by Gautham Nagesh
Southeast D.C. welterweight prospect Dusty Hernandez-Harrison overcame a shaky start against Michael Balasi of Hawaii to stay unbeaten on ESPN’s Friday Night Fights from San Diego.
Balasi (10-4, 7 KOs) dropped Harrison (21-0, 11 KOs) with a left hand in the second round and had him in some trouble, but Dusty recovered and wound up dominating the later rounds. Dusty, 19, showed admirable heart to come back and win after facing such adversity, which will probably serve him well in the long term. Still, this was probably not the performance his team was hoping for in his second consecutive fight on ESPN.
Lightweight Rustam Nugaev won in the main event when a hand injury forced Marvin Quintero to quit after the 4th round. Quintero had been acquitting himself well until that point. Roman Morales floored Khabir Suleymanov five times in the co-feature, on his way to an easy decision victory in the eight-round super bantamweight bout.
Canelo Alvarez photo by Anna John for StiffJab.com
by Gautham Nagesh
This should be a terrific weekend for boxing fans, especially those from around these parts. The main event is Saturday night’s Showtime Pay Per View card headlined by Saul “Canelo” Alvarez (above) vs. Alfredo “el Perro” Angulo, but there are some fights of local interest on Friday Night.
We’ll be heading down to Rosecroft Raceway later to catch a Keystone Boxing show headlined by Mike Reed (below) vs. Bilal Mahasin in a matchup of unbeatens at 140 lbs. Finally, local welterweight Dusty Hernandez-Harrison will be back on ESPN Friday Night Fights as the opening bout tonight against Michael Balasi.
Read on for full preview and predictions:
by Anna John
WASHINGTON, D.C.—Members of the press studied the candied bacon and chicken wings from Founding Farmers, just across Pennsylvania Avenue. P.R. pros confidently wove through the small crowd, shaking hands and offering guests Starbucks coffee.
At the front of a glass conference room here in Northwest D.C., 2012 Stiff Jab Prospect of the Year Dusty Hernandez-Harrison stood silently, uncharacteristically alone. Dusty used the time to collect his thoughts before addressing the reporters who had gathered to hear about his next bout against Michael Balasi (10-3, 7 KOs) on March 7th in San Diego on ESPN’s Friday Night Fights.
If there was one overarching theme from today’s press conference, it’s that DUSTY LOVES THE DMV. I’m surprised there aren’t already shirts bearing that slogan, printed and circulating among the thousands of local fight fans who are down for Dusty. From All-In Entertainment President Jeff Fried to Dusty’s father Buddy Harrison to the young boxer himself, every person who spoke wanted to emphasize that Dusty’s favorite aspect of being a local star is the “local”, not the “star”.
Photo by Gautham Nagesh for StiffJab.com
by Stiff Jab Staff
2013 was a great year for boxing as a whole, but especially here in the nation’s capital. The D.C.-Maryland-Virginia fight scene exploded over the past 12 months, and the area now boasts the finest crop of young boxers East of the Mississippi.
Fans, writers and boxing people are always asking me which of these prospects they should be paying attention to. The short answer is: a lot of them. Sure, one or two have done more than the rest, like Stiff Jab 2013 Prospect of the Year Mike “Yes Indeed” Reed (left) or 2012 winner Dusty Hernandez-Harrison (center). But for most of the others, it’s far too early to tell how good they could be.
Hopefully a few of these young guns will be tested in 2014, but for now, here’s a list of young, local pro fighters worth keeping an eye on. Wherever possible, we’ve included links to our previous coverage. Find out who made the cut:
David Grayton photo by Anna John for StiffJab.com
Photo via All-In Entertainment
By Craig Dowd
WEST ORANGE, N.J. - Phenoms can be formally introduced to the entire country just once. Subsequent performances, however august, lack the original’s sense of novelty.
Dusty Hernandez-Harrison, 19 (right), made his national T.V. debut here on Friday night, outpointing Tim Witherspoon, Jr., 29, en route to a unanimous decision victory in their 8-round welterweight clash.
