by Fox Doucette
Cletus “The Hebrew Hammer” Seldin (15-0, 12 KOs) looks to continue his tear through the working class of boxing’s junior welter and welterweight divisions as he goes down to 140 pounds for the second fight in a row to take on Johnny Garcia (19-2-1, 11 KOs), who has designs of his own on graduating out of the realm of the club fighter and into the realm of the contender. This fight has a bit of a Loser Leaves Town Match streak to it; we will learn for good or ill what each man is made of.
In the co-feature, it’s a Hey, It’s That Guy! Fight as Raymond Serrano (20-2, 9 KOs) continues his efforts to walk the comeback trail at welterweight, taking on designated palooka Jeremy Bryan (17-5, 7 KOs) in one of those “a good fighter beats this guy, a bad fighter gets exposed” kind of would-be showcases.
We’ll begin with the co-featured event. Ray Serrano made a name for himself on the Worldwide Leader in 2011 when he faced a couple of touted prospects in Ronnie Warrior Jr. (in Reno on the undercard of the Jesse Brinkley-Curtis Stevens fight) and Daniel Sostre (in New York in a fight everyone forgot about as soon as Pawel Wolak and Delvin Rodriguez started chucking leather.) Serrano made Warrior look nothing like his name en route to an easy unanimous decision, while Sostre put up more of a fight but was ultimately second-best on all three scorecards.
Serrano was a dark horse fringe contender by the time he stepped in against Karim Mayfield in what was for Serrano his first chance to fight as the guy with his picture on the fight poster. The fight was touted as exactly the kind of fight we’re getting in the main event this week, except in this case there was the added “someone’s O must go” element to it. Problem was, Ray Serrano’s O done got up and went as Mayfield got on the Win-Fast Diet; a delicious knockdown in the third round for breakfast, one in the fourth for lunch, and then a sensible dinner of beating the tar out of his dazed opponent until the referee finally brought it to a merciful end.
For his next trick, Ray Serrano made his title hopes disappear, as in the very same ring in Huntington, New York where he will be fighting Friday night, Serrano got the crap kicked out of him by Emmanuel Taylor by way of sixth-round TKO. That was in January of 2013; Serrano would not fight again until just three months ago, when he stopped 15-15 Wilfredo Acuna. In his last fight, the Philadelphian grabbed a unanimous decision against 6-1-3 Jerome Rodriguez in six rounds.
So what does this mean for Jeremy Bryan? Well, it’s like this. Bryan has beaten bums and the kinds of club fighters who puff their records up but have no actual fighting ability. He’s had his ass handed to him by anyone who can actually fight (Amir Imam, who is now 16-0 and who should be showing up on FNF or ShoBox or some show like that any day now, brutalized Bryan, and two other opponents have knocked Bryan out). So this then invites the question—does Raymond Serrano have anything left or was he permanently damaged by those two knockout losses that looked to end his career in 2013?
If Serrano wins, and especially if he knocks Bryan out, we’ll have the answer one way. If Bryan wins, and double-especially if Bryan knocks Serrano out since Bryan does not have one-punch power in his gloves, we’ll know that Serrano’s cooked like the peppers with which he shares a name.
Onward, then, to the main event. This is a fascinating matchup. Cletus Seldin has 15 wins, 12 by knockout (including, interestingly, the same Wilfredo Acuna who got knocked out by Ray Serrano), but only one of those wins was against anything even remotely approaching a quality opponent—he beat Bayan Jargal of Mongolia, himself an FNF veteran, in his last fight. Seldin has never been tested by a legitimate opponent otherwise. He could go from the Hebrew Hammer to the Slack-Jawed Yokel if he underestimates the man in front of him Friday night. This is, quite simply, a chance to show that he’s a contender and not just a guy with a fancy record who’s going to fold under the bright lights.
Meanwhile, Johnny Garcia has fought guys with winning records, he’s fought guys who looked like prospects, he’s even grabbed some good wins, including one on national television—he beat Yordenis Ugas back when Ugas was still considered a guy with big upside, about three years ago on ShoBox.
Garcia has, however, managed only a loss and a draw in his last two fights, and questions abound about whether he can truly take that next step out of the realm of future gatekeepers and into the realm of guys who get some traction when they’re put on TV. All he has to do is stop a guy who’s got some punching power but who’s greener than he is.
Can Garcia do that? We’ll find out Friday. This is a juicy-looking matchup.
Friday Night Fights airs February 27 at 9 PM Eastern/6 PM Pacific on ESPN2 and WatchESPN.com. The Boxing Tribune will have a full recap of the night’s televised action, including any swing fights that make air, following the conclusion of the broadcast. 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 Domino’s Pizza gift cards for your columnist’s weekend starter meal can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.