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Bantamweight Christian Carto Gives Fans Another Sweet Treat at the SugarHouse

Bernard Fernandez

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PHILADELPHIA – There are certain flavors – like, say, scrapple for breakfast – that are more accepted and even favored here than in other places, where they have yet to become acquired tastes, and might never be.

The same might be said at this point of boxing’s little dynamo, bantamweight prospect Christian Carto, who resides in Deptford, N.J., but continues to train in and be introduced as being from South Philly, which, along with his family’s deep and long-established roots in the local fight scene, have helped make the 21-year-old something akin to a rock star. His bouts at the SugarHouse Casino along the Delaware River waterfront are always sold out (all right, so capacity is only 1,100) and his trunks are festooned with so many ads from area merchants that longtime Philadelphia promoter J Russell Peltz has cracked that “he looks like a NASCAR driver.” Carto’s manager, older brother Frankie Carto, claims he has had to tell other would-be advertisers that, sorry, there is no more open space for product placement on Christian’s work duds.

Carto’s latest ring appearance, a six-round unanimous decision over Mexican veteran Antonio Rodriguez Friday night before another raucous SugarHouse crowd, might yet prove to be another little acorn that blossoms into a mighty oak of national and even international significance. But, while typically dominant, Carto’s slightly smudged performance offered little proof one way or another as to the still-unproven kid’s potential for spreading his magic beyond his currently limited comfort zone.

“I tried to get him out of there,” Carto (17-0, 11 KOs), who floored Rodriguez (13-23-2 (6 KOs) with a left hook to the body in the second round,” said of the extension of his non-stoppage streak to six bouts, and against a 30-year-old opponent who had lost inside the distance 12 times previously. “I’m going to go back to the gym and work more on setting my shots up. There’s a lot I still need to work on.”

The task of furthering Carto’s pugilistic education has fallen to veteran Philadelphia trainer Billy Briscoe, who took Gabe Rosado to two shots, albeit losing ones, at world titles. Earlier this year Briscoe replaced Mickey Rosati, who had been with Carto since his days in the amateurs.

“We’re still trying to work out some wrinkles, getting him a little more well-rounded,” Briscoe said. “He got a little overanxious after he knocked the guy down, but that’s all a part of growing and maturing. He’ll get it.”

Carto and his family are betting that when and if he does get it, the rewards will be ample. The 5-foot-5 Carto, who hopes to become the first Philly bantamweight to become a world champion since International Boxing Hall of Famer “Joltin’” Jeff Chandler dethroned Julian Solis on a 14th-round knockout on Nov. 14, 1980, a title he held through nine successful defenses, has elected to remain a free agent rather than to sign a long-term deal with the many smaller, regional promoters who would like to have him as the face of their operation. (Friday’s card at the SugarHouse was staged by Marshall Kaufmann’s King’s Promotions.) But if popularity is a factor, and it generally is, Carto could soon announce an exclusive arrangement with one of boxing’s promotional heavy hitters. When he appeared on the undercard of an ESPN-televised card in Atlantic City headlined by heavyweights Bryant Jennings and Alexander Dimetrenko on Aug. 18, his appearance resulted in more direct ticket sales than the compiled total of fellow Philly fighters Jennings and Jesse Hart, both of whom are world-rated and have fought for world championships.

Not too shabby for someone barely old enough to vote and has yet to be involved in a fight scheduled for longer than eight rounds.

“He’s Italian and he’s South Philly. That’s a perfect combination,” said Peltz, who co-promoted the Aug. 18 show in Atlantic City along with Top Rank.

Although Carto disavows the notion that he was “born to be a fighter,” his genetics suggest otherwise. His late grandfather, Frankie Carto, was a lightweight who was 40-13-3 (21) from 1941-46; great-uncle Joe Carto, also a lightweight, was 4-2-1 (3) and another great-uncle, Nunzio Carto, another lightweight (natch) was 27-2 (13). It’s little wonder Christian, then eight, began tagging along with older brother Frankie, his grandpop’s namesake, when he’d go to the gym to work out, and he had his first amateur bout at 11, progressing enough over time to win the National Golden Gloves light flyweight title in 2014 (a championship once held by future pro greats Johnny Tapia, Michael Carbajal and Floyd Mayweather Jr.)  and take bronze at the 2016 U.S. Olympic Trials.

Thirteen of Carto’s 17 fights have been staged in Philadelphia, including eight at the SugarHouse, where he has become so much of a “house” fighter that the casino heralds his upcoming bouts in the upstairs Events Center by plastering his face on billboards. All that remains now is for the local kid with the cult-like following to see if he can expand his brand to larger stages in New York, Las Vegas and other  destinations that have yet to sample and savor his little slice of Philly.

