By Fox Doucette
In the immortal words of Redskins running back John Riggins, “I’m bored, I’m broke, and I’m back.”
Hot damn, is it ever good to be back in familiar territory. ESPN’s Friday Night Fights series returns next week, January 6, and nothing makes your friendly neighborhood commentator feel more at home than a regular beat and a consistent schedule. With that in mind, here are the three fights I’m most looking forward to during the first two months of that series (schedules according to Boxrec.com, fights subject to change and all that—and knowing ESPN, even the stuff that’s on next week will involve Teddy Atlas saying “so-and-so took this fight on five days’ notice”.)
Ruslan Provodnikov (20-1, 13 KOs) vs. Julio Diaz (38-7, 27 KOs), Jan. 27, jr. welterweight
Few fighters are as much fun to watch as Ruslan Provodnikov, who is the perfect ESPN fighter; a guy who will probably never be world champion unless he steals a shot at a belt from a weak sanctioning body but who always brings the goods with a TV friendly style. The Worldwide Leader tried to slot the Russian into their season finale last year (a tantalizing rematch with Mauricio Herrera) but an injury to Provodnikov’s shoulder meant that fight was not to be. Provodnikov has a fascinating tendency to get hurt. In addition to the shoulder injury mentioned, he came into the Herrera fight with a black eye suffered in sparring and in his last fight with DeMarcus “Chop Chop” Corley sustained a cut in what was otherwise an easy unanimous decision win over a badly faded fighter.
Speaking of getting hurt, though, Julio Diaz got hurt in spectacular fashion on ESPN last year. Kendall Holt made a fine case for Knockout of the Year (and indeed got runner-up from The Boxing Tribune) with a brutal third-round stoppage of the former world champion. Diaz has been knocked out five times now in his career and is 32 years old, which may as well make him an octogenarian in Mexican fighter years. This might not be a delicious slaughter but it does promise to be an all-action fight.
Yordanis Despaigne (9-2, 4 KOs) vs. Edison Miranda (35-6, 30 KOs), Feb. 3, light heavyweight
I hope for Miranda’s sake that Vic “Count” Drakulich isn’t the referee in this fight, because the DQ that Drakulich handed out for low blows was a steaming pile of patent, obvious garbage that cost Miranda a fight that he had begun to make interesting after losing the early rounds. Every fighter has a moment where they either transcend their potential and we see the beginnings of something truly legendary (and the fighter need not be a champion, either. Ward-Gatti I. No further questions, Your Honor.), or they get horribly exposed as a fraud and a pretender, busted back to Palookaville with one of those hobo handcarts and a long stretch of railroad like in the old movies. Sometimes, if we the fans are really lucky, we see both in the same career (Mike Tyson, anyone?).
My point is this. Yordanis Despaigne, who (as Teddy Atlas says) “may look like Hercules but he doesn’t fight like Hercules”, lost a telling decision to Ismayl Sillakh in a who’s-the-real-prospect match on FNF last March, but that wasn’t a case of getting exposed. Losing to journeyman Cornelius White by unanimous six-round decision in early December should tell us something is seriously wrong with the Cuban, and I have a feeling that the hard-punching and revenge-minded Miranda (who, I’m sure, is just itching for the chance to beat the snot out of Despaigne on national television and restore his honor) will bring everything up to and including the kitchen sink. Expect a Hobbesian affair; nasty, brutish, and short.
John Molina (23-1, 19 KOs) vs. Alejandro Sanabria (30-1-1, 23 KOs), Feb. 17, lightweight
Has John Molina ever been in a bad fight? I’d watch him fight a sack of potatoes if you put enough stage blood capsules into the potato sack. Molina doesn’t have a ring nickname, but if he does to Sanabria what he did to Rob Frankel, I’d like to helpfully suggest “The Butcher”.
The best thing about Molina is that he’s the most dangerous sort of fighter in the game; the genuine talent with one loss. Against Martin Honorio on ShoBox, Honorio came out treating the fight like his personal Ali-Frazier moment while Molina fought like a guy who assumed his status as the more talented fighter would carry the day. When the minor NABF belt got strapped to Honorio’s waist, Molina took the lesson to heart, and when he fought another brash-but-green prospect in Hank Lundy on FNF, John Molina found out that sort of humiliation is much better dished out than taken. Interestingly enough, Hank Lundy is now one of the most dangerous prospects in the lightweight division in his own right, and the circle of life is complete.
Here’s an interesting stat for you about Molina’s opponent in this fight. Since Alejandro Sanabria took his first loss in 2010 to a Mexican club fighter with a 7-8 record (Robinson Castellanos), he has fought six times, winning all six, four by knockout. The combined records in their last six fights of those six guys? 12-23-1. But since the WBC gave Sanabria their “Silver” title four weeks ago after he knocked out Vinvin Rufino (Vinvin? That sounds like a name a French alcoholic would give his dog), that’s reason enough for Molina to slice and dice him. Sure, this fight may not be competitive, but neither was the Frankel fight, and that was pure sealed fun in a can just waiting to be opened.
This will be your friendly neighborhood commentator’s first full season at the helm of The Boxing Tribune’s coverage of boxing on the Worldwide Leader. Tune in every Tuesday for a full preview of Friday’s action, and during the fights themselves go over to the ESPN Friday Night Fights Facebook page for live scoring, commentary, and a damn fine community of guys passionate about the sport and knowledgeable about the who’s who of prospects and palookas fighting for your entertainment. We have a blast every week, and getting a few Tribune readers involved will only strengthen that community.
Fox Doucette covers Friday Night Fights for The Boxing Tribune. His weekly column, The Southpaw, appears on Thursdays. Fan mail, hate mail, and recipes for the perfect plate of nachos can be sent to email@example.com.