PROVIDENCE, R.I.– History will be made Wednesday night as Rhode Island’s Anthony Marsella Jr. joins a short, but prestigious, list of area fighters to headline at the region’s premier destination for professional boxing.
In just his 11th fight, Marsella Jr. stars in his first main event, becoming the 26th New England native to headline at Twin River Casino Hotel since the venue first hosted boxing in 2007.
On Thanksgiving Eve, Nov. 21st, Marsella Jr. (10-0, 4 KOs) puts his unbeaten record on the line in an eight-round bout against Mexican challenger Jorge Rodriguez (10-3, 10 KOs) for the vacant International Boxing Association (IBA) Americas Junior Welterweight Title in CES Boxing’s 2018 season finale
Wednesday’s fight is also Marsella Jr.’s first shot at a title, but it won’t come easy; “El Pitbull” Rodriguez, who hails from Nayarit, a small state of roughly 1.18 million in western Mexico, boasts all 10 of his wins by knockout, including five in the opening round.
Tickets for Wednesday’s event start at $47 and are available online at www.cesboxing.com, www.twinriver.com or www.ticketmaster.com, by phone at 401-724-2253 or at the Twin River Casino Hotel Players Club, located on the second floor. All fights and fighters subject to change. Doors open at 5:30 p.m. ET and the first fight begins at a special holiday start time of 6:30.
Wednesday’s season-finale will be held in conjunction with the U.S. Marine Toys For Tots. All fans are encouraged to bring an unwrapped toy to donate to a family in need during the holiday season. In addition, area trainer and Rhode Island boxing icon Chuck Sullivan will be inducted into the prestigious CES Ring of Honor, joining a list that includes Marlon Starling, Rocky Marciano, Gary “Tiger” Balletto, “Irish” Micky Ward and others.
The 23-year-old Marsella Jr. hopes to steal the show and begin his own legacy as a regular headliner at the Twin River Event Center, perhaps one day catching and surpassing the legends who helped turn the venue into the hub of New England boxing.
The all-time leader in Twin River headliners among New England fighters is Peter Manfredo Jr., who starred in the main event seven times, one more than “Mr. Providence” Vladine Biosse. New Hampshire native and Rhode Island resident Rich Gingras headlined five times, followed by Worcester, Mass., junior middleweight Khiary Gray, second on the all-time active leaderboard with four.
The all-time list is an eclectic timeline of Twin River’s most historic events, featuring ring warriors such as Providence’s Joey Spina (three main events), former female world champion Shelley Vincent (3), U.S. Olympian Jason Estrada (2) and New Bedford, Mass., standout Jason Pires (2), all of whom shared top billing at one point or another as a main event headliner.
Marsella Jr.’s road to the top of the card began with his first bout at Twin River in 2016. Since then, he’s fought at the venue eight times within the last two years, highlighted by a back-and-forth split decision win over the tough Ricardo Maldonado in May and a thorough victory over regional rival Brandon Berry of Maine in September.
Where will Marsella Jr. rank on the list when all is said and done? Only time will tell. For now, he’s focused on the task at hand, which is putting the finishing touches on a celebratory Thanksgiving Eve event that also features the return of Sicilian heavyweight Juiseppe Cusumano (16-2, 14 KOs), Worcester middleweight Kendrick Ball Jr. (10-1-2, 7 KOs), plus a highly-anticipated female bantamweight rematch between Rhode Island’s Karen Dulin (3-15, 1 KO) and Boston’s Amanda Pavone (5-0, 2 KOs). The two fought in June with Pavone winning by split decision.
Cusumano faces Vero Beach, Fla., vet Michael Marrone (21-9, 14 KOs) in the six-round co-main event. Marrone, a former WBC Youth heavyweight and WBA World cruiserweight title challenger, steps in on four days’ notice to replace Maurice Byarm, who was denied a license in Rhode Island. The 6-foot-4 right-hander aims for his second consecutive victory after winning 13 consecutive bouts between 2012 and 2018.
Ball Jr. returns to Twin River for the first time since last December to face Zain Shah (6-3, 3 KOs), who was born in Pakistan and now fights out of New York City, in a six-round bout. Shah returns to the ring for the first time since 2015 when he defeated 33-fight vet Ryan Davis by unanimous decision. In his last Twin River appearance, Ball Jr. stopped Alshamar Johnson in the final round of their scheduled six-round bout. In August, he fought for the first time in his hometown, knocking out Fabian Valdez at The Palladium in Worcester.
The 2018 season featured a major roster overhaul for CES Boxing, which signed several new prospects, most of whom debuted in September. Three of those rising stars return Wednesday to highlight the undercard, plus two additional New England prospects make their Twin River and Rhode Island debuts.
Fresh off a first-round knockout win in his professional debut in September, former University of Miami football and basketball star Raphael Akpejiori (1-0, 1 KO) returns to face newcomer James Advincola, fighting out of the Big Six Boxing Academy, in a four-round heavyweight bout. With former two-time world champion and head trainer Glen Johnson working his corner, Akpejiori stopped Omar Acosta in 59 seconds two months ago to earn his first pro win.
Providence junior middleweight Victor Reynoso (1-0, 1 KO) and Worcester super lightweight Nick Briggs (1-0, 1 KO), who also debuted with victories in September, return Wednesday. Reynoso faces veteran Carlos Galindo (1-6) of Peru while Briggs battles Virginia’s Stacey Anderson (0-3), both in four-round bouts. Reynoso flattened Maurilio Alavain September and Briggs took down Jacob Wright, both occurring in the opening round.
Fighting at Twin River for the first time, Providence super lightweight Davhon Shelton (1-0) and junior middleweight Lamont Powell(1-0) of nearby Pawtucket round out Wednesday’s undercard.
Powell faces newcomer Marcos Rosa of Woburn, Mass., by way of Brazil, and Shelton faces fellow Providence native Cido Hoff (1-2) in a four-round intrastate showdown that could steal the spotlight. Hoff returns for the first time since a narrow majority decision loss to Matt Doherty in June of 2017.
The Dulin-Pavone rematch is another Fight of the Night candidate. Dulin hasn’t fought at Twin River since 2011, but returned to boxing in March following a five-year layoff to defeat Jillian DiAuto. In the first fight against Pavone, Dulin earned a 58-56 score on judge Mary Freitas’ card, but judges Martha Tremblay and Mike Nolan scored it 58-56 in favor of Pavone.