First Sunday—Aaron Pryor Jr. Stops Willis Lockett
Date: Sunday, June 13, 2010
my homeland, has the most churches per square mile of any country in the
world and the number is growing, according to the Guinness Book of World
Records. Spanning 145 miles east to west and 20 and 50 miles north to
south, the island is about the size of the state of Connecticut. I grew
up going to church like all my friends on the island, and Sunday was
always the day of rest. It was the day that virtually everything was
closed, including local bars. That has somewhat changed but Jamaica is
still practically brought to a standstill on the holy day when compared
to the hustle and bustle of the other six days. Thus, I felt a bit
strange this past Sunday going to the fights with trainer Charles Ramey.
Fed up with the religious hypocrisy of what I call “pimps in the
pulpit,” I rarely attend church, but I still view it as day of
rest—oftentimes I stay home and relax. Driving to the fights, I was
surprised when we passed a church to witness an armed security guard
assisting elder patrons crossing the street. Realizing the perplexed
look on my face, Ramey explained to me that many churches have hired
armed security guards to stand by the door as a deterrent to potential
burglars. What?! I guess there is more comfort in Smith & Wesson than
the Lord. Immediately, I knew going to church would be more risky than
being at the Hyatt on Delaware Avenue—where we were headed to watch
another Don Elbaum card. No robber in his right mind would have the
audacity to “stick up” this show. Having been in boxing since I was
thirteen, everybody knew that nobody messed with Don Elbaum. Nobody!
The main event featured super-middleweight Aaron Pryor Jr. (12 wins – 2 losses – 0 draws – 10 kos) of Cincinnati, Ohio. Pryor at six-feet-four stands in direct contrast to his corner man and legendary father, Hall of Famer and former junior-welterweight champion, Aaron “The Hawk” Pryor, who is a shade shy of six-feet-seven. The younger Pryor has his father’s facial features, but he has the build and length of another great fighter. It is as though God mounted Pryor’s head onto the body of Bob Foster—arguably the greatest light-heavyweight champion ever, to create Aaron Jr. I don’t know if prayer would have helped his opponent— tough Willis “The Prophet” Lockett (12 wins – 9 losses – 5 draws – 5 kos) of Tacoma Park, Maryland, who has competed in every division from super-middleweight to heavyweight. Lockett has failed on only one occasion to make it to the final bell—when he was stopped by 250-pound Javier Mora back in 2005.
Lockett is accustomed to fighting and beating bigger men and did not hesitate to march forward against the string-bean Pryor. This was the wrong tactic, because Pryor drilled him with stiff jabs from the opening round, sidestepping like he was at a wedding reception doing the Electric Slide and then countering with the hard right cross. By the third round, Pryor was in his zone and was landing the right upper-cut with frequency as Lockett tried on several ill-fated attempts to land overhand rights over the tall fighter’s left hand. In the fifth round, Lockett’s overhand right found its mark but had little or no effect on Pryor who kept him at bay with his long left jab. Before the round could close, Pryor snapped Lockett’s head back with a jarring right uppercut that had the cagey veteran holding on. At the start of Round 6 the fat lady was clearing her throat as Pryor served his fading opponent a full-course meal of jabs, uppercuts and straight rights. Referee Esteves deducted a point from Lockett for excessive holding, but you couldn’t blame Lockett, the menu was overwhelming. No surprise when Lockett remained in his corner refusing to come out for the seventh round of the scheduled eight-rounder. Pryor was declared the winner at 3:00 of Round 6.
In the six-round co-main event, cruiserweight Julio Cesar Matthews (9 wins – 0 losses – 0 draws – 5 kos) of Reading, Pennsylvania stuck to his game plan and outdueled Philadelphia’s Garrett “The Ultimate Warrior” Wilson (7 wins – 4 losses – 0 draws – 2 kos) by dropping him in the opening round, winning a unanimous decision by scores of 57-56 twice and 58-55. Based on the first two scores, each fighter won three rounds with the difference being the first stanza in which Matthews was credited with a 10-8 round for the knockdown. Had Wilson not visited the canvas, he would have walked away with a majority draw in a fight in which he exhibited no strategy other than fighting like a bull in a china shop by throwing punches from all angles while being airborne. Wilson came out in the opening round with his hands high walking straight towards his 40-year-old southpaw adversary. Knowing deep down that he could not fight at the pace of the younger fighter, Matthews patiently jabbed while looking for an opening. With about a minute remaining in the round, Wilson walked right into Matthews’ straight left. Seizing the moment, the older fighter swept him off his feet with a crushing right hook and down went Wilson. Hurt, but possessing exceptional recuperative powers, Wilson was up at the count of three and cleared his head by keeping his distance. Matthews knew that there is nothing more dangerous than a wounded fighter and Wilson would have turned into a Tasmanian devil had he sensed that he had to fight for survival.
