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Brooks, Serrano win belts at boxing block party

By Mike Stafford: Mother Nature smiled upon promoters Bob Duffy and David Schuster on Saturday at the Plattduetsche Park. All week, thunderstorms threatened to knock out the outdoor boxing extravaganza in Franklin Square, Long Island. But the weather was perfect, the fights exciting and the boxing-themed play that kicked off the event was a knockout.”

“We had some challenges,” said Michael Bentt, the former WBO heavyweight champion who directed “Kid Shamrock.” “There was wind, planes flying over head. A lot of outside distractions that wouldn’t normally occur in the theater. But the actors rose above it all and turned in a performance they could be proud of.”

The day started at 4:30 p.m. with the performance of “Kid Shamrock,” an Off Broadway play based on the life and career of former contender Bobby Cassidy. The cast was stocked with current and former fighters. Mark Breland, Seamus McDonagh, John Duddy, Mark McPherson and Junior Jones were the retired fighters in the cast, while active fighters Jake Brodksy, Chris Algieri, Tommy Rainone and Rich Neves participated. In fact, Neves and referee Arthur Mercante Jr. performed in the play and then got in the ring for real later that evening.

Duddy and actress Shannon Lower stole the show with several explosive scenes that depicted the darker days of Cassidy’s life. And conversely, Vinny Vella, Patrick Connolly (who both appeared in The Sopranos) brought comic relief to the performance. Randy Gordon, yes the former boxing commissioner, Nick Roman
and Jim Walsh also played to the crowd. Cassidy himself delivered some powerful and emotional monologues throughout the show.

At 5:30, it was time for some real boxing and the fighters didn’t disappoint.

In the main event, Mike Brooks went to war with Joey Arroyo for eight heated rounds. Brooks (8-0) carried the day on the score cards 80-72, 79-73 and 78-74 to win the IBA Youth Lightweight Title. Brooks, a southpaw, punished Arroyo with body shots but Arroyo pressed the action to the final bell. The fight was closer than the scorecards made it seem. Brooks was the winner, sharpshooting his punches, but Arroyo stayed with him for every second of the fight. It was the first eight-rounder for both fighters.

Brooklyn’s Cindy Serrano (16-5) won the vacant WIBA International Lightweight title with a unanimous eight-round decision over the very game but limited Kerri Hill (4-23-1). Serrano used her speed and combination punching to keep Hill in control for the entire bout. The scores were 80-72 twice and 79-73.

In another eight rounder, cruiserweight contender Santander Silgado (22-0) outworked and outmuscled Joell Godfrey (14-8-1) for a unanimous decision. Much of the fight was spent at close quarters. Whether the action was in ring center or on the ropes, these two cruisers dug in and banged away at each other. The difference was
that Silgado was the fresher and stronger fighter throughout. It reflected on the scorecard as well as the judges had it 79-73 twice and 80-72 for Silgado. Arthur Mercante Jr., after his stage debut, was in the ring for this fight.

“The play was great,” said Mercante Jr. “It was a lot of fun acting with everyone. My Dad actually refereed a lot of Bobby Cassidy’s fights. So it was great to see Bobby still telling his story.”

Neves, who also appeared in the play, brawled his way to unanimous decision win over the tough, but awkward, Philip Burnette. It was the first six-rounder of Neves’ career, who scored a knockdown in the fifth round.

“Burnette was very awkward and durable,” said Neves. “But I was ready to go six rounds. I could have gone more. I wasn’t worried too much about acting in the play. All I really do in my scene is shadow box, which is what I would be doing in the dressing room anyway. It was fun.”

The rest of the undercard went as follows: former national amateur champion Adam Willett W6 Miron Kadyrov (cruiserweights), Emmanuel Lartei Lartey w6 Bryan Abraham (welterweights), Dario Soccia W4 Jose Angel Ortiz (welterweights), Tyyab Beale TKO 4 Nathaniel James (heavyweights); Skender Halili TKO 3 Rashad Boger (junior middleweights).

It was a testament to Bob Duffy’s matchmaking that there were only two knockouts on the nine-bout card. They billed the event as a “Boxing Block Party,” which is exactly what it was. A little culture, some fights, live music and plenty of food and drink. If ticket holders looked on the reverse side of their tickets, there was even a $500 rebate for a brand new Jeep (parked about 50 feet from the ring) courtesy of the event’s sponsor Westbury Jeep.

“The day was a huge success,” said promoter David Schuster. “I knew if the rain stayed away, everyone would have a great time. And that’s what happened. The two title fights were action packed. It was like going to street fair that was boxing themed. That’s the atmosphere Bobby Duffy and myself wanted to capture.”

That’s exactly what they did.

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