The city wasn’t big but the lights were bright as Harrison opened ESPN2’s broadcast of Friday Night Fights on the eve of Super Bowl weekend. Cachet in the fight game is hard to come by and harder to preserve. Harrison, of Washington, D.C., didn’t seem to notice the camera’s watchful gaze, though, a testimony to his congenital poise inside the squared circle. With the win he improved his resume to 20-0 with 11 knockouts.
Being prone to sentimentality, I wanted to be here inside Richard Codey Arena when the DMV’s favorite son passed into the public domain and became something other than a regional curiosity. I wanted to be here, lost in the narrative, when fight scribes across the land reached for their computers to extol the virtues of this precocious athlete, cementing his introduction to the public in the vast library of internet archives.
I left my childhood home in New Jersey, where I’m spending the weekend, as the last slow coils of blue withdrew from the sky, and barreled up the Garden State Parkway toward West Orange. The arena is part of a 36-acre recreation center set on the South Mountain reservation, and typically used for ice skating and hockey practice. The reservation also boasts a well-stocked zoo with a big cat exhibit which, I must admit, might have diverted my route were it not shrouded in darkness.
But when I finally needled my way through the steep, winding roads of Millburn and approached the arena’s cinder-block facade, my thoughts left the zoo. An alabaster light surged from inside the building’s hangar-style roof, and a long procession of cars was nudging its way into the facility’s parking garage. It looked to me like a holy city, with innumerable fight fans making the pilgrimage to witness the event DiBella Entertainment coined “Super Brawl.” A propitious sight indeed.
Sadly, few of the night’s combatants possessed the temerity to measure up to such a hopeful tagline. Some were willing to brawl, but few performed in a fashion to merit the adjective “super.”
Add to this sobering cocktail nine preliminary bouts featuring obsequious foes and the once sedentary role of ringside reporter threatened to became a horizontal one, with my feet propped on the media table and my mouth fixed to the O-gape of exhaustion.
Nevertheless, the evening’s high point was Harrison, who wove a tapestry of accurate punching, dynamic footwork and sheer hunger that helped obstruct the card’s glaring deficiencies from this writer’s memory.
Coming here to West Orange was a logical progression in Harrison’s career. After fighting eight times in 2013 - a refreshing figure by any fan’s count - Harrison was due for a legitimate test on national television.
Witherspoon appeared well aware of the opportunity this fight presented and performed accordingly, with verve and tenacity. But Harrison manifested a patient and creative attack while dismantling the game Philadelphian. Witherspoon’s spirit simply couldn’t transcend Harrison’s athleticism and ring intelligence.
There is something unaccountably feline about Harrison, the way he crouches and bends and retreats, like a lanky Pernell Whitaker, to say nothing of his downy cheeks. On numerous occasions in the early rounds, Harrison wrenched his torso away from Witherspoon at the last possible moment, just as Witherspoon unfurled sweeping left hooks that cut through the air in vain. Harrison hides a playful daring in his otherwise serious disposition. He enjoys being inside these ropes, but doesn’t jeopardize his future by taking empty risks.
The middle rounds saw Harrison abandon the speedy capers that so vexed Witherspoon earlier, when the youngster’s calculated right hands and subterranean left hooks found home at range. Harrison instead burrowed deep into Witherspoon’s chest, as if rummaging through an overstuffed closet, and refused to step around Witherspoon or relinquish an inch - often to his own detriment.
Here Witherspoon made it a fight in the purest sense, offering a riposte for every one of Harrison’s offensive garnishments. For his effort, Witherspoon collected three rounds on our scorecard. With every savage Witherspoon uppercut that tore through Harrison’s earmuff-guard, the Philadelphia contingent, which stood for the fight’s duration, begged for an encore. But as the rounds wore on, the son of Tim Witherspoon, Sr., former heavyweight champion of the world, found himself arriving late to all matters of exchange. His opponent, this young lion, was turning up the heat.
In the closing rounds, Harrison’s stream of offense was like a Cormac McCarthy paragraph - long and without punctuation. From inside, his punches were dense and audible. At one point when circling Witherspoon he landed five consecutive stiff jabs, as if to belabor the point of his superiority.
