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What’s Happening to Boxing in Philly?
By Ken Hissner, Doghouse Boxing (Aug 24, 2013)

Philly’s Bernard “B-Hop” Hopkins
Philly’s Bernard “B-Hop” Hopkins
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What’s happening to boxing in Philly? Philly has the WBC/WBA light welterweight champion in Danny “Swift” Garcia and though DE based Philly’s Bernard “Be-Hop” Hopkins the IBF light heavyweight champion but why only produced “1” show in the city of “Brotherly Shove” in 2013 after 7 months? Two small shows were scheduled in August. One got cancelled and the other moved out of the city to another location. There isn’t another show scheduled until October and that’s the same promoter, Greg Robinson of Power Productions at the same site in the National Guard Armory.

In the only show in Philly this year Angel Ocasio was to fight Ryan Belasco in the main event. The unbeaten Ocasio failed his first physical with a “rapid heart beat”. Possibly the main event exposure got to him. On a second try his manager Manny Ramirez said “he failed again and can get a third try at 6pm.” Ocasio failed to return to the National Guard Armory. The “commissioner” was overheard telling one of the writers “he passed his second physical but will be suspended for not showing”. Ocasio has not returned to the gym in the 4 months from being a no show. Seems he feared a heart attack and was told by his priest not to fight after failing his tests.

“2013 will be a lost year when we look back. This has been the trend since the Blue Horizon closing in 2010. There were 26 shows in 2004 followed by 20, 22, 22, 17, 19, 13, 7, 7 and 1 so far this year.” – John DiSanto of www.phillyboxinghistory.com “Promoters are stuck in casino’s charging high ticket prices and not paying the fighters their rate.” - Chuck Diesel, Manager and gym proprietor.

“First of all there aren’t any good locations. The fan base has dropped off due to younger generation leaning toward MMA. It’s gotten hard to get local business to sponsor events. I’ve been running for 3 years at Harrah’s Chester just minutes from Philly and keeping boxing alive.” – Joey Eye, Promoter/Cut-man.

In preparation for this article this writer was told by more than a couple they do not want to give their names in fear of retaliation by “the one” running the commission. They also talked about favoritism toward some promoters and managers.

A recent case in point was when one of the “favored one’s” showed up with a non-lawyer stating “I have been advised not to say anything by my lawyer”. Then the father of the non-lawyer not manager or promoter of the boxer connected with the case was allowed to listen in on a conference call. In the meantime the boxer brings a lawyer since he’s been instructed to bring one and no one else. He has to pay a lawyer (2k) who gets/has little to say and told “I will make my decision within 30 days”. The boxer claimed non-payment of 4 fights and the manager didn’t have any defense.

What was there to decide that couldn’t be decided at that point and the boxer released from his contract as requested? In the meantime some promoters (DE Dover Downs) won’t work with the boxer due to the boxer being in a contract dispute and fear of a lawsuit by the manager.

There’s a lack of leadership by the 3 commissioners headed by Chairman Chuck Bednarik who hasn’t been seen at a show in many many years. A local paper in Bednarik’s area reported at 88 he is suffering from Dementia. Known for his football past not boxing, this writer last saw him in 1985 at a hearing. After being told my commission contract with a boxer was not good enough by chairman Jimmy Binns I asked Bednarik “Chuck, what have you got to say about this?” From a standing position Binns screamed at Bednarik who was sitting, saying with a pointed finger at the top of Bednarik’s head “you have nothing to say!” Bednarik kept his head down and never responded to me. I thought “this is Concrete Charley from the Philadelphia Eagles?” I understand there is a long list of people wanting to join the commission so what’s the hold up?

In Western PA the commissioner is Andy DePaolo who it was brought to me also suffers from a memory loss. That’s 2 of the 3 with the same problem. The Philadelphia commissioner is former referee Rudy Battle.

When the PA commission was replaced in DE by the VA commission the state of PA took a financial hit. Since their departure it has been reported that if any officials work DE shows with the new commission they should not expect to get work in PA. None have worked DE since. That threat I was told came from “the commissior” it was said by several officials.

Rumors are the Arena is being prepared for boxing once again and somewhere in the not so near future the Blue Horizon which is being turned into a hotel will hold boxing but that could be years from now. Why a warehouse can’t be found to replace the Arena which is basically what it was cannot be replaced is beyond me.

The only facility that held boxing this year was the National Guard Armory in NE Philly. The main drawback was it wasn’t accessible by foot unlike the Arena or the Blue Horizon being in the neighborhoods of South Philly not in an isolated one like the NGA. Yet it certainly is in a more secure area. That show was promoted by Greg Robinson’s Power Productions.

