PUERTO RICAN pride, or how that pride translates to the island's deep and abiding love of boxing, is not or should not be restricted to New York City. That is the genesis for the "Puerto Rican Boxing Classic," which will be staged Friday night at the 2300 Arena in South Philadelphia.
The seven-fight card, with each bout featuring a Philly- or South Jersey-based Puerto Rican fighter, is topped by a scheduled eight-rounder pitting Camden junior lightweight Jason Sosa (17-1-3, 13 KOs), who is ranked 10th by the IBF, and Jorge Pazos (14-8-1, 8 KOs), of Guamuchil, Mexico.
Hall of Fame promoter J Russell Peltz, who is co-promoting the event with Top Rank, credits Michelle Rosado, CEO of Raging Babe, with coming up with the idea, which takes place two days before the Puerto Rican Day Parade in Philadelphia and is reminiscent of the many such fight cards in New York, featuring such headliners as Felix Trinidad and Miguel Cotto.
"Those cards sell out," Rosado, a Bristol Township native of Puerto Rican descent who has come back to the area after spending several years staging boxing shows in Phoenix, said of those Big Apple extravaganzas. "It's always a large, energetic crowd, and the parade is always a day or so later. We (Peltz and Brittany Rogers of BAM Promotions) originally thought about putting on a (Puerto Rican-laden) card in August, but nobody was up for a summer show, because so many people are going to the shore or are on vacation.
"One day, I said, 'Why don't we do something to tie in with Puerto Rican Day weekend in Philly, like they do in New York? It's a proven recipe. It works.' "
Early signs are that the salsa-spiced recipe is working here, too. A sellout crowd, or close to it, in the 1,300-seat arena is expected.
"I already knew Philadelphia had a high population of Puerto Ricans, but after I did a little research, I found out we have the third-highest number of Puerto Ricans in the country here (behind only New York and Chicago)," Rosado said. "The demographics are in place and Russell already had seven or eight Puerto Rican fighters under contract, so it makes total sense."
Another Peltz co-promotion with Top Rank, back on Dec. 13, drew a capacity crowd to the 2300 Arena, with Felix Verdejo, a popular, world-rated lightweight who was born in San Juan, Puerto Rico, and still resides there, proving an even bigger draw than the attraction in the co-featured bout, super middleweight Jesse Hart, despite the fact that Hart is from North Philly and is the son of former middleweight contender Eugene "Cyclone" Hart.
Sosa, 27, is not yet a superstar on the level of a Trinidad or Cotto, or even the fast-rising Verdejo, but Rosado calls him a "little hot ticket right now" who figures to be sustainable main-event material with Latino fans in what could become an annual event.
"We want this to become an every-year tradition here, not a one-and-done," Rosado said with the optimism of someone who has glimpsed the future and likes what she sees.
8th annual Briscoes
John DiSanto, founder of PhillyBoxingHistory.com, had an idea - well, actually two ideas - back in 2007. He wanted to do something to celebrate the career of his favorite Philly fighter, former middleweight contender "Bad" Bennie Briscoe, but he also wanted to recognize the achievements of local fighters of the present.
What DiSanto did was to combine those laudable goals, the result being the Briscoe Awards, now in their eighth year, which will be presented before a record crowd on Oct. 18 in the Victory Beer Hall at Xfinity Live!
After DiSanto sought and obtained the blessing of Briscoe to create a small statue in his likeness, the first Briscoes were presented in 2008 at the Veteran Boxers Association Ring 1 clubhouse in Port Richmond. The Briscoes have become so prestigious that this year's event (which is free and open to the public) had to be relocated to a larger venue. DiSanto expects 500-plus attendees to be on hand when heavyweight contender Bryant Jennings receives his Briscoe as the Philly Fighter of the Year for 2014.
Other Briscoes will go to Steve Cunningham and Amir Mansour (Fight of the Year); Cunningham (Performance of the Year); Mansour (Knockout of the Year); Ray Robinson (Prospect of the Year); Milton Santiago (Rookie of the Year); Joey Dawejko (Breakout Fighter of the Year); Darmani Rock (Amateur of the Year) and Taneal Goyco (Upset of the Year). Other award recipients are Kennedy Cunningham, daughter of Steve (honorary Briscoe medal) and Jaron Ennis (the Everett Brothers Award).
"It's especially gratifying to hear the next generation of fighters say how they want to win a Briscoe Award," DiSanto said. "I certainly wanted to acknowledge what's going on with the current Philly fight scene, but a big part of it is also doing something to ensure that Bennie (who was 67 when he died on Dec. 28, 2010) is remembered.
"Those who actually saw him fight are getting older and older. He's not mentioned in the same breath with Bernard Hopkins and Joe Frazier, but there are some of us who would argue, great as those guys are, Bennie was right there with them. These awards help maintain his legacy."
Mansour fights Oct. 13
Five days before he receives his pair of Briscoes, 43-year-old heavyweight Amir Mansour (22-1, 16 KOs) will try to make his case for getting another one next year when he takes on Gerald Washington (16-0, 11 KOs) on Oct. 16 in Shelton, Wash. The scheduled 10-rounder is the main event of a fight card to be televised by Fox Sports 1.
It will be the second ring appearance of the year for Mansour, who scored a unanimous, 10-round decision over Joey Dawejko on May 8 at the 2300 Arena his last time out.