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Caption - The referee calls for the bell, as Shakur Stevenson easily wins his hometown return. Photo By Kristopher Seals
By Kristopher Seals and William Hathaway
NEWARK - A Brick City hero came back to his hometown, waking up a restless crowd, all while putting his opponent’s aspirations of victory to sleep.
Newark native and Olympic Silver Medalist Shakur Stevenson headlined an ESPN nationally televised Top Rank boxing card at the Prudential Center on July 13. The 22-year-old undefeated pugilist entered the squared circle to face Mexico’s Alberto Guevara, after at least eight other boxers declined to fight Stevenson. Their collaborative “want no parts of this” proved prudent, as the NABO Featherweight champion (and IBF inter-continental champ) kept his crown, dispatching Guevara via a 3rd Round knockout.
The 1st Round was competitive, with Stevenson feeling out his opponent. Then, in Round Two, Stevenson scored the first knockdown. Anyone familiar with Stevenson’s work will know that when he has an opponent in peril, he finishes the job. The outcome was inevitable, as the Newark prizefighter worked in several body shots before using his patented left hand upside Guevara’s head to end the bout in the next round, improving his record to 12-0 with seven knockouts.
At the end of the night, Stevenson told the network how proud he was to fight in front of his home crowd, and that it was time for other title holders to give him a shot at their belts. While Stevenson is more than deserving of an opportunity, he might not have done himself any favors after systematically destroying another challenger, thus making other champions wary of losing their title crowns, as well as the crowns in their teeth.
“This is not the first time I’ve seen Shakur do this,” said Kristopher Seals, who saw the bout and co-wrote this piece. “True story: I once ordered something at a fast food restaurant with a TV screen showing his fight against Viorel Simion. He took Simion out so fast that my order literally wasn’t ready yet.”
Of course, the Newark crowd gave their hero a warm ovation, not only for coming home, but for providing much needed entertainment after the penultimate fight left much to be desired. In a 12 Round Bantamweight bout, Joshua Greer, Jr. defeated Nikolai Potapov in a majority decision. The pace of the match was rather pedestrian, and the crowd audibly booed throughout the clash.
As television viewers got to see Stevenson and Greer claim victory, others who got to “The Rock” early saw more undercard bouts, which saw lightweight Joseph Adorno beat Adriano Ramirez by 2nd Round KO, welterweight Josue Vargas score a 7th Round TKO over Manuel Lopez, Indian prizefighter Vijender Singh beat Michael Snider by 4th Round TKO in a super middleweight fight, super lightweight John Bauza win a unanimous decision over Angel Sarinana, and fellow super lightweight Julian Rodriguez score a 1st Round KO over Hevinson Herrera in just 59 seconds.
With all these fights however, the boxer who stole the show was none other than welterweight Vito Mielnicki, Jr., a 17-year-old from Roseland, who is currently attending West Essex High School. You read that correctly, he is STILL in high school, and made his professional debut against Mississippi’s Tamarcus Smith. Despite the crowd still filing in, the ovation Mielnicki received only fell short of what headliner Stevenson received when he came on last.
In what was scheduled to be a four round bout, Mielnicki nearly outshined Stevenson, and in one minute and 16 seconds scored a brutal 1st Round TKO on Smith. The referee did not even go for the proverbial 10 count, as Mielnicki hit Smith so hard that the latter was left face down snoozing on the mat. The crowd erupted, with the high school senior winning his debut in a manner so devastating that Smith was out cold for about two minutes, and still on the mat for three more.
Sadly, the jubilation of the Saturday night matches was marred by the untimely death of Pernell “Sweet Pea” Whitaker, who was fatally struck by a car the next night in Virginia Beach. The multi-time champion of several weight classes was 55.
By Kristopher Seals
PARIS, FRANCE - Four years after a championship performance, the best female soccer (football) team on the planet proved it was not a fluke.
On July 7, the United States Women’s Soccer Team defeated the Netherlands 2-0 to claim the 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup, their second straight and fourth overall. After a scoreless first half, the U.S. got on the board thanks to a Megan Rapinoe penalty kick in the 61st minute, and then a Rose Lavelle goal eight minutes later.
The sold out crowd of nearly 58,000 at Stade de Lyon in Paris got to see stars like Megan Rapinoe, who scored six goals and bagged three assists in the tournament, and Delran, New Jersey’s own Carli Lloyd, who may have played in her last World Cup. Fellow footballer Tobin Heath is from Basking Ridge.
Despite a good fight from the Dutch, the American squad was too dominant for nearly everyone on the pitch (field). They cruised through Group F with a record-shattering 13-0 win over Thailand, as well as a 3-0 win over Chile and 2-0 victory over Sweden. After group play, the U.S. netted 2-1 wins over Spain and France, with Rapinoe doing all the scoring. In their penultimate match, England put up the toughest fight, but fell 2-1.
Throughout their title run, the team set records for most goals in a tournament (26), most goals in one match (Alex Morgan - 5) and having the first women’s coach (Jill Ellis) to win back to back World Cups. Rapinoe was bestowed the Golden Ball and Boot for her performance.
