In the main event of an inaugural seven bout card held Wednesday, August 6, 2008, at B.B. King Blues Club and Grill located on 42nd Street near Times Square in New York City, former WBA and WBO Light Welterweight Champion Randall Bailey of Miami, Florida, scored a vicious first round knockout over Dairo Escalas of San Onofre, Columbia. It was the first time a boxing card was held at B.B. King’s, and hopefully, not the last.
The inaugural card was a joint promotion between Dibella Entertainment and Star Boxing, and was sponsored by Christo’s Steak House. The hidden basement club and bar had the appearance of an old high class Harlem speakeasy, with blaring rap music which accompanied the entrance of every fighter, except Vincent Maddalone, who entered to the theme from Rocky, "Gonna Fly Now".
Some spectators sat at tables eating and drinking merry, some sat in chairs, and some stood watching the fight card, while others drank at the bar oblivious to the action in progress. Pro Boxing Hall of Fame former World Middleweight champion Emile Griffith appeared at the door to the club, signing copies of his new book "Nine, Ten and Out".
Also in attendance were many champions and contenders past and present. A sampling of those in the crowd included IBF Junior Welterweight Champion Paulie “Magic Man” Malignaggi, WBC Welterweight champion Andre Berto, former WBA Super Featherweight and Lightweight Champion Joey Gamache, former WBA Bantamweight and WBO Super Bantamweight champion Junior Jones, Olympic Bronze medalist and Super Middleweight contender Andre Dirrell, former IBF Welterweight Champion Kermit Cintron, Light Heavyweight contender Shaun George, United States Amateur Middleweight champion and Super Middleweight contender Daniel Jacobs, heavyweight Chazz Witherspoon, heavyweight Sherman Williams, and light welterweight Damian ‘Devo’ Frias.
Noteworthy on the fight was the use of digital weights for fighters. Weights are no longer calculated to the pound, but to the hundredth of a pound, digital style, for pro boxers today.
After the bell rang for the main event, Bailey, now 37-6 (34), moved across the ring and began firing heavy artillery power shots with lightning speed. A picture perfect vicious left hook to the body sent Escalas, 31-14 (25), face first to the canvas, knocked out at 46 seconds of the first round. Escalas attempted to rise from the “pushup” position, but could not, and got counted out.
The bout ended so quickly that Bailey finished his opponent and closed out the fight card before anyone in attendance had realized what had happened!
Indeed, the lively crowd seemed more interested in drinking beer, socializing with friends and chit chatting with the many boxing celebrities in attendance than they were on the limited range action in center ring.
Among the topics of note: football’s New York Jets had acquired legendary quarterback Brett Favre from the Green Bay Packers, and Brett Favre Jets jerseys were already available for sale on Ebay.
In the preliminary to the main event, heavyweight contender Vinny Maddalone, of Flushing, New York, now 30-4 (21), appeared in superb condition and was greeting by his “opponent” Joe Stofle of St. Charles, Missouri, 11-14-1 (9). Stofle looked like an overweight cement truck “ready to go” before the bout had even started.
Maddalone, sizing up his mismatched “opponent”, immediately moved in for the kill and decked Stoffle twice with right hands. The crowd, sensing blood, came to its feet and cheered. Maddalone then administered the defenseless Stofle a frightful beating on the ropes before the referee stopped it. Stoffle looked the part of tomato can, and he acted like it too.
In other bouts, super middleweight Jonathan “The Sensation” Nelson of Little Rock, Arkansas, now 4-0 (2), scored a unanimous four round decision over a game Rondu Campbell, Bronx, New York, now 2-1-1.
Both fighters entered the bout unbeaten, and Nelson won the first round as he was the more aggressive of the two. Rounds two through four appeared even, with both fighters appearing to box too cautiously so as to avoid any meaningful exchanges. Scoring was 40-36 twice and 39-37, all for Nelson.
Debuting lightweight Ryan “Polish Prince” Kielczweski of Quincy, Massachusetts, complete with a cape, sunglasses, a golden crown and the Polish flag, scored a unanimous four round decision over Raphael Luna of Albany , New York , now 0-2-1.
The bout was closer than the scoring indicated.
Kielczweski was clearly more aggressive, and threw a lot of power shots with both hands, Luna had a good defense and mostly counterpunched. Luna did better on the inside working the body when he pinned Kielczweski on the ropes on a number of occasions, but it wasn’t enough to turn the tide. Scoring was 40-36 across the board for Kielczweski.
In the best bout of the evening, featherweight Dat Nguyen of Vietnam, now fighting out of Vero Beach, Florida, fought a six round war with Juan Cruz of Caguas, Puerto Rico.
Nguyen, now 13-1 (6), suddenly had his hands full in a battle royale with the counter-puncher Cruz, 5-3 (1). It appeared that both fighters were in excellent shape and had done the work.
An unexpected world class caliber contest occurred, and the action seesawed back and forth. Nguyen scored more effective combinations in ring center, while Cruz did his best counterpunching off the ropes after luring Nguyen in. The first five rounds appeared dead even, and the sixth appeared to go to Cruz who landed more power punches. Still, the sixth round was close.
The judges’ scorecards read 57-57, 59-55 and 60-54, Nguyen by majority decision. The bout appeared closer to a draw, however.
Debuting light heavyweight Will “Will Power” Rosinsky stopped Valentine “The Lion-Hearted Latino” Fontanelly. Rosinsky used speed combinations to batter Fontanelly on the ropes, so Fontanelly resorted to spitting out his mouthpiece to buy time.
When the action resumed after Fontanelly received a new mouthpiece, Rosinsky battered his opponent senseless on the ropes again. Fontanelly tried to fight back, but his punches were too slow and he was taking too many head shots, prompting the referee to stop the contest in Rosinsky’s favor by TKO midway through the first round.
In the worst bout of the evening, junior middleweight Irish James Moore of Wicklow, Ireland, now fighting out of New York City, won a unanimous eight round decision over Lloyd Joseph.
Moore last fought two months ago, Joseph four years ago. Joseph had to shake off ring rust, and he did it by throwing one punch at a time and tying Moore up.
Moore threw a lot of power punches, but most missed. Moore was the more aggressive of the two. By round two, the contest turned into a coarse and ugly wrestling match closer to nineteenth century boxing than the boxing of today. Nonstop wrestling and grabbing continued until the final bell.
The partisan hometown crowd came to cheer Moore, and they provided better entertainment than the bout by singing Irish limericks all night. Moore got “taken to school".
In a post-fight interview, Joseph claimed that he was the clear aggressor, but knew he would never get the nod in New York City . “I landed the clear shots. I thought I won the fight. I don’t know what fight the judges were watching.”
Scoring was 78-74 twice and 79-73, all for Moore.