The remainder of the fight turned into a tactical game of cat and mouse as Matthews kept Wilson at a distance with his pestering southpaw jab as the shorter, squat fighter launched haymakers from all angles. Wilson kept the pressure on the elusive Matthews and had his best moments towards the end of the rounds when he cornered his opponent and went to work. However, Matthews stuck to his fight plan and boxed knowing that it would be detrimental to engage the young gunslinger in a shoot-out. We were afforded a glimpse of what could have happened when Wilson crushed Matthews with a devastating hook with seconds remaining in the fight. Like an octopus grabbing a mollusk, Matthews clutched Wilson until he heard the bell. It’s back to the drawing board for Wilson who has now dropped three in a row of a promising career that began in May 2008 with three consecutive victories and a four-fight win streak prior to this string of losses.
There is an old adage in boxing that records don’t beat fighters—fighters do. This could have not been more evident than in the four-round cruiserweight match between undefeated Patrick “Paddy Boy” Farrell (5 wins – 0 losses – 0 draws – 3 kos) of Jersey City, New Jersey and Kamarah “Black Magic” Pasley (4 wins – 4 losses – 0 draws – 2 kos) of Philadelphia, PA. It is axiomatic that Farrell’s handlers reviewed Pasley’s record and thought this was a sure win for their young upstart. After all, Pasley had not fought in over a year since dropping a unanimous six-round decision to Julio Cesar Matthews back in May of last year. Besides, Pasley, a software sales executive who holds a master of arts in communications, has only two knockouts. In addition, he turned to professional boxing after winning two national Muay Thai championships—he is learning the sweet science on the job and showed more flashes of Michael Jackson than Michael Tyson. The safety-first Pasley is comfortable boxing on his toes, piling up points while evading punishment. What Farrell’s brain trust failed to factor into the equation is that Pasley, an extremely powerful, athletic man with less than three-percent body fat from his endless hours of training packs a punch and is never out of shape. Having seen both fighters on previous occasions, I sensed that Farrell was in trouble and would probably get knocked out.
Perhaps I’m Nostradamus because in the opening round while dancing on his toes Pasley stopped on a dime and delivered some hardware, a well-placed left uppercut that found the tip of Farrell’s chin sending him to the canvas. Farrell rose at the count of three and was hurt. However, instead of moving in for the kill like Mike Tyson, Pasley kept his distance circling like Mikhail Baryshnikov passing on the opportunity to certify me as a prophet. Farrell survived and pressed the action for the next two rounds with Pasley landing his jab and occasional straight left from a distance. Sensing he needed the last round and at the urging of his friend, cruiserweight Simon “Punchline” Carr, Pasley came out busier in the fourth round landing more jabs, shaking up Farrell with the left uppercut, hurting him for the second time. Pasley captured a well-deserved unanimous decision by scores of 38-37 twice and 39-36 leaving us to imagine the fighter he can become if he ever decides to commit to sitting down on his punches by hanging up his dancing shoes. Very few fight fans want to see a big powerful man outpointing his opponents. Boxing is the hurt business.
In a scheduled four-round heavyweight bout Andreas Gustafsson (4 wins – 0 losses – 0 draw – 2 kos) from Norrkoping, Sweden stopped homegrown Pedro Martinez (5 wins – 2 losses – 0 draws – 3 kos) at 1:05 of Round 2. Gustafsson, a filmmaker, who as an amateur defeated current WBA heavyweight champion David Haye was making his second appearance on U.S. soil having fought last February at The Legendary Blue Horizon. Martinez, who usually competes as a cruiserweight, entered the ring at a paunchy 233-pounds, a pound lighter than his opponent, who at six-feet-three towered over him. The taller boxer showed some nifty footwork as he out boxed and outmaneuvered Martinez who came forward forgetting that he was the smaller man. In Round 2, switching intermittently from the orthodox stance to southpaw, Gutafsson slammed a right hook into the side of Martinez’s head that dropped him to the canvas. Up at three and on spaghetti legs Martinez was like a baby chick in the eye scope of a chicken hawk as the Swede swooped in for the kill. A left hook and right cross found their mark as Martinez went down like a sack of potatoes. Referee Esteves didn’t bother to count, calling an end to this one-sided match.
It was an exciting evening of boxing with the first bout starting slightly after 2:00 p.m. Prior to the main event, Ring Announcer Larry Tornambe honored our departed friend and boxing legend Raymond Munson, who passed on May 28th, by tolling the ten-count. Amongst the fight fans enjoying the action were many notable individuals from the boxing community including junior-middleweight Ossie Duran, whose opponent Jerome Ellis failed to make the trip to Philadelphia, the incomparable Harold Lederman, Aaron “The Hawk” Pryor, trainer James Bashir, Jules “Marvel” Edmonds, Elizabeth Sherman, Lawrence Frisby and Simon “Punchline” Carr. In a city plagued by gun violence we now need to get the guns out of churches. Talk about hypocrisy! In the meantime, I will spend my Sundays at home or at another Elbaum boxing show—it’s safer.
Continue to support the sweet science, and remember, always carry your mouthpiece!