It’s not often you have the elite professional prospects of an entire nation — correction — Commonwealth, all fighting at the same venue within a span of forty-eight hours, but that is precisely what took place at the Roseland Ballroom in New York City this past weekend about a dozen or so of Puerto Rico’s best prospects stepped inside the ring.
It has now become a New York City boxing staple that Puerto Rican fighters perform on the weekend of the famed Puerto Rican Day Parade. While it’s a tradition that is still in diapers, it has gained momentum over the last few years; and this year — the names of Miguel Cotto and Juan Manuel Lopez were replaced with lesser known names like Jose Pedraza or Louis Del Valle; prospects.
It’s quite remarkable how a tiny island of less than four million inhabitants continues to pump out world class fighters. Even more remarkable, is when the best young prospects from one of boxing’s hotbeds, fight in the same ring in succession over a span of two nights.
Of course, the top prospects were not squaring off against one another, but nonetheless their skills were on display for anyone who purchased a ticket, or who tuned-in to ESPN’s Friday Night Fights or Showtime’s Shobox.
On the first night, labeled “Boricia Invasion I”, there were two fighters I had a particular interest in watching. The first, Jose “Sniper” Pedraza, who is a twenty-two year old super-featherweight ex-Olympian who is co-promoted by Gary Shaw and Lou DiBella, or should I say Lou Di-Bella — okay, no more hyphens.
I had missed Pedraza’s second professional fight, the first in the United States, a few months earlier. I didn’t want to miss this one.
And it’s a good did thing I didn’t run and take a bathroom break, or even blink for that matter, because I would have certainly missed this one as well. It took only 2:22 for Pedraza to drop his opponent, Tomi Archambault, twice and end the fight. I wrote at the time, “His punches were quick and crisp, powerful and meaningful; and perhaps, most important, he was patient and intelligent.”
When Pedraza smelled blood in the water, he didn’t get overly excited. He didn’t start wailing away at his opponent’s face like so many other young fighters would have done. Instead, he showed the patience and poise of a veteran, when in fact, it was only his third professional bout. Pedraza’s record improved to 3-0 with his third consecutive first round knockout.
Although fans only got to see Pedraza in action for a little over two minutes, they got their money’s worth. For those in the minority who didn’t feel they way and were left with wanting to see a little more, they’ll have their chances…Pedraza is the real deal.
Thomas Dulorme was the other fighter I was eagerly awaiting to see Friday night. He was pitted against veteran gatekeeper, DeMarcus “Chop Chop” Corley in a classic pairing of a young up-and-comer against an aging vet.
Besides the obvious — great speed, good movement, quick hands that pack a punch — there were two wild cards that jumped out at and impressed me. The first, much like Pedraza, was Dulorme’s ring IQ.
Towards the end of the third round, both fighter’s let their hands go at the same time. Dulorme’s left hand reach its’ destination before Corley’s did and just like that, “Chop Chop” was staring at the ceiling. Dulorme didn’t get overly excited, however, and continued on his path to a wide-margined, unanimous decision victory.
It was his patience that led to the other thing that impressed me so much about Dulorme — the fact that he had never been into the fifth round of a fight and suddenly he was in the tenth with “Chop Chop” Corley, beating him around like it was still the first. Granted, it can be agreed upon that “Chop Chop” should exit the game and his best days are so far behind him they aren’t visible from the rearview, it was still an impressive accomplishment for the young Dulorme.
On Saturday night, “Boricua Invasion II”, I was looking forward to watching two more two Puerto Rican born prospects, the 13-0 with 13 KOs Jonathan Gonzalez, and the always exciting, Louis Del Valle.
I had never seen Gonzalez in person before, as he has never ventured up the East Coast prior to Saturday’s scrap, so I was curious to see what all the hype was about. He squared off against hard-hitting Colombian, Richard Gutierrez, in a bout scheduled for ten — though most in attendance never thought we’d actually see the ring card girl holding up double digits.
However, two things became obvious from the get-go. The first was that Gonzalez was a banger (as his record indicated). He hit Gutierrez with everything but the kitchen sink — which leads to the second thing — that Gutierrez has one hell of a chin.
Gonzalez was tested and worked hard for thirty minutes inside the ring. For the sake of his career, it’s probably the best thing for Gonzalez to have his knockout streak stopped so that he can experience what it’s like to fight twenty plus minutes into a bout. To his credit, his punches looked like carried the same force as they did in the early goings, but Gutierrez’s chin continued to live up to its reputation. Although no knockout, consider me among the ‘impressed’ by Gonzalez.
Finally, in the main event, and last fight of the weekend from the Roseland Ballroom, Louis Del Valle squared off against Dat “Be Dat” Nguyen. I’ve seen Del Valle before and was well aware of what he is capable of doing inside the ring against a lesser opponent. Nguyen, however, was not lesser competition — or so we thought heading into the bout.
Turns out, Del Valle continually beat Nguyen to the punch eat time the two engaged in ruthless exchanges. He knew he could take Nguyen’s punches — it’s what allowed him to continually step in harms way to fire off a few good shots of his own.
Del Valle methodically wore Nguyen down to the point where Nguyen spent most of the last three rounds with his back against the ropes, trying to catch a breather that would never be allowed.
It’s important that we remember that these four prospects, all on display within forty-eight hours, are still just that, prospects. None of these fighters are polished — everyone can improve multiple aspects of their fight game.
But all have tremendous upside, so much so that Barack Obama just went to Puerto Rico to discuss them becoming the 51st state. Logic being if they hurry the process along by the time these four are ready for a title shot, if they are successful, we’ll have another American champion….
That is why 44 went to the island, right?
Kyle Kinder can be reached at KyleKinder1@gmail.com or Twitter.com/KyleKinder