by Fox Doucette
Some nights you just want the referee to shut his gob and let guys fight. Despite the best efforts of Jack Reiss to talk the fighters to death for ten rounds, there was some actual boxing, as Petr Petrov (36-4-2, 17 KOs) scored a unanimous decision win over former world champion Gamaliel Diaz (38-12-3, 17 KOs) from Corona, California, in the ESPN Friday Night Fights main event. In the co-feature, Taras Shelestyuk (12-0, 8 KOs) failed to impress in a win over Juan Rodriguez Jr. (12-2, 5 KOs.)
The main event was an exercise in one guy completely dominating another one. Petrov beat the ever-loving crap out of Diaz, landing at will, imposing himself on the fight, and getting inside the head of his overmatched, shopworn opponent. Teddy Atlas and Joe Tessitore, on the broadcast, made reference to late-career Mike Tyson, who had a bad habit of trying to get himself disqualified or otherwise doing everything to show his opponent and all in attendance that he didn’t want to be there whenever anyone gave him an actual fight.
Diaz went to the same school of punk-ass behavior, clearly, as he wrestled Petrov around, hit him with “five, or ten, or a baker’s dozen” low blows (another Teddy quote from the commentary) and somehow managed to only get one point taken away by referee Jack Reiss (this despite the fact that his first punch after he’d just had that point taken away was another low blow.) Your columnist never thought he’d say this in print, but “where’s Vic Drakulich when you need him?” Count Drakulich would’ve had the good sense to disqualify a guy who was all but daring him to do so. Jack Reiss’ rationale for not doing so? He said outright to the corner man, “I want him to get paid.”
As if that weren’t bad enough, this was a bit like an employee and a boss in a Mexican standoff over unemployment—the boss doesn’t want to fire the employee because he doesn’t want his company to pay for unemployment, while the employee doesn’t want to quit outright because he’d give up his eligibility on the spot. The commission should take a long, hard look at this farce of a fight and this disgrace of a refereeing job right out of the Joe Cortez/Celestino Ruiz school of “referee wants to be the star of the show on TV” and withhold the purse of Gamaliel Diaz while suspending Jack Reiss from refereeing fights until he learns to leave the speeches to the generals in the war movies. The whole thing was disgusting—at least Petr Petrov showed up to earn his money.
The final scores went 98-89, 97-90 (twice), reflecting knockdowns in the first (for Diaz) and seventh (for Petrov) and the point deduction. The judges couldn’t even get that right—once again, Joe and Teddy were on the case, pointing out that Petrov absolutely dominated that first round except for a knockdown that shouldn’t even have been called as such because Petrov went down from a shove. Teddy gave the round to Petrov 10-9; your columnist, following the “no TV benefits” rule of taking the ref at his word, nonetheless scored it only a 10-9 round for Diaz, leaving final scores of 99-89 from the TV and journalism unofficial cards.
This fight was a disgrace. It should’ve been an entertaining scrap, but the referee ensured otherwise. Boxing deserves better.
The co-feature was a different kind of dull fight. Taras Shelestyuk, an Olympic bronze medalist with over 300 amateur fights and a guy who’s trying to make a name for himself as a TV fighter in the pros, somehow managed to fail at two things at once in a Pyrrhic victory. He failed at winning in impressive fashion against a guy he should have knocked out; when Juan Rodriguez fought Sammy Vasquez earlier in his career, he got knocked out in one round, going down three times. Shelestyuk couldn’t drop the guy once.
Plus, Shelestyuk failed at what may have been his secondary objective, namely taking the opportunity to use a TV date to go rounds and get some experience in a live-fire exercise. Guys who are using a TV mismatch as a sparring session shouldn’t be dropping their hands, throwing sloppy punches, and falling in to get cut by an accidental clash of heads that had Shelestyuk at one point looking like a certain other Ukrainian fighter in 2003 against Lennox Lewis with all the blood on his face.
At some point, you’ve got to decide what you are in there. If you’re someone who’s not afraid of the guy in front of you and wants to get a KO on national television, get in there and throw bombs. If you’re a boxer showing off a skill set, cut the crap with the showboating and the walking around with your hands down like there’s a cell phone in your pocket and you’re urgently waiting for a call.
Winning a fight 79-73 (twice), 78-74 on the official cards should be a good sign—your columnist also had it 79-73—but this was an ugly fight that accomplished absolutely nothing for a guy who wasted eight rounds of everyone’s time. You’re not Adrien Broner, Taras. Nobody’s buying the villain act, so what you need to do in there is show us that you can actually fight. You didn’t do that tonight.
The night opened with a swing fight, and here we find something positive in a wretched fight card. Emmanuel Robles (13-0-1, 3 KOs) looked like Pernell Whitaker in there against Wilberth Lopez (5-5, 1 KO) en route to an easy six-round unanimous decision. Robles showed excellent ability on the counter punch, figured out how to make his three-inches-taller opponent give up his height, and generally showed only one weakness—he can’t crack an egg with those pillow fists of his.
Robles is one of those guys who has such excellent boxing ability that one wonders if the lack of power isn’t going to hurt him too much down the road—his ceiling seems to be the poor man’s Paulie Malignaggi, but we’ll have to see what happens when a good tall fighter tests the kid’s chin before passing judgment.
The final scores were 59-55 (twice), 58-56, with the Boxing Tribune card going 59-55 for Emmanuel Robles.
Next week, the Boxcino tournament reaches its semifinals, after which we’ll know who the combatants will be for the very last episode of Friday Night Fights. The farewell tour begins at 9 PM Eastern on Friday, April 10, on ESPN2 and the WatchESPN app, and The Boxing Tribune will have full coverage of fight week. Stay tuned—we’re the worldwide leader in covering the Worldwide Leader.
Fox Doucette writes the weekly What If series for The Boxing Tribune and covers (what’s left of) ESPN Friday Night Fights for this publication. Fan mail, hate mail, and a “go home Teddy, you’re drunk” for that Bika-Stevenson and Wisconsin-Kentucky prediction double-shot can be sent to email@example.com.