BOXING IS a sport where past and future converge more often than one might expect, but seldom has that been as obvious as what will happen on Sept. 30 at the National Guard Armory in Northeast Philadelphia.
When welterweights "The New" Ray Robinson (11-2, 4 KOs) and Manuel Guzman (7-12-2, 3 KOs) square off in the eight-round main event, it will mark not only the promotional debut of Brittany Rogers, a 22-year-old Temple student, but the 42nd anniversary of the first card staged by J Russell Peltz. He was a 22-year-old Temple graduate when his marquee bout ended in a first-round knockout for North Philly middleweight sensation Bennie Briscoe over Tito Marshall at the Blue Horizon.
The significant date of what was and what will be, might be enough to cue up the theme music from "The Twilight Zone," but that's not all. Rogers, a senior Sport and Recreation Management major, is an intern with Peltz Boxing Promotions, learning the ropes, as it were, from a veteran of the promotional wars who was inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame in 2004.
"She drinks, eats and sleeps boxing," Peltz said of Rogers, who became interested in the sweet science through her father, former amateur fighter Michael Rogers. "She's 100 percent focused."
All of which reminds Peltz of himself, or at least the long-ago version with the bushy hair and open-collared leisure suits, any remaining photographs of which he'd like to incinerate. Asked if Rogers doesn't fit the prototypical image of a fight fan these days, Peltz laughed and said, "Yeah, she doesn't smoke a cigar."
Peltz, a former Bulletin sports writer who went from cranking out stories about the fights he saw to arranging for those fights to happen, was known as the "Boy Wonder" during and shortly after his coming-out party as a promoter in 1969.
So does that make Rogers Philly boxing's "Girl Wonder"?
"Probably," Peltz replied.
For her part, Rogers is ready to follow in whatever footsteps Peltz has laid down in a business that spits out would-be entrepreneurs who aren't prepared to stay with it. He has seen a lot of them come and go in this town, fly-by-nighters who thought they could become the next Bob Arum or Don King, or even the next J Russell Peltz, as swiftly as it took for Mike Tyson to knock out Michael Spinks.
" 'Girl Wonder?' " Rogers said, trying on the handle for size. "I'll take that."
Make no mistake, Rogers doesn't intend her Armory show to be a one-and-done. She insists she's in it for the long haul, ready to accept the occasional red-ink soaking until her company, BAM Boxing Promotions, becomes established enough to turn the financial corner. Her mentor, Peltz, has told her of his own perilous journey from not knowing where the rent money would come to enshrinement in Canastota, N.Y., a four-decade thrill ride of peaks and valleys.
"I have enough money in the bank to cover everything if the show were to flop," she said. "Really, I would be happy if this first one breaks even. But I'm here, and I'm here to stay."
Rogers got hooked on boxing as a child watching televised bouts alongside her dad, which begot father-daughter outings at many of the locally staged fight cards. Eventually she bugged her dad to take her to the places where fighters learned their craft, and at 16 she became a regular at the Front Street Gym, where she continues to work out.
At Temple, her obsession with boxing perplexed instructors and classmates, most of whom are angling to find employment with franchises in the major team sports. When she landed the internship in May with Peltz and his longtime assistant, Maureen Sacks, it was as if her scholarly approach to boxing had gone from the theoretical to practical application.
"It's been great," she said. "A better experience I couldn't ask for."
Peltz makes it clear that Rogers is no figurehead for the Sept. 30 card. He is furnishing his license for procedural purposes, and probably will continue to do so until such time as Greg Sirb, the executive director of the Pennsylvania State Athletic Commission, determines that Rogers has made her bones. But Peltz said Rogers is serving as her own matchmaker and is doing most of the heavy lifting, as he once did after he had soaked up knowledge from his promotional role model, Herman Taylor.
"Brittany has made a lot of contacts on her own," said Peltz, who noted that the affable, insatiably curious Rogers is the only wannabe promoter he has ever tried to mentor. "She's friendly with a lot of the fighters, especially the younger ones. She and Ray Robinson are good buddies."
There is one other thing she has learned from Peltz, who was taken for granted a lot when he was a kid starting out with limited resources but a lot of moxie.
"I'm learning how not to let people take advantage of me," said the Girl Wonder.
Harrowgate vs. Irish
Members of Kensington's Harrowgate Boxing Club take on a team representing the Holy Family Boxing Club of Belfast, Northern Ireland, tomorrow night, in the Irish Music Tent across from the old Moore's Inlet in North Wildwood, N.J.
The first of 10 bouts, sanctioned by USA Boxing, is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. Advance tickets are $25, and $30 when purchased at the door. For more information call John Gallagher at 215-465-1778 or Harry Huff at 609-729-4350.
Hart off to Baku
Philadelphia's Jesse Hart, who won the U.S. Olympic Boxing Trials in the 165-pound weight class, is in Baku, Azerbaijan, with nine of his teammates for the 2011 AIBA World Boxing Championships that will be held from Sept. 26 through Oct. 5.
Hart must finish among the top 10 at the worlds to qualify for the field at the 2012 Summer Olympics in London.