Sights and Sounds of Boxing Filled Beach Haven One Night
Boxing By the Beach, an evening of eight professional matches under a big top that was set up in Veteran’s Park in Beach Haven on Saturday, Sept. 26 was somewhat reminiscent of the nearby Surflight Theatre, which used to promote itself as “Broadway on the Beach.” The two-hours-plus display of the “sweet science” was vastly entertaining but, unfortunately, apparently not a financial success.
The night’s lineup wasn’t up to the standards of even the undercard of a big pay-per-view event, despite its pay-per-view like prices (tickets ran from $50 to $125). There were no champions on display; in fact, there were no ranked contenders in the ring.
But there were some pretty good boxers, such as Thomas “Cornflakes” Lamana of Millville, a middleweight who upped his record to 18-1 in the night’s main event by earning a sharp unanimous decision over Albany, New York’s Ayi Bruce “Lee,” who came into the match with a respectable 23-10 record that included 15 knockouts. Then there was an Olympian, Meng Fanlong, a 27-year-old light heavyweight from Inner Mongolia who fought for China in the 2012 London Games. There was a local favorite, Little Egg Harbor’s “Brutal” Brendan Barrett, a six-time MMA heavyweight champ who was switching to boxing as well as making his first foray into promotion via a new company, HITM (History In The Making) Promotions. Finally, there was a real prospect, a 25-year old welterweight from Monmouth by the name of Dustin “White Tiger” Fleischer. More, much more, on him later.
The fights were sanctioned by the New Jersey State Athletic Control Board (NJSACB), the regulatory agency that licenses and supervises all contests and exhibitions of “unarmed combat,” professional or amateur, in the Garden State, including mixed martial arts and kickboxing as well as boxing. Its chairman is Larry Hazzard Sr., a three-time New Jersey Golden Gloves champ who became a referee and was the third man in the ring for over 40 world title fights, and is a member of the International Boxing Hall of Fame.
So all of the sights and sounds of boxing could be found under the large tent that had been erected earlier in the week. There were bow-tied NJSACB sanctioned referees, alternating throughout the eight bouts because refs have a surprisingly physical job, what with separating strong and sometimes huge fighters in the midst of heated battle. There were three judges – including a woman, it being 2015 – who were sitting right along the ropes and scored the fights using the 10-point-must system (don’t worry, that will be explained in time). A doctor sat just a few feet away from the steps leading into the ring. (It turned out he had to climb those steps quite a bit.) There were cute round card girls, although they were clad conservatively in shorts and T-shirts instead of bikinis, owing to the cool weather. (Thankfully, the tent cut the wind coming off the Atlantic, allowing both spectators and athletes to remain comfortable.)
There was blaring rock and rap music before and after the national anthem – sung commendably by Althea “Lady Thunder” Saunders, an attractive super lightweight boxer who hails from Atlantic City. There was the sound of gloves hitting flesh, especially booming when a fighter scored a solid punch to the body. There was the roar of the crowd whenever a contestant closed in on a KO (which happened several times). There was a ring announcer who had the longest dreadlocks this writer has ever seen on a white man (or Jamaican rasta, for that matter), trailing well below his tailbone.
No doubt about it, Boxing By the Beach was a scene, a blast, a great evening out.
But what about the level of boxing? Well, it was mixed bag. There were some mismatches. On the other hand, there were some close bouts and, at times, some true excitement.
Olympian Wins Via Decision
The aforementioned Meng Fanlong, who weighed in carrying 175 pounds on his 6-foot-3 frame, came into his bout with a 2-0 record, including one win by KO. His opponent was Michael Mitchell from Patterson. It was the type of opponent somebody like Meng’s manager, Dino Duva, would wisely seek out. Duva, president of Dynasty Boxing, is the son of legendary trainer/manager Lou Duva, who trained 19 world champions including Hector “Macho” Comacho and Evander Holyfield. Meng is still new to America and pro boxing so he has to be brought along carefully. Mitchell came into the match with a 3-5-2 record with one KO.
Sure enough, after a slow start Meng dominated the opening bout, a four-rounder, jabbing effectively, landing an occasional body shot and controlling the pace. Two of the judges scored the bout 40-36. (Under the 10-point-must system, the winner of a round must receive 10 points while the loser usually gets nine points, unless he’s been knocked down or constantly rocked and so only earns eight points.) The third judge had it 39-37, which means he, like me, probably thought Meng lost the first round.
