By John DiSanto – PhillyBoxingHistory.com
Veteran Philadelphia welterweight, “The New” Ray Robinson, 24-3, 12 KOs, faces another stern test Saturday night, when he takes on undefeated, Lithuanian puncher Egidijus Kavaliauskas, 21-0, 17 KOs, in a scheduled 10-rounder at South Philly’s 2300 Arena.
The fight is the co-feature bout on a nationally televised doubleheader headlined by light heavyweight champion Oleksandr Gvozdyk, in his first title defense since taking the title from Adonis Stevenson in December. The Ukrainian champ fights Doudou Ngumbu in a 12-round WBC championship bout. These two fights will be telecast by ESPN, beginning at 10 PM. The rest of the card, will stream live on ESPN+.
It’s been about 13 months since Robinson last fought. In that arduous start, Ray suffered his third career defeat, losing by stoppage to Yordenis Ugas, who recently fought a close battle with WBC champ Shawn Porter. For Robinson, it was a tough assignment after another extended layoff, and Saturday night threatens to be more of the same.
Robinson, a talented southpaw, has had a fine career, only losing to Ugas recently, and Porter and Brad Solomon ages ago. He’s won a slew of regional belts, been world ranked, and has been on the verge of big things more than once. However, his run as a pro has also been plagued by inactivity due to injuries, management issues, and other nagging obstacles. For the most part, he’s navigated the choppy waters well, but now finds himself in a sink-or-swim situation.
With his most recent layoff, Robinson, 33, does not have the luxury of picking and choosing opponents. He’s done enough of that already. So these days, he takes what he can get. That was the case with Ugas, and it’s definitely the case on Saturday.
When he steps back into action against the highly regarded Kavaliauskas, Robinson will be a big underdog. Around town, fans are worried. However as usual, Robinson has the opportunity to turn his career on a dime, and make another run at the top – and the potential he’s always appeared to have.
A win against the world-ranked, Oxnard-based Kavaliauskas puts Robinson right into the mix among 147-pounders. But everything is going to have to fall into place on Saturday. Any type of win could put Robinson right where he wants to be, but the wrong kind of loss might end his career on the spot. No other fight on this card has higher stakes or more drama attached to it.
Much of the rest of the undercard is loaded with local talent.
Philly featherweight Donald Smith, 8-0, 5 KOs, meets Mexican-born Jose Antonio Martinez, 11-17, 6 KOs, in a six rounder. Smith, a three year pro who’s fought mostly in Atlantic City, returns to Philly for just his second hometown bout.
Promising Joshafat Ortiz, of Reading, PA, 5-0, 3 KOs, fights James Thomas of Michigan, 6-4, 6 KOs, in a six round junior lightweight bout.
South Philly heavyweight newbie, Sonny Conto, 1-0, 1 KO, returns to the 2300 Arena for his second start as a pro. The 23-year-old Conto is already wildly popular. Then again, what Italian puncher in South Philly isn’t? His last opponent was a virtual no-show. So in some ways, this will be our first look at the professional version of Conto. He fights Omar Acosta, of New Mexico, 1-5, 1 KO.
Allentown, PA junior featherweight Jeremy Adorno makes his pro debut against Tacoma’s Sebastian Baltazar, 1-3. If Adorno is anything like his brother Joseph, don’t blink.
Five additional bouts, including a 12-round welterweight eliminator between Kudratillo Abdukakhorov, 15-0, 9 KOs, and Keita Obara, 20-3-1, 18 KOs, complete the line-up.
The first bell for this Top Rank-promoted show, is set to ring at 6:30 PM, Saturday at the 2300 Arena.
To read more about the Philly fight scene – past and present – visit PhillyBoxngHistory.com.