Witherspoon, to his credit, showed guts and a skill set that will prove troublesome for any prospect in the 147-pound division. We have little doubt Witherspoon will be back in black later this year.
Harrison, meanwhile, continues to impress us as he matures into a complete fighter. The few problems he encountered can be addressed with discipline. The young man is simply too hungry for battle; he would do well to learn from the mistakes of a young Fernando Vargas and make better use of his ample physical tools in future contests.
All three judges scored the bout 78-74 in favor of Harrison (20-0, 11 KOs). Witherspoon, Jr. falls to 10-4-1, 2 KOs.
Friday’s co-feature was a brutal, one-sided affair that sent Jorge Diaz, of New Brunswick, N.J., to the hospital and Connecticut-native Luis Rosa to that vague yet coveted position on the fringe in the junior featherweight division. After finding success early with an overhand right, Diaz was categorically outworked by the undefeated Rosa for the remainder of the fight.
Why this drubbing was allowed to last the scheduled eight rounds is obvious but disconcerting. It’s a tenet the boxing world pays too much credence: every man who is game and still hurling ineffective punches while absorbing inhuman amounts of punishment, round after round, has the right to continue, if willing.
But competitive is a relative term. When a fighter has no chance of prevailing it is imperative that his corner, the referee or the onsite medical staff take action to curtail the damage. This is hardly the first time a fighter’s well-being has been disregarded, and it won’t be the last.
Scores were 78-72, 79-71 and 80-70, all in favor of Luis Rosa, who boosts his record to 16-0, 7 KOs. Diaz’s record, a mere afterthought, falls to 17-3, 10 KOs.
The main event saw Australian prospect Blake Caparello shut out local favorite and former title-contender Elvir Muriqi, of New York, in a 10-round light heavyweight contest. The paucity of action in the bout almost emptied the arena like a fire drill.
Muriqi, often credited as “The Kosovo Kid,” fought like a frustrated old man besotted by Caparello’s awkward style. Caparello was active if not devastating through all ten rounds, honing in on Muriqi from a safe distance and peppering him with tame combinations. That Caparello’s punches somehow managed to stamp red shapes into his opponent’s forehead says more, I think, about the condition of Muriqi’s skin than the Aussie’s crack aim.
Caparello passed yet another test in America (he beat the irrelevant Alan Green late last year), earning his 19th win in as many fights. Muriqi was slapped into announcing, or slurring, his retirement as the crowd filed from the arena, in a bizarre and especially sad moment. Muriqi, who challenged Antonio Tarver in 2007 for a light heavyweight title, leaves the “hardest game” behind with the impressive record of 40-6, with 21 of those wins coming by way of knockout.
Cecil McCalla, of Randallstown, M.D., earned his 17th victory in as many fights, outworking Philadelphia native Eric Mitchell (23-11-1, 11 KO’s) in a 6-round welterweight bout; 18-year old super middleweight Junior Younan, sporting a Hulk-green Mohawk, improved to 3-0 after blitzing Missouri’s Thomas Allen(1-4) at 1:09 in the first round of a requisite mismatch; and in the walkout bout, just before midnight, Patrick “Paddy Boy” Farrell, a firefighter from Jersey City, N.J, floored Lucas St. Claire of North Dakota with a vicious left hook en route to a first round TKO in their cruiserweight match-up, improving to 9-2-1, 5 KO’s. One can only postulate why Farrell, a big draw in North Jersey, spent most of the night in the dressing room, only to emerge as most of the crowd was shuffling toward their cars.
Driving south on the Parkway, I slipped into the kind of reverie typically reserved for young men on open roads. Maybe it was the dolorous trumpet whispering through the speaker’s inside my truck. But I thought about the elevated train platforms speeding past, empty, and the newspaper dispensers staring out at the world with vacant, glassy stares. The string of A-frames coated in darkness and the gutted Industrial buildings like Siberian prisons of lore. It all seemed incredibly lonely.
