by Fox Doucette
ESPN2’s Boxcino heavyweight tournament got off to a bit of a lackluster start this week, as there were three unsatisfying fights along with a monster knockout in what proved to be a complete mismatch. Andrey Fedosov (26-3, 21 KOs) smashed Nat Heaven (9-2, 7 KOs) in a single round. In additional action, Steve Vukosa (10-1, 4 KOs) got a swan song for his boxing dreams and a trip back to the snows of Boston to resume his job as a bus driver, as he threw in the towel in the fourth round against Donovan Dennis (11-1, 9 KOs) after getting well and truly whupped.
We even got a couple of “drawbreaker” rounds, in which fighters got a draw for their official record but a W and L from the point of view of the actual tournament. Lenroy Thomas (18-3-1, 9 KOs) got utterly robbed on the regular cards in the six round draw, but took care of business in the bonus round against a tub of lard masquerading as Jason Estrada (20-5-1, 6 KOs). Speaking of robberies, Razvan Cojanu (12-1-1, 7 KOs) got utterly smoked by Ed Fountain (10-0-1, 4 KOs) in regulation but just had more left in the tank for overtime and despite bleeding all over his opponent like he’d gotten the same sort of knife attack that gave Teddy Atlas his signature look, Cojanu won the lightning round on all three cards.
Oh, how to describe tonight’s action? “Bum fights” might be a good place to start. In the opener, Jason Estrada showed up horribly out of shape on a week’s notice, weighing in at 261 pounds and a pizza-place hot bag full of burritos. He had the kind of back acne you find on morbidly obese people and PED users, and Estrada sure didn’t look like he had ‘roids in him. Estrada won the first round well enough as Lenroy Thomas couldn’t seem to find his footing early, but Thomas came on strong late in the second and was absolutely indisputably in charge from the third round on—any judge who would score that fight even should face an inquiry panel. The second round was disputable (your columnist had it for Thomas, bringing the total to 59-55). The answer of “just which other round did you give to Estrada?” is the armor-piercing question that would reveal either fraud or incompetence.
All’s well that ends well, as Teddy Atlas put it, as Thomas decisively won the extra round to claim a unanimous decision on TV despite the draw for the official books.
The second fight was a fascinating display of wasted talent. Razvan Cojanu is the size of Wladimir Klitschko and has the Romanian amateur pedigree of Lucian Bute, but if he was to be compared to either fighter in terms of his actual ring ability, it’s somewhere between Bute’s performance against Carl Froch and Wlad’s display against Corrie Sanders. Cojanu was saved in equal measure by fighting a guy who’d had no amateur fights outside of a prison yard in Missouri (not exactly sanctioned competition) and fought ten club fighters in a weak commission state in the pros, and by the judges inexplicably ruling the fight a majority draw (and even more disastrously, one judge had it 58-56 for Cojanu. Your columnist had it 58-56 for Thomas.)
Given second life, Cojanu outfought Thomas in the extra frame and grabbed the decision win. Fans booed loudly and lustily, but under the circumstances, the damage had already been done by the original judgment. Cojanu won the seventh round fair and square.
In the fourth fight chronologically (but we’ll save the “main event” for last), Steve Vukosa, who was introduced in the pre-fight human-interest story as a guy who took twelve years off and “just wanted one or two more fights, and now I’m on ESPN, I got a wife and kids at home, I drive a bus” (not your typical fighter’s story), stepped in against Donovan Dennis, and while Vukosa had a puncher’s chance—Dennis has been knocked out twice—he wasn’t able to get the big shot in, and he went down from one of his own in the third. Under heavy fire late in the fourth round, our Ralph Kramden everyman sensibly decided “what the hell am I doing, I got a wife and kids at home” and quit.
Let’s amend that. “Quit” implies a lack of heart. Vukosa knew what he was. He was there to have fun and maybe win a fight or two. At risk of taking real damage, he knew to quit while he still had his wits about him. It may have been terrible matchmaking, but you gotta love a guy who, at 38 years old, goes to fight on TV and gets a lifelong memory and a bit of a crowning achievement to tell the guys about at the bus terminal and his future grandkids about when it’s time to bust out the “my grandpa was a badass” tales for those grandkids to bring to the schoolyard with ’em in 20 or 30 years. Good on him.
As for Donovan Dennis: You had a guy who was in there purely for fun, who wasn’t nearly the fighter you are at this point in your respective careers…and it took you four rounds to get rid of him? You couldn’t have done any more damage to your reputation if you’d lost. Take a long look at yourself. You’ve got the wretched (as described above) Razvan Cojanu in your next fight, but you’re going to get your head ripped off in the grand final, because…
Andrey Fedosov looked like the only real fighter in this entire tournament in the fight with Nat Heaven. Steve Miller lied to us in song, folks—Fedosov proved that you do not, in fact, have to go through hell before you get to Heaven. Fedosov walked down the overmatched fighter, popped his chin with a monster left hook, and sent Heaven crashing down like a fallen angel. Rather than keep Fedosov off him, the defeated fighter showed him that Heaven isn’t too far away, finally earning himself a place on earth.
All things considered, we’d have gotten the same level of competition if it had been Andrey Fedosov and seven day laborers they dragged off the street at 7-Eleven. This looks like less “tournament” and more “lead singer and back-up band.” We’ll see on April 10 whether that form holds.
Next week, ESPN2 is at the Paramount Theatre in Huntington, NY, where the comedy gods have gifted us with ample opportunity for references to The Simpsons. Cletus Seldin (15-0, 12 KOs) graduates from fighting slack-jawed yokels and takes on Johnny Garcia (19-2-1, 11 KOs) in the main event. The Boxing Tribune will have a full preview and recap of the night’s action, including any swing fights that ultimately make air. Stay tuned; 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. Fan mail, hate mail, and any conceivable argument against Fedosov to win this thing can be sent to email@example.com.