Photos by Gautham Nagesh for StiffJab.com
by Gautham Nagesh with Rodriguez Jackson
FORT WASHINGTON, Md.—16 feet is not a lot of room when you’re facing a man trying to knock your block off.
That’s how big the ring was on Saturday night at Rosecroft Raceway for the year’s first Keystone Boxing card. For a young boxer, facing his first professional fight outside the friendly confines of the Washington Convention Center, the cramped ring, low ceiling, and vocal fans sitting just a few inches from the apron could have easily provided enough distractions to prompt a stumble. The upset-minded atmosphere was only aided by the Ravens’ double-overtime win over the Broncos, which delayed the opening bell almost an hour. But no upsets came.
Instead, NoXcuse products Kevin Rivers Jr. (above) and Jerry Odom offered dynamic, if abbreviated testaments to their potential, while a slew of other prospects including Greg Newby and Jarrett “Swift” Hurd took care of business en route to clear victories. Alantez “Sly” Fox (below) of nearby Forestville thrilled his vocal fans by out-classing Julius Kennedy of Frederick over six rounds in the main event. Fox was literally and figuratively head and shoulders above Kennedy, using his superior length, skill, and speed to box circles around the Guyana native.
Fox came out landing his jab and following it with an accurate right hand. His superior length stymied Kennedy, who attempted to bull his way inside and make it a brawl, but failed. Kennedy was reduced to launching desperate overhand rights, as Fox targeted him with power shots and quickly avoided any response. Sly added the body attack in the 2nd round, scoring with left hooks and showing off impressive defensive skills. His footwork is uncommonly good for a fighter with such a lanky frame.
Kennedy finally found home with one of his haymakers in the 3rd, and appeared to stun Fox temporarily when the punch landed. But Alantez recovered well, avoiding a second overhand right and stunning Kennedy with a power shot of his own. By the 4th, Fox was back in control, scoring a flash knockdown with a left hook that the referee incorrectly ruled a slip. Fox kept jabbing, punching, and moving in the 5th, while Kennedy grew increasingly desperate. He kept launching desperate right hands, as Fox mostly avoided the shots with ease. The 6th was more of the same, as Fox remained in cruise control while picking his opponent apart.
Fox is a stylish boxer and showed off the full arsenal during this fight: inside punches, the left hook both upstairs and down, a strong jab, and a precise right hand. His movement is exceptional for his size, and he has the slickness common to many DMV fighters. Fox lacks true one-punch knockout power, but otherwise might have the goods to advance in the fight game. The final scorecards read 60-54, 59-55, and 58-56 in his favor.
Rivers (above) earned second billing for just his 4th professional fight, a testament to his sizable fanbase and storied amateur career. His victim on this night was the unfortunate Giovanni Vasquez of Columbia, S.C. Vasquez stood up to the superior Rivers for most of the 1st round, until a low blow from Rivers prompted a lengthy pause in the action. Vazquez came back for the 2nd, but was soon on the receiving end of a deadly left hook from Rivers, which landed directly on his chin. Vasquez went down, but to his credit he beat the count and came back for more. A second left hook landed on the belt and sent Vasquez down for the second time; our view was obscured and the punch appeared borderline. Vasquez gamely attempted to rise, but the ref waved off the fight.
Local junior middleweight prospect Jarrett Hurd (above) won a four-round decision in his fourth professional fight, but not before Trenton Titsworth of Omaha did his best to suck all the life out of the crowd. Titsworth, a dead ringer for JJ Walker of “Good Times” and “Let’s Do It Again” fame, threw almost no punches during the fight. Instead, he opted for an approach that consisted of holding, followed by more holding, with a dash of running thrown in for good measure. Hurd was perhaps too cautious throughout the bout, wary of his opponent’s 6’5” frame. But he also out-weighed Titsworth by over five pounds and never tasted a single punch of consequence during the fight.
In Hurd’s defense, it’s never easy fighting after Jerry Odom (above). The D.C. super middleweight prospect has a menacing aura that accompanies him to the ring, and it’s easy to see why finding opponents for Odom has been both difficult and costly. Biloxi’s Anthony Madden (below) drew the assignment on this evening, and wasn’t able to last a full minute against Odom.
Odom felled Madden with a crunching left hook to the body, then repeated the act a second time when Madden unwisely rose from the knockdown. Madden bravely tried to rise a second time, but was simply unable, and writhed on the ground as the referee counted him out. Odom earned a traditional KO at one minute of the first round, and likely scared away a few more future opponents in the process.
D.C. light heavyweight Greg Newby (above) of Lime Lite Boxing wasn’t nearly as dynamic, but likely learned more against the awkward clowning of John “The Baptist” Terry of Portsmouth, Va. A skilled boxer in his own right, Newby stuck to the basics early against Terry: pumping his jab, followed by some solid right hands that staggered his foe. But Terry was game and very unorthodox, which enabled him to defend and survive the full four rounds. Terry alternated between absorbing shots and mugging for the crowd, but succeeded in avoiding any knockout blows. Newby succeeded in controlling the action, but was not able to seriously hurt or knock down his opponent. The final scorecards all read 40-36 for Newby.
District Heights lightweight prospect Renaldo Gaines continued his professional journey by stopping Darrell “Bad Azz” Martin in the 3rd round of a scheduled four. Gaines hurt the Baltimore native in the 1st with a left hook and then wobbled Martin again in the same round with a right hand. Gaines continued to dominate in the 2nd, loading up on the left hook and landing it at will. His pace began to flag as the 2nd wore on, but the doctor took an extended look at Martin between rounds, giving Gaines time to recover. He pounced on Martin at the start of the 3rd, catching him with a clean left hook.
Martin clutched at his eye with his glove as Gaines pounced, and shrunk to the mat as blows rained down. The ref swooped in to stop the action, crediting Gaines with the TKO at 23 seconds of the 3rd round. Gaines has lost one bout to the tough spoiler David Warren Huffman of Cincinnati, but still has plenty of promise at 135 lbs.
Junior welterweight De’Andre Davis (above) of Landover was understandably pumped up for his first professional fight, and came into the ring accompanied by what seemed like half the crowd. Davis stared at opponent Coy Lanbert like starving man before the bell, and wasted no time administering a beating once the it sounded. Davis appeared to have punched himself out toward the end of the 1st round, but he recovered before the 2nd and quickly went back to work. The ref stopped it soon after with Lanbert still standing, but undoubtedly getting the worst of it. Davis should be fun to watch, even if he calms down.
We arrived late but in time to catch the second half of the opening four-rounder, a heavyweight brawl between debutante Mario Murphy of Washington and Lamont Capers of Hawley, Pa. Murphy appeared to land the hardest shots with his straight left hand, but Capers was plenty game during a rough fight. All three judges scored it 39-37 for Murphy.