I thought about the Witherspoon family making that lonely trip back to Philadelphia, tonight or tomorrow morning, shocked by what just happened but sure of their next move - to keep fighting. The father having known what it’s like to be a champion, with his son next to him, or resting in the back seat, who will probably never taste that haunting delicacy. But won’t stop lusting after it, either. That’s in his blood.
Which made me think of Dusty Harrison, his quiet grace, his promise. How I was there the night the average fan around the country first saw him inside a boxing ring. I wanted to get home and tell somebody, anybody, what I’d seen - and never forget it.
Lamont & Anthony Peterson photos by Trey Pollard for StiffJab.com
by Gautham Nagesh
After Saturday night’s near-sellout at D.C. Armory, it’s clear that Washington has firmly re-established itself as a fight town. Some of my fellow writers were skeptical about the turnout early, but I was confident the arena would fill up. This was Lamont Peterson (left) headlining on Showtime. For the knowledgeable local fan base, nothing more need be said.
Peterson delivered, as his fans knew he would. As Anna ably noted, Peterson has been the tentpole of D.C.’s emerging boxing franchise, and his rise has helped draw all the major boxing networks back to Washington for the first time in many years. It has also provided a platform for the area’s talented youngsters to ply their craft, and inspiration for them to keep pursuing their dreams in the ring. In short, without Lamont, there is no resurgence in D.C. boxing.
Cheering Lamont through his recent string of high-profile fights has been his brother Anthony (below), a decorated lightweight in his own right. Where Lamont is quiet and reserved, Anthony is boisterous and outgoing. He is a constant presence in the local boxing scene, yet has only fought twice since sustaining his only loss by disqualification against Brandon Rios in September 2010.
Photo by Patrice Harris
by Gautham Nagesh
That was fast. Just a few weeks after we named him the 2013 Stiff Jab Amateur Boxer of the Year, Sarah reports exclusively that Headbangers amateur star Kareem Martin is ready to turn professional with some big-time backing:
Tiara shared the bittersweet news that Kareem Martin, Stiff Jab’s 2013 Amateur Boxer of the Year, just signed on with boxing’s top power broker Al Haymon. Yet another promising amateur prospect scooped up into the pros!
Martin confirmed his signing to Stiff Jab later on Wednesday.
"Yes it’s true that I’m signed with the Al Haymon family. That’s all I got to say," Martin said.
Haymon is the shadowy advisor to many of the sport’s biggest stars today, including Floyd Mayweather and Adrien Broner. His stable frequently works with Golden Boy Promotions, and are all but banned from HBO. Haymon’s fighters frequently earn big paydays for facing questionable opposition, and he holds considerable sway over the sport’s TV executives, particularly at Showtime. Small wonder Haymon is considered the best manager in the sport.
Dusty Hernandez-Harrison photo by Anna John
by Gautham Nagesh
This weekend promises to be one of the biggest in recent memory for boxing in the DMV, and next weekend should provide the sport’s biggest in several years. We’ve admittedly been caught up in the hype, but meanwhile, local fighters and promoters continue to do business and advance their careers.
That includes 2012 Stiff Jab Prospect of the Year Dusty Hernandez-Harrison, who notched his 17th win as a professional with a fourth-round stoppage of Guillermo Valdes on August 23rd at Dover Downs Casino and Resort. It was Dusty’s third fight in Delaware and second at this venue, and it provided further evidence of his growing box office appeal. The Washington Post’s Gene Wang made the journey and has more details in this report.
“I thought he looked good tonight,” Dusty’s father and trainer Buddy Harrison said in a release. “We wanted an opportunity to showcase his punching skill, power and poise and he displayed that all-around skillset this evening.”
This was the sixth fight of 2013 for Dusty, whose career appears to be blossoming under the handling of his father and local sports attorney Jeff Fried. Dusty is scheduled to fight twice more this year, including his first ten-rounder as the headliner back in his hometown of D.C. As always, expect us to be ringside for that fight to bring you our latest evaluation of his progress.
