SCRANTON – Planning became irrelevant for Rex “T-Rex” Harris and Brian Gibbons Friday night.
The two Luzerne County boxers improvised just fine.
Harris posted his first professional boxing victory and Gibbons got his first amateur win as part of the Summer Thunder, a Northeast Boxing promoted pro-am card at the Hilton Scranton & Conference Center.
In the second of five pro bouts that followed the amateur fights, Harris used a third-round knockdown to rally for a fourth-round cruiserweight decision over lefty Jose Torres.
Gibbons, from the Swoyersville Boxing Club, had closed out the seven-fight amateur portion of the card with a decision over Abrarb Fatta of the Tobyhanna Boxing Club in a 160-pound bout.
Harris, a 30-year-old Wilkes University graduate, has lived locally since coming to Wilkes from White Plains, N.Y., in 2001. The current Wyoming resident has won in the cage before as a Mixed Martial Arts competitor and won all three of his bouts as an amateur boxer. Friday’s win, however, represented a breakthrough after fighting to a draw in North Carolina in his pro boxing debut.
“A monkey wrench got thrown into things,” said Harris, who had been preparing for a different, right-handed opponent until a week ago. “It took a while to get more comfortable.”
Harris started slow, sizing up Torres while losing a sluggish first round. By the time the second round ended, Harris was beginning to carry the action, but Torres was still landing shots to the body and had done well enough early in the round to leave the scoring in question.
The knockdown, which was originally a source of confusion, wound up being the difference. Harris won 38-37 on two cards and 39-37 on the other.
Referee Gary Rosato awarded the knockdown, but warned Harris at the same time for pushing his opponent’s head down, giving Torres time to recover.
“It was confusing to me at first,” Harris said. “It was a clean punch that put him down, but I was kind of scared that the referee was going to call it for holding behind the head when the punch was coming.”
Gibbons had his originally planned fight scratched and spent part of the night thinking he would be relegated to watching.
Fatta had been scratched from another bout because he was late after his car broke down on Interstate 380.
Ed Kozden, who trains the boxers at Northeast Jiu-Jitsu in Swoyersville, kept working and was able to arrange the Gibbons-Fatta matchup. Gibbons, who had been prepared to face Will Feliciano in a meeting of two local fighters, said the excitement of finding a new bout motivated him to get ready in a hurry.
Gibbons saw Fatta for the first time when they entered the ring.
“I had no idea about my opponent,” Gibbons said. “I was just kind of getting a feel for him.
“He came out and drove here last minute. I respect him for that.”
A pair of Scranton fighters posted wins on the professional card.
Stephon Burgette won a unanimous four-round decision.
Jason Gavern, a heavyweight formerly from Scranton and now fighting out of Kissimmee, Fla., won by technical knockout at 2:22 of the first round. Gavern had Robert Dunton pinned on the ropes when the co-main event was stopped.
Gavern, 36, used the return to Northeastern Pennsylvania to break a seven-match losing streak that had lasted two years and taken him to four countries. He improved to 22-15-4.
Robert Sockwell decisioned Antonio Liles in the six-round main event.
Gym of Jim’s, a boxing club in Pittston, had competitors in five straight amateur bouts, winning two and losing three.
Rocky Marzan and Dawry Aquino, who both come from Scranton to Pittston to train, were the winners. Marzan had the only stoppage on the amateur portion of the card.
Feliciano, from Wilkes-Barre, and Chase Wood and Vinny Scarantino, both from Pittston, lost decisions.