by Fox Doucette
Years ago, the shoot everything in sight before it kills you video game genre reached its absolute zenith with “Smash TV”. Two lucky contestants entered the arena for the viewing audience to compete for cash and prizes or get sadistically mowed down trying. Which is all you need to know about tonight’s knockout-heavy Friday Night Fights card on ESPN2. Two contestants entered, and at the end only one was standing upright after using all his firepower to avoid being overwhelmed by a hostile force.
We began the night with Alejandro Rodriguez (12-4, 6 KOs) getting a healthy dose of “Good luck! You’ll need it!” against Cleveland’s Mickey Bey Jr. (17-0-1, 9 KOs), who may have missed out on his chance at Olympic glory in 2004 but who kept his record in the pros intact and retained his status as a prospect in the lightweight division. Three rounds featuring a relative paucity of action came and went, Bey doing enough to maintain control but not enough to impress. Finally, in the fourth round, a hook landed flush on the face of Rodriguez, whose right knee appeared to buckle like Yuri Foreman in the Miguel Cotto fight last year. Rodriguez initially beat the count, but right as the referee was about to restart the action, Rodriguez’s leg gave way once more, leading the ref to pick up the count, reach 10, and wave off the fight. For Bey it was another win against relatively soft competition in the pros.
The main event had Mark Jason Melligen (21-3, 14 KOs) landing the harder punches and frustrating Sebastian Lujan (38-5-2, 24 KOs) for the first three rounds. Initially it looked like Lujan’s lack of defensive ability and Melligen’s tendency to throw left hands with bad intentions was going to lead to a predictable breakdown of the former world title challenger.
All that changed in Round 4. Lujan’s relentless pressure and his psychological mind games shaking his head every time he got hit cleanly started to get to Melligen. The Argentine landed a few clean shots, nearly dropped the prospect, and from that point onward Lujan was in the head of the fighter from the Philippines. Coming forward, never leaving his hands stationary, taunting his opponent every time he landed a clean shot, Lujan put the thought in Melligen’s head that all those punches would be nothing more than a minor annoyance.
Finally, each round thereafter left fans thinking of another Smash TV quote, “Total Carnage! I love it!” Melligen got dropped by seemingly identical right hands in the sixth, seventh, and eighth rounds, and finally one more big shot early in the ninth round proved the coup de grace—no extra lives, no continues, just a fighter flat on his back, his psyche broken, his career on what seems like an irrevocable track toward irrelevance, and his prospects as a potential champion completely dead in the water.
This was Muhammad Ali standing over Ernie Terrell yelling “What’s my name?!” in the pure level of downright sadistic domination from the fourth round onward. Lujan even ventured out of the neutral corner after the knockdown in the seventh, leading referee Raul Carrion no choice but to pause his count, which was the only way the downed fighter was able to beat the march toward ten. It was as though Lujan wanted Melligen to get up so he could pound on him some more—this was a vicious, nasty, career-destroying performance that was entertaining in the most brutal fashion.
In between, we got what was supposed to be a four-rounder that was cut short after only a single round due to a wrist injury to Pedro Martinez (2-1, 1 KO). However, for those three minutes, “I’d buy that for a dollar!” So too would Ivan Najera (2-0, 2 KOs), who gave his opponent all he could handle in an entertaining scrap that was full of action and showed quite clearly what happens when someone with a strong amateur background (42 amateur fights for the San Antonio-based Najera) faces someone stepping into a boxing ring for only the third time in his life in a sanctioned contest. Martinez had no amateur experience and it often showed during that lone round. Sadly, Martinez sustained a wrist injury and was unable to continue, otherwise fans would have been treated to more of the same. As it stood, though, Najera showed a lot of polish for an 18-year-old fighter and should do well as his skills continue to develop.
After a night of “Big Money! Big Prizes! I love it!”, we can only hope that next week’s FNF card offers similar thrills and spectacle. Henry Buchanan (20-2, 13 KOs) takes on Jesus Gonzales (26-1, 14 KOs) in a super middleweight main event, while the co-feature brings us another Cleveland-based prospect in Yuandale Evans (14-0, 10 KOs) taking on Emmanuel Lucero (26-6-1, 14 KOs) in a junior lightweight co-feature. That card airs 9 PM Eastern/6 PM Pacific on ESPN2 and ESPN3.com. The Boxing Tribune will have a preview of the fights and recap of all the night’s action.
Fox Doucette covers Friday Night Fights for The Boxing Tribune. His weekly column, The Southpaw, appears on Thursdays. He beat Smash TV in an arcade once…and spent more quarters than he cares to admit in so doing. Fan mail, hate mail, and chatter about the best 16-bit video games can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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