For years, it was Joe Frazier and Sonny Liston. Then along came Bernard Hopkins and Steve Cunningham.
Now there’s a new breed of young, up-and-comers in Philadelphia, and three of the city’s brightest will be on display Friday, July 27th, 2012 on ESPN’s Friday Night Fights in Atlantic City, N.J., when Jimmy Burchfield’s Classic Entertainment & Sports presents, “Title Wave,” live professional boxing from Resorts Casino Hotel.
The headliner of Friday’s card is “Hammerin’” Hank Lundy (22-1-1, 11 KOs), the reigning NABF lightweight champion, the world’s No. 1-ranked 135-pounder, and, perhaps most fittingly, the heir apparent to Hopkins’ throne in the City of Brotherly Love as Philadelphia’s next world champion. He’ll face Mexican challenger Raymundo Beltran in ESPN’s 10-round main event.
Lundy will be joined by 29-year-old super middleweight prospect Farah Ennis (19-1, 12 KOs), who will star in Friday’s nationally-televised 10-round co-feature against Richard Pierson, and bantamweight Miguel Cartagena (5-0, 3 KOs), who will put his unbeaten record on the line against Jose Rivera in a six-round bout.
With fellow Philadelphian Danny Garcia pulling off the upset two weeks against the heavily-favored Amir Kahn to capture the light welterweight world title and two fighters from the same city being featured this weekend on the worldwide leader in sports, there’s a boxing renaissance brewing in the heart of Philadelphia.
“Philly is hot right now!” Lundy said. “There are a lot of other Philadelphia fighters that could’ve been on this card, but we’re holding Philly down right now. We’re bringing that Philadelphia fight back to the city. It’s been a while. For a long time, it was just Bernard, but now we’re all coming out at one time. Don’t be surprised if we have a champion in every weight class real soon.”
Perhaps the most unique angle with three Philadelphia fighters on Friday’s card is the fact each one is from a different neighborhood. Lundy was raised in South Philadelphia, where he got his start in boxing by knocking out a would-be bully in the streets. Ennis grew up in Germantown, a small neighborhood in the northwest section, and Cartagena was raised in North Philadelphia – the birthplace of Frazier – where roughly half the population lives below the poverty line.
“We didn’t have the best living conditions,” Cartagena said, “but we always had food on the table and clothes on our back.”
Similar to Lundy, who passed up a football scholarship so his sister could attend college, Cartagena took up boxing as a way to stay off the streets and out of trouble.
“My dad put me in the gym at 7 years old and I’ve never left,” Cartagena said. “I’m glad I started early.”
Ennis’ introduction to boxing began at an even earlier age; his father and current trainer, Derrick Ennis, boxed briefly as a professional in the late 1970s and early ‘80s, and his older brother, Derek “Pooh” Ennis, is a former USBA light middleweight champion, so, suffice to say, the younger Ennis has been in the gym his whole life.
“I’ve got videos of my brother and I sparring in the gym from 1989,” Ennis said. “Once I got older, I realized this was what I wanted to do, and I wanted to pursue it before I got too old and reached the point where I was talking about what I could’ve been. I want to do it now and put my all into it before it’s too late.”
Nicknamed “The Quiet Storm,” Ennis is on the right path; he won his first 17 pro fights and captured the NABF super middleweight title before losing a close, majority decision to unbeaten prospect Alexander Johnson in April of 2011. Since then, he’s won his last two and will now make his national television debut Friday night.
“I’m treating it like just another fight,” Ennis said. “I can’t afford to think about the TV aspect.”
“He can punch,” Lundy said of Ennis, “and he’s a humble guy. That’s why they call him ‘The Quiet Storm,’ but don’t mistake that quietness for weakness.”
That quiet, yet destructive, nature, Lundy said, is part of what sets Philadelphia fighters apart from others. The city gained fame through the popularity of the Rocky movie series, but the reality is Philadelphia has always been home to some of boxing’s toughest warriors, whether it was Liston – who fought out of Philadelphia in the late ‘50s and early ‘60s – Frazier, Tim Witherspoon, Harold Johnson, Bob Montgomery or Hopkins, who recently became the oldest fighter in boxing history to win a world title.
“We always come ready to fight,” Ennis said. “There’s a lot of heart in this city.”
“I think we’ve got more heart than others,” Cartagena added. “We bring a little more attraction to each fight.”
The world will find out what that Philadelphia spirit is all about when Lundy and Ennis invade homes across the world Friday night on ESPN. Pay attention, because this might be the start of a new boxing renaissance in the City of Brotherly Love.
“We’ll show what we’re all about,” Lundy said. “It’s great to see Philadelphia back on top.”
The undercard also features a six-round light middleweight bout between Thomas Lamanna (8-0, 5 KOs) of Millville, N.J., and William Brown (5-3) of Akron, Ohio, in addition to a four-round welterweight bout between Anthony Young (4-0, 2 KOs) of Atlantic City and Richie Andrews (3-1-3, 1 KO) of Stuarts Draft, Va. Josh Mercado (5-1, 2 KOs) of Cape May, N.J., will battle Korey Sloane (2-4-1) of Philadelphia in a four-round bout and Atlantic City’s Antowyan Aikens (5-0, 1 KO) will face Jimmy Ellis (3-5-1, 2 KOs) in a four-round super middleweight bout.
Also on the undercard, Kenneth Moody (2-3-2, 1 KO) of Virginia Beach, Va., will face Ismael Garcia (3-0) of Millville, N.J., in a four-round middleweight bout and super middleweight Isaiah Seldon of Somers Point, N.J., will face Steven Tyner (3-5-2, 2 KOs) of Akron in a four-round bout. All fights and fighters subject to change.
Tickets for “Title Wave” are on sale now at $40, $65, $75 and $125 and can be purchased by calling CES at 401.724.2253/2254, online at www.cesboxing.com and www.ticketmaster.com, or at the Resorts Casino Hotel Box Office.