NEW YORK — Unlike, say, NFL halftime shows, boxing cards rarely play out the way they were planned on the drawing board, but when it came to Lou DiBella’s Broadway Boxing card at the Manhattan Center Thursday night, nothing was going according to plan.

Sometime between Tuesday’s press conference and Wednesday’s weigh-in, Dmitriy Salita’s main event opponent James Wayka was arrested and tossed into a Minnesota jail for failure to pay child support, and when the bell rang for the first bout Thursday night Shad Howard, the substitute who had agreed to replace the incarcerated Wayka on short notice, was still in an airplane somewhere over Indiana, his flight to New York having been delayed by weather conditions in the Midwest.

Howard’s tardy arrival at LaGuardia was actually a blessing in disguise for DiBella, who found himself entertaining so many questions about the missing opponent that few thought to ask how a 31-year-old man coming off five straight losses could be fighting for a WBC ‘Youth’ title on the undercard.

But as a British heavyweight named Shakespeare once pointed out, all’s well that ends well. Not only did Howard arrive in time to serve as the foil for Salita’s first convincing win in nearly a year, but Marcos Primera climbed off the floor following a devastating sixth-round low blow to fashion a stunning upset of previously unbeaten Curtis Stevens in the co-feature.

After Salita had struggled mightily in his last two bouts – a very dubious draw against Ramon Montana on the March 18 Hasim Rahman-James Toney undercard in Atlantic City and a closer-than-it-should-have-been December decision over Robert Frankel in New York – the decision was made to replace trainer Hector Roca with Harry Keitt.

Until the past couple of years Keitt was primarily an amateur trainer, but his reputation, acquired through his work with Irish middleweights John Duddy and James Moore, has grown. Keitt had actually worked with Salita as an amateur five years ago, coaching him to a win in an under-19 tournament, and hoped to restore his confidence by taking him back to the basics.

How much difference Keitt made in the corner this time may remain unlearned, but Salita’s handlers had to like the result.

Salita easily controlled the first two rounds against his jet-lagged opponent, but was rocked by a good right hand in the third. Then, in the fourth, referee Pete Santiago, who had already warned the Star of David once after a punch had strayed below the beltline, briefly brought Howard back into the bout when he docked Salita a point for a punch off the break – a right to the body that had sent Howard down.

Salita pressed on with an effective, two-fisted body attack, though at this point the tactic might have seemed unwise and even a bit dangerous, given the fact that he was already on thin ice with the referee. Many of Salita’s more effective punches appeared to land just above the belt-line, and Howard appeared on more than one occasion to look beseechingly in Santiago’s direction.

Salita landed at least one punch to the head, though, because during the sixth Santiago abruptly called ‘time’ and led Howard back to the corner, where he summoned the ringside physician, Dr. Linda Dahl, to examine the dazed Howard.

Blood was oozing from Shad’s left ear, but before the doctor could fully examine the wound Howard’s cornermen were signaling Santiago to stop it. The end officially came at 1:42 of the sixth. Salita is now 25-0-1. Howard 12-8-3, but at least Shad got a bunch of frequent flyer miles out of the deal.

At least Howard had an excuse for barely showing up. For five rounds it appeared that Primera’s intent was to barely go through the motions, collect his paycheck, and get out of town with his sixth loss on the trot.

But in the sixth, the Venezuelan apparently wearied of serving as a punching bag for a man ten years his junior and for the first time appeared to be interested in fighting. Firing away with wide hooks and straight jabs, he backed Stevens into the ropes and was in the midst of mounting a serious attack when Stevens, in desperation, lashed out with a short right that caught Primera squarely in the protective cup.

Marcos pitched forward and proceeded to roll around the floor in agony for over a minute. Referee Randy Neumann ruled the low blow to have been ‘unintentional’ – it’s hard to imagine that it could have been – and deducted a single point, although he could have taken two or even disqualified Stevens.

Stevens’ Brownsville supporters howled that Primera’s display of pain was an act, but as it turned out it was all too real: The punch to the nuts actually did considerable damage, and after the fight Primera was taken by ambulance to a local hospital to be treated for what Dr. Dahl delicately described as a “traumatic hernia.”

Since Primera’s swoon had carried well beyond the bell ending the sixth, the bout resumed in the seventh after an appropriate period of recovery for the Venezuelan. Stevens once again asserted command during this stanza, and, leading by seven, four, and three points on the official cards, appeared to have the bout in hand when the final round commenced.

A minute into the eighth, Primera ignored his discomfort long enough to wade right into Stevens, and then surprised him by connecting with a solid right uppercut. Stunned, Stevens slid to the floor, but was up to take Neumann’s mandatory eight-count.

