With less than a week to go before the most talked-about boxing match in years takes center stage in Nevada, longtime promotion CES Boxing is set to deliver its own memorable night of boxing with some familiar faces and a few newcomers looking to build their legacies in the footsteps of some of New England’s brightest stars.
CES Boxing’s live event begins 6 p.m. ET Saturday, Aug. 26th, 2017 at Foxwoods Resort Casino’s The Premier Ballroom, just hours before pound-for-pound king Floyd Mayweather and MMA icon Conor McGregor go toe-to-toe in Vegas in the most publicized crossover bout in combat sports history.
The live event, featuring seven action-packed bouts, is available to stream for free on Facebook via FIGHTNIGHT LIVE. All fans who purchase a ticket to the event receive free entry next door at the Grand Theater for the exclusive Pay Per View showing of Mayweather-McGregor.
Tickets are priced at $55, $90, $155 and $325 and can be purchased online at www.cesboxing.com, www.foxwoods.com, or www.ticketmaster.com, by phone at 401-724-2253 or 800-200-2882 or at the Grand Theater Box Office. All $55, $90 and $155 tickets offer buyers a reserved ticket to the Mayweather-McGregor PPV. A $325 ticket purchase includes preferred seating. All bouts are subject to change.
Tickets for the closed-circuit event only can be purchased online at www.foxwoods.com, by phone at 800-200-2882 or through any Ticketmaster location.
The 10-round main event speaks for itself: New Haven, Conn., vet Jimmy Williams (13-0-1, 5 KOs), the reigning World Boxing Council U.S. Boxing Council (WBC USNBC) welterweight champion, making his first title defense in his home state against 22-fight vet Issouf Kinda (18-4, 7 KOs) of the Bronx, easily the toughest test of his career.
Williams, 30, is a full-time truancy officer for the West Haven school department. Born in New Jersey, he played college football at Southern Connecticut State and was invited to try out for several NFL teams, but a groin injury derailed his dreams of playing professionally. While attending school, his mother was found strangled to death behind an abandoned building. Her murder remains a mystery to this day.
The death of his mother has always been a source of motivation for Williams. On Saturday, he also fights in honor of the late Ben Callahan, a 10-year-old boy from nearby Branford who drowned a month ago while swimming with his two brothers in the Branford River. Williams had a strong bond with Ben, whose father is a trainer at the gym where Williams works on his strength and conditioning.
On Saturday, CES Boxing will honor Ben with a moment of silence. All fans who purchased tickets from Williams will wear a lighted lanyard that will help illuminate The Premier Ballroom as Williams makes his way to the ring alongside Ben’s surviving brothers.
The fight itself will be a war. Kinda, now 29, is taking a major leap moving up from the 140-pound weight class to the welterweight division to challenge for the prestigious WBC USNBC title. Since capturing the belt in April, Williams has jumped up to No. 12 in the North American Boxing Federation (NABF) rankings, so the reality is the winner of this fight puts himself in line for a major title shot down the road.
Born in West Africa, Kinda dreamed of competing in the 2008 Olympics, but when that plan fell through, he decided boxing professionally was the fastest route to success, so he immigrated to New York in 2007 without a dollar in his pocket, unable to speak a word of English.
He eventually taught himself the language, found a gym where he could hone his skills and turned pro in 2009, winning his first 15 fights. Even as a professional boxer, he worked full-time at a soul food restaurant in Harlem, making just enough to support himself and his family back home in Africa. Kinda defines the American dream. Both fighters have a lot at stake Saturday night.
Since this night is all about boxing versus mixed martial arts, CES Boxing decided to provide fans with its own slice of Mayweather-McGregor with a cruiserweight bout between Hartford native Richard Rivera (2-0, 2 KOs) and 27-fight MMA veteran Leandro Silva of Sao Paolo, Brazil, who makes his professional boxing debut.
Rivera is off to a fast start as a pro with knockout wins in each of his first two bouts. Nicknamed “Popeye The Sailorman,” Rivera enjoyed a stellar amateur career, competing in the U.S. Olympic trials and boasting wins over some of the top amateurs in the country. Saturday is a unique challenge as he faces the versatile Silva, who boasts a 20-6-1 record in MMA, including eight fights with the Ultimate Fighting Championships (UFC). Silva recently starred on UFC Fight Night 93 in Germany and has also fought in Canada, Mexico, Brazil, Japan, England and the United States.