Curiously, coming as it did three days after the nation’s mid-term elections, Philadelphia fighters participated in all six bouts on the card, all were victorious and all were assigned to the blue corner, making for a “blue wave” of another sort. Carto was the draw, as might be expected, but he was not the only home-grown fighter who had family as well as municipal pride to uphold. Welterweight James Martin (3-0), son of former light heavyweight contender Jerry “The Bull” Martin, scored a tough, four-round unanimous decision over Denis Okoth (2-1-1, 1 KO) of Staya, Ky., a bout in which Okoth went down in the first round and Martin in the third.

As is the case with Carto, it will take some doing for Martin, 21, to match the ring legacy of his celebrated forebear. Jerry Martin, who turns 65 on Nov. 29, was a world-class 175-pounder who fought three times for world titles, losing in each instance to such notables as Eddie Mustafa Muhammad, Matthew Saad Muhammad and Dwight Muhammad Qawi. But “The Bull” did procure minor NABF and USBA titles along the way, and defeated quality opponents in James Scott, Billy “Dynamite” Douglas (father of heavyweight champion Buster Douglas), Jerry Celestine and Anthony Witherspoon.

“I look up to my dad, and I want to be a champion like he was,” the son said. “I want to copy his steps.”

Other victorious Philly fighters were welterweight Poindexter Knight (6-0, 3 KOs), who scored an impressive, first-round TKO over highly regarded and more experienced Travis Castellon (16-3-1, 12 KOs), of Fort Lauderdale, Fla.; welterweight Frankie Trader (11-2-1, 3 KOs), who ended a 4½-year layoff with a second-round stoppage of Pablo Cupul (10-28, 5 KOs), of San Diego; welterweight Mark Dawson (5-0, 3 KOs), who scored a four-round, unanimous decision over Chukka Willis (3-7, 2 KOs), of Emporia, Kan., and middleweight Maurice Burke, who made his pro debut with a unanimous, four-round nod over Brandon Bey (0-1), of the Bronx, N.Y.

Bernard Fernandez is the retired boxing writer for the Philadelphia Daily News. He is a five-term former president of the Boxing Writers Association of America, an inductee into the Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Atlantic City Boxing Halls of Fame and the recipient of the Nat Fleischer Award for Excellence in Boxing Journalism and the Barney Nagler Award for Long and Meritorious Service to Boxing.

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Allen (KO 3) and Chisora (UD 10) Victorious in Heavyweight Action in London

Arne K. Lang

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Heavyweights Allen & Chisora win

A pair of heavyweight battles topped the card at London’s 02 Arena. Both favorites won, but neither bout played out as expected.

Fan favorite David Allen, a 27-year-old Yorkshireman, continued his ascent from the lower depths of the boxing firmament with a one-punch knockout of Australia’s  heavily-tattooed Lucas Browne. Allen caved in Browne with a body punch in the third round that brought a sudden end to a bout that the Aussie appeared to be winning.

Browne, who turned 40 this month, made history when he became the first Australian to win a world heavyweight title (WBA version) when he scored a 10th round stoppage of Ruslan Chagaev in Russia. But, in hindsight, that win was a fluke. A gassed-out Chagaev was widely ahead on the cards when his roof fell in. Browne’s tenure was brief. He was stripped of the belt after testing positive for clenbuterol.

Allen, nicknamed the White Rhino, has now won four straight beginning with an upset of previously undefeated Nick Webb. His reputation is that of a common brawler, a fighter willing to take two punches to land one, but, regardless, he positioned himself for a nice payday or two going forward. Browne lost his second straight after opening his career 28-0.

The maddeningly inconsistent Dereck Chisora, who engaged in two barnburners with Dillian Whyte, snoozed his way to a 10-round unanimous decision over milquetoast Senad Gashi. The 35-year-old Chisora, a Zinbabwe-born Londoner, improved to 30-9 but did nothing to improve his stock. The well-traveled Gashi, born in Kosovo and now residing in Spain, declined to 17-3 while acquiring the patina of a trial horse.

Other Bouts

Welterweight Josh Kelly, a 2016 Olympian, won a lopsided 10-round decision over stubborn Przemysla Runowski. Kelly (9-0, 6 KOs) had Runowski on the canvas in rounds two, nine, and 10, but the previously undefeated Pole (now 17-1, 3 KOs) stayed the course. Kelly appeared to hurt his hand early in the fight. That may knock him off the Joshua-TBA card on June 1 at Madison Square Garden.

