by Fox Doucette
Sometimes your columnist gets one right. Carlos Molina (21-5-2, 6 KOs) beat the snot out of zombie Cory Spinks (39-8, 11 KOs) for twelve rounds en route to a lopsided unanimous decision that went the distance only because of Molina’s Malignaggi-like soft touches on his power shots. In the co-feature, Antwone Smith (23-4-1, 12 KOs) barked and barked like your dog at the front window when some random jogger sauntered by the front of your house en route to a similarly one-sided snoozer win over once-great Jose Luis Castillo (64-12-1, 55 KOs). On a special Internet-only broadcast, the bore-you-to-sleep televised fights were redeemed and then some by a very special sort of performance in which Artur Szpilka (13-0, 10 KOs) knocked out a very, very valiant Mike Mollo (20-4-1, 12 KOs) in one of those fights you implore your friends to watch on the ESPN3 replay afterward. If you missed it, and you’re in the United States, get your butt over to ESPN3.com and watch the replay. Seriously. You owe it to yourself.
The main event was exempli gratia of one of your columnist’s favorite recurring talking points. Put two guys in who are better known for a clinch-and-counter type of style and with neither guy possessing the power to stop the other, and you get what we got in the main event. Throw in the added twist of one fighter who is vastly better than his record (Molina, especially on FNF) and the other guy being completely shopworn (Spinks) and it is no surprise that the fight consisted of twelve one-sided rounds in which any attempt to push the action by Molina was met with grappling by Spinks. Referee Celestino Ruiz (more on him later) went so far as to take a point away from Spinks for excessive holding in the ninth round, which set up a pair of knockdowns in the eleventh and twelfth (this fight having been a title eliminator for the IBF at junior middleweight—the winner gets the winner of Cornelius Bundrage and Ishe Smith for a belt).
In the end, though, Spinks’ corner held the towel, although it would probably have been more humane to throw it. The scores were 120-105, 119-106 (twice), with Teddy Atlas and your columnist both scoring the fight a shutout (and an open question as to just which round Spinks won). Cory Spinks, in the words of Ted Allen on the Food Network, you’ve been chopped. You were a world champion once, had a great career, might even have a fringe argument for the Hall of Fame. But you’re done. Retire before your brain gets used to make a custard.
Speaking of Hall of Famers who are out of gas, Jose Luis Castillo had a tragi-comic sort of night against Antwone Smith. Smith is, in two words, not good. He’s a journeyman, a slappy, and a boring fighter to boot. He’s also not lost that bad habit of grunting so loud that his shoe-shine combinations sound like nothing so much as fast-forwarded pornography, and shoe-shines are the only combos he throws. Like most loud fighters, his big weakness is in expending that air in such a way as to only allow him to effectively throw one punch at a time. A good fighter will eat his lunch.
Sadly, Jose Luis Castillo is no longer that guy. He was lethargic at best and ineffective at worst, lacking both the stamina and the reflexes needed to time and counter a guy like Smith who telegraphs his punches. Smith only threw one punch at a time, but he only needed to throw one punch at a time. Castillo was an old man, getting caught by pretty much everything that came his way, especially from the fifth round on.
Special dishonorable mention to referee Gerald Scott, who needs to learn the difference between a body punch that incidentally strays low and an Andrew Golota impersonation. His quick trigger finger and desire to insert himself into the action like a low-rent-district Joe Cortez took away not only a lot of the entertainment value of the fight, but also a point from Castillo and the one weapon that the Mexican fighter has used to such great effect throughout his career. Deprived of the opportunity to work the body against Smith, Castillo may as well have had his hands tied. Castillo’s apologists could get a great deal of traction from this argument should Castillo decide to fight again. Terrible, terrible refereeing job from Gerald Scott, but not the worst ref job of the night (more on this in a minute. We’re getting there.)
