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Cletus Seldin Brought the Hammer to the Nassau Coliseum

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  • Cletus Seldin Brought the Hammer to the Nassau Coliseum

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    BY ARNE K. LANG

    The most impressive performance last weekend -- when measured against the level of expectation – was turned in by Cletus Seldin. Fighting at the Nassau Coliseum in an undercard bout that was part of the HBO telecast, Seldin knocked his opponent Roberto Ortiz to the canvas in the first 30 seconds and continued his assault into the third frame when the bout was stopped.

    The 31-year-old junior welterweight brought an undefeated record into his match with the 31-1-2 Ortiz, but that record was deceiving as he had been well coddled. In his most recent fight, Seldin was extended the full distance by Renald Garrido, a feather-fisted Frenchman with a 19-16-2 record.

    The Garrido fight was held at the Paramount Theatre, a nightclub in Huntington, Long Island, where Seldin had built a strong following while compiling a 20-0 (1 ND) record that included 17 knockouts. Prior to meeting Ortiz, Seldin had sixteen of his 21 fights there. He trod the same path as former Paramount house fighter Chris Algieri. Both were local guys the patrons adopted as one of their own as they were climbing up the ladder.

    Seldin attended high school in the town of Shirley on Long Island’s Suffolk County. On the map, Long Island encompasses two counties (Nassau and Suffolk) and two boroughs (Brooklyn and Queens), but the map is at odds with public perception as Long Islander’s don’t consider the city folk in the two boroughs to be part of the entity. There are a few pockets of extreme wealth in Suffolk County (e.g. the Hamptons), but, by and large, it’s a blue-collar county. In the 2016 presidential election, Suffolk went for Donald Trump, unlike neighboring Nassau County whose residents live closer to New York City.

    Suffolk County was considered the hinterland through the first half of the last century. The great Boston Red Sox outfielder Carl Yastrzemski was raised on a potato farm in Suffolk County. But Suffolk County recently inched past more densely populated Nassau County in total population.

    There haven’t been many good boxers to come out of Suffolk County. The best was arguably Brentwood’s James “Buddy” McGirt. Now a prominent trainer, McGirt briefly held the IBF 140-pound world title and retired with a 73-6-1 record. Other notables include Gerry Cooney and the aforementioned Algieri (both from Huntington) and light heavyweight contender Joe Smith Jr. who grew up down the road from Cletus Seldin in Mastic Beach. (Errol Spence Jr. was born in Suffolk County but left as a toddler when his parents moved to the Dallas suburb of DeSoto, Texas.)

    Cletus Seldin is a throwback. His fighting style harks back to Rocky Graziano, which is to say that he is a no-nonsense fighter who seeks to overwhelm his opponents with incessant aggression. He did just that to Roberto Ortiz, a former WBC “Silver” champion whose lone prior defeat came at the hands of Lucas Matthysse.

    Seldin’s boxing trunks are likewise a throwback. They are adorned with the Star of David, congruent with his nickname, the “Hebrew Hammer.”

    At the onset of the Great Depression, Jews were the dominant ethnic group in boxing, at least east of the Mississippi River. It goes without saying that their ranks have been thinned to next-to-nothing.

    Prior to World War I, most Jewish boxers adopted an Irish or ethnically nebulous ring name. Many did so in hopes of hiding their chosen profession from disapproving parents. That all changed when the great lightweight Benny Leonard bubbled into a hot ticket-seller in the early years of the 1920s. Promoters in urban precincts now saw the value in having at least one Jewish fighter on their cards. Fighters who were marginally Jewish such as Max Baer took to accentuating the Jewish strain in their bloodline by wearing the Star of David on their boxing trunks. A few Jewish boxers weren’t Jewish at all. There were several King Solomons, the most prominent of whom was exposed as a gentile from Panama.

    The last native-born Jewish boxer of note was Dana Rosenblatt who defeated the likes of Howard Davis Jr., Glenwood Brown, Terry Norris, and Vinny Pazienza in their second meeting before retiring with a record of 37-1-2. Before Rosenblatt there was Mike Rossman who upset Victor Galindez to win the WBA world light heavyweight title in 1978 and made one successful defense before surrendering the title to Galindez in a rematch. Rossman was the son of Jimmy DiPiano. To improve his marketability, he adopted his mother’s surname and wore the Star of David on his trunks.

    Cletus Seldin had no need to change his name. He is Jewish on his father’s side. His paternal grandfather came out of the Bedford-Stuyvesant section of Brooklyn where he reportedly was the leader of a motorcycle gang.

    Akin to Rosenblatt, who is now a mortgage broker, Seldin does more than wear his Jewishness on his sleeve, or rather on his boxing trunks. “I go to all these little events on Long Island to push the Jewish boxing name that I have right now,” he told a press gathering. He thinks it’s important to make young co-religionists aware of their rich boxing heritage.

