By Fox Doucette
Isaac Chilemba (19-1-1, 9 KOs) took a big step in establishing himself at light heavyweight with a convincing ten-round decision win over Edison Miranda (35-7, 30 KOs) in Las Vegas on ESPN2’s Friday Night Fights series. In the co-feature, Rances Barthelemy (15-0, 11 KOs) did what he was supposed to do in disposing of feather-fisted junior lightweight Hylon Williams Jr. (15-1, 3 KOs) in an eight-round decision.
Many a Vegas tourist sets out to paint the town red during their time in the city. Isaac Chilemba managed to paint the ballroom of the Texas Station Casino red after an accidental clash of heads in the third round opened up a cut over Edison Miranda’s left eye that spat out more blood than the Black Knight in Monty Python and the Holy Grail. It may have been just a flesh wound, but that cut was the turning point of the fight. For the first two rounds, Miranda was controlling distance, backing Chilemba up, and imposing his will and power on his opponent. Once the cut happened, as has happened in so many of Edison Miranda’s fights in the past, he lost control mentally, and within two rounds had lost control of the fight physically as well.
Referee Robert Byrd deserves a wag of the finger here; throughout the night he clearly subscribed to the Joe Cortez “look, I’m on TV, they must’ve tuned in to watch me” school of refereeing. He deducted both fighters a point in the fifth round for rabbit punching, then reverted to using warnings or turning a “see no evil” eye to repeated rabbit punches by Miranda against Chilemba in the later rounds. The perfect combination of overreaction and inconsistency could have seriously marred the fight had Isaac Chilemba not shown the guts and the poise to keep at his task in easily winning the last five rounds of the fight.
When the decision came down, the South African Chilemba took the fight by unanimous decision, 97-91, 96-92 (twice), with both Teddy Atlas and The Boxing Tribune also scoring it 96-92. Considering the only men to beat Miranda up to this point have been Arthur Abraham (twice), Lucian Bute, Kelly Pavlik, Andre Ward, and referee Vic Drakulich (in the Yordanis Despaigne fight on FNF last year), Chilemba is in pretty elite company and can use this fight as a stepping stone to a potential title shot if he fights and beats the right guys in his next couple of fights.
In the co-feature, fans got pretty much exactly what they could expect from one guy (Barthelemy) who has knocked out a motley array of tomato cans, hobos, and nobodies and another guy (Williams Jr.) who fought that same level of opposition and couldn’t even muster the modicum of power required to knock those guys out. Williams wasn’t strong enough to impose his will or get Barthelemy to respect him in any way; Barthelemy wasn’t strong enough to finish the job against perhaps the first guy he has ever fought who had a chin.
This fight was a complete mismatch. After the first couple of rounds, once Barthelemy realized he was in absolutely no danger of being seriously hurt, he clowned around, threw one punch southpaw, one punch orthodox, danced around, and showed no respect at all for his opponent. An argument could be made for Williams winning the third round with some decent body work, but when the final decision came down, the judges had it 80-72, 79-73 (twice), with Teddy Atlas scoring it 79-73 and the Tribune scoring it 80-72.
In a planned swing fight, Russian heavyweight prospect Magomed Abdusalamov (13-0, 13 KOs) fought a guy in Pedro Rodriguez (8-1, 6 KOs) who came in at 243 pounds and looked like he was going to head to a nearby hospital to give birth after the fight. Some journeyman heavyweights have pot bellies, but Rodriguez really did look pregnant in there. Abdusalamov fought dreadfully in the first round, allowing his much shorter opponent and his unborn child to bull-rush him and get some good shots in, but when the second round opened, the Russian realized he was the only one of the two combatants in fighting trim and closed the show at the 1:04 mark of the round. As wins over unbeaten opponents go, this one was not just scraping the bottom of the barrel; it was what you get if you lift up the barrel and go digging in the dirt underneath.
Next week, ESPN2 is in Uncasville, Connecticut, for a battle between familiar face Demetrius Andrade (15-0, 10 KOs) and three-time knockout victim Derek Ennis (23-3-1, 13 KOs) in the main event at junior middleweight, while unbeaten Raymond Serrano (17-0, 8 KOs), also a repeat offender on FNF, takes on Kenny Abril (11-4-1, 6 KOs) at welterweight. The Boxing Tribune will have a full preview and recap of that card next week. Friday Night Fights airs on ESPN2 and ESPN3.com next Friday, February 10th, at 9 PM Eastern/6 PM Pacific time.
Fox Doucette covers Friday Night Fights for The Boxing Tribune. His weekly column, The Southpaw, appears on Thursdays. Fan mail, hate mail, and “ugh, not Demetrius Andrade again” can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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