But when action resumed only one man was fighting, and that was Primera. As Primera charged ahead, desperately throwing punches, Stevens not only didn’t fight back, he made no attempt to defend himself, leaving Neumann little choice but to take him into protective custody at 1:24 of the round.

Neumann still had Stevens in his embrace when the first cup of ice came sailing into the ring from the Brownsville rooting section, and bedlam shortly ensued. Outraged by the stoppage, Stevens attempted to charge after the referee, and was joined in his pursuit by several members of his posse. When Neumann finally took his leave of the premises, it was under escort from security personnel.

“I have no problem with the stoppage,” said DiBella. “The punches weren’t doing that much damage, but Curtis should have just grabbed him and he didn’t. When he doesn’t fight back, he doesn’t leave the referee much choice.”

The promoter has already proposed an October rematch, but that decision may have to be based upon the recuperative powers of Primera’s substantial cojones.

When Primera was taken away in the ambulance, by the way, he departed without the WBC Youth Belt. Joe Dwyer, Los Bandidos’ supervisor, explained that Marcos hadn’t actually been eligible to win it anyway, having been nine years over the age limit.

Does that mean Jose Suliaman will offer to refund the sanctioning fee?

It was the first loss for Stevens, now 13-1, while Primera improved to 20-15-2.

Former Boston College defensive lineman – and reigning New York State heavyweight champion – Derrick Rossy earned a unanimous decision over Flint (Mich.) journeyman Demetrice King (9-14) to remain unbeaten at 12-0.

King had enjoyed a good second round that appeared to have brought him back into the fight, and had bloodied Rossy’s nose early in the third, only to have Rossy deck him with an explosive short right. King hit the deck with such force that it sounded as if the 262-pound opponent had been dropped from the ceiling.

Rossy, as it turned out, broke the middle finger on his right hand in delivering the knockdown punch, but he battled on to win handily by scores of 59-54 (Bob Gilson) and 58-55 (Steve Epstien and Luis Rivera) twice. The Sweet Science also scored it 58-55 for Rossy.

This was also supposed to be the evening Prenice Brewer took Broadway by storm, but Roberto Acevedo had other ideas. Brewer, the National Golden Gloves champion, was making his professional debut, as was Acevedo, a rugged southpaw from Moca, Puerto Rico, and while Brewer had a clear edge in speed, Acevedo was repeatedly able to tag him with an excellent repertoire of counterpunches.

Although Acevedo was cut along the left eyebrow early in the second round, it became apparent that this one was likely to go right down to the wire, and it did, with the judges splitting three ways: Epstein had it 39-37 for Brewer, Rivera had the same score in Acevedo’s favor, while Robert Perez had it even at 38-38, as did the SweetScience card.

The verdict allowed both participants to remain undefeated as they moved on toward their next bout – which, it turns out, will be against each other. Before the ring had even been cleared, DiBella had secured the agreement of the participants to meet in a rematch on his next Broadway Boxing card, Sept. 20 at the Hammerstein Ballroom.

In a women’s bout, Bronx featherweight Maureen Shea ran her unbeaten (officially, anyway; a May loss to Kim Colbert was expunged after the latter tested positive for marijuana) record to 6-0 with a one-sided victory over Canadian Olga Heron (4-6). Both Gilson and Epstein had it a shutout for Shea at 60-54, while Perez gave Heron a round in scoring it 59-54.

Brooklyn junior middleweight Jamelle Howard had an easy night of it, scoring a first-round TKO over an overmatched Delbert Somerville, who was rescued by  Santiago 2:25 into their scheduled four-rounder. Howard is now 2-0, Somerville 1-1.

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July 20, 2006

WELTERWEIGHTS: Dmitriy Salita,146, Odessa, Ukraine TKO’d Shad Howard, 146, Russellville, Mo. (6)

HEAVYWEIGHTS: Derrick Rossy, 248, Medford, NY dec. Demetrice King, 262, Flint, Mich. (6)

SUPER MIDDLEWEIGHTS: Marcos Primera, 164½, Puerto Cabello, Venez. TKO’d Curtis Stevens, 164½, Brooklyn, NY (8)
JUNIOR MIDDLES: Jamelle Hamilton, 152, Brooklyn, NY TKO’d Delbert Sommerville, 150, Akron, Ohio (1)

JUNIOR WELTERS: Roberto Acevedo, 136, Moca, PR drew with Prenice Brewer, 136½, Cleveland, Ohio (4)

FEATHERWEIGHTS: Maureen Shea, 128, Bronx, NY dec. Olga Heron, 126, Toronto, Ont. (6)