Joe Cordina, a Welshman, now holds the British and Commonwealth lightweight titles after scoring a 6th round stoppage of Yorkshireman Andy Townend (22-5). Cordina started slowly but gradually picked up the pace and scored three knockdowns before the referee waived it off. A 2016 Olympian, Cordina (9-0, 7 KOs) was a heavy favorite despite a dearth of pro experience.

Conor Benn the 22-year-old son of Nigel Benn, was extended the distance for the third time in his last four fights but had little difficulty advancing his record to 14-0 (9) at the expense of Josef Zahradnik (10-3) of the Czech Republic. The referee awarded Benn every round in this 8-round welterweight affair.

Middleweight Nikita Ababiy, a hot prospect with a big upside, was extended into the second round for the first time in his young pro career but eliminated Dmitri Faltin after only 26 seconds of round two. A 20-year-old Brooklynite of Russian extraction, nicknamed White Chocolate, Ababiy (4-0) excelled in all manner of combat sports as teenager. In the ring he doesn’t pussyfoot around. He won his pro debut in 28 seconds. Faltin, a 37-year-old Finn, fell to 2-4-1.

John Harding Jr., a 34-year-old middleweight, improved to 7-0-1 with a one-sided 6-round decision over Miroslav Juna (1-2). A protégé of Dillian Whyte, Harding started his pro career late after serving several stints in prison.

Cruiserweight Sam Hyde (14-1-1, 7 KOs) rebounded from his first defeat in fine fashion, blowing out Slovakia’s Josef Jurko (5-2) in the opening round.

Super bantamweight Sam Cox (4-0) won a 4-round decision over Bulgaria’s Georgi Georgiev.

In a woman’s fight, British bantamweight Shannon Courtenay (2-0) outpointed Bulgaria’s Roz Mari Silyanova (1-5-1). The ref gave Courtenay all four rounds.

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BWAA Writing Awards Announced: The Sweet Science Earns Multiple Citations

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BWAA Awards

The Boxing Writers Association of America has announced their annual Bernie Awards which recognize excellence in boxing journalism. Five stories that ran on this web site earned commendations.

TSS editor-in-chief Arne K. Lang copped first place in the category “Boxing Feature Under 1,500 Words.” Springs Toledo and Thomas Hauser earned third place ribbons, Toledo in the category “Best Column” and Hauser in “Boxing Investigative Reporting,” a category in which he has excelled. In addition, TSS New England correspondent Jeffrey Freeman and Sean Nam earned Honorable Mentions, Freeman in “Boxing Feature Under 1,500 Words” and Nam for an investigative reporting piece.

Four TSS correspondents – Toledo, Hauser, Kelsey McCarson, and Nam – were honored for stories that appeared on other web sites.

Springs Toledo, who has had the most abundant haul of BWAA writing awards since 2010 was omnipresent once again, earning five citations overall including a first place finish for “Boxing Feature Over 1,500 Words.” The multi-decorated Thomas Hauser also achieved a first place finish, this in the category “Boxing News Story.” Kelsey McCarson tied for first in “Boxing Column” and Sean Nam came in third in “Boxing Feature Under 1500 Words.”

What follows is the full press release authored by Awards Chairman BERNARD FERNANDEZ. A TSS mainstay, Fernandez is a former five-term president of the Boxing Writers Association of America.

PRESS RELEASE: Toledo, Kriegel, Boxing News Top BWAA Writing Contest

Springs Toledo and Mark Kriegel scored highest among individual entrants, while Boxing News/BoxingNewsOnline.com topped the overall sweepstakes in the 18th annual Boxing Writers Association of America writing contest. Those who placed in the contest, which drew a record 147 submissions from a record 49 media representatives who cover the sport, will be recognized at the 94th annual BWAA Awards Ceremony, to be held May 31 at the Copacabana in New York City.

 Toledo, a Boston native and frequent honoree in the BWAA writing contest, led all entrants with 14 points on a scoring system of five points for a first place, three for second, two for third and one for an honorable mention. In the blind judging, in which all bylines and other identifying marks were removed beforehand before being forwarded to a distinguished panel of sports journalists and academics, Toledo took a first in Feature (Over 1,500 words), seconds in Investigative Reporting and a tie for Feature (Under 1,500 Words), a tie for third in Event Coverage and an honorable mention in Column. He spread the wealth around, too, with submissions for Boxing News, thesweetscience.com and City Journal.

 Kriegel, who took first places in both Feature categories in the 2017 contest, was again a major factor in multiple categories, totaling 12 points. He took first place in Investigative Reporting, seconds in Feature (Under 1,500 Words) and Feature (Over 1,500 Words) and an HM in Column, all for ESPN.com.

