February 14, 2014

The Last Dance at the Roseland Ballroom - Melson and Hardy win

KO Digest Ringside Report
MANHATTAN -- An historic New York City landmark hosted its final fight card on February 12th to a near sold out crowd. Holding its first Broadway Boxing show of the year at the venerable venue, promoter Lou DiBella appropriately billed the card “The Last Dance.” The Roseland Ballroom opened in its first New York location at 51st Street back in 1919, after moving from Philadelphia. Once it moved to its current location on West 52nd Street in 1958, the Manhattan landmark hosted all kinds of exciting events, especially boxing. The mid sized arena was perfect for up and coming fighters, and by design, there was not a bad seat to be found in the house. The Roseland will host its last performance in April, with Lady Gaga drawing the final curtain.

“I am sad that the Roseland is closing, and that this is the last boxing card we will ever promote there,” said DiBella. “This will not only be a celebration of New York boxing, but a celebration of a legendary hall. This boxing card will help say goodbye to Roseland in style,” the pensive promoter concluded. Indeed, the nine bout card featured plenty of action, but interestingly, no knockouts were scored. However, there was plenty of action, a few near upsets, a draw, and a little wrinkle thrown into the main event. Headlining the card, junior middleweight Boyd Melson (13-1-1, 4 KO's) squared off against Donald Ward (6-3, 3 KO's) in a scheduled eight-rounder. Originally scheduled at junior middleweight, Melson had difficulty making the weight, and the fight was turned into a middleweight bout instead. "I got sick for half a week twice - once three weeks out and once two weeks out, and it threw me off significantly," he informed KO Digest.

The Rainmaker uses his good arm
Naturally, there was concern before the bout whether Melson would be in a weakened condition. Using the first round as a feel out round, the southpaw Melson used his jab to set up the straight left hand. In the second, "The Rainmaker" kept Ward on the retreat, reducing him to a few cute defensive moves, followed by an occasional flurry. The third round saw "The Bulldog" attempt to catch Melson coming in with right hands, but Boyd landed a good right hook before the bell. At the start of the sixth round, you could see something was wrong with Melson, as he grimaced and repeatedly pointed to his right shoulder. Still, the Army Captain gutted it out, as both men traded hooks in mid ring. Almost reduced to a one armed fighter, Melson threw lead left hands in succession, while Ward responded with punches to the body and head. Sensing he was behind, "The Bulldog" gambled in the eighth, stood his ground, and traded punches with his opponent.

Melson wins the war on boxing's battleground
Both men had their moments, as Ward caught  Melson with the right hand, and Melson would retaliate with a hard left hand of his own. The two boxers punched until the sound of the bell. As the scores were announced, there was a moan from the crowd, as the first card of a 76-76 draw was read. However, it was overruled by the scores of 78-74 and 79-73 in favor of Melson, giving him the win by majority decision, and improving his record to 14-1-1, 4 KO's while Ward fell to 6-4, 3 KO's. During the in-ring post fight interview, Steve Farhood questioned Melson about his injury. "I thought I was having a stroke, and my arm felt like it weighed a thousand pounds," revealed Melson. "I could throw an up jab, but that's about it," he stated. Farhood then questioned the weight issue. "You got through it, and you did what you had to do. Is Boyd Melson now a middleweight?," asked the announcer.

Melson took a long pause before answering. "I don't know, but I won't fight as a light heavyweight," he half kidded. As Melson thanked everyone for coming out and braving the cold weather, most of the patrons headed for the nearest exit, while the die hard fight fans hung around taking pictures, doing their best to preserve the fond memories of the Ballroom.

For them, it was truly "The Last Dance."

Hardy brings the Heat to Fuentes
In the co-main event, popular female super bantamweight Heather Hardy (7-0, 2 KO's) took on Christina Fuentes from Loredo Texas, also scheduled for eight rounds. Perhaps the most exciting fight of the evening, this was a very competitive match, as Fuentes gave as much as she took the entire contest. There was no feeling out process, as Fuentes came out firing in the first round with overhand right hands and left hooks. Startled by the fast start, "The Heat" was pushed to the ropes, and took some heavy artillery. But Hardy took it well, and responded with hard hooks of her own, pushing her shorter opponent back. Fighting in the trenches, Fuentes fought evenly with her opponent, and Hardy found her back to the ropes at the end of the third and fourth rounds. Both combatants were pretty bruised by the mid rounds. What separated the two fighters was the jab. Whenever Hardy remembered to use it, the fight became a little easier, and she landed the right hand flush on several occasions. The Brooklyn female fighter also found success when she attacked Fuentes to the body. The final round was non-stop, as Fuentes would land an eye-catching punch, only for a determined Hardy to come roaring right back. At the bell, both fighters received a standing ovation. A score of 77-75 for Fuentes by Glenn Feldman was over ruled by the other two judges, who also scored the fight 77-75, but in favor of Hardy, who won by split decision. Fuentes who fell to 2-5-3, gave a good showing. "Every fight is different, she was tough," admitted Hardy. At ringside, Shelly "Shelito" Vincent, all the way from from Providence RI., complete with a dozen white roses, did her best to call Hardy out before being escorted away from ringside. "If she wants to reach me, she can do it through my promoter, she knows how to reach me, not like this, not through Facebook. She has no class," stated Hardy.

With the hard fought win, "The Heat" improved to 8-0, 2 KO's.

