by Fox Doucette
Bring your cricket bats, because it’s Zombie Night on ESPN2. Two guys, one in the main event, the other in the co-feature, top the “wait, what do you mean he’s still fighting?” rankings. Cory Spinks (39-7, 11 KOs) takes on Carlos Molina (20-5-2, 6 KOs, and not to be confused with the junior welterweight of the same name) in the main event, while Jose Luis Castillo (64-11-1, 55 KOs), forever and an age removed from the consensus 2005 Fight of the Year against Diego Corrales, takes on Monica Seles sound-alike Antwone Smith (22-4-1, 12 KOs) in the co-feature.
Your columnist is not exactly renowned for his predictive ability—indeed, if I say something is going to be so, that’s a sure sign you should call your bookie and bet against it—but the main event looks like there’s a 50/50 shot at it either being a snoozer because neither guy has enough punching power to get the stoppage or a thriller because Cory Spinks has a chin that screams “shot fighter” and brings to mind Molina’s victory on FNF in 2011 against Allen Conyers that sent Conyers into a permanent decline (he really should retire after losing three more in a row including two by KO after Molina stopped him.) Smart money’s on Molina controlling the action, and for him that means fighting at a deliberate but dreadfully dull pace with a countering style.
Cory Spinks was good once. Former world champion, in fact, at one point the undisputed welterweight champion of the world after disposing of Zab Judah in 2004 to unify three titles (all save the WBO). His run as IBF champ at junior middleweight was less impressive, with no wins over big names, but that’s as much the IBF’s fault as anyone’s, their junior middleweight ranks being filled by the likes of champion Cornelius Bundrage and ranked contenders Demetrius Andrade, Carlos Molina, and Erislandy Lara, in that order from three through five. The top two slots are “vacant”, and this fight will be an eliminator for the No. 2 spot, the winner likely getting to fight Andrade (if his people agree to let him fight someone with a pulse for a title shot) or Bundrage (if Andrade chickens out.)
Carlos Molina, for his part, has been on a tear since starting his career 8-4-1, with losses to Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. and Mike Alvarado to go with a draw against Chavez the Younger. He is 12-1-1 since then, the draw coming against Erislandy Lara in a fight many thought Molina won and the loss coming to James Kirkland by bizarre disqualification by Texas imbecile ref Jon Schorle. Molina had a rebound fight, winning a shutout unanimous decision against Damian Frias, and looks to get his career back on track toward what would become his first shot at a world title should he get a crack at Bundrage.
The co-feature looks to be the more interesting of the two fights. Jose Luis Castillo has been knocked out seven times and has not scored a win over good competition since a split decision over still-unbeaten Herman Ngoudjo (who would later twice fight unsuccessfully for a world title) way back in 2007. Castillo has really never been the same since that war with Diego Corrales that some would argue bested Ward-Gatti I and Morales-Barrera I for Fight of the Decade. This is not to take away from his toughness; he has the Mexican fighter’s soul that has made him a fan favorite over the years and still fights like he thinks he’s in his twenties (Castillo is 39 and has gone over 400 rounds in his career.)
The question becomes is Antwone Smith strong enough to perhaps finally send Jose Luis Castillo into retirement for good. Smith fought very unimpressively against Kermit Cintron; your columnist scored that fight a draw upon initial viewing, but after getting skewered on social media, watched the fight again and saw that Cintron was the clear winner (upon re-scoring the fight, 97-93 looked closer to the truth.) Smith barks loudly when throwing a punch, so much so that it is a hindrance to his ability to effectively put punches together. His vocal cadence is such that he has put his entire body into throwing one punch at a time; in his prime, Castillo would’ve eaten Smith’s lunch.
Antwone Smith nearly won a minor title in his last fight, a split decision win over Ronald Cruz for the WBC’s “Continental Americas” trinket, but Smith came in overweight (he weighed 150 for a welterweight bout.) Castillo fought for and lost that particular bit of jewelry against Alfonso Gomez (perhaps best known for getting his ass kicked by Saul Alvarez in the co-feature of the Mayweather-Ortiz pay-per-view) in 2010. If you’re looking for little things that might tilt the balance of your predictions, that might be something to go on.
The wind of this fight seems to be blowing toward decent fighter beats up shot fighter and sends him into retirement. At any rate, Smith will have his hands full with a guy who still has a fair bit of pop left in his gloves, power being the last thing to go as a fighter gets older. Castillo can still bring it, which makes this an intriguing matchup, but he doesn’t have much left in his tank. This might be the end of the line for a guy who can get on the waiting list for Canastota as soon as he decides to hang them up.
Friday Night Fights airs on ESPN2 on February 1 at 9 PM Eastern/6 PM Pacific, with a special post-broadcast heavyweight bout slated to air on ESPN3 after the televised portion of the night’s card. Artur Szpilka (12-0, 9 KOs) of Poland, fresh off a win over a zombie of his own in Jameel McCline, takes on Mike Mollo (20-3-1, 12 KOs) in what looks like a sacrificial lamb bout. The Boxing Tribune will have full coverage of the night’s televised and Internet action, including any swing fights that make air—the recap will run following the conclusion of that Szpilka-Mollo contest, slated on the WatchESPN site to run at 11:00. 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, runs on Thursdays. Fan mail, hate mail, and a free pizza in thanks for all that money you won betting against my predictions can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.