Photo by Trey Pollard for StiffJab.com
Antoine “Action” Douglas Keeps Rolling: D.C. middleweight Antoine Douglas notched his ninth professional win on August 23rd as well, winning a six-round decision over Edgar Perez at Turning Stone Casino in Upstate New York. The fight was part of Mike Tyson’s first show as a promoter, which was broadcast on ESPN Friday Night Fights. I missed the show that night due to the 2013 AAJA Convention, but Douglas continues to get solid exposure in front of a national audience. I look forward to seeing him in action here in the DMV next month; more on that in my next post.
Photos by Anna John for StiffJab.com
by Gautham Nagesh
WASHINGTON, D.C.—Like all entertainers, boxers are unpredictable by nature.
Men that fight for a living are often more temperamental than the brattiest teen idol in Hollywood. Almost every card includes at least one fight scratched because an opponent has succumbed to that peculiar sickness that takes hold between the weigh-in and the opening bell. Promoters can only book their fights, make their contingency plans, and pray.
If boxing is, in the end, simply show business, then another maxim holds true: the fans come to see the main event, not the supporting players. That might be a hard truth to swallow for some undercard fighters, especially since they are putting themselves at the same risk as their better-compensated peers. But it’s the truth.
There were some complications on Saturday night during the first professional boxing show promoted by All-In Entertainment at UDC in Northwest Washington. Only five of the nine scheduled fights were completed, and writers were left typing their reports in blackness after a power outage cut the walk-out bout short. None of that mattered. To the nearly 3,000 fans that packed the auditorium, it was a night at the fights, a moment to be savored regardless of the complications.
It is still far too early to say how good 18-year-old D.C. welterweight Dusty Hernandez-Harrison will be. Even with 15 professional fights under his belt, Dusty is only scratching the surface of life as a professional fighter. But Hernandez-Harrison offered a tantalizing glimpse of his potential on Saturday night, displaying poise beyond his years during his 5th-round knockout of Eddie Soto.
Photos by Gautham Nagesh for StiffJab.com
by Gautham Nagesh
If you read this blog at all, you know we’re extremely upbeat about the both the present and future of DMV boxing. The current kingpins of D.C. will be on display in Atlantic City this weekend, but the next generation of stars will be honing their craft this Saturday at a more local (and appropriate) venue: the University of the District of Columbia Sports Complex.
Stiff Jab 2012 Prospect of the Year Dusty Hernandez-Harrison will continue his journey at welterweight with a step up against Eddie Soto of Pawtucket, R.I. Soto started his career with 12 straight wins before losing his last six, four by stoppage. As an opponent, Soto fits with Team Dusty’s plan to keep the risk low while exposing Dusty to various styles and skill levels. Harrison is also fighting at home for the first time this year after two bouts in Delaware and one in Mississippi.
"I’m happy to be home. Everybody missed me, they keep asking me when I’m coming home, so I’m glad to finally be back," Dusty said at Monday’s media workout. "It should be the biggest fight yet that I’ve had."
Photo by Juan Marshall of ProAmFightTalk
by Gautham Nagesh
Big news today from Stiff Jab’s 2012 Prospect of the Year: Dusty Hernandez-Harrison will headline a May 18th card at UDC Sports Complex.
The card will be promoted by All-In Entertainment, which was formed by Dusty’s advisor and local sports attorney Jeff Fried along with poker star Phil Ivey and NBA star Monta Ellis of the Milwaukee Bucks.
The main event and portions of the card will be aired by Epix, making it the channel’s first boxing production based in the U.S. Update: The event will be sponsored by Epix and Jordan Brand, but not broadcast on Epix as we were originally informed.
“Dusty Hernandez-Harrison truly exemplifies the heart, spirit and future of boxing here in Washington, and throughout the industry,” Fried said. “While we are still in the process of finalizing the card, rest assured that his opponent will pose a true test as Dusty continues to develop and learn in many ways what it takes to be a world champion, both in and out of the ring.”
