NEW YORK– In an inspired bit of showmanship, promoter Lou DiBella engaged Matisyahu, the “Hasidic Reggae sensation,” to trumpet Dmitriy Salita into the ring at the Hammerstein Ballroom Thursday night.
New York State Athletic State Commission chairman Ron Scott Stevens, seated at ringside, could have been forgiven if he looked on enviously. It might have occurred to Stevens, as it did to us, that he might have saved himself a bit of money and considerable embarrassment if he’d hired the Hasidic Reggae Sensation himself, and assigned him to referee all six bouts. It’s difficult to imagine that Matisyahu could have had a worse night than the trio of Joe Cusano, Danny Schiavone, and Mike Ortega.
The evening ended with Salita pummeling Shawn Gallegos around the ring in the ninth round, while trainer Aurelio Martinez stood on the apron, frantically waving white towel in a vain attempt to attract Cusano’s attention. Eventually Cusano, the last man in the building to spot the gesture of surrender, took notice.
“By then my guy couldn’t win a decision, and I just didn’t want him to take any unnecessary damage,” explained Martinez afterward. “What was I up there for? Ten seconds?”
And Cusano’s performance wasn’t even the worst of the night. That distinction went to Schiavone, for his bizarre handling of the preliminary bout between featherweights Rashiem Jefferson and Ulbaldo Olivencia of New York. Olivencia (5-9-2) was probably on his way to a loss to the unbeaten (9-0-1) Philadelphian, when in the fourth round he spun out of a clinch and dropped to one knee. When he rose his left shoulder was hanging from its socket like a rag doll’s, but instead of summoning the ringside physician, Schiavone waved him back into combat.
“It popped out of the socket, and I had to take the knee,” explained Olivencia.
Although the crowd did its best to bring Olivencia’s infirmity to his attention, the referee never did figure it out. Eventually one of the commission doctors leapt into the ring of his own volition and took matters into his own hands.
We must assume that sometime between that bout and his next assignment, the Sechew Powell-Santiago Samaniego co-feature, Stevens took Schiavone to the woodshed, because the referee followed his earlier lapse in judgment by stopping that one in its tracks for no apparent reason.
Powell was supposed to have been matched against Grady Brewer, the Oklahoma middleweight who had him in a world of trouble when they fought in Nevada last year, but Brewer withdrew (“punked out,” claimed DiBella) and Samaniego took the fight on a few days’ notice. The idea was supposed to have been to keep Powell busy, but he’d have probably gotten a better workout had he just run around the block a few times.
Powell (now 17-0) dropped Samaniego in the second round with a right-left-right combination. (Although the third of these was the least consequential, it was the punch that put him down.) Samaniego didn’t throw a punch in anger until the third, and that round, as it turned out, lasted just 36 seconds, as Schiavone attempted to make amends for his earlier gaffe with a quick hook.
“Well, he’d taken a lot of shots,” said Powell, half apologetically. “If (Schiavone) had let it go on, I’d have supported that, too, but you don’t want to see a guy get hurt.”
An ecstatic DiBella seemed prepared to deem the win “a big step up” for Powell, on the grounds that “Samaniego’s fought everybody,” but when a ringsider reminded him that Samaniego (now 36-10-1) hadn’t won in over three years and had now dropped four on the trip, the promoter seemed to revise his estimation of the victory’s consequence.
Powell, said DiBella, would have one more bout in the fall (possibly against Grady Brewer), after which he hopes to match him against a top-five middleweight.
Salita had amassed a 22-0 record going into his fight with Gallegos. The young junior welter’s critics have questioned his punching power, but, possibly inspired by Matisyahu, he brought his ‘A’ game to the Summer Bash edition of DiBella’s Broadway Boxing series.
Gallegos, of Las Vegas, N.M., was a game opponent who brought a 15-0-1 record into New York, and gave the Ukrainian-born Salita some problems in the early going. (As Salita struggled to find his stride, a voice behind the press section bellowed “Come on, Jew Boy!” When I whirled to spot the source of the remark, the guy was wearing a yarmulke.)
In the fifth, a Salita left-right combination toppled Gallegos into his own corner, and a round later, Salita connected with a left hook that sent his opponent staggering backward into the ring ropes and, eventually, onto the floor.
In the ninth Salita was credited with another knockdown when a right hand send Gallegos crashing into the ropes again. Since only the ropes had prevented him from landing on the canvas again, Cusano properly administered a count, but when action resumed it was clear to all save the referee that the fight was over.
The less said about Paulie Malignaggi’s lopsided win over Jeremy Yelton the better. The Brooklyn junior welterweight was fighting for the first time in eight months after undergoing surgical repairs to a damaged right hand. The success of the operation would be difficult to gauge from his performance against the visiting Carolinian, because Paulie only rarely threw it. Not that he threw that many lefts, either: he spent most of the night mugging and posturing for his vocal band of supporters while subduing an overmatched foe.
Although Yelton brought a 17-1 record to the fray, he had, quite literally, never fought a boxer with a winning record and was competing north of the Mason-Dixon Line for the first time in his career. DiBella’s matchmakers probably correctly assessed his ineptitude; the only surprise – to ringsiders – and to Malignaggi himself – was that he wasn’t even worse than he was. Malignaggi, now 20-0, supposedly had a Showtime date lined up pending a win in this fight, but the evidence on display at the Hammerstein suggests that another tune-up might be more in order.
Another of DiBella’s rising neighborhood stars, 15-2 welterweight Edgar Santana of Spanish Harlem, made short work of his Tennessee opponent Donnell Logan, but not without giving another referee a chance for his moment in the spotlight. Santana had begun the second round punishing Logan with a series of hard body shots, and late in the round he connected with one of these followed by an overhand right. The left to the midsection did most of the damage, and Logan was barely able to get to his feet. Ortega, however, was prepared to let the bout go on. Fortunately the bell rang before Santana could inflict further damage, and Logan’s corner did the referee’s job for him by stopping the fight the second the opponent reached his stool. Santana is now 15-2, Logan 8-5-1.
In an earlier bout, Rego Park (NY) light heavyweight Alexander Mancera improved to 2-1 with a fourth-round TKO of Brooklyn’s Moses Jones, who was making his pro debut.
Dmitriy Salita, 139 ¾, Brooklyn, NY TKO’d Shawn Gallegos, 137 ¼, Las Vegas, NM (9)
Paulie Malignaggi, 140, Brooklyn Dec. Jeremy Yelton, 139 ½, Forest City, NC (8)
Sechew Powell, 156, Brooklyn TKO’d Santiago Samaniego, 159 ¼, Panama City, Panama (3)
Alexander Mancera, 175, Rego Park, NY TKO’d Moses Jones, 173, Brooklyn (4)
Edgar Santana, 141 ¾, Spanish Harlem, NY TKO’d Donnell Logan, 140 ½, Covington, Tenn. (2)
Rashiem Jefferson, 125, Philadelphia TKO’d Ulbaldo Olivencia, 123, New York (4)