British-Ghanian Mighty-Mite Isaac Dogboe Makes a Big Splash in Philly

PHILADELPHIA – At 5-foot-2 (according to BoxRec.com) or 5-3 (ESPN) and a tightly coiled 121.1 pounds, London resident Isaac Dogboe might actually be a bit too large to ride the winning mount in the Epsom Derby. Fortunately, the Ghanian-born Dogboe is a fighter, not a jockey. And if his performance in wresting the WBO super bantamweight championship from Jessie Magdaleno on a highly entertaining 11th-round stoppage is any indication, Dogboe is not too small to possibly become the next really big thing in boxing.

Floored for the first time as a pro in the opening round of the ESPN-televised main event here Saturday night at the Liacouras Center on the Temple University campus, Dogboe (19-0, 13 KOs) settled down and registered three knockdowns of his own, two coming in the decisive 11th round, the second of which prompted referee Benjy Esteves Jr. to protectively wrap his arms around the clearly buzzed Magdaleno (25-1, 18 KOs). The end came after an elapsed time of 1 minute, 18 seconds, with Dogboe up on all three official scorecards and pulling away by respective margins of 97-91, 96-91 and 95-93.

“Tonight he proved that he was the goods,” Top Rank founder Bob Arum, 86, who once had an aversion to signing fighters of Dogboe’s slight dimensions, said of the 23-year-old power puncher whose dreams of what is yet to come are of heavyweight proportions. “I thought, `Oh, s—,’ in the first round when Jessie knocked him down. Here’s a guy who came kind of under false pretenses and he’s going to get destroyed. But he got back into the fight and he was clearly winning when he knocked Jessie out.

“He’s a terrific talent, a terrific attraction because he’s an action fighter.”

Sort of like the sense of revelation that came over Arum, who once had to be coaxed by members of his Top Rank staff into signing future world light flyweight champion Michael Carbajal, when he reaped major rewards with a later diminutive signee, a guy by the name of Manny Pacquiao. “Pac Man” grew into a monstrous worldwide sensation, and grew in other ways, too, becoming the first boxer to win world titles in eight weight classes, from flyweight to welterweight.

A version of the Pacquiao saga could be played out by Dogboe, who claimed he so enjoyed his two-week visit to Philly that he jokingly said he just might have to relocate to here. He didn’t get around to posing in front of the Rocky statue at the foot of the Art Museum, a must for all boxing-loving tourists, but he said there was one local attraction he wanted to take advantage of before he left the city on Monday.

“I’ve fallen in love with the place,” Dogboe said of his impressions of a town made famous by Joe Frazier, Bernard Hopkins and, oh, maybe some guy named Benjamin Franklin. “I just want someone to point me to the cheesesteak area, you know? I heard a lot about those things. I’m going to have to try one before I leave.”

No wonder Arum was talking about Dogboe soon moving up to 126 pounds and, who knows, maybe 130 or 135 if he truly develops a fondness for Philadelphia’s high-calorie signature sandwich. But at any weight, Dogboe would seem to be a fighter with significant growth potential in a financial sense. Action fighters with the requisite skill set have a tendency to quickly gain in popularity, and the reaction to him from the disappointingly small crowd – an announced attendance of just 3,727, when between 4,000 and 5,000 had been expected – suggested that Dogboe could legitimately headline another card here without the support of several well-known Philly fighters appearing in preliminary bouts.

Then again, Dogboe and his Svengali of a father, Paul Dogboe, figure they soon will be able to take their show just about anywhere and draw a crowd.

“The aim is to become a global icon – the first pay-per-view mega-superstar to come out of Africa,” said Dogboe, who represented Ghana at the 2012 London Olympics and at 17 was the youngest boxer in the field. “Already I believe we are on that road. It’s been a hell of a ride. We just need to keep working hard.”

The immediate benchmark for Dogboe to attempt to match and possibly surpass is the greatest of Ghanaian fighters, three-division world titlist Azumah Nelson, 59, a 2004 inductee into the International Boxing Hall of Fame.  Such a comparison is obviously premature, but the victory over Magdaleno is one small step a step in that direction.

“I just want to shake up the division,” Dogboe said. “I want to unify the division and do bigger and better things.”