A host of other promising young prospects are expected to fight on the card, including Stiff Jab 2011 Amateur Boxer of the Year Mike Reed, 2012 National Golden Gloves champion Gervonta Davis, Frederick, Md.-based Iraqi middleweight Devar Ferhadi, and Lime Lite Boxing light heavyweight prospect Greg Newby. The only bout that has been finalized is a heavyweight special attraction between Natu Visinia (8-0, 7 KOs) and Phil Brown (6-1, 3 KOs) of Upper Marlboro, Md.
Photos by Jessica Chen for StiffJab.com
Photos by Gautham Nagesh, Trey Pollard, and Jessica Chen for Stiff Jab
by Gautham Nagesh
We knew we wouldn’t have to go far to find the 2012 Prospect of the Year, not with so many promising young boxers turning professional in the DMV over the past 12 months. But as deserving as fighters like Day Day Grayton, Antoine Douglas, and Kevin Rivers Jr. are, there was only one choice for the prospect who took the biggest strides over the past year: welterweight Dusty Hernandez-Harrison.
Dusty fought eight times in 2012, all but one as a headliner for Keystone Boxing at Washington Convention Center. He delivered two unanimous decisions and six early endings, while making the leap from four to eight-round fights. Most importantly, he recovered from his first adversity, a knockdown in the final round of his six-rounder with Marqus Jackson, to register stoppages in his next three fights. With most other D.C. fighters plying their trade in distant casinos, Hernandez-Harrison has quickly become the most reliable ticket in a historic fight town.
"My fans are the reason why I have so many fights. Because I can sell tickets, I get on cards," Harrison-Hernandez said. "I want to keep it local as much as I can. Of course I’m going to have to travel eventually, but I want to fight local. I like it here."
"It’s not really like they’re fans, they’re more like my friends and family."
At just 18 years old, Hernandez-Harrison is now 11-0 with 7 KOs, and has started drawing attention from the sport’s kingmakers. His youth, talent, and already sizable fanbase give him the tools needed to become the sport’s next big Puerto Rican star. But the trait that most impresses about Dusty is his poise, which is uncommon for anyone of his tender age. Despite the growing media attention and increasing pressure, Dusty still comes across as a nice, normal teenager, albeit one with a nasty right hand.
Photos by Trey Pollard for StiffJab.com
by Gautham Nagesh
WASHINGTON, D.C.—Most of D.C.’s promising young boxers continued their professional journeys unabated on Saturday night at the Convention Center, but at least one found out just how hard it is to earn a living by fighting.
Unbeaten prospects Dusty Harrison (above left), Alantez Fox, Kevin Rivers Jr. and Jarrett Hurd all scored impressive 1st-round stoppages on the Keystone Boxing card, helping the audience reach home in time to watch Juan Manuel Marquez smash Manny Pacquiao on PPV. But D.C. featherweight Shadeed Floyd (below right) became the latest local fighter to sustain his first loss against the extremely game David Huffman (below left) of Cincinnati, who is fast becoming our favorite spoiler in the sport. Also winning on the card were Dillon Hayman and Phil Jackson-Benson, while talented super middleweight Jerry Odom saw his fight turn into a no contest after a cut from a headbutt forced his opponent to quit in the first round.
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.
Photos by Gautham Nagesh for StiffJab.com
WASHINGTON, D.C.—Keystone Boxing employed four ring card girls for Saturday night’s boxing card at Washington Convention Center, but they probably could have spared the expense.
The young ladies barely left their seats for the first half of the show, as a parade of young boxers from the District and Maryland scored early stoppages against questionable opposition. Things stiffened up a bit for the special attraction featuring featherweight Kevin Rivers Jr., who handled his first professional test with impressive poise, before climaxing with a dominating performance from welterweight Dusty Harrison (above) in the main event. Harrison knocked Youngstown’s Shane Gierke down three times en route to a second-round stoppage.
The late-arriving crowd eventually got their money’s worth, but not before a few grumbles from the cheap seats about the matchmaking. Still, several promising local prospects brought sizable cheering sections, an early indication of box office potential. Fighters scoring wins on this evening included staff favorites Danny “Smooth” Kelly and Day Day Grayton as well as James McCallister, Harold “Sweet Lee” Parker, and Immanuwel Aleem.