Other first places went to Arne K. Lang, editor of thesweetscience.com in Feature (Under 1,500 Words); Paul Wheeler of Boxing News in Event Coverage and Kelsey McCarson of NYFights.com (tie) in Column.

Boxing News and BoxingNewsOnline.com, based in the United Kingdom, stormed the BWAA contest like the Beatles coming to America in 1964, totaling 27 points on two firsts, three seconds, a third and five HMs. ESPN.com was next with 16 points, followed by thesweetscience.com and BoxingScene.com with 11 apiece.

 The entire list of placing entrants:

2018 BERNIE WINNERS

BOXING EVENT COVERAGE

First Place

PAUL WHEELER, “Win-Win for Usyk and Bellew,” Boxing News, November 11, 2018

Second Place

MATTHEW AGUILAR, “Vargas, Dulorme Draw is WBC Silver Welterweight,” The Associated Press, October 7, 2018

Third Place (Tie)

LANCE PUGMIRE, “Wilder – Fury Embodied the Greatness of Heavyweight Boxing of Yesteryear,” Los Angeles Times, December 2, 2018,

SPRINGS TOLEDO, “Art and Heroism in a Corrupted Sport,” thesweetscience.com, December 3, 2018

Honorable Mention: Tris Dixon, BoxingScene.com; Lee Groves,CompuBoxTV.com; Gordon Marino, TheDailyBeast.com; Kieran Mulvaney, InsideHBOBoxing.com; Cliff Rold, BoxingScene.com; Don Stradley, Ringside Seat; Chris Walker, BoxingNewsOnline.net.

BOXING COLUMN

First Place (Tie)

THOMAS GERBASI, “Beyond the Ring, The Next Fight,” BoxingScene.com, December 26, 2018

KELSEY McCARSON, “Tyson Fury, Mental Health and Vunerability,” NYFights.com, June 8, 2018

Second Place (Tie)

DON STRADLEY, “Goodbye to All That,” donstradley.blogspot.com, December 29, 2018

ELLIOT WORSELL, “Joe Fournier is the 11th Best Light-Heavyweight in the World – Apparently,” Boxing News, March 29, 2018

Third  Place

GREG BISHOP, “In Search of a Happy Ending to Boxing Career, Manny Pacquiao is Following a Familiar, Sad Trajectory Instead,” Sports Illustrated, January 12, 2018

Honorable Mention: Tris Dixon, Boxingscene.com; Mark Kriegel, ESPN.com; Kieran Mulvaney, Boxing News; Springs Toledo, Boxing News

BOXING NEWS STORY

First Place

THOMAS HAUSER, “Curtis Harper Goes Viral,” The Sporting News, August 29, 2018

Second Place

NORM FRAUENHEIM, “Bob Arum on the Passing of ‘The Boxing Senator’ John McCain: ‘He Was a Great American,’” RingTV.net, August 25, 2018

Third Place (Tie)

DON STRADLEY, “DeMarco is In!,” donstradley.blogspot.com; December 31, 2018

LEE GROVES, “Farewell to a Boxing Lifer, Don Chargin, the Last Gentleman Promoter,” CompuBoxTV.com, September 29, 2018

Honorable Mention: Lance Pugmire, Los Angeles Times; Dan Rafael, ESPN.com.

BOXING FEATURE (Under 1,500 words)

First Place

ARNE K. LANG, “Christmas Day in Germany with Sugar Ray Robinson,” thesweetscience.com, December 24, 2018

Second Place (Tie)

JOHN DENNEN, “Thank God I’m Not a World Champion,” Boxing News, September 16, 20128

MARK KRIEGEL, “The Old Man and the Kid: Alex Saucedo Fighting for a Title and His Mentor’s Legacy,” ESPN.com, November 13, 2018

CLIFF ROLD, “Golovkin, Hopkins, Monzon: The Record at Middleweight,” BoxingScene.com, May 2, 2018

SPRINGS TOLEDO, “The Quiet Man,” Boxing News, October 25, 2018

Third Place

SEAN NAM, “Eleider Alvarez Stuns Sergey Kovalev,” UCNLive.com, August 10, 2018

Honorable Mention: Ron Borges, Boxing Monthly; Thomas Gerbasi, The Ring; David Weinberg, Press of Atlantic City; Jeffrey Freeman, thesweetscience.com; Lance Pugmire, Los Angeles Times

BOXING FEATURE (Over 1,500 words)

First Place

SPRINGS TOLEDO, “The Historian: Mike Tyson and the Ghost of Boxing’s Past,” Boxing News, March 22, 2018

