The Philly Factory: The Hits Just Keep on Comin’

By Norman Marcus on June 4, 2012
The Philly Factory: The Hits Just Keep on Comin’
Philadelphia will continue to produce more than its fair share of young promising fighters

The more interesting fights at the MGM Grand Saturday night are on the undercard. The future of boxing may be on display before the main event…

You gotta hand it to this rust belt city that sits in between the Delaware and Schuylkill Rivers in Pennsylvania. Philadelphia might have outsourced a lot of jobs and industry to other places in the world over the years but its production of quality boxers is alive and well. We seem to have the raw material and the knowhow to produce some very dangerous “persons” for the square ring.

Now on June 9th at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas, Nevada, Manny Pacquiao defends his WBO welterweight title against Tim Bradley. To me, the more interesting fights are on the undercard that night. The future of boxing may be on display before the main event.

Three of the nine men fighting on the undercard that night all come out of Joe Hand’s Gym on Second St. in Northern Liberties, a gritty area of North Philadelphia. The same gym where Bernard Hopkins trains and has worked his magic for many years. They are Teon Kennedy, Mike Jones and Jesse Hart. The first two men are fighting for a belt, while Jesse Hart fights his first four-rounder as a pro. Let’s take a look at these fighters and see what they’re facing Saturday night.

Teon Kennedy is a tough little guy who stands only 5’5’’ tall and is in his prime at 25 years of age. His is a style where he is always boring in, always looking to throw that big right hand punch. This will be his first shot at a world title. He fights against Guillero Rigondeaux, a southpaw, for his WBA super bantamweight crown. Rigondeaux has a first-class training camp with Freddie Roach in his corner. It should be an interesting bout. Back on Nov. 20, 2009 at the Blue Horizon on N. Broad Street in the City of Brotherly Love, Kennedy KO’d Francisco Rodriguez in the 10th round. Rodriguez died of head injuries two days later. Kennedy also stopped Alex Becerra of El Paso, Texas, to win the vacant NABA super bantamweight title at Bally’s Casino in Atlantic City on Sept. 25, 2010 in 10 rounds. He then beat Jorge Diaz on March 26, 2011at Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City. After knocking Diaz down in the third and sixth rounds, Kennedy won the USBA super bantamweight belt that night via UD.

The champion that Kennedy faces at the MGM Grand is a 31-year-old Cuban defector who won a gold medal at the 2000 and 2004 summer Olympics. He has an undefeated pro record of 9-0 with 7 KOs. Rigondeaux, known as “El Chacal/The Jackal” is an excellent boxer and adjusts his style to his opponent and to whatever situation in which he finds himself. So you have a brawler, Kennedy, who will be up against an excellent Cuban boxer, Rigondeaux; Philly old school meets the Cuban new school of boxing. It should be an interesting fight. While the Cuban has a short pro record, it’s because he was not allowed to fight pro in communist Cuba. He instead fought many long years as an amateur, with over 400 fights and only 12 loses.

Mike Jones, another boxer from a Philly neighborhood, will meet Randall Bailey to decide who will get the vacant IBF welterweight belt. The title was vacated by Andre Berto in return for a rematch with former WBC champ Victor Ortiz. Ortiz beat Berto last April in a UD12. Why give up a belt to fight a former champion that already beat you? The best reason: a guaranteed big payday for both fighters, much larger than the payday the IBF title defense would have gotten Berto.

So now Jones will meet Bailey for that vacant IBF welterweight belt. Randall Bailey was heavily favored to beat Berto. In this writer’s opinion that was the other reason Berto took a powder and gave up the IBF belt. Jones comes into the fight with a perfect record of 26 wins with18 KOs and no losses. At Madison Square Garden on Dec. 3, 2011, Jones beat contender Sebastian Lujan by UD to win the IBF Welterweight Elimination Tournament. Floyd Mayweather recently said of Mike Jones “that with both hands, Mike is the hardest hitting welterweight that I have ever worked the mitts with, and he hits harder than Thomas Hearns.”

Finally, let’s see what we know about the third boxer on this undercard, Jesse Hart.

Also a Philly fighter, this will be Hart’s first pro fight. This debut will be a four-rounder against Manuel Eastman. Manuel made his own debut on May 4, 2012, in a four-rounder against Bobby Lopez at the Desert Diamond Casino in Las Vegas. He was TKO’d in the third round.

Now Hart, if you haven’t already guessed is the son of former Philly middleweight boxer Eugene “Cyclone” Hart, who had a big following here in the ‘70s. Dad had a terrific left hook and while he never won a middleweight belt, he is remembered as an explosive fighter. His record was 30 wins, 9 losses, 1 draw and 1 no contest. His son hopes to take after his dad. He also fights middleweight and was a Golden Gloves champion in the 165 lb. class. A good amateur start and a famous name will only get you so far. We’ll have to see what happens in Las Vegas on June 9th. There is an old saying in another old sport—horse racing. You breed the best with the best and hope for the best. If Jesse takes after his father and can start winning as a pro, we may see good things from him in the years to come.

There are boxers today, sons that are better or worse than their boxer fathers. Marvis Frazer comes to mind, Floyd Mayweather and Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. too.  That’s what makes the sport so exciting. There are no sure things.

I take that back. The only sure thing is that Philadelphia will continue to produce more than its fair share of young promising fighters.

Follow us on Twitter@boxing_com to continue the discussion

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  1. Patricia 05:00pm, 06/25/2012

    Terrific writing, a really interesting piece.  It had a real, gritty, streets of Philly feeling to it.

  2. Don from Prov 04:35am, 06/09/2012

    I kind of thought that was a possibility, Mr. Marcus—that a senior member of the Mayweather clan had passed that opinion down.  Very good of you to check.  Thanks.

