by Fox Doucette
Renowned gastronome Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin once said “Man can be taught to cook, but must be born knowing how to roast.” Where regards the Sweet Science, one may take the Frenchman’s words and twist them a bit: “Man can be taught to box, but he must be born knowing how to fight.” After watching his performance in his first big test on ESPN2’s Friday Night Fights tonight, one wonders if Fernando Guerrero (21-1, 16 KO) has failed the latter test.
This is not to say that his vanquisher, Grady Brewer (28-12, 16 KO), was a pushover by any means. Brewer has, after all, defeated top junior middleweight Cornelius “K-9” Bundrage and has on his resume a total of six wins against undefeated fighters. The prospects who beat Brewer have among their number Sechew Powell, Jermain Taylor, and Kelly Pavlik. Guerrero’s handlers clearly hoped to make a statement and get their guy a title shot.
The problem Guerrero ran into was his own shaky defense and a decision to come way down in weight, all the way from middleweight where he has fought his entire pro career to 152 ¾ pounds for tonight’s fight. The lean body meant that the Maryland native looked terribly vulnerable when Brewer hit him to the body, and a sweeping right hand to that body in the fourth round put Guerrero through the ropes and it looked for a moment like he would not beat the count. A sustained barrage from Brewer, most of which was comprised of looping shots that were not landing cleanly, had Guerrero in pure surrender mode, and when he slipped and fell face-first on the canvas, that was all the excuse referee Jon Schorle needed to call a halt to the bout at 2:16 of the fourth round.
The loss to Brewer, the first of Guerrero’s career, leaves open a lot of questions. This is the fourth time he has been on the canvas in a fight, leading to questions about his chin. This was a total surrender as soon as leather came at him in a flurry, leading to questions about his heart. And this was not Paul Williams or Cornelius Bundrage or Miguel Cotto dishing out the punishment, leading to questions about Guerrero’s potential to make a real mark at the junior middleweight (or, indeed, any) level. This was, however, a great action fight, which bodes well for the pride of Salisbury, Maryland to sort these questions out for pay on television.
The co-feature was a great case of a guy who knows the difference between cruising to a boring decision against an overmatched opponent and giving the fans something to cheer for. Karim Mayfield’s (14-0-1, 9 KO) tenth-round TKO stoppage of Steve Forbes (35-10, 11 KO) was dreadful for the first nine rounds and thrilling for the last minute. Mayfield had been landing chopping right hands with bad intentions for the entire fight, but intermittently. The rest of the action (if it can be called such) featured something between wrestling and slow dancing, leaning far more toward the latter. It wasn’t until Mayfield got his hands free and did some work in the tenth that Forbes finally tasted a knockout loss for the first time in his career. Steve Forbes is 3-7 in his last ten fights; this may have been his swan song. Mayfield, on the other hand, did little to suggest he’s worth watching on TV, but he did keep his record intact and show he could beat a washed-up former champion.
Speaking of Forbes, it behooves the viewer to ask how someone who was a champion at 130 pounds could be so out of shape that he could not make the welterweight limit, and furthermore only had the weight of a quarter-pound burger available to lose when he stepped on the scale over the contracted weight. Usually a fighter waits until after he retires to put on the padding. Forbes might have just been getting a bit of a head start, since retirement surely awaits him now.
The sideshow was a massively enjoyable four-round scrap between Javontae Starks (5-0, 4 KO) and Mexican short-notice opponent Antonio Gamez (6-4-1, 1 KO). Starks, five inches taller at 5’11 to Gamez’s 5’6, fought effectively on the outside, but Gamez was unafraid to get in and dig to the body or reach up to aim for the clouds and Starks’ head. The four-rounder went the distance, which is where things got sketchy. A split decision awarded the fight to Starks, 40-36, 39-37, 37-39. The Boxing Tribune had the fight 39-38 for Gamez with the third round even, and the crowd watching booed loudly and angrily when the scores (especially the 40-36 score, which was completely indefensible as Gamez won the second round decisively) were announced. Teddy Atlas called out the judge who gave the bout 40-36, and this writer would like to echo Teddy’s sentiments. Too often in swing fights, judges are influenced by a fighter’s undefeated record and try to protect him. Scoring the fight for Starks was understandable if he was given credit for landing the hard shots in rounds 1, 3, and 4. But scoring it 40-36 suggests that the judge simply filled in his card ahead of time then spent the fight staring at the breasts of the nearest ring card girl. Maybe the right man won (though this writer disagrees), but judges need to learn not to bring biases with them to ringside on the swing fights.
Next week, ESPN2 brings the fights to the viewing audience in 3D, as John Molina takes on Robert Frankel in the main event. The co-feature, a very intriguing matchup, features a fighter in Mauricio Herrera who kicked off the “curse of the unbeaten” on FNF with his win over Ruslan Provodnikov in January. Herrera faces another victim of that FNF curse, Mike Dallas Jr., who in his last fight got knocked out by Josesito Lopez, also in January. The Boxing Tribune will have a full recap of that fight next week.
Fox Doucette covers Friday Night Fights for The Boxing Tribune. He believes, as Brillat-Savarin did, that “a dessert without cheese is like a beautiful woman with only one eye.” Fan mail, hate mail, and coupons for free cheese can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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