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A "Big Close" at the Paradise
By Bernie McCoy
August 26, 2007

Photos: Raquel Gonzalez Photography


(AUG 26) The Paradise Theater, in the borough of the Bronx, in the city of New York, is a remnant of another and, for some people, a better time. A time when almost every neighborhood had a movie palace (which truly deserved that description) like the Paradise that was both an entertainment center and a Summertime refuge from stifling apartments where air conditioning was as rare as space travel. In the late 1950s and early 1960s, theaters like the Paradise also hosted "live" rock and roll shows, MC'd by nationally renowned New York radio disk jockey legends, Alan Freed, most prominent, among them. All those shows were geared to a "big close," a two or three song set by the star of the show: Jerry Lee Lewis, Jackie Wilson, maybe Chuck Berry, a finale that would bring the crowd to it's feet and, oft times, into the aisles. On Friday night at the Paradise Theater, Joe DeGuardia's Star Boxing show had a "big close."

Photo: Raquel Gonzalez Photography (Olszewski-L - Warner-R)

Eileen Olszewski and Suszannah Warner did not have star billing on this Friday boxing card. In fact their "swing" bout was scheduled to be either four or six rounds and "might or might not" make the ESPN "Friday Night Fights" telecast. But after the main event ended in the second round, due to an accidental head-butt, the boxing equivalent of a baseball rain-out, the two female flyweights arrived in the ring, for the last bout of the night, weighing less than one of the card's heavyweight male fighters. The two 107 pounders then proceeded to put on the best four rounds of the night, as the ESPN television lights and cameras spotlighted the action for fortunate viewers at home.


Eileen Olszewski is scheduled to fight for the WBC flyweight title on September 14 in Italy against Stefania Bianchini. While it is normal for fighters to step up training for a title fight, taking a bout against an opponent such as Suszannah Warner stretches, considerably, the definition of "rigorous training." Warner is the reigning NABF Atomweight champ and has been in with some of the top fighters in the lower weights of the sport, including her previous bout, in February, against Carina Moreno. Some observers questioned Olszewski taking a bout so close to a title fight; many others questioned taking that fight with a boxer of Warner's stature. Risky? Possibly. Rewarding? Absolutely. The four rounds with Warner were probably worth twenty rounds with head gear and sweat pants under controlled gym conditions. And, for fans of the sport of Women's boxing, it was a terrific bout.

Warner displays the quickness of most good fighters at her weight level, and then some. She has above average reach and, not surprisingly, did her best work on Friday when the two fighters were on the outside. Warner was most effective when she maintained distance with Olszewski and was able to attain punching room, as she did in the first and fourth rounds. While it's not easy to out-quick a quick fighter, Olszewski managed to come very close on Friday, both with her lateral and in and out movement. She seemed to have the quicker hands, by a narrow margin, and scored most decisively when she was able to get inside Warner's jabs and work the body effectively. All four rounds were closely contested and the frenzied reaction of the crowd reflected the back and forth nature of each two minute stanza. One judge had the fight 38-38, another saw Olszewski winning three rounds and called it 39-37. Given the slim margin of advantage, for either fighter, in any round, save possibly the third, which was clearly Olszewski's, either one of those judgments could be rationalized. A third judge called it a shutout for Olszewski, 40-36, which, to me, bordered on absurd. I had Olszewski winning the second and third rounds, Warner the fourth and I saw the first round even, 39-38, Olszewski.

Warner left the ring immediately after the decision was announced, possibly, and probably, justifiably, upset over the 40-36 verdict. I asked Olszewski if she thought a shutout was a correct call and she replied, logically, "one judge saw it that way." The winner also noted that she wished the bout had been scheduled for six rounds, a view shared by everyone in the Paradise Theater on Friday night and, I'm sure, by those watching on ESPN. Olszewski also felt that both she and Warner had come into the ring a bit "cold" after the long wait through an entire night of bouts. That was, certainly, another reason for six rounds instead of four, but, as with most sports, the only clock that counts is the television clock and ESPN had time for only four rounds. But four rounds was enough to qualify for a "big close" to a fight night in the Bronx, and both Eileen Olszewski and Suszannah Warner probably have a number of "big closes" on a number of fight cards ahead of them in their ring careers. They certainly had one Friday night at the Paradise Theater in the Bronx.

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