Garrett Wilson wins the State Cruiserweight title with a knockout at Valley Forge Casino

June 20, 2015 marked the last day of the Spring season and the City of Philadelphia was offering great entertainment all across town. On the Northwest end, one had the option of spending the day at the Manayunk Arts Festival which shut down a two-mile stretch of Main street, replacing traffic with food trucks and art exhibits. Drive a little bit further up the road and one would have run into the Gorgas Park Solstice Festival hosted by my friends at the Roxborough Development Corporation. In South Philly, the Point Breeze pop-up carried on for another weekend just off of 22nd & Tasker while over in West Philly, Clark Park was throwing a party with free live local music.

On the East side of town, a big crowd was expected along the Delaware River with Spruce Street Harbor Park in full swing showcasing a Visit Philly beer garden and one of my guiltiest pleasures, Third Eye Blind, performing two blocks away at Festival Pier for an outdoor waterfront concert.

Even with all of these choices at my disposal, there was no doubt in my mind on how I was spending my Saturday night. I was taking the ride up I-76 West for a night of local boxing with the possibility of some light gambling and poolside beach drinks at the areas hottest new casino resort in Valley Forge. Now that the event is over, I can say that it was well worth the trip.

It has been a long time since I’ve bothered to go to a professional fight card in this area. There haven’t been many intriguing fights made in the area over the past five years. This looked to be a little different. Yes, neither main event participant had much success on a national level, but I knew Garrett Wilson from the East Falls section of Philly and Kennett Square’s Anthony Caputo Smith would be a  that I needed to see live. The Pennsylvania State Cruiserweight Boxing title was on the line and I love a good, old-fashioned local showdown.

Milton Santiago as an amateur in 2010
Milton Santiago as an amateur in 2010

I was also very interested in catching another glimpse of rising star Milton Santiago for the first time since I watched him compete in Puerto Rico 15 months ago. I first met the kid when he was a 13-year-old just starting out in the amateur ranks. Over the years he has grown from “The Saint” to “El Santo”, earning a reputation as a young prospect to keep an eye on.

In between my two primary areas of interest, this Marshall Kauffman Kings Promotions event also gave the opportunity to check out some of boxing power broker Al Haymon’s young talent as this venue and promoter have been a farm system of sorts for the top advisor in the boxing industry. There could be a few faces on this card that move on to higher profile events in the near future.

So on to the fights. It was an early card by usual standards. First bell rang at 6:45 PM. In the opening bout young West Philly bantamweight prospect Stephen “Scooter” Fulton (6-0, 3KOs) had his way with journeyman Pablo Cupul’s (8-18, 5KOs) while building a 3rd round TKO victory. The bout was mercifully stopped by the ringside doctor after accidental head butt opened a cut over Cupul’s right eye. Futon’s speed was too much in this bout. It looks like the former Golden Gloves champion is making a smooth transition into the pro ranks. It is time to step up the competition a bit.

There was a long delay after the first fight concluded. Action was halted for about an hour. This gave me time to work my way around the crowd, getting a feel for who was in the building and what they were expecting to see. I noticed that the event had a solid turn out with people from all walks of life filling the seats. Some were the die-hard boxing heads that I used to see on a regular basis back in the day. Some were casual fans who were out to have drinks and enjoy the night. I saw friends and family of fighters along with other active fighters who weren’t competing on this particular evening. I was welcomed backstage to catch up with fighters, trainers and managers. I ran into some old pals from my days on press row. It felt good reconnecting with the local fan base.

The Wildman
The Wildman

Around 7:45 the action resumed. MC Alex Barbosa did a good job helping the time pass. Back to the action.

The preliminary stage of the show was highlighted by Hafiz Montgomery’s successful pro debut against local tough guy Brian “The Wildman” Donahue (3-12-2) in a four round Cruiserweight contest. This was a tale of two completely different fighters. On paper, I was surprised to see a fighter taking their very first fight against a guy with this much in-ring experience.

Team EZE Fit was in full effect
Team EZE Fit was in full effect

Montgomery, a boxing instructor from Toms River New Jersey, was making his first start as a paid contestant. “Haf” had a sizable crowd in attendance, all wearing his red Team EZE Fit shirt. Lots of pretty ladies came to cheer him on. His crew was partying it up, ordering shots of Fireball and having a good ol’ time at the fights. It was a breath of fresh air. Keep this guy coming around!

Donahue is a fan-favorite type on the local circuit despite his record. He is a likable guy who is willing to fight anyone. He has made changes in his lifestyle in recent months, slowly but surely progressing away from the “Wildman” ways outside of the ring. Tonight, he was celebrating a positive personal milestone in a fight that is far tougher than anything he would face in a boxing ring. Say what you will about his record, this man is not a quitter. He gives an honest effort every time out and is comfortable performing in front of a crowd.