“I’ve got 22 of the best bestest friends right behind me,” said Lloyd during a victory parade through New York’s Canyons of Heroes July 10. “I’m super proud of this team…Thank you to you fans and New York City. We cannot thank you enough for your support.”
Now, the team will take on their next challenge: equal pay with their male counterparts, who did not even qualify for the last World Cup. (If you base things on performance, they should be paid MORE than the men.)
By William Hathaway
The battle of the Oranges was a good old fashioned football game, which saw the 15U East Orange All Stars redeem themselves. In their previous encounter this season, Orange beat East Orange at Bell Stadium 13-0.
Quarterback Najee Harris led East Orange along with teammate Calvin Scott, who connected on a 60 yard pass to open the scoring 6-0. Then, another touchdown came late in the game to make the final score 12-0, giving East Orange the East Coast Spring Football Championship in Roselle.
Despite the loss, Orange’s All Stars were led on defense by Ashton Lively who had some key stops along with teammate Edwin Thomas. East Orange’s defense was led by Mohamed Diakite.
Orange’s 15U team barely missed out on an undefeated season at 7-1. However, the 10U team won its first ever East Coast Spring Football Championship game against the Essex County Predators.
The 10U Orange All Stars were led by quarterback Fredrick Caffey, who scored two key touchdowns in the game, which went into double overtime and ended in a 12-6 title win. The 10U Orange squad finished their season with a 7-1 record under head coach Fred Caffey.
In other sports news, the 26th Annual Paul Robeson Football Classic will take place on this Thursday at Robeson Stadium in East Orange. The game features graduating seniors from Essex, Passaic, Morris, Sussex and Warren counties. Players participating in the game are from Orange, East Orange, Bloomfield, Irvington and other schools in the tri-state area.
Finally, former Red Sox great “Big Papi” David Ortiz is recovering after being shot in the Dominican Republic. Ortiz suffered internal injuries to his liver and intestines A suspect was immediately arrested.
By Thomas Ellis II
This past Saturday, the Ivy Hill Little League held its Opening Day for the 2019 Baseball Season. The day started out with a parade of players and gathering at 9:15 am at the Ivy Hill Mini Mall.
The weather was beautiful, and it was a great day for baseball. At about 10:00 am, the marches stepped off, chanting “Who are we, Ivy Hill,” “Who are we, Maplewood,” “Who are we South Orange.” This year’s season is a special one, because Maplewood and South Orange have joined up with the Ivy Hill Little League, and everyone is so excited.
All the children and players look so good in their baseball uniforms. The T-Ball teams are the Mets, Angels, Astros, and Cubs. The Minor and Major teams for the league are the Mets, Yankees, and Dodgers. The minors range from ages 7 to 9, while the majors are ages 10- 12.
It's really good to see people willing to volunteer coaching baseball, because it seems like baseball in the inner cities has become a lost sport. I can remember growing up as a child that everyone was playing baseball, and some children went on to play in college, and even make the pros. Now, it's hard to find baseball in many communities, must less people who are willing to come out and coach for free.
By William Hathaway
On Feb. 3, the New England Patriots won their sixth Super Bowl in franchise history, shutting down the high scoring Los Angeles Rams 13-3. Super Bowl 53 will go down as the lowest scoring big game in history, netting only 16 points. As he has over the past 17 years, quarterback Tom Brady lead the Pats, passing 21-35 for 262 yards and one interception. However, this time he would not take home the MVP trophy, as it went to wide receiver Julian Edelman, who caught 10 of Brady’s passes for 162 yards.
For the first three quarters, the score was tied 3-3, with New England getting a field goal from Stephen Gostkowski and LA getting one from Greg Zuerlein. After a defensive lockdown, Brady finally got a big play, tossing a ball to tight end Ron Gronkowski inside the Rams’ 3 yard line. From there, running back Sony Michel would score a 2 yard touchdown that would ultimately be the only one in the game.
LA QB Jared Goff struggled all day, with nonstop pressure from the Patriots defense. On his best chance to score, he threw an interception to cornerback Stephon Gilmore. From there, Gostkowski would tack on another field goal late, and with Zuerlein missing one after, the game was over.
With the sixth Super Bowl crown, the Patriots are now tied with the Pittsburgh Steelers for the most in NFL history. Brady now stands alone with the most title wins with six, breaking a tie with Charles Haley. Head coach Bill Belichick has won his sixth as a head coach, but eighth overall, with two as a New York Giants coordinator. He will need a new defensive coordinator for his Pats however, as Brian Flores will now be the Miami Dolphins’ head coach. Meanwhile, Rams head coach Sean McVay, the youngest to ever coach in the big game, will need a new QB coach, as Zac Taylor will now lead the Cincinnati Bengals.
In other NFL news, the Hall of Fame announced its newest members, and they include former New York Jets center Kevin Mawae, record breaking tight end Tony Gonzalez, former Patriots cornerback Ty Law, Baltimore Ravens safety Ed Reed, and cornerback Champ Bailey.