A win could mean a shot at the cruiserweight title
By Denny Dyroff, Staff Writer, The Times
There are many great venues for boxing matches but none as great as Madison Square Garden.
The Garden, which is located a few blocks away from Times Square in Manhattan, has been home to some of the boxing world’s most legendary fights including the first Muhammad Ali-Joe Frazier bout, the Sugar Ray Robinson vs. Henry Armstrong classic and, more recently, the WBA welterweight title fight between Miguel Cotto and Zab Judah.
Tonight, Kennett Square’s Anthony “The Bull” Caputo Smith will join the ranks of top-flight boxers who have fought at the Garden.
Caputo Smith will fight Ola “Kryptonite” Afolabi in a 10-round cruiserweight bout. The fight will on the undercard of a six-bout event that features Gennady Golovkin defending his IBO and WBO middleweight titles against Daniel Geale in the main event.
For Caputo Smith, it will be his second fight in less than a month. The 29-year-old fighter, who is 15-3 with 10 KOs, suffered an eight-round unanimous decision loss to B.J. Flores (29-1-1) on June 27 at the Hard Rock Hotel in Casino in Las Vegas.
“I do better when I fight frequently,” said Caputo-Smith. “I stayed in the gym and kept training ever since that fight. So, I’m ready. Fisticuffs, my promoters, got a call for me to be in this fight.
“It was short notice but that’s all right. We said — we’ll take it. It’s the Garden. I never thought I’d get a shot at fighting in the Garden. When you get an opportunity like this, you’ve got to take it.”
Caputo Smith won the first 13 fights of his career — most of which were fought at the Dover Downs Hotel & Casino in Dover, Delaware. The venue was also the site of his first loss — a TKO by Kevin Engel on August 31, 2012.
In his next fight, Caputo Smith rebounded with a 10-round majority decision over Dhafir Smith to win the USA Pennsylvania State light heavyweight title.
After that, Caputo Smith traveled to Las Vegas to fight undefeated Sean Monaghan for the WBC Continental Americas light heavyweight title at the Thomas & Mack Center. Unfortunately for the local fighter, he was on the wrong end of a TKO.
Once again, he returned to this area for a fight against Anthony Ferrante for the vacant USA Pennsylvania State cruiserweight title. Caputo Smith logged a split decision to win the belt in the fight at Harrah’s Philadelphia in Chester.
After the Dhafir Smith fight, Caputo Smith decided to move up from the light heavyweight class (175 pounds) to the cruiserweight division (200 pounds).
“Moving up to cruiserweight changed everything,” said Caputo Smith. “I was coming down every fight from 215, 220 to make 175 and that was too much. I was killing myself to make that weight. I went to cruiserweight and won the Pennsylvania State title.”
It was not the first time Caputo Smith won a state title. In 2004, he was part of the Kennett High basketball team that won the PIAA state championship.
On Saturday, Caputo Smith will face Afolabi, a veteran fighter who is 20-3-4 with nine knockouts. The fighter’s full name is Olawale Afolabi. The name Olawale comes from the Yoruba tribe in Nigeria and means “wealth came home.”
In his last fight, Afolabi faced Poland’s Lukasz Janik for the vacant International Boxing Organization cruiserweight title and won a 12-round majority decision.
Prior to that fight, Afolabi fought back-to-back WBO cruiserweight title fights against Marco Huck — a draw in May 2012 and a loss in June 2013 — with both fights taking place in Germany. On Saturday, the 6-foot, 3-inch Afolabi will have a definite height and reach advantage over Caputo Smith, who is 5-10.
“This guy (Afolabi) is experienced,” said Caputo Smith. “He’s fought everybody. He’s tall and he has a long reach. This fight will be a boxer against a slugger. I don’t think he’ll want to trade punches with me.”
Doug Pettiford, who is Caputo Smith’s trainer at the William “Hicks” Anderson Community Center in Wilmington, thinks the difference in styles will work to his fighter’s advantage.
“He (Afolabi) is tall and has a boxer’s style,” said Pettiford. “He’s tailor-made for Anthony. He’s had almost 30 fights and only has nine KOs. Anthony has improved a lot on his defensive skills so he’ll be all right when he takes the fight inside.”
When a fighter who is a boxer imposes his will on an opponent, it can be a pretty fight. When a fighter who is a puncher imposes his will on an opponent, it can be an ugly fight. Saturday’s fight should be pretty ugly.
“This will be a hard fight but it is also a winnable fight,” said Caputo Smith. “I can’t get careless — but I’m used to this.
“I know that I have to get inside and I’ll get hit going in. I can take a beating to get what I want. I’m going to win this fight. I have to make it my kind of fight. It’s going to be an ugly fight.”
Afolabi actually has had three bouts against Huck, who is 37-2-1 with 26 KOs. In their first meeting, Huck, a Serbian who now lives in Berlin, won a unanimous decision in December 2009.
“A win against Afolabi should get me a title bout against Huck,” said Caputo Smith. “That’s what I’m really hoping for. I’ll go to Germany to fight him. It would be for a world title so I’ll fight him anywhere.”