It was almost three years ago when Danny McDermott first got a chance to fight as a professional boxer in his backyard. McDermott, who has lived in both North Bergen and Jersey City during his lifetime, received the opportunity to perform as part of a Main Events boxing card at Schuetzen Park in North Bergen in November 2005.
It was a fight that McDermott was looking forward to, a chance to fight as a pro in front of his family and friends. There aren’t a lot of professional boxers who get that kind of shot to fight in his hometown. So for junior lightweight McDermott, fighting in front of the hometown fans had to be the thrill of a lifetime.
Unfortunately, the result wasn’t what McDermott had planned. He battled a nondescript Edward Valdez to a four-round draw, a decision that could have very easily been a loss for McDermott.
So for the better part of the last two and a half years, McDermott was searching and hoping for his shot at redemption. He battled some injuries and wasn’t receiving many offers to get back into the ring. In fact, since that fight against Valdez in 2005, McDermott fought only twice, once in Whippany and once in Reading, Pa.
So when Union City-based Pound-For-Pound Promotions, headed by brothers John and Pat Lynch, approached McDermott and offered him a chance to be part of the fledgling promotional group’s latest fight card, to be held at Schuetzen Park, McDermott jumped at the opportunity.
“Without a doubt, I was looking forward to this fight,” McDermott said. “I trained really hard, because I knew there would be a lot of people at Schuetzen Park to see me. I didn’t want to let anyone down again. I was really pumped up.”
Last Thursday night, McDermott was one of eight local fighters to participate in Pound-For-Pound’s “Fistic Fireworks” card, an energetic and exciting event that will certainly cement the Lynch brothers as major players in the New Jersey professional boxing scene.
This was the third card that Pound-For-Pound produced, with one other at the Park Theater in Union City and another in Atlantic City last spring.
But clearly, this was the best card that the Lynch brothers have put together.
Despite the fact that the event was delayed for more than an hour, because of the massive traffic jam caused at the Meadowlands with a tanker truck overturning and the Bruce Springsteen concert that evening, the 700 or so boxing enthusiasts in attendance were treated to a great night of boxing, the best local pro card in Hudson County in about a decade.
McDermott was right in the middle of the impressive results. In taking on 25-year-old Darrell Martin of Pennsylvania, the local hero was clearly the aggressor from the outset, taking the fight right to Martin. The last fight McDermott fought at Schuetzen Park, he was more tentative and defensive. Not this time.
Perhaps McDermott had more incentive than just fighting in front of the hometown fans. Right before the fight was to take place, Martin asked for the fight to be cut from the originally scheduled six rounds to four.
McDermott wants to be able to extend his fights and this would have been his first six-round bout. The late shift angered McDermott.
“I really don’t know why he wanted to cut the fight down,” McDermott said. “But I trained for six rounds and was ready to go six rounds. I figured he was looking for a way out and that got me angrier. So I think circumstances had a lot to do with the way I got into the ring. I took that aggressive approach with me.”
It was very evident early on that the 29-year-old McDermott was a totally different fighter this time than he was the last time he entered a ring in his hometown. McDermott staggered Martin with a great straight right hand at the end of the first round and put Martin on his heels for the rest of the fight.
“It was like two totally different fighters,” McDermott admitted. “I just put more energy into it.”
For some reason, Martin was doing some strange things in the ring. He was doing deep knee bends and had his arms extended in crucifix fashion while the fight was going on. Martin also delivered a head-butt to McDermott in the second round that drew blood to McDermott’s forehead.
“This may sound crazy, but for some reason, the cut lit a fire under me and made me even more aggressive,” McDermott said.
In the third round, McDermott staggered Martin with a flurry of punches. Martin was flopping around like a fish, with McDermott chasing Martin around the ring. The partisan crowd was chanting, “Danny, Danny,” as he landed a few round-house rights.
“I knew all the people were cheering my name and that really got me going,” McDermott said. “It felt the same way if I was fighting in Madison Square Garden. It was incredible.”
McDermott dominated the fight, winning on all three judges’ cards, taking a unanimous four-round decision. McDermott got his win, got his redemption and looked like a totally different fighter, one that was vastly improved and that was refreshing to see from a local standpoint. McDermott’s pro record now stands at 5-1-1.
Another local fighter who was certainly impressive was Union City’s Jason Escalera, the 20-year-old produce manager for a local supermarket who is an up-and-coming light heavyweight.
Escalera took on Rodell Boler, a native of Ohio making his professional debut. Escalera was fighting for the third time as a pro, after a highly successful career as an amateur.
With the hometown crowd chanting “Monstruo, Monstruo,” Escalera’s nickname which means, “Monster” in Spanish, Escalera went toe-to-toe with Boler in the second round after spending most of the first round effectively scoring with jabs and straight rights.
“I started off looking for the jabs and that set up my punches later on,” Escalera said. “I came out and tried to make him back up. I was boxing him in the first and second rounds, looking for my opening. By the third round, I could see he was already tired.”
Escalera got in a series of body punches and kept Boler in the far right corner of the ring.
“I landed an upper cut and the referee [Earl Martin] stopped it,” Escalera said. “My first two fights weren’t like this one. This guy was a little more aggressive than the others. I had to protect myself a little and it all worked out.”
Escalera was also appreciative of the hometown support, with people holding signs, cheering the “Monstruo” nickname.
“When I first started fighting, my trainer gave me the name,” Escalera said. “I might be a nice guy outside of the ring, but in the ring, I’m a totally different person. It’s a really good feeling to get this support. It gives me the energy to do what I have to do.”
Most of the local fighters from the Pound-For-Pound stable all won as well. Bobby Rooney of Bayonne won his six-round light heavyweight fight. Promising junior welterweight Jeremy Bryan of Paterson remained undefeated, as did boxing partners Victor Valenzuela, Jorge Diaz, and Ronny Vargas.
The only local fighter to suffer a setback was Jersey City’s Noriko Kariya, the sister of National Hockey League All-Star Paul Kariya. Kariya lost via knockout against Ava Knight of California in the fifth round.
All in all, promoter John Lynch was more than pleased with the evening and is already making plans for his next card.
“We were thrilled,” Lynch said. “The first time we had a card locally [at the Park Theater], we had a hard time organizing. Our main event dropped out right before the event and that put us in a bad situation. But this was the event we anticipated when we started Pound-For-Pound. We have a lot of young talent in the area and we were able to showcase that talent. It was a terrific night and all I’ve heard has been positive feedback. I’m anxious to put together another one.”
And it’s safe to say that both McDermott and Escalera will be part of that card as well. Pro boxing is definitely alive and well in Hudson County and the proof was “Fistic Fireworks.” – Jim Hague