Holyfield’s Card in Philly a Blast From the Past, Not a Glimpse of the Future

The Real Deal Boxing’s introductory road show rolled into Philadelphia Friday night and rolled right out again, having provided fight fans with more of a nod toward a fondly remembered past than a particularly encouraging glimpse into the company’s immediate future.

Stars? Oh, sure, there were plenty to be seen and gawked over. In addition to Holyfield, the lead promoter, former world champions Larry Holmes, Michael Spinks and Buster Drayton were called into the ring to take their deserved bows, as were Lionel Byarm, the first opponent Holyfield faced in the pros, former heavyweight challenger Bert Cooper and Kevin Howard, a Philly guy who never fought for a title but did have the distinction of having once knocked down a ring-rusty Sugar Ray Leonard. Somewhat surprisingly, Tyrell Biggs and former world champion Meldrick Taylor weren’t in the house at the SugarHouse Casino; native Philadelphians, they not only were U.S. Olympic teammates of Holyfield in 1984, but stablemates of his under the promotional aegis of Main Events.

Any start-up operation, as is The Real Deal Boxing, likely is best served by offering samples of its product as often as possible, and in as many cities as can be arranged. Philadelphia was the fourth stop on the tour, previous cards having been staged in New York City, Louisville, Ky., and Atlanta. Next up: a Feb. 14 date at a yet-to-be-announced site in Jamaica, with yet-to-be-announced fighters.

Maybe, after The Real Deal Boxing signs more accomplished fighters or sufficiently grooms those already in the fold, and if the company’s matchmakers become confident enough to put its representatives into more competitive bouts, Holyfield’s operation will take on a sheen of legitimacy that extends beyond its titular head’s gleaming reputation. What took place at the SugarHouse, however, had an all-too-familiar look – all the house fighters blew through opponents who seemingly were selected for their ability to make Holyfield’s guys look like stone killers. The seven-bout lineup would have stretched out over 42 rounds had they all gone to decisions, but only one did, and of the six knockout-shortened affairs three ended in the first round and another in two rounds.

The scheduled eight-round main event, for something billed as the WBF North American Regional junior lightweight title, whatever that is, saw TRDB signee Steven Ortiz (8-0, 3 KOs), of Philly, not previously known for his punching power, batter Joshua Davis (11-3, 5 KOs) into submission in two rounds, flooring him three times in the second stanza.

A Holyfield client was not in the co-featured bout, but that hardly seemed to matter as welterweight prospect Jaron “Boots” Ennis (18-0, 16 KOs), another Philadelphian, needed only four rounds to stop Mexico’s Gustavo Garibay (13-10-2, 5 KOs), prompting one ringside wag to proclaim that “This Boots is made for whacking.” Ennis looks like he has the stuff to bear further scrutiny, but he needs to be put in with a better grade of opponent so that further proof can be furnished. Garibay is only the seventh man he’s beaten who had a winning record.

Other TRDB fighters being showcased – welterweight Poindexter Knight (2-0, 2 KOs), super middleweight Brandon Robinson (9-1, 7 KOs), middleweight Edgar Berlanga (7-0, 7 KOs) and welterweight Janelson Bocachica (9-0, 6 KOs) – essentially took batting practice on designated victims, with Bocachica’s fifth-round stoppage of Victor Eddy Gaytan (2-4, 1 KO) the only bout that made it through the opening round. Including Ortiz, the Holyfield fighters registered 10 knockdowns in all.

Chunky cruiserweight Kennedy Katende (3-0, 1 KO) – another non-TRDB fighter — was the night’s only winner obliged to go the distance, scoring a six-round unanimous decision over Lyubomyr Pinchuk (4-1, 3 KOs). But even that outcome was never in serious doubt as Katende floored Pinchuk in the first round, winning five rounds on one judge’s card and four on the other two.

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