Grind Hard, Shine Hard – Ennis
Steamrolls Walker in One!
Date: Friday, June 4, 2010
believe you celebrate life not only at birth, but also at death.
Therefore, as the keynote speaker at a memorial service in North
Philadelphia to honor my good friend Raymond Munson (“Muncie”)—assistant
to heavyweight champion Sonny Liston, I had fun remembering Muncie. The
ceremony was filled with plenty of laughter and tears as many of us,
including promoter J. Russell Peltz and middleweight Willie “The
Gladiator” Gibbs, recounted numerous stories of our friend who passed
away last week at the age of 87. Munson not only worked for Liston but
he was also the champ’s confidante and closest friend. He took Liston’s
secrets to his grave. And later in the evening with temperatures
hovering around 90 degrees Fahrenheit and sweating through my seersucker
suit like a mouse caught on a glue trap, I made my way to The Legendary
Blue Horizon for an action packed six-bout card celebrating the 65th
birthday of The First Lady of Boxing, boxing promoter and owner of the
Our celebration was almost truncated when word spread like wildfire throughout press row after the second bout that the Philadelphia Department of Licenses and Inspections (L & I) was present due to alleged violations by the venue. With this is mind, the planned celebration was brief and remaining bouts moved along rapidly like a Wall Street fire drill. Only Diana Ross’s wardrobe changes at a concert were more efficient and timely as Ring Announcer Tornambe directed traffic with the alacrity of a producer of a fashion show in Milan. With time being of the essence, the main event, the last bout scheduled, was moved up to the fifth slot.
In the main event, Philly super-middleweight Farah “The Quiet Storm” Ennis (13 wins – 0 losses – 0 draws – 7 kos) and his handlers briskly made their way to the ring like they were just arriving at Philadelphia airport for a flight that was scheduled to board in ten minutes. Across the ring ready for battle was Ennis’s opponent, Steve Walker (24 wins – 24 losses – 0 draws – 16 kos) of Hannibal, Missouri with “Insane” tattooed above his belly button. The likeable and confident Walker who is employed by the Missouri Highway Department—he runs a construction crew, told me early that this was his first visit to the City of Brotherly Love. Walker was prepared to fight hard and long—if he only knew!
The bell rung and I had hardly gotten a sip
from my can of Red Bull when Ennis landed a left hook which he
immediately turned into an uppercut ala’ Johnny Tapia. The punch was
picture-perfect and pierced Walker’s defense like a hollow-point bullet,
ricocheting off his chin sending him to the canvas. Tough as nails,
Walker rose at the count of three showing tremendous recuperative
powers. The action resumed and Ennis immediately launched an overhand
right that crashed off the top of Walker’s head giving the appearance
that someone pulled a rug from under his feet as he took a second and
final trip to the canvas. Referee Rosato never bothered to count as he
went to Walker’s aid. The fight was over at 56 seconds of the opening
round as Ennis’ father and trainer, Bozy made his way back to the
dressing room to bring out featherweight Coy “Pretty Boy” Evans, Ennis’
stable mate, for the co-main event and final bout. The visit by L & I
loomed over the Blue like a dark cloud.
Evans (8 wins – 0 losses – 1 draw – 2 kos) decked out in black velvet trunks and a red t-shirt with the phrase “Grind Hard, Shine Hard” emblazoned on the front entered the ring not knowing whether or not his bout would be cut short by the compliance Gestapo—L & I, who probably would have instigated a riot had they during the course of the bout ended the show. Police-like actions, heat, and unhappy fans are the recipe for a riot. With no air conditioning in the building, the action in the ring and Tiffany and Noelle, the two gorgeous ring card girls kept the fans engaged and not complaining about the temperature. I was now sweating like Bernie Madoff at his sentencing. Evans did not disappoint the boxing faithful as he and Barbaro Zepeda (9 wins – 21 losses – 2 draws – 2 kos) of Chicago, Illinois by way of Mexico locked horns at the opening bell and fought relentlessly for six action-packed rounds.
Evans took command in the second round by working the body and listening to his corner. Trainer Bozy Ennis would yell, “Under and over!” and immediately Evans would throw the right uppercut to Zepeda’s body and then turn it into a straight right. This combination would land throughout the match as the steel-chinned Zepeda, who has only been stopped once in 31 bouts, kept coming forward answering Evans’ combinations. It was brilliant inside-fighting by Evans who stayed committed to the body attack piling up round after round. However, Zepeda fought back every step of the way but was out gunned by his quicker and more elusive opponent who slipped and blocked many of his counters. True to the slogan on his t-shirt, Evans was grinding hard and like polished gold—he was shining hard.
The “under and over” tip paid dividends in the final round as Evans punctured Zepeda’s left side with a vicious right uppercut converting it into a straight right that slammed in to his chin sending the tough Mexican to the canvas momentarily. Zepeda was up before the count of four and held his own for the remainder of the round. Evans won a unanimous decision by scores of 59-54 on all three scorecards. The heat had my mind playing tricks on me, because for a split second I swore I saw Heinrich Himmler, leader of the Gestapo, at ringside as several badge wearing employees of L & I supported by a horde of police officers inside and outside the building instructed all of us to vacate the premises.
Earlier, undefeated lightweight Van Oscar Penovaroff (5 wins – 0 losses – 0 draws – 4 kos) of Kailua Kona, Hawaii dropped slick-boxing Kywame Hill (1 win – 3 losses – 1 draw – 0 kos) of Philadelphia in the second round with a jab winning a unanimous four-round decision by scores of 40-35 and 39-36 twice. Penovaroff, a surfer, three-time Hawaiian Golden Gloves champion and veteran of 120 amateur fights, has a style that is perfect for the professional ranks. He exudes patience and works meticulously to the body and head. Hill’s record is an anomaly because his skills far exceed his record. This guy can box and is clever in the ring.