Second Place

MARK KRIEGEL, “The Education of Terence Crawford,” ESPN.com, June 9, 2018

Third Place

TRIS DIXON, “A Warrior’s Brain,” Boxing News, August 2, 2018

Honorable Mention: Matthew Aguilar, El Paso Times; Thomas Gerbasi, Boxing News; Lance Pugmire, Los Angeles Times; Dan Rafael, ESPN.com; Don Stradley, The Ring

BOXING INVESTIGATIVE REPORTING

First Place

MARK KRIEGEL, “A Unique Family Dynamic and the Shooting Nobody Wants to Talk About: The Jose Benavidez Jr. Story,” ESPN.com, October 13, 2018

Second Place

SPRINGS TOLEDO, “191 Edgecombe,” City Journal, Summer 2018

Third Place

THOMAS HAUSER, “1,501 Tests, One Reported Positive? What’s Going on with the USADA and Boxing?,” thesweetscience.com, September 7, 2018 and December 7, 2018

Honorable Mention: Ron Borges, Boxing Monthly; Matt Christie, Boxing News; Jack Hirsch, Boxing News; Sean Nam, thesweetscience.com; Adam Pollack,Boxinginsider.com; Lance Pugmire, Los Angeles Times; Joseph Santoliquito, PremierBoxingChampions.com

 News Outlets

  1. Boxing News/BoxingNewsOnline.net (27 points) 
  2. ESPN.com (16)
  3. THESWEETSCIENCE.COM(11); BoxingScene.com (11)
  4. NYFights.com (7)
  5. Los Angeles Times (6)
  6. The Ring/RingTV.com (5)
  7. The Sporting News (5)
  8. The Associated Press (3); CompuBox.com (3); City Journal (3); DonStradley.blogspot.com (3)
  9. Sports Illustrated (2); Boxing Monthly (2); UCNLLive.com (2)
  10. El Paso Times (1); PremierBoxingChampions.com (1); Ringside Seat (1); The Press of Atlantic City (1); Boxinginsider.com (1); The Daily Beast (1); InsideHBOBoxing.com (1); BoxingNews (1)

2018 BERNIES JUDGES:

MICHAEL HIRSLEY, Chicago Tribune (Retired)

FRANZ LIDZ, Sports Illustrated (Retired)

THOMAS MACDONALD, Novelist and Boston College Writing Instructor

JOHN SCHULIAN, Chicago Sun-Times (Retired)

JOHN WHISLER, San Antonio Express News (Retired)

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Erick Ituarte Wins Featherweight Battle in Ontario, CA

David A. Avila

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Ituarte

ONTARIO, CA.-Looking to make waves as a featherweight, Santa Ana’s Erick Ituarte battled Tijuana’s Jose Estrella evenly before pulling away in the last third of the fight to win by decision on Friday.

Ituarte (21-1-1, 3 KOs) lacks the big punch but has the long arms that enabled him to keep distance and out-point the shorter Estrella (20-16-1, 14 KOs) in their 10-round bout at the Doubletree Hotel. Thompson Boxing Promotions staged the fight card that saw about 500 fans at the event.

Estrella used his guts and guile to keep the fight close in the first four rounds of the fight. Back and forth they went trading momentum, Ituarte was effective attacking the body and Estrella was good at connecting with big blows to the head.

It wasn’t until the seventh round that Ituarte began utilizing his reach and mobility to make Estrella chase and run into pot shots. From that moment on Ituarte was in control of the fight. No knockdowns were scored with one judge scoring it 98-92 and two others 100-89 for Ituarte. Each round was very competitive.

Other bouts

Corona’s Luis Lopez (5-0, 3 KOs) powered his way to victory by unanimous decision over Mexico’s Daniel Perales (10-17-2, 5 KOs) after four rounds in a welterweight match. Though Lopez won every round with sharper punches he was never able to hurt the super tough Mexican fighter from Monterrey. He recognized that early and used crisp combinations to win each round though Perales had his moments too. All three judges scored it 40-36 for Lopez.

A heavyweight fight saw local fighter Oscar Torres (5-0, 2 KOs) run his record to five wins with a fourth round stoppage over Houston’s Thomas Hawkins (4-4) after a barrage of punches. The fight was stopped twice in the fourth round and a final barrage of blows prompted referee Tony Crebs to halt the fight at 1:20 of the round. Torres fights out of Rialto, California and is trained by Henry Ramirez.

Lightweights Davonte McCowen (0-0-1) and Chris Crowley (0-0-1) fought to a majority draw after four torrid rounds. Both were making their pro debuts. McCowen started faster and slowed in the last two rounds that allowed Britain’s Crowley to mount a rally in the last two rounds. It was a spirited fight between the two newcomers.

Photo credit: Alonzo Coston

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