Peltz, the main promoter in Philly since 1968 has taken up the Sand’s Casino in Bethlehem, PA, as his “home base” in PA. Joey Eye runs at Harrah’s in Chester and now Marshall Kauffman in the Valley Forge Casino in King of Prussia. Scranton area has been dead for years but ran a show in August with a total of 24 of the 28 rounds required.

There have been 19 shows in PA so far this year and 12 of them in the eastern part of the state. The Harrisburg area ran a show in July and allowed to run with 20 rounds and 1 exhibition instead of the required 28 rounds. A show in Bethlehem in June at a new site Steel Stacks ran with 26 of 28 required. In August the Deck in Essington just outside of Philly ran a show with 16 of the 28 required. After his previous show the promoter proclaimed “we have the best commissioner in the country”. Did this influence the commission to allow the show to go on with 12 rounds less than required?

“What’s happened to Philly Boxing? “The same that has happened in all non-casino towns. You have fighters from CT and WA fighting at a casino in OK and you can’t build a fan base. Plus the closing of the The Blue Horizon (due to poor management, not paying taxes and operating without a liquor license closed per this writer),” said J Russell Peltz.

The Arena also had poor management and closed leaving Philly without a small-club venue. “Temple University is a good place for fights and Peltz boxing started there last Dec 8th. “Perhaps we can look at Temple again in the event Jennings can land a major fight” – J Russell Peltz, of Peltz Boxing

The State Rankings have not been revised since December of 2012. In the past new rankings were produced 4 times per year giving boxers and managers something to shoot for. Only 5 of the 11 divisions have champions.

This writer has been told by outside boxers, trainers and managers they don’t want to come back do to the rough treatment they get at the weigh-in. They say they get yelled at, called names if they don’t have proper tests done or licenses.

Being barred from a certain gym in Philly whose owner was promoting a bout at the Arena I went to the Arena during the weigh-in to purchase a ticket. I was told by the promoter “you have to leave for I rented this building and don’t want you here.” Seems he didn’t like something I posted on a website about some of his wrong doings. I went to the “commissioner” running the weigh-in to ask if I had to leave and he said “he rented the building”.

I skipped covering the show though I did an interview just prior to coming to the Arena with Danny Garcia who was headlining but had no tickets for sale at his gym. At the next show in Philly I questioned the same “commissioner” about siding with the promoter (one of the chosen ones) and was told that wasn’t the truth and “I could bar you from press row in the future if you keep it up”.

It is time for a change to take place starting with replacing Bednarik with a working commissioner. One who can run show’s. Since Bethlehem is busier (3 shows and 2 scheduled) than other areas in the southeast a working chairman would be perfect to run it.

Some officials have been told “its over” among referee’s and judges. Carol Polis was the first female judge in the world and told she was too old. In 2008 Frank Cappuccino was told he was done as a referee in PA. The following year in 2009 he worked 2 shows as a judge in the state and followed with 2 shows in NJ before retiring. This writer interviewed him last year and he had some choice things to say about the “commissioner” in PA who made the decision to retire him from being a referee. Cappuccino is a PA HOF inductee.

This writer witnessed judge Al Dorsey who worked from 1991 to 2010 being humiliated when he took the judge’s chair and was yelled at that it wasn’t his turn yet and to get off the chair. It was sad watching him not a young man, get off that chair and replaced without a word. It may have been his last show for he hasn’t been seen in years since 2009 at the Blue Horizon when he only worked only 1 of the 6 bouts.

Vic deWysocki started as a referee in 2006 in VA before coming to PA in 2007 thru 2011 before being told “you are not improving as a referee. Do you want to be a judge?” It was the same year he was voted “Man of the Year” by the VBA Ring One. He works DE (his home state), VA and DC now. Seems odd he is working DE shows under the VA commission while the PA “commissioner” is no longer overseeing DE. deWysocki would travel as far as Johnstown for the “commissioner” some 7 hours and not even get a room to stay over or mileage but never complained. He’s complaining now about the treatment he got.

Art Bayliss of Allentown fought from 1983 to 1999. He worked as a referee from 2004 to 2009. “It is hardly worth it when you pay for your license and physical and get such little work and put up with the criticism (of the commissioner),” said Bayless.

Whether it’s due to the casino’s or an unworkable “commission” the once great boxing city of Philly seems to be on the ropes. PA needs to “clean house” and it starts at the top with the governor. There needs to be a ground swell of letters and phone calls going to Toll free Complaint’s Hotline: 1-800-822-2113 (Pa. only) or 717-783-4849 (outside Pa.) and mailing address: Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, Department of State, Professional Compliance Office, P.O. Box 2649, Harrisburg, PA 17105-2649. Let’s bring boxing back to Philly where so many great shows and boxers once came out of!


Ken Hissner responds to all his emails at: kenhissner@gmail.com

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