Greg Brady put a hometown exclamation point on the first pro fight card in a long time in the Buffalo area with a second round dismantling of the previously unbeaten Joel Shojgreen on Thursday night at the Niagara Falls Convention and Event Center.
Brady won his fifth straight fight by kayo and improved to 5-1.
Ever since the Nick Casal and Ruslan Provodnikov ESPN-televised fight card that fell apart unexpectedly in 2012 after Casal was victimized in a brutal golf club attack that put his skull all over the internet, at least two other fight cards have been announced only to be quietly unplugged. A similar fate seemed destined for Nick Casal’s final return to the ring when both headlining bouts fell through this week due to Casal’s and Vincent Arroyo’s out-of-town opponents not gaining medical clearance.
Promoter Mercedes Vazquez-Simmons pushed the show on forward nevertheless and was awarded with a surprisingly good, if abbreviated, show and an appreciative crowd.
Even with the cancellations and mind-numbing deep freeze, turnout was not as big of an issue as expected. (Three ways to know how cold it is: 1. The wall of ice at the bottom of the American Falls is almost three-quarters as high as the falls, 2. My car said it was 8 degrees without the stiff western wind, and 3. the ring girls looked like a different species with the South Beach attire.)
Maybe I arrived too late, because the only press seats available happened to be in a cloud of eau de ring girl. Thirty minutes after the official start time, there was maybe 300 paying customers in the hall with more trickling in when the lights went down for the night’s inaugural bout between two women, marking an unmistakeable contrast of femininity with my seat neighbors.
The women’s junior bantamweight four-rounder found the pride of Standing Rock Boxing Gym in Massena, NY, Michelle Cook overmatching her Louisiana-based opponent Ivana Coleman. Wearing Iroquois Confederacy shorts and representing the Mohawk Nation, Cook scored a third round knockdown and swarmed Coleman after the 8-count and hurt her with the straight right she was landing at will. Coleman came back and landed a few punches in the fourth, but took as good as she gave and certainly not enough to overcome losing the first three rounds.
In the second fight, the vicious right hand of Jesus Gonzalez to the chin folded Niagara Falls High School, Class of ’13, Jake Ventry’s legs into a box under the ropes, scoring a 1:43 minute first round knockout. Ventry was momentarily out cold, and ring announcer Henry “Discombobulating” Jones had to make a point to reassure the crowd that the hometown kid was all right.
Ventry was found fuming with his teenage entourage after the fight, saying “he was through with this crooked-ass sport,” apparently upset that Gonzalez, of a 1-4 pro record, had something like 100 amateur fights in his homelands of Bethlehem, PA.
A junior welterweight match of young unbeatens followed as Emanuel “Pinky” Colón of Buffalo entered the ring with the messianic opening of Marc Anthony’s Vivir Mi Vida, bringing a celebratory atmosphere to ring that included some clowning into his opponent Andre Byrd’s face. The party died down in the first round when Colón landed his first punch, a left hook, right on the button that dropped Byrd. Byrd rose up without much difficulty, but he was snakebitten and wouldn’t be able to shake it. Waiting for his legs to come back or for Pinky’s stamina to calm, Byrd resorted to diving for Colón’s midsection to clinch, grasping around his waist with prayer-hands.
It didn’t make for great fighting, but it disrupted and frustrated the hell out of Colón who took matters into his own hands, using his elbows to keep Byrd off him and offering an intentional butt into Byrd’s left eye. It cost him a point, and Byrd smartly took his time recovering despite the abuse being charged on the Floridian Byrd from the Pinky crowd (Colón, it must be said, was wearing short shorts with one dazzling pink thigh while the rest was white, black and of course Boricua red, white and blue.
In the second, Byrd went back to hugging and running, absorbing a point deduction for holding along the way that didn’t discourage him a bit. Colon’s midsection, pleading for mercy. All kinds of invective being hurled at the Florida fighter, crybaby, pu*sy. Point taken for holding. Byrd running for his life. Colon hurting Byrd with leaping right hand into the tiring fighter at the closing bell of round 2. Colon visibly frustrated by Byrd’s clinching.
A Serbian Buffalo transplant that one ringside observer insisted resembled Rocky Marciano, Milos Pantelic, faced another Floridian in Mike “Concrete” Bissett in a cruiserweight six round action fight. As the first round wore on, Pantelic felt Concrete out and starting finding purchase for power right hands and lefts to the body. The second started with Pantelic wobbling Bissett with a left and Bissett timing a perfect right on the chin as Pantelic was coming in, shocking him to the canvas. Legs visibly woozy, Pantelic endured a vicious body assault while pinned to the neutral corner for a good 1:30 of round two, managing to nod appreciatively at the man doling out the punishment while surviving the round.
After visiting the familiar corner to start round 3 to absorb more punishment from the man with Mississippi tattooed between his shoulder blades, Pantelic mounted a comeback towards the center of the ring that put his man on his heels, winning the round decisively. Visibly tiring, Concrete stumbled through round 4 eventually walking into a Pantelic right hand that hurt him enough to force the third man Paul Brown to stop the fight.
The ersatz main event had to follow and it stole from the same script: short and dramatic. Greg Brady and Joel Shojgreen’s felt each other out in the first, both landing technical points without opening up. In the second, the proverbial hell was loosed almost immediately. Shojgreen came from his corner and landed three consecutive rights, each one landing and the final one knocking Brady’s arse to the canvas.
Brady, giving a classic Buffalo nickname new life in “Juice,” sprang up to give heart to his army of 100 or so in attendance, fighting back furiously and eventually overtaking Shojgreen with short right hook that finally dropped him. After the count, Brady jumped at his chance and swarmed Shojgreen who had no defense left and was sent backpedaling into the bottom of the corner. Some may have given Shojgreen another chance, but referee Charlie Fitch played it cautiously and called it.
At the press conference following the fight, Brady’s admitted he was surprised that Shojgreen dropped him, but his army drowned him out with competing and affirming shouts of joy.