by Fox Doucette
After a year in which the sport of boxing shot itself in the foot more times than Yosemite Sam outsmarted by Bugs Bunny, 2015 got off to a proper start as Darleys Perez (32-1, 20 KOs) won a wide unanimous decision over Jonathan Maicelo (21-2, 12 KOs). In the co-feature, such as it was, Francisco Santana (22-3-1, 11 KOs) absolutely starched Kendal Mena (20-1, 11 KOs), laying him out on the canvas so stiff you’d have thought he was dipped in liquid nitrogen.
The main event started off competitive enough, at least in the opinion of Teddy Atlas and the crowd scoring the fight on social media, who saw Jonathan Maicelo pushing forward and controlling the action. Your columnist disagrees completely; what appeared to be going on in that ring was a guy who had ineffective aggression, landing most of his punches on forearms and gloves, while his face was already scuffed like a baseball in the hands of a 19th-century pitcher working an advantage as early as the second round.
Make no mistake about it. From the opening bell, Darleys Perez controlled the action, seemingly effortlessly catching Maicelo every time the challenger came in with intentions of wresting the WBA lightweight trinket at stake from the waist of the man who’d once fought Yuriorkis Gamboa. Perez had two approaches; in one case he’d catch Maicelo coming in, timing him and snapping out a jab or a left hook. In the other approach, he’d block or dodge Maicelo’s punches then catch the more aggressive man pulling straight back.
By the fifth round, Perez had the formula down cold, and despite a few good shots landed by Maicelo in the fifth and the tenth (the former of which Maicelo won on your columnist’s card in a “Perez didn’t throw anything memorable” sort of way, the latter of which Maicelo won by virtue of having his best round of the fight), this was a one-sided fight that included not only a knockdown in the 11th, but a 12th round that was so one-sided that judge Barry Druxman plus Teddy Atlas himself scored it 10-8 despite the lack of a trip to the floor for the beaten man.
When it was all said and done, the scores were 118-109, 118-108, and 120-107, with Teddy Atlas scoring it 116-110 and The Boxing Tribune scoring it 118-109, all for Perez, who got the year started off right by taking the fight by good scores (120-107 is perhaps a bit excessive, but a fighter on a streak sometimes wins a round he shouldn’t just based on recent form in previous rounds, and that’s an error but not a catastrophic one) in a good decision.
The co-feature was a rare case of a squash match in which the jobber was also the unbeaten fighter. Twice this week (in the preview and again in The Southpaw), Kendal Mena’s bona fides were questioned. On air during the brief time before the fight turned ugly, Todd Grisham and Teddy Atlas questioned Mena’s bona fides. But the only question that matters, “could Mena take Francisco Santana’s left hook?”, was answered the only way it can be—it was a simple linear equation. Santana’s left hook plus Mena’s face equals a guy who couldn’t take a punch from an honest-to-gods professional boxer ending up frozen food on the canvas.
The first shot should’ve been enough. The second should probably have been scarier than it was from the point of view of Mena’s loved ones. Fortunately, it appears the beaten fighter recovered from the blows and was up and about after the result was determined. One hopes that Kendal Mena and his management team learn their lesson and he either considers another professional career or else returns to a life of beating up corpses in the Dominican Republic, because he sure didn’t look like a guy who had any business at all in a ring against a guy with a pulse.
There was a swing fight after that first battle; 281¾-pound meatball Jarrell Miller (11-0-1, 9 KOs), whose motto is “hard work, dedication, and cheeseburgers”, which would make him an excellent sportswriter with that work ethic, won a what-was-the-point-of-that six-round decision over game journeyman Aaron Kinch (5-4-2, 1 KO). Kinch was brought in to give Miller rounds, and he delivered on that promise.
What was perhaps more troubling is how Kinch exposed Miller. In the third round, Kinch got hit when he’d turned around, couldn’t see his opponent, and got hit flush with an incoming punch just as he was getting his feet back under him…and the punch barely staggered him. It brings into question the integrity of Miller’s nine knockouts if against a guy with even a modicum of a chin he can’t drop him even when he lands the kind of sucker punch Floyd Mayweather crashed into the face of Victor Ortiz in the “Protect Yourself At All Times Fight” between those two men in 2011. As far as tepid endorsements go, Miller’s win tonight was a very tepid endorsement of not only his dedication, coming in at the second-highest weight of his career for a fight on a card with national attention, but similarly his status as a legitimate prospect given his fraudulent punching power implied in his record.
No matter; he got his win, and any experience is good experience early on.
Friday Night Fights returns next week with a couple of very juicy matchups involving the winners of last year’s Boxcino mini-tournament. Middleweight Willie Monroe Jr. (18-1, 6 KOs) takes on what’s left of Brian Vera (23-8, 14 KOs) after the latter got smacked around twice by Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. As well, Petr Petrov (35-4-2, 17 KOs), winner of the lightweight go-round, takes on FNF fan favorite Hammerin’ Hank Lundy (25-4-1, 12 KOs), a guy trying to stave off gatekeeper status after a recent loss to Thomas Dulorme.
As always, The Boxing Tribune will be here with a full preview of the fight card and a recap of the night’s televised action, including any swing fights that make air. Stay tuned; we’re the worldwide leader in covering the Worldwide Leader.
Fox Doucette writes the weekly What If series and covers ESPN Friday Night Fights for The Boxing Tribune. His weekly opinion column, The Southpaw, appears on Thursdays. Fan mail, hate mail, and cheeseburgers can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.