By Fox Doucette
Take a 9-millimeter handgun and use it as an artillery piece and you’ve got everything you need to know about tonight’s majority draw between Teon Kennedy (17-1-2, 7 KOs) and Christopher Martin (23-1-3, 6 KOs) on ESPN2’s Friday Night Fights series. In the co-feature, Cuban Olympic bronze medalist Yordenis Ugas (11-0, 5 KOs) showed a bit of power and a lot of discipline in a wide unanimous decision victory over a game but overmatched Esteban Almaraz (10-5, 4 KOs).
The immediate reaction to the decision from the fan community was that two of the three judges were blind and/or paid off by Martin’s promoter Top Rank. In truth, however, the scores of 97-93 Kennedy, 95-95 (twice) reflected the classic judge’s dilemma of rewarding either the volume puncher who controlled the pace of the fight (Kennedy) or the man who landed fewer but harder and cleaner blows (Martin). Teddy Atlas had it 97-94 and The Boxing Tribune had this one 98-92 in favor of Philadelphia-based Kennedy, rewarding him for a superior work rate while noting that Martin’s body language suggested that Kennedy’s punches were having an effect psychologically if not physically. Chris Martin spent the bulk of several rounds on the ropes absorbing punishment; his ability to fight in spots, however, had Teon Kennedy rapidly backpedaling and the assault was able to in many cases break off a flurry of Kennedy’s own punches.
The main takeaway from this fight, however, is that Teon Kennedy’s power is more Malignaggi than Klitschko. Several shots landed cleanly on the face, chin, and body of Chris Martin, the kinds of punches that looked by all accounts like, had they been thrown by a power puncher, would have been the sorts of punches that end fights. At no point did Martin look hurt physically, and it became very clear why Kennedy only has seven knockouts in twenty pro fights. All of Teon Kennedy’s knockout victims have been the kinds of fighters who get knocked out by even B-level prospects. One really does need to wonder if the after-effects of Kennedy causing a fatality in the ring (his November 2009 knockout of Francisco Rodriguez, who died from the effects of the fight two days later) have taken something off his shots. Or it could just be a case of the amateur system creating yet another pair of fighters who throw pitter-pat shots the way they do in the amateurs rather than focusing on hard-hitting, strong shots in the pros.
The co-feature was a classic case of a touted prospect getting some rounds against a guy with a good chin, a strong heart, and not much else to his name. A veteran of the Iraq War ought never to have his toughness questioned, and indeed nobody has yet been able to stop Esteban Almaraz despite the Texas fighter having been on the floor before in his career (against Ruslan Provodnikov in 2009 and against Hank Lundy in 2008). Indeed, Yordenis Ugas was able to put Almaraz on the floor in the first round from a beautifully set up right hook after a left hand caused Almaraz to drop his guard. That was, however, the only case of fireworks to be had in the fight, and Ugas did what was expected of him and cruised to a wide unanimous decision, 80-71, 79-72 (twice) and 79-72 on the Tribune’s card as well. Teddy Atlas had it a shutout, the only point of contention being the eighth and final round in which Almaraz went for broke and threw Ugas off his rhythm with a sustained assault in the late portion of the round.
That last round taught us something about Yordenis Ugas. Like many Cuban professionals in recent years, Ugas only looks comfortable when he is able to control the distance and keep his opponent on the defensive. It would be very, very interesting to see him in with a fighter like Provodnikov, Sebastian Lujan, or any other straight-ahead action fighter. Even if he is able to duck those guys, if he is to fight for a world title at welterweight he will be standing face-to-face with guys who, even if Manny Pacquiao and Floyd Mayweather have run their course as professionals by the time Ugas reaches that level, will still give him trouble; Lamont Peterson, Amir Khan, Timothy Bradley, and Mike Jones all have styles that, if tonight’s fight is any indication, are Kryptonite for the Cuban. It remains to be seen just how his career will unfold.
Due to both of tonight’s featured events going the distance, there were no swing fights to make televised air; this will probably not be the case in two weeks when Friday Night Fights returns after taking next week off. Ruslan Provodnikov (20-1, 13 KOs) takes on David Torres (21-2-2, 13 KOs) and Ji-Hoon Kim (22-7, 18 KOs) faces Yakubu Amidu (20-2-1, 18 KOs) in a night that promises more explosiveness than a fire at a fireworks factory.
Next week, ShoBox has the Friday night stage all to itself with a matchup for the WBA title at 122 pounds as Guillermo Rigondeaux (8-0, 6 KOs) takes on champion Rico Ramos (20-0, 11 KOs) at 11 PM Eastern and Pacific (West Coast viewers will get this fight on tape delay.) In lieu of his FNF duties, your friendly neighborhood commentator will have a full preview and recap of Showtime’s action right here on the only major boxing site not bought and paid for by promoters or networks. Stay tuned.
Fox Doucette covers Friday Night Fights for The Boxing Tribune. His weekly column, The Southpaw, appears on Thursdays. Fan mail, hate mail, and 9mm ammo can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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