by Fox Doucette
The land of dog soup, Starcraft-as-religion, and women’s golf champions, South Korea, has its pugilistic native son Ji-Hoon Kim (23-7, 18 KOs) in action against Alisher Rahimov (23-0, 12 KOs) of Uzbekistan in a lightweight contest headlining ESPN2 Friday Night Fights. The co-featured events are twofold, an unusual combination of a six- and eight-rounder since the ten-round fight that was to co-feature ended up taken off the board. In the six-rounder, Chris Rudd (12-0, 8 KOs) faces an undetermined at press time opponent. The eight-rounder features light heavyweight Ryan Coyne (19-0, 8 KOs), fighting in his hometown of St. Charles, Missouri, against designated tomato can Julius Fogle (15-7, 10 KOs), who is 0-7 plus a no-contest in his last eight contests, losing four by knockout.
Ji-Hoon Kim is a familiar sight to ESPN2 viewers, delivering some spectacular knockout victories, but being the consummate feast-or-famine fighter. Whenever he has stepped up in class he has fallen in defeat, most recently in a two-fight swoon where he lost to Miguel Vazquez for the IBF lightweight title by unanimous decision then got beaten silly for less than two minutes by Leonardo Zappavigna en route to a first-round KO loss in October of 2010.
Since those losses, Kim first claimed a bit of chicken soup for his combat soul in a much-harder-than-it-should-have-been split decision win over Dong-Hyuk Kim, who was in only his fourth pro fight. He then beat Yakubu Amidu by unanimous decision on FNF in January, seemingly falling victim to the curse of poor fights that has afflicted ESPN2 this year. Perhaps a better question might be whether Kim is finished as a factor at lightweight, whether indeed Vazquez and Zappavigna destroyed the Korean’s fighting spirit when they dashed his title hopes two years ago.
Alisher Rahimov has a stake in being the coffin nail for Kim’s career; unbeaten but 34 years old, he needs to make a run at a title shot before Father Time puts another notch in his own unbeaten record and knocks out Rahimov. The Uzbekistan native has claimed regional titles in Asia and defeated a slew of good-but-not-great opponents; Ji-Hoon Kim will make an excellent litmus test for this product of the Soviet system. If Rahimov is the prospect his record and minor titles suggest, and if Kim has indeed gotten old overnight, this could be a short night. It is certainly a main event worth watching.
Let us maintain no illusions whatsoever about the rest of the card. Ryan Coyne is in against a hobo, a freight train bouncer, nothing more. Julius Fogle has 15 wins over an array of nobodies, including a win over the hilariously named Mike McFail in Fogle’s last victory as a pro…and seven losses against any fighter better than the C+ club level. Fogle has not won a fight since 2007. He has been knocked out four times, including getting demolished in one round by Maxim Vlasov, himself a semi-regular on ESPN2. This fight is a setup so that the St. Charles crowd can make some noise and sound good on television, nothing more.
Meanwhile, whoever Chris Rudd fights will be taking the fight on short notice; at press time, as previously indicated, Rudd has no opponent. Given the weakness of the Missouri commission, they might just put every fan walking into the arena on a scale and whoever weighs somewhere in the reasonable neighborhood of Rudd’s own 140 pounds might get handed a pair of gloves and told to do his best.
Matchmaker Derrick Spicer, you are being called out here. Step up your game. ESPN2 promises its viewers two hours of exciting live boxing every Friday night, and you have fallen short of delivering on the potential of that promise. If you can’t provide compelling television for the viewers, then let someone else at some other venue in some other state or province (since, after all, Quebec has hosted many an FNF night) do the job. This is some weak sauce, Mr. Spicer. Your columnist has certain duties as a journalist, and the promoter ain’t payin’ me to shut my trap. Still, the main event is sweet. At least you got that right.
Friday Night Fights airs on ESPN2 and ESPN3.com Friday, May 25th, at 9 PM Eastern/6 PM Pacific. The Boxing Tribune will have a full recap of the night’s events, including any swing fights that make air, and including the name of whichever fan wins the 140 Pound Pro Boxer Sweepstakes or whoever otherwise fights Chris Rudd, following the conclusion of the telecast. Stay tuned—we’re the worldwide leader in covering the Worldwide Leader.
Fox Doucette covers Friday Night Fights for The Boxing Tribune. His weekly column, The Southpaw, appears on Thursdays. His mother told him “never stop writing”. Will do, Mom. Fan mail, hate mail, and the best American-style Chinese restaurants in Greater Boston (hey, your columnist is hungry!) can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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