It didn’t seem as if Meng had much power. He was a skillful boxer, though, especially for a man with only three pro fights. His long amateur career has paid off in that respect.
“I believe he has as much pro potential as any boxer in China,” said Dino Duva when he signed Meng in 2014, “and I’m extremely excited about his signing.”
Meng did indeed have a long amateur career. He started fighting at the age of 14 and was a seven-time Chinese National Champion. An advantage/disadvantage for Meng is that he is a southpaw, something opposing fighters have trouble with but something that opposing managers dread so much they often won’t allow the members of their stables to fight one.
The second four-rounder of the night, another light heavyweight affair, saw Angel Concepcion of Newark and his 6-0 record face Sidney Outlaw of Philadelphia, who, like Barrett, was making the move from MMA to boxing, and so came in at 0-0. Both tipped the scale at 184 pounds.
It was obvious Outlaw was new to boxing. He was the aggressor, and had huge thighs, making me think he’d have power. But he hasn’t learned that footwork is the key to a boxer’s power and his punches, when they landed (which wasn’t often), had no steam. Concepcion, too, had no power (note he had no KO’s on his record), which is lucky for Outlaw because a puncher would have knocked out Outlaw in 30 seconds, thanks to his habit of lunging and leading with his head.
In the end Concepcion took a unanimous decision – 40-36, 39-37, 39-37. As far as the fight, well, if it had been scored on a scale of one to 10 with 10 being best, it would have only ranked a two or three.
The third fight was a mismatch. The four-round middleweight battle featured Arturo Trujillo of Patterson (6-0, 3 KO’s) and Alex Asbury of Charlotte, N.C. (0-2). There was only a one-pound difference between the two, with Trujillo being the heavier man at 159, but the Jersey guy looked much bigger. Seconds into the first round Trujillo rocked Asbury. Later on he pushed him into a corner and decked him with a right cross to the noggin. Asbury got up at the count of eight but was still shaking his head trying to clear the cobwebs. The ref wisely waved off the fight and the ring doctor made his first trip of the night up the stairs. It went into the record books as a TKO (technical knock out) at 2:37 of the first round.
Fight four featured lightweights O’Shanique “Ice Water” Foster of Orange, Texas and Darius Jackson of Anderson, S.C. Foster came in at 7-0 with four KO’s; Jackson had a 0-1 record.
Now Jackson is 0-2. After the beating he took on Sept. 26, he might want to look for another sport. He was knocked out at 1:03 of the first round. The doc had to spend a lot of time with him in the ring – Jackson probably thought he was back in Dixie. When he was finally allowed to exit the ring, he took one look at the stairs, which only had four steps, and stopped cold and had to be helped down. Obviously bells were still ringing, and not just at the timer’s table!
Remember The Tiger
Now it is time to talk about Fleischer and there’s a lot to say!
He, like the state’s boxing commissioner, is a three-time New Jersey Golden Gloves champion. He’s fast, he’s chiseled but not particularly muscle bound, a bad thing for a boxer because it doesn’t allow a body to absorb a punch. Yet he has a killer instinct when his opponent is stunned. He has great technique and, even more than Meng, has terrific (oops, sounding like Donald Trump) footwork. This 143-pounder has all the tools and has a tremendous future ahead of him, considering he’s good looking and, in a boxing world that is always looking for a Great White Hope, is not only white but Jewish (a rare commodity in boxing).
His opponent on Saturday was Ira “The War Chief” Frank, a Native American from Blackwell, Wis.
Fleischer came in at 3-0; Frank had a record of 1-0. Both boxers had won all their fights via knock out.
It certainly was a colorful fight, with Frank wearing silver, red and blue leggings while Fleischer wore a tiger skin print. It was also a short fight, thanks to the White Tiger’s skill.
Fleischer has good hand speed and he threw more combinations than all of the other fighters of the night put together. Joe Frazier was known for his powerful left hook, which, at its best, traveled only six inches to devastating effect. Remember, power comes from the transfer from the legs to the punch, and Fleischer’s footwork allows his short punches to ring out when they hit the body and snap heads back when he targets the head.
Frank, though, was game. When Fleischer obviously hurt him the first time he didn’t cover up or try to clinch in desperation, as Asbury and Jackson vainly had. Instead Frank punched back, forcing Fleischer to step back. That was a good sign; Fleischer knows enough not to press the issue. He didn’t have to. His next barrage, featuring a body shot that rang out through the tent, put Frank on the canvas and the ref wisely called the fight. It was recorded as a TKO at 2:53 of the first round.