With the passing of his long-time assistant trainer Raymond Munson on his mind, Philly welterweight “Dangerous” Darrell Jones (3 wins – 0 losses – 0 draws – 1 ko) entered the ring as serious as a heart attack to face southpaw Marcus “The Beast” Hall (3 wins – 1 loss – 0 draws – 2 kos) of Rochester, New York. Jones dedicated this fight to Munson, the old man who touched the lives of so many young fighters. Hall who bears an uncanny resemblance to future Hall of Famer, Roy Jones Jr. waited patiently in his corner decked out in a red military-style jacket that would have made Michael Jackson jealous. Gracing his feet was a pair of white Jordan boxing shoes made popular by Jones.
This bout turned out to be a classical chess match with both fighters countering and working off feints. Jones struck gold early with his counter straight right as he circled outside Hall’s lead foot. This move and the occasional stiff jab to the pit of the stomach kept the stronger and chiseled Hall at bay. However, Hall landed a telling right hook and straight left that froze Jones momentarily in round three. Like his idol, Floyd Mayweather Jr., Jones kept his composure and stayed on the outside. The fourth round was as tactical as the previous three with Jones picking his spots judiciously, staying on the outside and countering with the straight right. One judge had it even at 38-38, but was overturned by the other two who had it for Jones 40-36 and 39-37.
Philly junior-lightweight prospect Keenan “Killa” Smith (1 win – 0 losses – 0 draws – 0 kos) won a unanimous decision over tough Rafael Montes ((1 win – 0 losses – 0 draws – 0 kos) of Lawrence, Massachusetts by scores of 39-37 and 40-36 twice. The smaller Montes engaged Smith, but he was outgunned by the bigger man who landed several telling straight lefts from the southpaw stance hurting him on numerous occasions. Montes who weigh 126-pounds should move down to the featherweight division.
The women stole the show tearing the roof off the building as fans cheered raucously throughout the four-round junior middleweight bout between Philadelphia’s Olivia “The Great” Fonseca (3 wins – 2 losses – 2 draws – 2 kos) and Akima Stock (3 wins – 0 losses – 0 draws – 3 kos) of Newark, New Jersey. Fonseca, a stable mate of Ennis and Evans, has never fought a second that didn’t have fans on the edge of their seats. Despite her movie star good looks she loves to fight and is fearless.
The last time Stock, who starred as a point guard on the Newark Science High School basketball team, was at The Blue she fought a no-contest in her second bout with Michelle Garland back in June 2007. The opening round was so ferocious that you got the impression that it was not going the distance. Unfortunately, an accidental head bout in the second round caused a big gash over Garland’s eye and the bout was declared a no-contest. I could hardly wait for the bell to ring.
The bell rung and Stock charged Fonseca
like a bull trying to gore a matador. Fonseca tried to gain
with her jab but Stock got on the inside and went to work. Aesthetically
pleasing, or not, this was turning into a dog fight because the stronger
Stock wasn’t going to allow Fonseca to box at long range. The entire
match was fought at close quarters with Fonseca, her back against the
rope working assiduously like Floyd Mayweather Jr. using the shoulder
roll. The relentless Stock threw punches like Aaron Pryor amped up on
caffeine for four rounds. Two beautiful women engaged in the sweet
science at a break-neck pace providing the fans with total satisfaction.
At the conclusion, the fighters’ faces reflected the heated battle that
was just completed. Fonseca had a small knot high on the left side of
her forehead and Stock sported a red mark under her left eye. The first
judge saw it even at 38-38 while the other two had it for Stock 39-37
It was another exciting night of boxing at The Legendary Blue Horizon celebrating the 65th birthday of The First Lady of Boxing, Vernoca Michael, despite the presence and action of the Philadelphia Department of Licenses and Inspections. The ring card girls Noelle, a senior at Temple University, and Tiffany, a Temple Alum, did their part in keeping the audience focused on the ring and not worried about the heat and our obtrusive visitors. No surprise that trainer Bozy Ennis has been so successful. His fighters grind hard and they shine hard. Joining the birthday celebration were several notable members of the boxing community including matchmaker, Renee “The Boxing Diva” Aiken and son Christion, Jerome “Silky” Jackson, Frank “The Silk” Montgomery, Kevin “Kingpin” Johnson, Al “Ice” Cole, Tommie “Big Poppa” Speller, Rashiem “Rich and Famous” Jefferson, Simon “Punchline” Carr, Maurice “Static” Amaro, Greg Hackett and Kymmberli Stokes, who will be competing June 15- 19th in the Women’s National Golden Gloves in Florida.
Not steeped in the circumstances and facts surrounding the visit by the compliance Gestapo, I can’t begin to address them. However, I question their timing—why wait until fight night? With most neighborhoods in the city filled with Chinese restaurants, many so filthy that the resident roaches wear slippers, you wonder how they are able to pass inspection by L & I. But, I guess The Legendary Blue Horizon and professional boxing are bigger threats to public safety than these poison producing plants disguised as restaurants. See you June 13th at the Hyatt Regency along the Philadelphia waterfront for an evening of boxing featuring Aaron Pryor Jr.
Rest in Peace Muncie.
Continue to support the sweet science, and remember, always carry your mouthpiece!