The final verdict was 100-90, 99-91, 98-92, all for Smith, and all leaving open the question of where the point went that Scott deducted from Castillo in the fourth round. Did the judges at ringside not hear that admonition? Were they staring at the tits of the ring card girls when Scott was barking out “ONE POINT” at the top of his lungs? Or did they score that fourth round 10-10 and take the point from Castillo that way? For what it’s worth, your columnist had it 98-91 for Smith, while Teddy Atlas had it 99-90, showing that at least someone who could do math was watching the fight.
But for true refereeing incompetence and unprofessionalism, Celestino Ruiz’s performance in pursuing what seemed to be a personal vendetta against Mike Mollo stands out. First, in the first round, he yelled at Mollo to “watch your fucking head!” Later, in the fifth, Ruiz took a point away from Mollo for pushing Artur Szpilka down when Mollo did no such thing, at least not deliberately. Teddy Atlas was yelling for the Illinois commission to take Ruiz out behind the woodshed and give him a good dressing-down for his lack of professionalism. The Boxing Tribune is now on record as agreeing with Mr. Atlas; Celestino Ruiz needs to be asked, point blank, “what the fuck do you have against Mike Mollo?” before having his license suspended.
That said, Mollo-Szpilka deserves some kind of honorable mention in the year-end awards. Mollo showed the heart of a lion, even as 2 ½ years of ring rust meant that his stamina completely ran out by the end of round 5, possibly aided and abetted by a Monty Python and the Holy Grail‘sBlack Knight level of blood loss from two very bad cuts opened up by a clash of heads (over the left eye in round one) and a straying elbow (over the other eye in round two). If Mollo had simply said after the fourth round “I can’t see” and forced a stoppage, he’d have won a technical decision—twice he caught Szpilka going straight back with his hands down and knocked him to the canvas; indeed, he looked a lot like Denis Grachev knocking out Ismayl Sillakh via the same route on FNF last year.
Unfortunately for Mollo’s record but true to form to his having the heart of a Klingon crossed with a samurai crossed with a goddamn Norse berserker in full beast mode against a legion full of Romans, he doesn’t have the Devon Alexander punk gene in his boxing DNA. Of course he continued until he dropped.
And drop he did, as Szpilka did the one and only thing right that he did all night in the sixth round, catching a covering-up Mollo first with a jab and then with a Klitschko-like straight left hand that sent Mike Mollo falling straight back on a delayed “TIM-BERRRR” reaction that closed the show.
Artur Szpilka got exposed tonight as surely as if he had been knocked out. This is not a win that Szpilka should be proud of; he had so many flaws that if he doesn’t correct them in the gym pronto, he’ll be knocked out sooner rather than later in his career. This was a Pyrrhic victory of the highest order for Artur Szpilka.
Mike Mollo, on the other hand? Hot damn. If anyone reading knows Mollo personally, let him know that he may not have won the fight in the ring, but he sure as hell won the fight in the hearts of plenty of fans tonight. There are no moral victories in sports, but this was as close as they come. Just an amazing effort, valiant in defeat. Get healthy, Mike. You earned your money.
Next week, ESPN2 begins the night at 8 PM Eastern with a re-air of Pacquiao-Marquez IV, so if you’re the sort (like your columnist) who can’t get enough of Manny Pacquiao getting knocked flat on his face, going down as if he’d been shot, you’ll get to see it again. That will be followed by a card at 9 from the Bell Centre in Montreal, where Nate Campbell (36-9-1, 26 KOs) attempts to rise from the dead to beat local fighter Kevin Bizier (19-0, 13 KOs). Also scheduled for that card are Tyler Asselstine (12-0, 7 KOs) against a fighter yet to be determined and Joachim Alcine (33-3, 19 KOs) against David Toribio (19-14, 12 KOs). No word on what ESPN2 has planned for that co-feature (or if indeed that Pacquiao-Marquez replay is intended to act in a co-feature’s stead), but by preview time next Tuesday night, things should be sorted. The Boxing Tribune will have full coverage in any event. 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. Fan mail, hate mail, and debate on whether an off-air eight-rounder qualifies for Fight of the Year consideration can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.