by Fox Doucette
By the gods, your columnist loves being horribly, embarrassingly wrong. What was supposed to be a night of showcases for unbeaten prospects turned into a night of upsets—or perhaps a night of everyone from promoter to pundit getting played for fools. Boxing lessons were doled out for young fighters to watch and learn. The action? Shades of Wolak-Rodriguez I, especially in the co-feature. But the bottom line was that in the main event, Tony Luis (19-2, 7 KOs) made a star of himself, easily outpointing Karl Dargan (17-1, 9 KOs), while Thomas Falowo (13-3, 8 KOs) showed the value of aggression in the co-feature with a win over Russell Lamour (11-1, 5 KOs).
The funny thing about these fights wasn’t just that the script got flipped so completely. The thing was that both fights were won the same way by the underdog. When you’re in against a guy who’s a better boxer, a more slick fighter on the outside, a guy who can control range, and you’re a guy who relies on one form of offense to counter that style, it’s like Teddy Atlas said about Falowo. You have to know who you are and commit to that style.
Both Falowo and Luis did that against their respective opponents tonight. The narrative was the same in both cases. Both guys took away their opponent’s comfort zone by rushing in, forcing the fight to the ropes with pure physicality, and then using a combination of footwork and good hand position to frustrate the opponent without allowing themselves to be tied up. This was the kind of fight Pawel Wolak fought against Delvin Rodriguez in 2011, and it’s the kind of fight that Ruslan Provodnikov’s entire career runs on. Taking away the advantage of a fighter with greater skill through the use of brute force is how an inside slugger, especially if he’s the smaller man (Thomas Falowo is two inches shorter than Russell Lamour, and Karl Dargan enjoyed, in the tale of the tape, a five-inch reach advantage on Tony Luis), wins that matchup.
As for the fights themselves, well, Falowo’s was far closer because even though he was able to use his aggression effectively, taking away Lamour’s strength and forcing Lamour to fight his fight, Falowo is not the same brilliant old-school inside-fighting tactician that Tony Luis (more on this in a minute) is in there. Lamour was occasionally able to control range. He used his jab more effectively and did his level best to keep Falowo off him, even getting in some effective aggression of his own rather than trying to be a pure counter-puncher. Each of the eight rounds in the co-feature came down to which version of the fighters engaged in the battle. When Falowo stepped up the pressure, Lamour’s body language and facial expressions suggested that he was intimidated, but Falowo didn’t have the stamina or the skill to keep it up nonstop for eight rounds—indeed, Falowo looked as deflated as a New England Patriots football by the end of the eighth and might have wilted or even been knocked out in the ninth or tenth round had the fight gone that long.
Point of the matter is, the final score from Teddy Atlas, your columnist, the entire social media audience, and probably most of the people in attendance without a rooting interest was dead even, 76-76, four rounds to four.
The judges saw it differently, giving the fight 78-74, 77-75 (twice), all to Thomas Falowo, who picked up the unanimous decision and set the tone for the rest of the night as the judges showed that they were set to reward the kind of fight Thomas Falowo fought. Lamour may have been the better boxer in there, but Falowo’s style and his pressure and his ability to keep his hands moving in close quarters where there was more of the body and head of Lamour to hit made the impression on the judges in a way that slick boxing just can’t when it’s combined with awkward footwork and a “please don’t hit me” look when Falowo took his turn to move the action along. It wasn’t a bad decision even as it flew in the face of the consensus fan and commentary opinion. It was a styles-make-judges take on how variable the Sweet Science can be sometimes.
There was no such controversy in the main event. Teddy Atlas had a field day pointing out all the ways that Tony Luis knew exactly what he was doing and how he was to push the pace. Between the subtle (and invisible to the ref) “bump and run” that Luis did with his shoulder to create room, to the use of the right glove to turn the left elbow of Dargan to keep Dargan off balance all while attacking with the free left hand, to the ability of Luis to not only set his feet, but set them in such a way that he wasn’t just leaning on his opponent? It doesn’t matter who you are, whether you’re Karl Dargan or Delvin Rodriguez or anyone not named Muhammad Ali. Effective pressure, consistently applied, with strength behind the punches wearing down a guy who has had the ability to box on the outside taken from him, is a championship recipe.
As if to put the cherry on the sundae, Luis even scored a knockdown in the tenth (there was a disputed knockdown in the third, but in the view of your columnist, that was correctly ruled a slip/pushdown, because the momentum of the punch had been dissipated before such time as Dargan would have recovered and the force that put Dargan on the floor was the push and not the left hook.) It was as if to say “I don’t trust you, judges, I’m going to do this myself.”
Your columnist had it 98-91. Teddy Atlas and the social media consensus had it 99-90. The judges had it 99-90, 97-92 (twice). 97-92 was exceedingly generous; indeed, a 98-91 card may have given Dargan more credit than he deserved. This was as big an ass-kicking as you’ll see that doesn’t end in a knockout. Tony Luis showed a level of ability within his own style that we almost never see on these second-tier fight shows. He fought like a champion tonight.
Meanwhile, there was a swing fight, although the version of Jeff Lacy (27-6, 18 KOs) we saw get his ass whupped by Cuban fighter Sullivan Barrera (15-0, 10 KOs) was less the Jeff Lacy who was once the super middleweight champion of the world and more Muhammad Ali in the Trevor Berbick fight.
For four rounds the farce continued, although if referee Mike Ortega had a shred of compassion, he’d have stopped the fight in the first, or perhaps before the bell rang to start the fight. Barrera was either some flavor of Berbick trying not to kill Ali or else he’s a fighter of no particular merit as a knockout artist who needed four rounds to get rid of a fighter so shot that the smoking guns of the firing squad still had hot barrels. Only Sullivan Barrera knows whether and why he might have been pulling his punches to keep from committing a murder. Point was, Ortega finally stopped it in the fourth.
What was supposed to be a dog of a card turned out to be Best In Show at the kennel club. On Wednesday, your columnist said this would be a snoozer. If it’s a sign of maturity to admit when one is wrong, then consider me as having grown up by years in two days. I was dead wrong. Praise the gods.
Next week, FNF is in Biloxi, Mississippi, where Sergio Mora (27-3-2, 9 KOs) takes on Abraham Han (23-1, 14 KOs) in the main event. The co-feature is a showcase fight (and we mean it this time!) between undefeated Erickson Lubin (8-0, 6 KOs) and Rodolfo Quintanilla (14-4-3, 11 KOs, and 2-4-3 in his last nine fights.) The Boxing Tribune will have full preview and recap coverage, 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 and writes the weekly What If alternate-history series for this publication. His opinion column, The Southpaw, appears on Thursdays. He’d like to give a special shout-out to Paul Magno and Jeff Freeman for giving him a reality check about creativity, ESPN, and the value of writing for the independent media on Facebook—it’s good to have friends. Fan mail, hate mail, and reality checks can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.