster is one to watch, fighting out of Hillcrest Heights Boxing Gym.
District Heights, Md. lightweight Renaldo Gaines (above) got himself back on track with a unanimous decision win over Alan Beeman of Providence, R.I. Gaines scored a knockdown in round 2 and looked in control for most of the bout, though Beeman mounted a rally in the third.
Joshua Parker opened the night with a 3rd-round stoppage of Antonio Moody. Parker looked too quick and too skilled for Moody, who appeared hurt in each of the three rounds. Moody finished the fight hunched in the corner, eating hard shots that forced the ref to stop the fight at 1:55 of the 3rd.
Fighting out of Frederick Boxing Club with Hayman, Ferhadi threatened to steal the show with his vicious one-punch dismantling of Madden. Ferhadi came out draped in the new Iraqi flag and seemed confident, but found himself under assault by Madden early. Ferhadi stuck to his guard and advanced, partially landing a pair of sinister left hooks that threatened serious damage. He paid that threat in double shortly after, dropping a textbook left hook to the right side of Madden’s gut.
Madden’s scream as he fell to the mat was enough to curdle the blood of several hardened ringside observers. He writhed in pain for a moment, prompting my neighbor to speculate that he had broken a rib. Fortunately Madden rose soon afterward, apparently recovered. The sheer force of the shot and Madden’s reaction are enough to convince me that Ferhadi bears watching. Fighters come from tough places, and are there any tougher places to call home right now than Iraq?