    And, again, good article.

  3. norm marcus 02:29am, 06/09/2012

    Don: I checked out that Mayweather quote again. Could have been a quote by Floyd Sr. (the source is not specific) which would explain his knowledge of Hearn’s power. Or Jr. could just be repeating something that his father had said to him earlier. Either way a compliment like that is to be treasured.

  4. Don from Prov 05:36pm, 06/05/2012

    Thanks Mr. Marcus—-

    Again, I was just wondering….
    And the compliment, to even be thought of in that power category, is (as you say) a nice one to receive.  Enjoyed the article.

  5. The Thresher 12:03pm, 06/05/2012

    Norman, IMO, Jones got a gift decision in his first fight with Jesus Soto Karras. I was not impressed. This time I salute him for getting in the ring with a genuine bomber.

  6. Norm Marcus 10:53am, 06/05/2012

    Don: that quote of Mayweather was just that, a quote. I have no knowledge of where he got that info from either. Probably just his opinion but he is a champ so his opinion carries some weight.
    I saw Hearns fight a few times in his prime and I don’t think Jones has that kind of power. Again that is my opinion. It was a nice thing for Mayweather to say so I thought the Philly guy deserved the compliment in the story.

  7. Don from Prov 08:53am, 06/05/2012

    Good article, Mr. Marcus, but a couple of questions (and one comment): First, how would Jr. know how hard Hearns hit (and I ask that not in any aggressive way as far as Floyd’s opinion goes because he may, for all I know, have secondary or direct knowledge of Hearns’ power: So that’s what I’m wondering).; second, “and hits harder than…Hearns” is a pretty big statement for anyone to make (catches my attention anyway), and the record of Jones does not appear to back that idea up, but records can deceive, so—as I assume that you have seen Jones fight once or twice—what do you think at this point about his power vs. that of Hearns?

    And: Wikipedia should be banned.
    Boston on the periphery of the Rust Belt?  Boston is the Paris of—

    Well, the Paris of MA anyway.

  8. The Thresher 08:04am, 06/05/2012

    Jones is very good but if Bailey connects flush, Jones is done.

  9. The Thresher 07:51am, 06/05/2012

    Wikipedia. Huh?

    You missed the truculent joke. It completely went over your head.

  10. The Thresher 07:26am, 06/05/2012

    Pac will win

  11. The Thresher 07:20am, 06/05/2012

    No fighter cannot be impacted by a ring death—pardon the double negative.

  12. The Thresher 07:19am, 06/05/2012

    Bailey has the best straight right since Hearns. He connects, it’s over.

  13. norm marcus 07:04am, 06/05/2012

    Jimmy D- I don’t know if Kennedy was affected by that death. All people are different. I do know that Max Baer killed Frankie Campbell in the ring in the early 30s and it made him afraid to hit anyone that hard again. He took care of the widow for the rest of her life and sent all the kids to college at his expense. Max was the best!

  14. Norman Marcus 06:47am, 06/05/2012

    I think not Thresher, I am not cruel, fierce or savage. Although my old drill instructor in the Marines would love that meaning! I think you have been watching Bill O’Reilly on Fox too much! If you go to Wikipedia and look up the Rust Belt, the Boston, New York, Philly areas are said to be on the periphery of the belt. It was a little more vague then you said. Lets just say we agree to disagree?
    My ques. to you is- who will win on Saturday Night? Pac or Bradley?

  15. mikecasey 05:35am, 06/05/2012

    A word often used in the rust belt before it got laid off.

  16. The Thresher 05:32am, 06/05/2012

    Something good!

  17. Norman Marcus 07:07pm, 06/04/2012

    OK Thresher- I guess you win this argument. Geography was never my best subject. I do enjoy your comments though, keeps me on my toes! You are still welcome to come to Philly. I’ll show you the Liberty Bell and the Rocky statue.
    By the way, what does truculent mean?

  18. The Thresher 06:49pm, 06/04/2012

    Norman, r u being truclulent?

  19. The Thresher 06:49pm, 06/04/2012

    Cities on the coast are NOT in the rust belt though they may be in just as much decay. The rust belt is all about being in the middle of the US.

    Everybody breathing dirt, eating dirt—-they call it ‘pay dirt,’ for Youngstown clean would be Youngstown out of work…
                              —Frank Bohn, 1915

    Camden is worse than Philly or Youngstown or just about anything else except East St. Louis, but Camden is NOT in the rust belt.


  20. Norman Marcus 06:18pm, 06/04/2012

    Thresher: Come to Philly one weekend and Thresher- Come to my city anytime. I’ll show you the abandoned, decaying blocks of factories. The closed Navy Yard, oil refineries and the fleeing middle class. I’m a Philly guy and while the cities you named are in the rust belt so is this city, believe me. It has all the standard parts, failing old schools, highest murder rate of the top 10 cities in the country, and a shrinking tax base. Even the police don’t want to live here anymore.
    Trust me, I love my city but it is definitely in decay.

  21. The Thresher 05:57pm, 06/04/2012

    Thanks Norman—very enjoyable read., but Philly is not a Rust Belt City. Toledo, Youngstown, Akron, Detroit, and maybe even Clevaland and Erie, are but not Philly.

  22. JimmyD 03:59pm, 06/04/2012

    Great piece on the Phila fighter Mr. Marcus. I remember reading about Kennedy killing Rodriguez in the Phila Daily News a few years back. They had a great story on Rodriguez’s life and family back in Chicago. He left a wife and a small son behind. I wonder if that has had any affect mentally of Kennedy in the ring in subsequent fights.

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