Monday, 9th August 2010

For a Young Ironbound Boxing Club, A Strong Showing Against Puerto Rico Falls Short

Posted on 21. Oct, 2009 by Christian Yarnell in Sports

For a Young Ironbound Boxing Club, A Strong Showing Against Puerto Rico Falls Short

TRAPPED:  Lisandro Tupete, in blue, falls partially through the ropes in a fight on September 18 against Keith Tapia, in red.  The bout was part of a two-night event with New Jersey boxers facing off against competitors from Puerto Rico. Photo by Christian Yarnell.

by Christian Yarnell

Puerto Rico’s national team outclassed a group of New Jersey’s up-and-coming boxers at a September 18-19 fight night doubleheader at the Ironbound Boxing Club, the first major event at the three-year-old Newark club.  Puerto Rico won seven of the 13 head-to-head bouts.

The Puerto Rican side dominated day one of the competition, winning five of seven.  Keith Tapia, born in the Bronx but competing for Puerto Rico, impressed with a victory  against Patterson’s Lisandro Tupete in the 178-pound weight class.  Tapia pounded Tupete with big right hands, at one point in the first round almost knocking Tupete through the ropes and out of the ring.  Tapia, 19, won gold at the 2007 Cadet World Boxing Championships in Azerbaijan and is a young boxer worth watching.

But New Jersey was not without a hero of its own.  Ibn Akbar Richardson, 22, from Gladiator Gym in Newark’s West Ward, won a hard-fought bout with Puerto Rico’s Jose Soto, 19, also in the 178-pound weight class.  Richardson, whose long, pulled-back dreadlocks protruded from his headgear and had to be wrapped in plastic, found his rhythm in a fast-paced second round, mixing shots to his opponent’s body and head.

By the end of the third and final round, both fighters looked exhausted; Richardson’s hands often dropped to his waist.  Even Richardson’s dreadlocks had begun to escape their plastic wrapper.  But he held on, dodging a flurry of punches from Soto in the last 30 seconds, and won by judges’ decision.

“I was seeing his punches pretty well,” Richardson said after the close contest.  “I thought I hurt him, but he just stayed there.”

Alex Perez, a 27-year-old Newark-born prizefighter known as “The Brick City Bullet,” and current WBC Continental Americas Welterweight Champion, was supporting Richardson, his cousin, from the crowd, yelling advice after each round.

Perez pointed out that he, too, made his way up the amateur ranks.

“Just like for any kind of work, this is how you build your resume,” said Perez, during a break in the action.

The event shined a spotlight on the Ironbound Boxing Club itself.  Housed as part of the Salvation Army Boys & Girls Club at 11 Providence St., the boxing club was started by Tim Flohr, a youth counselor, to provide an outlet for teenagers who might otherwise find trouble on the streets.

“It’s easy to complain about an area,” said Flohr.  “We wanted to do something about it.”

Flohr, 35, who boxed growing up in Omaha, Neb., started the Ironbound Boxing Club in 2006 and now has about 30 regular members.  Much of the focus is on healthy living and discipline.  His wife, Marta, teaches a nutrition and wellness class on Saturdays as part of the program.

“I started mainly to get in shape,” said 21-year-old Cesar Volquez, one of Flohr’s first disciples.

He was a victor by decision in the September 19 Undercard bout.

“It’s the longest six minutes of your life,” said Volquez, of the two three-minute rounds for boxers in the novice division.

Before the event, Puerto Rico’s head coach Ricky Marquez had predicted a close competition, noting that all of his boxers were 21 or younger.  Marquez said he had brought a younger group than usual for international competition to give some of his up-and-coming prospects more experience.

The New Jersey side did have more success on night two, winning four of the six head-to-head matches.  Miguel Diaz, from Irvington International Boxing Club, was particularly impressive in the 122-pound weight class.  Diaz knocked down his opponent, Alberto Machado, 18, once in the second round.  Machado came out strong in the third round, but, after about a minute, Diaz connected with a vicious left hook that seemed to stun Machado and turned the tide in Diaz’s favor for good.

For the more talented boxers, like Diaz, the goal is clear.

“These guys want to make the Olympic Team,” said Jose Rosario, President of the New Jersey Association of USA Boxing, who attended both days of the competition.

While this event was unlikely to attract the attention of Olympic Team officials, it did give the young boxers more experience and an opportunity to build their resumes. It also gave a chance for some real novices to try their luck in the ring.

Dennis Martinez, 16, and another of Flohr’s boxers, stepped into the ring for his first-ever fight in the September 18 Undercard.  Martinez, who did not fare as well as Ironbound Club compatriot Volquez, was pummeled by Robert Terry, a more experienced boxer from Bayonne, and ended up in the emergency room with a dislocated left elbow.  Yet he never went down or called it quits, standing tall throughout.

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