This is an intriguing fight that pits boxing versus MMA and could perhaps serve as a preview for what’s to come later in the night in Nevada.
Also on Saturday, New Bedford, Mass., standout amateur Jarel Pemberton will make his professional debut on the undercard. That name should sound familiar; Jarel Pemberton is the son of former regional icon “Sandman” Scott Pemberton, a veteran of many noteworthy fights at Foxwoods during the last quarter century.
Those who’ve followed boxing through the years remember Pemberton’s two epic battles at Foxwoods against Omar Sheika in 2003 and 2004, both of which were named ESPN’s Fight of the Year. Pemberton won the first bout by split decision, then knocked out Sheika in the 10th round of their rematch a year later to retain his IBU and NABF super middleweight titles.
The younger Pemberton, now 25, naturally gravitated toward boxing while growing up under his father’s guidance, but before he ever stepped foot in the ring as an amateur, he served two tours in Afghanistan as a lance corporal in the U.S. Marines. He was a machine gunner in the infantry and was also a three-sport athlete at Dartmouth High.
With his father having fought so many memorable bouts at Foxwoods, it’s only fitting the next generation of the Pemberton fighting family makes his professional debut at Foxwoods during its 25th anniversary. Pemberton faces Nate Schulte (0-2) of Woburn, Mass., in a four-round super middleweight bout.
One of the more intriguing bouts on the undercard is a six-round battle between regional unbeaten junior welterweights Cristobal Marrero (4-0, 2 KOs) of New London, Conn., and Miguel Ortiz (2-0, 1 KO) of Springfield, Mass. This is a rare battle between two young fighters willing to put their unbeaten records on the line against one another at such an early stage in their careers.
Marrero, who fought as an amateur in Puerto Rico and Worcester, Mass., enters at 4-0, having stepped up the level of competition in each of his fights. He’s coming off a hard-fought win over New York veteran Sidney Maccow in April, his toughest test to date.
Ortiz is as tough as they come; just two fights into his career, he’s already challenging the best in his weight class in New England. He almost didn’t make it this far as he was forced to pick himself up off the canvas in his pro debut last September against Marqus Bates, only to score the knockout moments later in the opening round. The fearless Ortiz then took on 2-0 Jonathan Figueroa in April, sent him to the canvas midway through the bout and earned the win on the scorecards.
There is no love lost between these two; this fight was originally scheduled for June, but Ortiz sustained an injury in camp. Now Foxwoods will provide the backdrop for what should be one of the top fights of the year in the New England circuit.
The Foxwoods debut of Juiseppe Angelo Cusumano (11-1, 9 KOs), a.k.a. “Rocky,” of Carini, Sicily, is another interesting storyline. With the Klitschkos no longer commandeering all the world titles, the heavyweight division is up for grabs.
Cusumano is coming into his own at the perfect time. The 29-year-old slugger boasts an 11-1 record with nine knockouts and fights on Saturday night for the second time since June as he continues to make a rapid rise to the top of the weight class.
Cusumano idolized the great Rocky Marciano growing up and has adopted the nickname as a pro, big shoes to fill, but nothing the 6-foot-4 Sicilian heavyweight can’t handle. Cusumano faces 28-fight vet Robert Dunton (11-16-1, 6 KOs) of Columbia, S.C., in a six-round bout.
One of the top New England amateurs of this generation, Worcester’s Jamaine Ortiz (4-0, 3 KOs) will also be featured on this card. Ortiz defeated everyone in his path as an amateur and competed in the Olympic Trials in Reno in 2016. He’s now 4-0 as a pro with impressive wins over unbeaten foes Glenn Mitchell and Canton Miller. Ortiz is also a member of the Carpenter’s Local 107 union in Worcester.
Also from Hartford, junior middleweight Jose Rivera (3-1, 3 KOs) returns to action in a four-round bout against Corwin Farmer (1-1) of Tarboro, N.C. The impressive Rivera has won each of his bouts by knockout while Farmer is coming off his professional win in January, an upset over previously unbeaten seven-fight vet Paul Holley in Georgia.