With nine scheduled bouts and a good-sized crowd on hand for promoter Sal Musumuci’s Final Forum Boxing’s inaugural promotional venture into the Big Apple last night all seemed on course for a successful debut.

The return to the ring of Shannon Briggs, Kevin Kelley and Al “Ice” Cole, all New York fight fan favorites, as well as bouts featuring heavyweight prospects Timor and Sultan Ibragimov, would appear to satisfy even the most demanding fight fan.

Unfortunately the fight card was filled with mismatches and included a fighter or two who bewildered the Madison Square Garden crowd as to how they were even able to be granted a license to fight – let alone actually climb into the ring!

It was sad to watch former IBF cruiserweight champion Al “Ice” Cole, now 34-14-3, getting pounded, knocked down and hurt before finally succumbing to Sultan Ibragimov in the evening’s main event. Ibragimov improved his perfect record to 15-0 (13 KOs) with his third round technical knockout victory.

Brownsville native Shannon Briggs delighted the crowd with his brutal second round TKO win over Demetrius King (7-6, 5 KOs).  Briggs last fought on March 6, 2004, scoring a first round TKO over Jeff Pegues. In Manhattan he crushed King with a monster right hand. How King was able to get up and continue was beyond belief – only to sustain more damage before referee Jim Santa stopped the one-sided bout at 1:49 of round two.

It took former World Champion Kevin Kelley eight rounds before he was able to stop the stubborn Felix St. Kitts. Kitts, 12-5-2, was swollen around both eyes and cut over the right eye by the time Kelley knocked Kitts to the canvas in the seventh round. Smelling a knockout the “Flushing Flash” came out firing early in round eight and hurt Kitts with numerous body shots.  With Kelley pounding away referee Steve Willis smartly jumped in to stop the fight at 1:47 in round eight.

The punch of the night belonged to Timor Ibragimov, whose third round overhand right had Ronald Lee Bellamy (14-2-4, 9 KOs) knocked out before he even landed on the canvas. While Bellamy laid motionless on his back, medical personal immediately responded into the ring to stabilize Bellamy and transport the North Carolina fighter to a nearby hospital for observation. Ibragimov improved to 16-0-1, with Bellamy being the Uzbekistan fighter’s tenth knockout victim.

Also on the fight card, local favorite Tim O’Neil suffered a devastating second round TKO loss to Marcus Hicks. Hicks (now 5-2-1 with 2 KOs) dropped O’Neil in the first round and hurt the “Irish Assassin,” whose record dropped to 9-2-3, 5 KOs, with a vicious body attack which crumpled O’Neil late in round two.

Jorge Theron started his pro career in a big way with an impressive first round TKO win over a tough Philly fighter named Darrell Crenshaw. Crenshaw’s corner vehemently complained about the stoppage, which was a proper decision by referee Steve Willis, as Crensaw, now 1-3, was out on his feet.

Brooklyn’s Eddie Mansey also started his pro career on a high note with a four round majority decision victory over the still winless Joe Howard, now 0-4, from Kokomo, Indiana.

Edgar Myers, also from Kokomo, was a cause for concern with the Final Forum fight card. Myers, entering the bout with a 2-10 record (1 KO), should never have been allowed to fight in his condition – especially against potential prospect Derrick Rossy (now 4-0 with 3 KOs).  The 250-pound Myers held his hands below his ample waist, swayed and stumbled instead of bobbing and weaving, and was unable to throw a proper punch. After absorbing the first few Rossy punches, Myers took a knee and somehow lasted the first round. Just 29 seconds into round two, after a few more Rossy power shots, Myers propped himself against the blue corner turnbuckle, waved off the referee and called it a night – actually quitting!  A real black eye for New York boxing.

In the opening bout of the evening Julio Cardenas overpowered John Seme en route to a second round technical knockout victory. Cardenas’ record stays perfect at 7-0 with 2 KOs, while Seme drops to 3-8.

The large crowd proved that New York is still a great fight town. The Madison Square Garden Theater is a perfect venue, and Sal Musumeci’s reputation as a hardworking, give-the-fan-their-money’s-worth style promoter preceded him. We look forward to more Final Forum Boxing fight cards at the Madison Square Garden Theater, but PLEASE leave Edgar Myers, and his kind, back in Kokomo.