Story by Kelly Kusumoto, photos by Colleen Cahill
On a hot, sweaty August night, Bantamweight Christian Carto TKO’d Phillip Adyaka to remain perfect at 11-0 with 11 KOs and proved he was SugarHouse Casino’s sweetest treat of the night.
On the banks of the Delaware River, SugarHouse Casino in Fishtown was bustling with action. Cars filled each parking lot, people were walking to and fro, dining outside and playing inside. The weather was perfect and the mood was right. But no one’s stars were more aligned for a win than the incredibly talented, Philly native, Christian Carto, who at 20 years young is carving out a boxing career he hopes will only go down in history.
Since turning pro last year, Carto has won each of his fights by way of knockout. He’s been getting a lot of attention in the boxing world and after Friday, a lot more attention in the Philly press as well. I spoke with him briefly the Wednesday before the fight. He and his older brother, Frankie, were kind enough to take time out of their hectic schedules to chat about his future as well as a couple of other things besides boxing.
As we talked, I was less concerned about the stats and facts. You can find those anywhere online. What struck me was how soft-spoken, polite and down-to-earth Christian is. He was very focused, yet he took the time to think about my questions and give me honest answers. With at that point a 10-0 record, I knew he was going to be good, but after talking with him and seeing how positive and family-oriented he is, it made rooting for him a piece of cake.
Fast-forward to fight night and the arena–which was more like a large ballroom they transformed into a boxing event–was electric. You could feel the energy and the hype surrounding Carto. No disrespect to the other fighters. They did a fantastic job of putting on a classy show. Each of them gave their all and for the most part were very sportsmanlike and professional. But everyone there was keen on seeing one person. Carto T-Shirts were all over the place. The buzz you felt after each fight was one that built up in anticipation until, finally, Carto walked out from the locker room area and towards the ring. The audience exploded and everyone stood to get a look or snap a pic.
His opponent, Phillip “The Black Alien” Adyaka came out first, and although his game face was imposing, he was a few inches shorter than Carto, and when the two squared up, you just got the sense it wouldn’t last long.
During the first round, it seemed Carto was sizing him up and working off a little of the jitters. His speed and technicality were by far the best on display that night. I mean, it wasn’t even close. The fighters before him were good, but by comparison, Carto was in a league of his own. He was a surgeon. He didn’t even break a sweat while Adyaka was ducking and weaving for his life.
Halfway through the second round, I could overhear some of the spectators question why the fight was still going. And as if he could hear them, Carto threw a barrage of punches that contained a lot more behind them than the previous ones. Before you knew it, referee Gary Rosato put his arms around Adyaka and Carto raised his hands in celebration. Officially, Carto won by TKO at 2:43 of the second round.
As impressive as he was outside of the ring, he was just as impressive inside. This kid is the complete package. On Wednesday, he told me he wants to be one of the best. On Friday, he showed me not only is it possible, it may be inevitable.
When I asked him why boxing, he said it’s just something he’s really good at.
“You know, when you’re good at something, you kind of just want to keep doing it,” he said.
He had tried other sports, but boxing was what stuck. Having a family who’s had success in the sport doesn’t hurt. They were all there supporting him. His mother kissed him after the fight. The best part about it was that he was proud, not embarrassed like most guys would be.
I asked him, “I’ve been searching all over the internet for your nickname. All the greats have one. What’s yours?”
He laughed and said, “Nah, I don’t really have one.” He told me there were a couple, but he didn’t really like them. “People just call me Christian,” he said.
Not for long, kid.
As an aside, he wanted to give a shoutout to Francoluigi’s in South Philly. I asked him what he thinks are some of the best things about his hometown. He said the restaurants, in particular, Francoluigi’s because they’re one of his sponsors, but more importantly, that’s where he goes to eat before the weigh-in of every fight.
If you are a fan of boxing, keep an eye out for him. Freddie Roach (Manny Pacquiao‘s coach) of Wild Card Gym in Los Angeles, knows who he is, as do many of the great Philly pugilists. He’s on Twitter @christian_carto as well as Facebook as Team Carto or christian.carto and his brother, Frankie is on Instagram as @frankie_carto