PROVIDENCE, R.I. (Nov. 28th, 2017) — Twenty-five years of blood, sweat and tears, non-stop action and all the pageantry of combat sports comes together for one magical night Thursday, Dec. 7th, 2017 at Twin River Casino.
CES Boxing caps its year-long 25th anniversary celebration with next Thursday's season finale, a special mid-week installment of the 2017 Twin River Casino Fight Series.
The event features nine bouts, in addition to a historic retrospect of CES' quarter century of combat sports excellence, plus the induction of longtime Rhode Island sportscaster Ken Bell into the prestigious CES Ring of Honor. Next week's “Thursday Night Fights” showcase is also presented 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.
The entire card airs live on Facebook via FIGHTNIGHT LIVE, CES' third event of the year on the fan-friendly streaming platform. Doors open at 6 p.m. ET and the first fight begins at 7.
Welterweight prospect Khiary Gray (14-3, 11 KOs) of Worcester, Mass., headlines the fight card in an eight-round bout against Philadelphia's Greg Jackson (8-4-1, 2 KOs) for the vacant New England Interim 147-pound Title.
Forced to withdraw from his showdown with Juan Rodriguez in September due to injury, Gray fights next Thursday for the first time since June in his welterweight debut after campaigning his entire career at 154 pounds.
“I'm a dangerous man right now,” Gray said. “I've got respect for Jackson, don't get me wrong, but I'm putting everything on the line for this fight. I'm coming to hurt. I'm coming for the respect I deserve.”
The 29-year-old Jackson, a winner over Phillip Lars in his last bout in October, returns to New England for the first time since battling reigning WBC USNBC champion Jimmy Williams to a draw in 2013.
“I breathe, eat and shit this. I don't play,” Jackson said. “Everything else is secondary. I'm hungry. I'm real hungry.
“I'm not going to let anyone minimize me or my talent at all. However I've got to kick in the door is how I've got to kick in the door. Eventually, it's going to come. God makes you wait until the time it's right. This is very big for me. This is something Khiary may think is big for him, but it's even bigger for me.”
Starring in the eight-round co-main event, Marshfield, Mass., welterweight Aleksandra Magdziak Lopes (18-4-2, 1 KO) faces Ontario's Natasha Spence (8-3-1, 6 KOs), a two-time world-title challenger. Lopes has won eight of nine bouts, including her long-awaited return to Twin River in April when she defeated Mexico's Paty Ramirez by unanimous decision.
Hard-hitting Sicilian heavyweight Juiseppe Cusumano (13-1, 11 KOs), fighting out of Danville, Va., makes his fourth appearance of 2017 in a six-round bout against Indianapolis' Brandon Johnson (6-3, 3 KOs) and Providence, R.I., fan favorite Anthony Marsella Jr. (6-0, 3 KOs) puts his perfect record on the line in a six-round lightweight bout against Mexican challenger Oscar Eduardo Quezada (7-4, 4 KOs).
Marsella blasted 30-fight vet Israel Rojas in September via fourth-round knockout following a hard-fought win over Texan Abraham Torres in June in which he rounded from his first career knockdown to earn the victory on the scorecards.
Following in the footsteps of his idol, heavyweight legend Rocky Marciano, who fought 28 times in Rhode Island during his Hall of Fame career, Cusumano returns to Twin River for the third time this season in search of another knockout victory. The 6-foot-4 heavyweight has won 11 in a row, including seven by knockout.
Facing his toughest test to date, unbeaten Worcester lightweight Jamaine Ortiz (6-0, 4 KOs) battles 17-fight vet Derrick Murray (13-3-1, 5 KOs) of Saint Louis in a six-round special attraction. One of New England's hottest prospects, Ortiz is 4-0 in 2017, including a narrow victory over Canton Miller in February and an impressive third-round knockout win over previously-unbeaten Glenn Mitchell in April.