Remember this kid’s name so you can someday say, “I heard of him way back in ’15.”
The Time For Featured Bouts
There was a break before the final three fights of the evening. I spent my time talking to a group of guys from RPM, an auto dealership in Bayville that specializes in used cars highlighting high-performance vehicles such as Porsches and Corvettes.
A while back, Thomas Lamana, who would fight in the evening’s main event, had walked into the showroom looking to buy a ride. The salesman, Bill Knight, started talking to him, liked him, found out he was a boxer, and introduced him to the dealership’s owner, Bobby Taurosa.
“He was a really good kid,” said Taurosa, who offered to sponsor him on the spot.
Taurosa said sponsoring a boxer was a new and fun experience. He takes out his employees each time Lamana fights and they have a great night out. Just that, he said, makes the sponsorship worth it. Besides, his fighter has talent, so who knows.
One of the RPM employees, by the way, was John Finley. He was familiar with the Island because he had spent the 1982 season as an actor for the Surflight. Hmm… maybe that’s what inspired this article’s lead.
Back to the fights. The sixth bout of the evening was a six-rounder featuring middleweights K. Long Spencer of Beaumont, Texas and Jersey’s own Ian Green, who had been featured this summer on ABC’s “Sports Stars of Tomorrow.” Their records indicated a good fight – Spencer was 4-2 with 3 KO’s while Green was perfect at 6-0, with four KO’s.
Spencer fought a defensive fight but didn’t make it all the way anyway. Green won by TKO after a 15-punch flurry that had the ref calling the bout at 2:16 of the fourth round.
Up next was Barrett, fighting in front of an enthusiastic crowd of friends, against Satario Holdbrooks of Kannapolis, N.C. Barrett had a boxing record of 0-0-1; Holdbrooks, too, had only had one previous fight, which he lost.
This was a four-rounder and a true battle of heavyweights – Barrett weighed in at 241 pounds while Holdbrooks was recorded at 235 lbs.
Barrett’s size and demeanor (he employed a stare during the ref’s instructions) and the previous performances of Carolina fighters on Saturday made me suspect a Barrett KO. Sure enough, he put away Holdbrooks at the 1:32 mark of the second round with a TKO.
Barrett’s style is easy to describe. He pounded Holdbrooks with a right hand, again and again. It sort of looked like he was chopping wood and sure enough, Holdbrooks fell like a tree!
I later asked Barrett, who had badly hurt his hand in his last MMA match, how it had come out of the fight. No problem, he told me, no problem at all.
I also asked him if he had ever forgotten he was in a boxing match and not an MMA event, because I could have sworn there were a few times in the fight where he looked like he was about to tackle his opponent.
“No,” he said, “for the last couple of years (in MMA) I knew I wanted to switch to boxing so for the most part I tried focusing on boxing (in MMA), I focused on just my striking.”
Lamana gave a textbook performance in his fight against Bruce, flicking accurate jabs every time his opponent’s gloves separated the slightest amount and dancing out of corners every time Bruce tried to cut the ring off on him. Power? Not much, which shows why he’s only had seven KO’s in 19 fights. Skill? Yes, which shows why he’s won 18 of them.
Lamana is a talented boxer, who has a decent career ahead of him in six-, maybe eight-rounders. But his upside doesn’t look nearly as high as the White Tiger’s. Besides, where did he get that nickname “Cornflake?” Alas, I didn’t know that was his tag when talking to the RPM guys.
So, to repeat, the evening was great fun, and that’s not just this reporter’s opinion but that of everybody I asked in the crowd. Except that was the one problem: there wasn’t really a crowd.
Six hundred seats had been set up in the tent but only about a third of them were filled, and many were friends of Barrett or the other boxers. Two days later I asked him if he had at least broken even as a promoter. He told me he didn’t have the final figures yet but he suspected he hadn’t.
Barrett hopes to stage a similar event again.
“Everybody kept asking me after the fights, ‘Are you coming back?’ I’d like to.”
Why, I asked, didn’t he stage the fight night during the weekend of the Chowderfest, when many more people would be in town?
“I didn’t want to take away from any of the town’s other events,” he told me. “I originally wanted to do it on Labor Day weekend but too many locals said, ‘Great, the last weekend I can’t be there’ (due to work). So I moved it.”
Hopefully Barrett can refer people to this article if he ever decides to try again. Because Boxing By the Beach was a gas!
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