Several popular New York-area fighters will be showcased on Thursday, October 19, at the Plattdeutsche Park restaurant in Franklin Square, Long Island, New York.
The seven bout card is being promoted by Bob Duffy and Tony Mazzarella’s Ring Promotions, and is headlined by undefeated middleweight sensation Pawal Wolak, a resident of Brooklyn by way of Debica, Poland. Besides a night of great boxing, legendary referee Arthur Mercante Sr., who lives in nearby Garden City, will be feted.
Among the organizations and individuals expected to be in attendance or sending emissaries to laud Mercante him are Long Island Congressman Peter King, WBC President Jose Sulaiman, and the New York City Sergeants Benevolent Association, which is the fifth largest police union in the country. For many years, Mercante and the late cutman Al Gavin volunteered their time to teach police recruits the rudiments of self-defense.
The Polish press has been giving Wolak massive coverage over the past few days, so a large contingent of his countrymen is expected to be in attendance. The 25-year-old graduate of Berkeley College in Manhattan who boasts a 10-0 (6 KOS) record, will be squaring off against Jose Felix, 10-4-2 (3 KOS), a rugged journeyman who now lives in Albuquerque, New Mexico.
There are two female boxers on the show who have as much to gain as they have to lose.
Middleweight Aasa Sandell, a native of Orebro, Sweden, who now lives in New York, will put her 3-3-1 (2 KOS) record on the line against Cimberly Harris, 3-7 (0 KOS), of Tampa, Florida, in a six-rounder.
In the other female bout, highly touted Jaime McGrath of Eastport, Long Island, pits her 1-0 (0 KOS) record against Camella Parker of Orlando, Florida, who is winless in five bouts, in a four-round contest.
“I’m looking forward to getting back on the winning track,” said the stunningly beautiful, 39-year-old Sandell, who gave a very good account of herself before being stopped by Laila Ali in the fifth round in Berlin last December.
In her lone fight since then, she was shockingly stopped in the second round by Ljeoma Egbunine, who was 11-1 (8 KOS), in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, on June 17.
“This is the first time I’m fighting at my perfect weight,” said the extremely fit looking and streamlined Sandell, who weighed in just under 160 pounds. “In the past I’ve fought above my weight, which was not good.
“What happened in North Carolina was horrible, the worst scenario,” she added. “But I got over it. I don’t dwell on bad things.”
Sandell, who is a journalist by trade, returned to her native country to recharge her batteries for about a month. Upon returning to New York, she trained harder than ever at Gleason’s Gym, continued writing three or four general interest columns a month for Sweden’s Helsingborg Dagblad, a daily newspaper, and refused to give up on her dream of becoming a world-class fighter. In pursuit of that dream, the biggest obstacle, she says, was giving up pasta because she is a self-described “pastaholic.”
Besides winning a world title some day, she would like to fight in Sweden, where pro boxing is currently outlawed. Although boxing is not very popular in that country, Sandell is an immensely popular athlete there.
Several media outlets will be on hand, as they usually are, for the Harris fight.
“I believe that by next year boxing will be legal in Sweden,” said Sandell. “I really hope to fight there someday. When I started on this journey (boxing), I never thought it would happen (fighting in Sweden). But if it does, that would be really cool. I would love it.”
Although the 112-pound McGrath won a four round decision in her pro debut in May 2005, her career has had anything but an auspicious start.
A resident of Long Island’s East End, she has a large fan following, many of whom bought tickets in advance to the numerous fights she’s had scheduled since her debut.
However, one prospective opponent showed up pregnant at the weigh-in, another failed her eye test, and several others had an array of conditions that precluded them from competing.
“This time I told all my friends to buy their tickets at the door,” laughed the good-natured 29-year-old McGrath, 1-0, who is the married mother of a beautiful four-year-old daughter named Samantha Judith. McGrath’s husband is a Suffolk County police officer assigned to the Aviation Bureau as a helicopter pilot.
(As an aside, one dark stormy, winter night about three years ago, while driving on Long Island’s East End, I got a flat tire on a deserted stretch of road. The weather was so inclement and the sky so dark, I couldn’t even find the lug nuts before my hands would freeze to the lug wrench.
Adding to my woes was the fact that the area was so deserted, my cell phone was useless.
Numerous cars passed me by, none of which stopped to lend a hand. Finally a benevolent soul pulled up and shined his lights so I could see what I was doing. He even got out of his car to offer assistance.
He never identified himself as an off-duty police officer, but I recognized the uniform pants under a long winter coat and assumed he was coming home after a 4×12 shift.
I asked if he was a cop and he said he was. Being recently retired myself, we got to talking. He said his name was John Venturo, and he had left the NYPD a few years earlier for a higher paying department in the suburbs. He seemed like a wonderful guy, and I was touched by his kindness and his humility.
Several years later, I was interviewing McGrath before her pro debut. She told me her husband was a cop. When she told me his last name was Venturo, I immediately recalled his wonderful act of kindness.
She even remembered him telling her about the incident. What made the experience so special to me was the fact that Venturo had no idea he was helping a fellow cop when he stopped to render assistance. Moreover, he had no intention of identifying himself as one at any time.
The motto is this: The McGrath/Venturos are wonderful people. While they might be each other’s biggest fans, I am their biggest fan.)
Back to the issue at hand: McGrath is thrilled that her opponent showed up for this fight. She and her promoter, Frank G., who runs the Academy of Boxing gym in Huntington, Long Island, plan a busy itinerary if she dispatches Parker.
”This girl is a future champion,” said Frankie G., the husband of former female champion Kathy “Wildcat” Collins, who is never at a loss for words. “With all of the postponements, the last year and a half has been tough. But this is the beginning of something good. It’s a long time coming, but good things are going to happen.”
Other four round bouts include:
Cruiserweights: Rafal Jastrezbski of Poland vs. Naser M. Aly of Brooklyn via Cairo, Egypt.
Light heavyweights: Denys Losado, Brooklyn, vs. Karim Shabbazz, Zaire, and
Joel Castillo from the Bronx, vs. Steve Marcantonio, Rahway, New Jersey.
Middleweights: James Singleton, Geneva, New York, vs. Mike Ciccone from New Brunswick, New Jersey.