Also representing Worcester, middleweight Kendrick Ball Jr. (8-0-2, 5 KOs) faces Vineland, N.J., native Alshamar Johnson (1-1-1, 1 KO) in a six-round bout and super middleweight prospect Bobby Harris III (1-0) makes his Twin River debut in a four-round bout against Amadeu Cristiano, an accomplished Muay Thai fighter from Sao Paolo, Brazil making his professional boxing debut.
The always-ready Ball Jr. fights for the 11th time since turning pro in May of 2016, an unmatched stretch of productivity for the 6-foot-2, 25-year-old middleweight. He's won his last four since fighting to a draw with regional rival David Wilson in 2016, defeating opponents with a combined record of 14-2-3.
Providence lightweight Michael Valentin (2-0, 1 KO) returns for the third time since debuting in June, this time facing Efren Nunez of Fall River, Mass., in Nunez's four-round pro debut. Fighting at Twin River for the first time, super middleweight Jarel Pemberton (1-0) of Boston, the son of regional icon “Sandman” Scott Pemberton, battles Rene Nazare (0-1) of Woburn, Mass., in a four-round bout.
The 26-year-old Pemberton, a former lance corporal for the U.S. Marines who served two tours in Afghanistan, debuted for CES in August with a win over Nathan Schulte. Valentin, the youngest fighter on the card at the age of 18, defeated New Bedford, Mass., native Henry Garcia by unanimous decision in June.
The elder Pemberton joins a handful of CES legends attending next Thursday's event in celebration of promoter Jimmy Burchfield Sr. and CES' 25th anniversary, among them former cruiserweight world-title challenger Matt Godfrey of Providence, former five-time women's world champion Jaime Clampitt of Warwick, R.I., the legendary “Sucra” Ray Oliveria of Fall River, Mass., and former welterweight standout Kippy Diggs of Hyannis, Mass., a two-time regional champion. The “Sandman” won 29 fights, 24 by knockout, in a brilliant, 12-year career.
CES Boxing will also unveil its greatest, most memorable fights of all-time in a special showcase throughout the event, highlighting 25 years as the region's most influential combat sports promotion.
A former boxing judge and referee and owner of the iconic Classic Restaurant, Burchfield became more heavily involved with the sport after watching Vinny Paz, a fellow Rhode Island native and eventual five-time champion, win the National Sports Festival on ABC's Wide World of Sports.
Burchfield promoted his first event in 1992 at the Rocky Point Palladium in Warwick, headlined by Oliveira defeating Tomas Rodriguez in the 10-round main event. CES Boxing continued to build champions well into the 21st century; its rich history includes the development of former U.S. Olympian and Providence native Jason Estrada, plus Rhode Island legends Gary Balletto and Peter Manfredo Jr., both of whom rose to fame on The Contender reality television series.
Through the years, Burchfield earned several noteworthy awards, among them the NABF Promoter of the Year, in addition to his 2011 induction into the Connecticut Boxing Hall of Fame. Burchfield also promoted Oliveira's epic 2001 showdown against Ben Tackie at Foxwoods Resort Casino, which set a modern-day CompuBox record for most punches thrown, and guided hard-hitting Polish heavyweight Mariusz Wachto the top of the division, culminating in a world-title showdown against Vladimir Klitschko in Germany.
Years later, Burchfield brought Godfrey to Germany to face WBO world cruiserweight champion Marco Huck and guided Philadelphia's Hank Lundy to No. 1 in the world in the 135-pound division before an eventual championship bout against pound-for-pound king Terence Crawford at Madison Square Garden.
Nearly two decades after Paz knocked out Joe Frazier Jr. in front of a sold-out crowd at the Providence Civic Center (now known as The Dunkin Donuts Center), Burchfield remained in Paz's corner, guiding the boxing icon to his 50th and final win in 2004. Burchfield also made history in 2010 with the launch of his mixed martial arts division, CES MMA, and promoted Rhode Island's first sanctioned event at Twin River.