On The Undercard:

Last Dance at the Ballroom for DiBella
Joe Smith Jr UD6 Otis Griffin (light heavyweights) - After a feeling out opening round, Smith did his best to back his opponent up in the second round. Smith did good body work along the ropes. Griffin did his best to counter, but the better punches belonged to the fighter from Long Island. Griffin landed a good right hand in the third, only to be countered by a right hand, and left hook to the head. Griffin tried to catch Smith coming in with right hands, but not with much success. In the final round, it was a case of too little too late for Griffin, who landed the better punches. All three judges scored the fight in favor of Smith Jr, who improved to 14-1, 11 KO's with the scores of 59-55 and 60-54 (twice). The veteran from Sacramento CA. fell to 24-15-2, 10 KO's.

Travis Peterkin UD6 Michael Gbenga (light heavyweight) - Less than ten seconds into the opening round, "The Notorious" Peterkin knocked Gbenga off balance with a straight left hand. Realizing Gbenga was not hurt, Peterkin stayed composed and continued to box. In the second, the southpaw displayed hand speed with the double jab and straight left. Gbenga, who hails from Ghana, was an awkward, but very durable opponent, and he had the tendency of coming in head first. A head butt by Gbenga in the fourth created a break in the action, and Peterkin looked to regroup. However, Gbenga would lose a point for yet another head butt. In the fifth, a straight left made Gbenga stumble, and after a flurry by Peterkin, both men tumbled to the canvas. The final round was anti-climatic, and there was a lot of wrestling and holding to the finish line. All three judges favored Peterkin by the identical score of 60-53. Peterkin, hailing from Brooklyn, improved to 11-0, 5 KO's, while Gbenga now sports a record of 13-11, 13 KO's.

Pee Wee wins at the Roseland
Bryant "Pee Wee" Cruz UD6 Joshua Reyes (junior lightweights) - "Pee Wee" got off to a fast start, dropping Reyes with a right hand over the top in the opening round. He also fell in love with the right uppercut, and he had plenty of success with it in the second and third rounds. However, whenever the fighter from Port Chester N.Y. landed the right over the top, he wouldn't come back with the hook. The durable Reyes came on in the fifth round, and Cruz found himself on the ropes on several occasions. Both men had their moments in the round, but the edge went to Reyes. In the final round, "Pee Wee" used the perimeter of the ring, and kept Reyes on the outside as he fired in combination. Reyes stunned Cruz along the ropes during the final minute of the round. The final scores read as 59-54 and 58-55 (twice). Although Cruz improved to 9-0, 5 KO's, he knew he was in with a tough opponent. Reyes is now 5-2, 2 KO's.

Donte Strayhorn MD4 Jose Gomez (lightweights) - The opening round was close as both men looked for openings. The slight edge went to Strayhorn, who threw his punches straight, while Gomez preferred to wing his punches. Strayhorn touched his opponent with the right hand on several occasions in the second, and he also timed Gomez wide right hands with counter left hooks. However, Gomez did land a good right hand before the round's end. In the final round, both men landed well, as Gomez landed the left hand to the body, and the overhand right, while Strayhorn countered with the double hooks and right hand. The first score of a 38-38 draw was overruled by the remaining two judges, who both scored it 39-37 for Strayhorn, now 5-1, 1 KO while the durable Gomez is now 3-6.

Chris Galeano UD4 Travis McClaren (junior middleweights) - At the bell, the first punch was a lunging right hook by the southpaw Galeano, while McClaren looked to answer with the straight right hand. McClaren tapped his chin as if to say, "hit me again." In the second, straight left hands and right hooks kept McClaren on the ropes. In the third, McClaren took a lot of punishment along the ropes, and was sucking in air by the rounds end. In the final round, "Golden" Galeano went for the knockout, and fired hard straight left hands, but McClaren refused to go, and fought back bravely, and fired right hands off the ropes. All three judges scored the fight 40-36 in favor of Galeano.
The Bronx native improved to 2-0 while McClaren is now at 1-4, 1 KO.

Danny Gonzalez D4 Ray Velez (junior welterweights) - After an impressive staredown, the opening round proved competitive as both men traded heavy punches. In the second and third rounds, both men wisely went to the body. Gonzalez walked his opponent down in the third, only for "Sugar" Ray Velez to land a nice uppercut. Gonzalez came back with a left hook, right hand combo to end the round. The final round was non- stop action. Incredibly, after the first card of 40-36 in favor of Gonzalez was announced, the two remaining judges saw a completely different fight with identical scores of 38-38. The majority draw put an immediate halt to the celebration in the Gonzalez corner and also put a halt to his winning streak - he is now 5-0-1, 3 KO's, while Velez is now 3-4-1, 1 KO.

Ryan Martin UD4 Jose Del Valle (lightweights) - In the opening bout of the evening, both boxers showed some skills. Martin tried to walk his opponent into the left hook, and both men traded straight right hands. In the second "Blue Chip" Martin landed a nice uppercut, followed by a left hook. By the third, Martin was countering his opponent nicely. Del Valle did land a straight right hand, but Martin's left hook right cross combination drew oohs and ahhs from the crowd. In the fourth, Del Valle stood his ground and traded. The best punch of the round belonged to Martin - a wicked left hook at the bell. All three judges scored the fight 40-36, all in favor of Martin. The win improved Martin's young career to 3-0, 2 KO's while Del Valle fell to 2-4-2.

KO Digest Ringside Report by David McLeod