by Fox Doucette
“What have you done for me lately”, the lament of many a jilted lover, describes the messy divorce between Serhiy Dzinziruk (37-2-1, 24 KOs) and his career as a legitimate player in the fight game. Thanks to a barrage of southpaw-killer right hands from Brian Vera (22-6, 13 KOs), Dzinziruk found himself down and out in the corner in the tenth round of the main event on ESPN2 Friday Night Fights.
The co-feature was a great case of your columnist being totally wrong in a preview prediction. Instead of getting a ten-round borefest between a prospect unable to finish and a short-notice opponent unable to fight back, we got one hell of an upset, as Jose Hernandez (14-6-1, 6 KOs) exposed myriad flaws in the game of the showcase fighter, Tony Luis (15-1, 7 KOs).
The main event got off to what looked like a fluke of a start. Brian Vera caught Dzinziruk with a glancing right hand as Dzinziruk was tripping over his feet, but the referee ruled the shot a knockdown. Teddy Atlas, commentating for ESPN2, noted that he did not at that point have grounds to award a 10-8 round. That may have been so, but Vera caught Dzinziruk flush on four separate additional occasions in Round 1, each time doing to the neck of the Ukrainian what a car crash as retold by a personal injury lawyer does to an old lady. The fourth one was the charm, as fans could be heard to chant in unison “now THAT is a knockdown.”
Vera continued the pressure for the first three rounds, eased off the gas in rounds four and five, then got back up to his tricks as the late rounds beckoned. At no point did Dzinziruk appear to have anything approaching an answer for the right hand of Brian Vera, whether it came in arrow-straight or crooked as a question mark like the Riddler’s suit. Riddle me this, Batman. What happens when a good pressure fighter gets his opponent backed up against the ropes and has license to go to town? Well, in Round 10, we got the final answer. Serhiy Dzinziruk got knocked out. His only possible saving grace, an attempt by Vera to hit him when he was down (which could have resulted in a DQ), was averted (and controversy saved) when Vera did not land the punch.
Dzinziruk beat the count, but his body language and facial expression spoke volumes to referee Benjy Esteves, who stopped the fight at 1:50 of the tenth round of a scheduled 12-round contest for a minor WBO-hierarchy middleweight belt. Game, set, match, and in the immortal words of Cosmo Kramer from Seinfeld, “Ukraine is weak!”
The co-feature was a beautiful example of matchmaking done right. Take a shorter fighter in Tony Luis, throw him in against a guy who not only gives up his height but seems actually comfortable throwing leather on the inside like he himself is the shorter man, and you have a recipe for an all-action fight. Any trepidation on the part of your columnist that it would turn into the short-notice opponent going into survival mode at the hands of a guy with insufficient power to close the show turned out to be wonderfully, thankfully groundless.
Tony Luis squares up, throws wide, and (to use one of Teddy Atlas’ favorite catchphrases) gets insulted if you miss him. Jose Hernandez behaved like a guy who knew he had nothing to fear from the guy in front of him, showing such utter contempt for Luis’ power when trading shots with him that you almost got the sense that he could stick his chin right out and point at it and Tony Luis wouldn’t have been able to do any real damage. This was a damning indictment of a guy whose unbeaten record was a function more of his hobo-circuit opposition so far in his career than of any real boxing ability.
The result was, once the fight got going and the flow of the action was established, 20/20 hindsight academic. It was merely a question of whether Hernandez was himself strong enough to stop his opponent, and in Round 8, he got a little assist from Luis’ corner, which quit on their fighter rather than let him have the last 20 seconds of the round to try and survive and learn how to come out fighting after a minute on the stool. That kind of arrested development of a prospect in trouble is how David Lemieux got in trouble when Russ Anber stopped his fight with Marco Antonio Rubio too quickly and deprived Lemieux of the chance to learn how to handle adversity even if he was ultimately stopped. Tony Luis, if he cannot learn how to fight and not stand where he is easier to hit than a heavy bag, seems headed down that same road. This was a very, very poor effort from the Canadian.
There was a swing fight, of course. Antoine Douglas (4-0, 3 KOs) got a great boxing lesson (albeit an unintentional one, a function not of the challenge of his opponent but of the guy’s clownish cluelessness on how to actually box) out of Emmanuel Medina (2-3-1, 2 KOs). Medina occasionally switched to southpaw out of pure desperation, and it left Douglas confused like a guy who only had three pro fights and planned for an orthodox fighter.
Had Medina had any clue how to actually throw punches from the southpaw stance, it might have been a shocking upset and a display of just how much Douglas still has to learn about fighting lefties in the pros. As it stood, however, Medina had to switch back to orthodox to get his own offense going…and when he went righty, Douglas ate his lunch.
All three judges, your columnist, Teddy Atlas, and Stevie Wonder scored the bout 40-36. This was an easy win for Antoine Douglas even with that delightful side angle you don’t often see in four-rounders. The fight was interesting if you’ve any interest in what makes boxing the Sweet Science. Well-done, guys, and well-done ESPN2 for letting us see it.
Next week, Carlos Molina (20-5-2, 6 KOs), the junior middleweight not to be confused with the 140-pounder of the same name, takes on a zombie. Cory Spinks (39-7, 11 KOs) is not only still active, he’s still ranked by the IBF, and this fight is (seriously) an eliminator for the No. 2 spot, never mind that Demetrius Andrade is as of this writing still ranked No. 3 and has two “vacant” spots standing between him and IBF junior middleweight titlist Cornelius Bundrage. Farce? Of course, this is boxing. But Carlos Molina’s a blast to watch fight, scrappy and hearty and all those other adjectives we use to describe guys long on heart and short on skill. It all comes together next Friday night, February 1, at 9 PM Eastern/6 PM Pacific. Your co-feature is Antwone “Grunts Like Seles” Smith (22-4-1, 12 KOs) against another zombie, Jose Luis Castillo (64-11-1, 55 KOs). Bring your cricket bats, you’ve got red on you.
Fox Doucette covers Friday Night Fights for The Boxing Tribune. His weekly column, The Southpaw, appears on Thursdays. Why yes, he CAN spend 20 minutes eating a meatloaf and still make a midnight deadline. Fan mail, hate mail, y mas carne por favor can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.