Joey Eye, The Wildman and Chuck Diesel
Joey Eye, The Wildman and Chuck Diesel

In the ring, Montgomery moved forward and controlled the pace for all four rounds as a game Donahue looked to find holes in his opponents arsenal. Both threw some bombs though no major blows were landed. It was Montgomery’s lead in activity which swayed the scorecards to read 40-36 from all three judges.

In the co-feature, local Junior Welterweight Milton Santiago Jr. (11-0, 3 ko’s) capped off one of the biggest weeks of his life with toughest win in his young career. Three days prior to bell time, the 18-year-old boxing veteran graduated from William Tennet High School in Warminster.

Coming into the bout, El Santo’s brain trust secretly felt that they had some easy work in the form of 27-year-old Jose Miguel Castro of Puerto Rico. To everyone pleasure, the unknown with a lackluster 4-4 record did not get the memo that he was the “B” side. Instead, the outsider fought to win. Castro even had the audacity to score a flash knockdown in round 2. While the “opponent” fighter did catch the youngster slipping for a minute, the majority of the bout belonged to young Santiago.

El Santo enters the ring
El Santo & co-mamanger Eddie Woods

The Warminster native, now training exclusively under Bozy Ennis, looked sharp while placing combinations to the head and body during this six round contest. There are still many lessons to be learned, but time is on their side. If done properly, this team could go a long way in the sport.

Final scorecards read 59-55 in favor of Milton “El Santo” Santiago. I felt that the fight was much closer.

Throughout the night, it was reinforced that a lot of people have high hopes for “El Santo”. Hell, I have high hopes for him! The youngster has already been a professional fighter for almost two years and shown a willingness to go toe-to-toe with grown men. He flashes a certain sense of smarts and a preciseness that I rarely see in fighters of any age.

He reminds me of my old high school friend Nelson Rivera, a former standout at Harrogate way back in the day. I watch Milton perform and it gives me visions of the fighter Nelson could have been if a couple of breaks in life went his way. I truly enjoy watching this kid fight. There is something special about the way he places punches, the way he is willing to fight with a fire against grown men, the way he carries himself in general. I hope he continues to compete in this area.

Caputo Smith enters the ring first
Caputo Smith enters the ring first

In the main event – we saw two fighters looking to make a big rebound as they both were coming off the worst fight of their lives. Those in the know fully expected Garrett Wilson and Anthony Caputo Smith to be a slug fest.  The pace went just as we expected.

At the opening bell, Wilson and Smith rushed to the center of the ring like two wolves chasing after the last lamb chop. It wasn’t always pretty, but they were throwing the type of bombs that make fans appreciate their place in the seat.

Both fighters seemed to land some good shots at close range in the opening frame which made it hard to score. Wilson took over in the second round landing a big counter left hook that put Smith on a knee. Smith got up and seemed to be ok, but this was the beginning of the end.

With Garrett Wilson moments after he wins the State Cruiserweight title.
With Garrett Wilson moments after he wins the State Cruiserweight title.

After a small spot of rock’em sock’em robots type fighting, Wilson plastered his opponent with a perfect shot as a clinch was about to take place. It wasn’t quite an uppercut, it wasn’t exactly a hook. I’ll call it a 45 degree angle punch if you will, and it was hard enough to put Smith down for the count. The referee waved off the count and a new state Cruiserweight champion as crowned. Fortunately Smith was able to walk off under his own power and was coherent after the match.

As for Wilson, not only does this win eliminate the stink of previous losses, but it kicked off a big week in his life. On fight night he won another piece of championship hardware. On Thursday he celebrated his 33rd birthday. On Friday – Boxrec bumped Wilson up to the #4 rated Cruiserweight in the United States, one spot behind the great Roy Jones Jr. who is still competing as a professional prize-fighter.

Call me a dreamer – but “The Ultimate Warrior” Wilson vs The Ring Magazine Fighter of the 1990’s at the Valley Forge Casino Resort has a great ring to it! If we can’t get RJJ into town, Northeast Philly’s Tony Ferrante also checked in on Boxrec’s list as the #15 rated Cruiserweight in the USA. That would be one hell of a first PA State title defense…

In other action:

Super middleweight prospect John Magda (11-0, 7KOs) remained undefeated with a 6 round unanimous decision over Dionisio Miranda (22-12-2, 19KOs), a one-time hot prospect whose career has plummeted into oblivion.

Earl Newman (6-0, 5 ko’s) looked strong, scoring three knockdowns and eventually stopping Lamont Capers (5-7) in the 5th of their scheduled 6 rounder Light Heavyweight affair.

Phoenixville’s Kevin “The Butcher” Garcia was handed a hard luck draw in a four round bout with Buffalo’s Jack “Shady” Grady. It was a good, two-way action fight. Garcia seemed to bit more active and landed slightly better in most rounds.

Eric Spring and Robert Sweeney closed the show with a nice 6-round slugfest that kept the remaining crowd members entertained. Spring showed a good punch, Sweeney showed a good chin. Both men fought til the end to win. The way it should be! I hope to see these two in action again soon.

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