In other bouts of import on the nine-fight card:

Jesse Hart TKO7 Demond Nicholson

 In the second of the three televised bouts and the lead-in to Magdaleno-Dogboe, North Philadelphia’s Hart (24-1, 20 KOs), the WBO’s No. 1-rated super middleweight contender and the son of Eugene “Cyclone” Hart, whose sledgehammer left hook in the 1970s was Philly’s middleweight equivalent of heavyweight Joe Frazier’s primary weapon, stopped Nicholson (18-3-1, 17 KOs) in the seventh round of a fight that was tainted by the bizarre actions of referee Shawn Clark.

Perhaps overly jacked by performing by a supportive hometown crowd, Hart – who left the ring with his newly acquired NABF 168-pound belt, for whatever that is worth – dropped Nicholson with a right hand to the top of the head in the seventh round. Nicholson went down to his haunches, both gloves touching the canvas. It should have been scored a knockdown by Clark, who failed to do so.

That strange turn of events got even stranger when Hart rushed in to finish off Nicholson, who again went down. Clark, counting slow, made it to eight – it seemed more like nine in real time – and then, for reasons known only to himself, stopped counting and asked the kneeling Nicholson to get up and go back to fighting. “Put your hands up. C’mon. Get up,” Clark implored Clark, with no response.

Instead of tolling two more seconds and awarding Hart a knockout, Clark told the noncompliant Nicholson, “You done? That’s it, man.” Hart instead was announced as a winner by TKO.“He was quitting,” Hart said of Nicholson. “He submitted. When a man turns his back on you and starts to walk away, I think that’s a sign of submission. I made him quit. If you want to fight, you stand up and fight like a man.”

Bryant Jennings UD10 Joey Dawejko

The fight for the vacant Pennsylvania heavyweight title – the winner of which would come away with a shiny trophy larger than the one the Philadelphia Eagles got for winning Super Bowl LII – turned out to be something less than the barnburner predicted by some, a bit of a disappointment for the supposed “real” main event of the night in terms of local interest.

Jennings (23-2, 13 KOs), the North Philadelphian who went the  distance with unified heavyweight champ Wladimir Klitschko on April 25, 2015, used a stinging left jab to put distance between himself and the shorter, squatty Dawejko (19-5-4, 11 KOs). Jennings won eight of the 10 rounds on all three judges’ scorecards, a 98-92 sweep to take his fourth straight victory on the comeback trail and stay in the conversation for another shot at some version of the heavyweight title.

“That’s pretty much the Joey I expected,” Jennings said of fellow Philadelphian Dawejko, who hails from the Tacony section. “There was a lot of hesitation from the both of us. As many prayers as he launched, he didn’t really land any. Joey has thick legs, and I was just trying to be cautions and net get caught with some desperate shot. I knew going into the eighth, ninth and 10th rounds that I was winning.”

Shakur Stevenson TKO2 Patrick Riley

A silver medalist for the United States at the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics, Stevenson had been criticized in some quarters for failing to end too many of his early professional bouts with exclamation points instead of periods. He won only two of his first five fights inside the distance, necessitating a change to a more aggressive and fan-friendly approach designed to hike his knockout ratio.

Mission accomplished as Stevenson (6-0, 3 KOs), an obviously gifted southpaw from Newark, N.J., stopped the previously undefeated Riley (12-1, 6 KOs).

“We’ve really been focused on working on my power,” Stevenson said. “No one’s been on my side when I was going the distance. Now they’ll be on my side. They said I was overrated. People have been sleeping on me, but I believe that I’m the best prospect in boxing.”

Christian Carto UD8 Edwin Rodriguez

Only 21, Carto (15-0, 11 KOs), the popular bantamweight from South Philly, is being groomed for main-event status locally. He was extended a bit more than his fans might have preferred by Puerto Rico’s Rodriguez (8-5-1, 4 KOs), but he got in some needed rounds and showed flashes of the form that have stamped him as a fighter to watch in the 118-pound weight class.

Robson Conceicao UD6 Alex Rynn Torres

 Conceicao (7-0, 4 KOs), a gold medalist for Brazil in the Rio Olympics, was efficient in pitching a six-round shutout at Torres in their super featherweight bout.

Photo credit: Mikey Williams / Top Rank

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