by Fox Doucette
Heavy-hitting junior lightweight prospect Javier Fortuna (20-0, 15 KOs) delivered his second spectacular early-round knockout of the year on ESPN2 Friday Night Fights, demolishing Cristobal Cruz (39-14-3, 23 KOs) in just two rounds in the main event. In the co-feature, Magomed Abdusalamov (15-0, 15 KOs) continued his demolition of all brave or foolish enough to face him as he beat the tar out of Maurice Byarm (13-2-1, 9 KOs) in a two-round win of his own. Thankfully fans got a pair of four-rounders to keep tonight from being turned into “Bernardo Osuna Fills Dead Air Theater”, although there was certainly plenty of that.
The first fight was a virtual replay of Fortuna’s demolition of Yuandale Evans two months ago. Fortuna was in against a guy who throws wide, looping punches, and was able to time and counter his opponent, first dropping Cruz on what may have been a bit of a rabbit punch (though not an intentional one; Cruz was leaning forward throughout, leading to a lot of wrestling and pushdowns in round one), then catching Cruz right on the chin with the coup de grace, a punch delivered with such force that Cristobal Cruz went down more like he’d been shot than like he’d been punched. Cruz beat the count, but referee Robert Byrd had seen enough and called a halt to the action.
The co-feature was a virtual carbon copy, albeit with more bulk behind it, occurring as it did at heavyweight rather than junior lightweight. Magomed Abdusalamov hits like the big Russian he is, looking in form and style like a ten-inch shorter answer to Nikolai Valuev. Late in the first round, he caught and staggered Maurice Byarm and began teeing off on him, the only thing standing between him and a first-round stoppage being the fortuitous arrival of the bell. Byarm barely got to his corner, and when he came out in the second, a knockdown followed by a flurry of punches closed the show.
The first swing bout brought Rocco Santomauro (9-0, 0 KOs, and that’s not a typo) beating game but overmatched DeWayne Wisdom (2-4, 1 KO) for four rounds, showing along the way why he was, as Teddy Atlas put it, a “feather duster”. Although he may hit like he was using bedroom pillows as gloves, Santomauro does have a slick style and the ability to show some angles to his opponent. Wisdom, for his part, is a counterpuncher without the counters. He moves backward, walks his opponent in, but has no idea what to do in order to halt the advance. Four rounds of this mercifully came to an end, with Santomauro winning 40-36, 39-37 (twice) and that 39-37 being a bit too charitable for the vanquished Wisdom. Teddy Atlas and your columnist both had it a shutout.
The second swing bout brought a delightful breath of fresh air from Atlas. Joe Cortez, everyone’s favorite “fans are here to see me” butt-in referee, gave his “I’m fair but I’m firm” catchphrase to the part-timers in his charge…and Teddy Atlas went off on him, sharply criticizing Cortez’s tendency to insert himself into the action. It was vitriolic, vicious…and awesome. Hats off to Teddy for saying what everyone was thinking but never had the national TV venue to air those grievances.
The actual fight was an entertaining if not terribly competitive cruiserweight scrap. Mitch Williams (6-2-1, 4 KOs) had ten amateur fights; Mano Otero (2-4, 1 KO) had but one. Williams was by far the better fighter in the ring, faster, stronger, and more effective. Otero made up for in heart what he lacked in skill, coming forward through a storm of punches to try (and usually fail) to do some work of his own. Had this been any more than four rounds it is highly likely Williams would have closed the show; he appeared to have Otero out on his feet with thirty seconds to go, and the clueless Cortez failed to stop the fight when realistically Otero was taking more punishment than was strictly necessary. Otero took three solid uppercuts right on the chin, staying upright only through toughness and grit.
When the decision came down, the judges were all in agreement scoring the bout 40-36 for Williams. Teddy Atlas gave Otero the third round, but the fourth he ruled 10-8; so did your columnist, for the same reason; Otero was out on his feet. The final scores were 39-36 (Atlas) and 40-35 (the Boxing Tribune).
Next week, Glen Johnson (51-16-2, 35 KOs), still active after years in the ring, takes on Polish fringe prospect Andrzej Fonfara (21-2, 12 KOs) in the main event. Fonfara is, in theory, nowhere near Johnson’s level, but Johnson is 43 years old and it remains to be seen what he has left after losing three of his last four fights. The co-feature brings Jose Luis Castillo (63-11-1, 54 KOs) stepping into the ring against Ivan Popoca (15-1-1, 10 KOs), who has not fought since his eighth-round knockout loss to Ruslan Provodnikov in April of 2011 on ESPN2. Castillo has been stopped seven times in a long and illustrious career; will Popoca, a club fighter from Chicago, put an end to Castillo’s career as a televised attraction? We will all find out when the bell rings and fist meets face.
Friday Night Fights returns July 13th at 10 PM Eastern/7 PM Pacific, on ESPN2 and ESPN3.com. The Boxing Tribune will have a full preview and recap of the night’s televised action, the recap including any swing fights that make air. Keep it here—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. Fox would like to thank longtime friend Nora Sawyer for inspiring the O Fortuna remark in the title. Fan mail, hate mail, and lamentations of a fixed fence at an elementary school can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.