    Another thing that makes Seldin unique is his unusual first name. It’s a name, he notes, with a Southern flavor, hardly the sort of name one would associate with a Jewish guy from Long Island. He was named after former New York Yankees third baseman Cletis (note the different spelling) Boyer, a friend of his grandparents. Cletis “Clete” Boyer came from a little town in Missouri near where the “Show Me” state rubs against Oklahoma and Arkansas.

    Seldin’s blowout of Ortiz was reminiscent of Joe Smith Jr.’s smashing one round demolition of Andrzej Fonfara. It was a “W” with the wow factor by a boxer previously thought to be little more than a club fighter. Long Island construction worker Smith, Seldin’s stablemate, went on to emboss his ledger with a second signature win, halting legendary but mildewed Bernard Hopkins before being taken to school by Sullivan Barrera.

    We suspect that Seldin’s career will follow the same path, with him winning at least one more fight in impressive fashion before meeting his Waterloo in a well-paying match with a more skilled opponent. Speaking in 2015, the noted trainer turned TV commentator Teddy Atlas described Seldin as “one-dimensional.” Brawlers can only advance so far unless they own a ferocious left hook and Seldin boxes from an orthodox stance.

    Perhaps this isn’t giving Seldin enough credit. Regardless, at the moment he’s in tall cotton, to purloin an old Southern expression. Middleweight stalwart Daniel Jacobs and the alluring heavyweight Jarrell Miller topped the marquee at the Nassau Coliseum on Nov. 11, but the Hebrew Hammer from Suffolk County stole the show.

    Check out more boxing news on video at The Boxing Channel.

  • #2
    A lot of people are high on Seldin after this performance. But he is what he is. A limited brawler who if well matched can make for some exciting fights but if/when he faces anyone with just a little speed and skills will have major issues. Keep in mind Ortiz had a glossy record but faced questionable opposition. But his one prior loss, to Lucas Matthysse, Oritz fell to what didn't appear to be much of a shot and his chin was a major question coming into this fight. Seldin basically hurt him with anything that landed.

    A couple other thoughts. Seldin is exciting and by far the most exciting fight on Saturday. Also, like I said if well matched we could see some exciting fights involving Seldin. A fight with someone like Marcelino Lopez would make a lot of sense and be a lot of fun for the fans.

    And thinking back on Ortiz, remember he had been scheduled to face Antonio Orozco in September however that fight fell apart the day of the weigh in when Orozco was not even close to the weight. How must Orozco feel blowing that opportunity against an opponent whom he almost certainly would have looked spectacular and catapulted himself to a big fight in 201?

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    • #3
      Dan Rafael of ESPN is reporting that there is a strong possibility that Seldin will face Yves Ulysse Jr. on the undercard of Lemieux-Saunders in a bout that would be televised by HBO.

      When I was in Verona for Lemieux-Stevens, Ulysse fought on the undercard against Zachary Ochoa. Peter Nelson of HBO came to press row and told several of us to keep an eye on Ulysse. He liked him a lot and with an impressive performance hoped to get him on HBO. So the pairing of Seldin and Ulysse makes sense in this regard.

      Ulysse is coming off a loss a split decision loss to Steve Claggett. But that said, he is a skilled boxer puncher with quick hands and works behind a telephone pole like jab. This is a tough match for Seldin and my feeling is with how enamored Nelson was with Ulysse in Verona that Nelson sees this as a chance to showcase Ulysse against a guy that has a lot of buzz going. I think Ulysse will dominate Seldin and pick up some big time momentum himself going into 2018 if the rumored fight comes together.

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      • #4
        Not impressed buy Seldin, nor an I enamored by his corn ball theatrics playing to the crowd. He reminds me of a poor man's Johnny Verdorosa and will be waxed sooner rather than later by someone who can throw a decent uppercut as the Hammer wades in with his chin a perfect target.

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        • #5
          HBO just formally announced Antoine Douglas-Gary "Spike" O'Sullivan as the co-feature. Apparently, Seldin-Ulysse is still possible and could make the telecast a tripleheader.

          Douglas-O'Sullivan continues in the series of uncharacteristic bouts for HBO to be airing at the conclusion on 2017. Uncharacteristic in that the network has long taken a stance against these type of bouts which though fairly competitive on paper do not feature the elites of the sport that the network has typically focused. Neither Dougals or O'Sullivan would be characterized today as to 10 middleweights. But that said, it is a solid mid level type fight with the winner vaulting to the skirts of the top 10 at 160. And stylistically, interesting match with the quicker more athletic Douglas against a more aggressive but less skilled and athletic O'Sullivan. But O'Sullivan will bring it to Douglas and the only loss on the resume of Douglas was to another aggressive fighter in Avtandil Khurtsidze. Interesting fight and interesting again that HBO picked it up...

          Could it be money left in the budget to the spent or a new direction they are headed in their broadcasting of the sport?

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          • #6
            Ted, I missed Seldin's fight....gotta YouTube it.

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