by Fox Doucette
What a Final Four we just witnessed in men’s college basketball, huh? Well, now it’s time for boxing’s Final Four—two of them, in fact—in the junior middleweight and heavyweight Boxcino tournaments from the Sands Casino Resort in Bethlehem, PA on ESPN2’s Friday Night Fights. Stanyslav Skorokhod (9-0, 7 KOs) takes on John Thompson (15-1, 5 KOs) and Brandon Adams (16-1, 11 KOs) tries to continue his run as the tournament favorite against Vito Gasparyan (15-3-5, 8 KOs) at 154 pounds, while in the big-man club, early frontrunner Andrey Fedosov (26-3-1, 21 KOs) battles Lenroy Thomas (19-3, 9 KOs) and Razvan Cojanu (13-1, 7 KOs) fights Donovan Dennis (11-1, 9 KOs). All fights are scheduled for eight rounds; there are some tasty-looking fights on the dark undercard that are enough to make us all pray for an early KO or two—more on this later.
Let’s start with the heavyweights. Not for nothing did your columnist title the recap of the quarterfinals “Fedosov and the Who-Dats”. Andrey Fedosov came to fight, demolishing Nat Heaven in a single round while showing more pure boxing ability than the other seven guys on that night’s show combined. His opponent this time around is a guy who couldn’t get rid of a 261-pound lardass who showed up grotesquely out of shape on short notice. Lenroy Thomas may have been robbed on the cards in order to require a tiebreaker seventh round in that six-round fight, but the mere fact that it went that far tells us what we’re looking for here. Andrey Fedosov should win this fight as easily and decisively as he won his first contest; this feels a foregone conclusion, which is an odd thing to say about a tournament semifinal.
On the other side of the draw, Razvan Cojanu looked terrible against Ed Fountain but somehow managed to win a decision of his own—whatever rock ESPN found these guys under, maybe they ought to go put that rock back where they found it. If what we wanted was further proof that the heavyweight class is forever to be found on the other side of the Iron Curtain, the fact that a Russian is dominating seven guys chosen for an eight-man throwdown is it. Cojanu never once looked like a serious contender, but Fountain looked just as much what he was—a guy who picked up the Sweet Science in prison and isn’t Bernard Hopkins.
Cojanu’s opponent, Donovan Dennis, needed four rounds to knock out a bus driver. The prosecution rests, Your Honor. Further reading is to be found in Dennis’ loss to the same Nat Heaven who got his brains bashed in by Andrey Fedosov a month and a half ago. The pressure’s on Razvan Cojanu here—he’s the guy who needs to last at least four rounds to prove that he’s a better fighter than a guy who spent the last eleven years driving a bus in Boston.
So what’s the difference between heavyweight and junior middleweight (besides the henway answer of “about 75 pounds”?) 154 gives us two very live fighters who will make a dynamite final matchup, and two guys who, while on paper they’re a couple of tomato cans compared to the guys they’ll be facing, may very well do to the favorites what Wisconsin did to undefeated Kentucky last Saturday night.
Brandon Adams might earn the dubious honor of being the last Friday Night Fights superstar. The Worldwide Leader hasn’t truly made a “name” fighter on the world stage since Ruslan Provodnikov, John Molina, and Josesito Lopez combined to form a “class of 2011” from the greatest year of fights ESPN ever put together (and if infamy is to be held on the same level as fame, add Mauricio “El Bandito” Herrera to the list, though his wins were on terrible decisions.)
Adams is that kind of guy who, after the boxing spotlight has been given over to Al Haymon this summer, may remind us of what once was when he’s fighting for world titles as something other than cannon fodder (we hardly knew ye, Willie Monroe—hope you live to tell the story of what GGG’s going to do to you.) He should utterly demolish Vito Gasparyan, who won his first fight after a two-year layoff by taking a couple of rounds to shake ring rust before thoroughly out-boxing Simeon Hardy in a way that was less about Gasparyan’s dominance and more about Hardy’s ineptitude. Gasparyan is undoubtedly not on Brandon Adams’ level; on one side you’ve got a guy who nearly won Boxcino a year ago and who slaughtered not only Lekan Byfield back in January but also Alex Perez in a masterpiece. Unless Adams gets the flu or hurts himself, this is going to be a knockout of Biblical proportions, specifically Psalm 137:9: “Happy shall he be, that taketh and dasheth thy little ones against the stones.”
While we’re on the subject of Biblical violence, Stanyslav Skorokhod should have some of his own on the other half of the draw, namely Ezekiel 25:17: “And I will execute great vengeance upon them with furious rebukes; and they shall know that I am the LORD, when I shall lay my vengeance upon them.”
John Thompson grabbed an astonishing—one might even say miraculous, if this religious theme is to follow the Rule of Three—victory on only one day’s notice in the opener when Ricardo Pinell apparently forgot how to box. One still must wonder if Pinell was under the effects of some sort of illness, because his listless performance beggars belief otherwise. Thompson won that fight handily, ring rust and all, but Stanyslav Skorokhod is not about to forget how to do the job that keeps him in cash and prizes, and Thompson’s lone professional loss was a second-round smackdown at the hands of Frank Galarza in a fight that caused the 13-month layoff ahead of February’s fight in the first place.
It’s a matchup problem. A legitimate fighter with a hell of a knockout punch against a guy who’s mainly fought journeymen and false prospects and has a suspect chin? Let there be swing fights!
Oh yes. Let there be swing fights. Remember Greg Jackson (5-1-1, 2 KOs), who stole the show on January 16th on the undercard of the Willie Monroe-Bryan Vera fight on FNF? He got dropped in the second round of a four-rounder, normally the death knell for these up-and-comers…then not only came up off the floor to survive the round, but actually knocked out Cornelius Whitlock in the third. He’s taking on Curtis Morton (2-4-2, 0 KOs), and it’d be great fun if the home viewers could see that one on television.
On top of that, Ed Fountain (10-1, 4 KOs) is back! He may have lost to Razvan Cojanu to lose his place in Boxcino, but he’s still drawing a paycheck, taking on Jon Bolden (6-10-1, 5 KOs), whose ten pro losses include six to undefeated fighters and whose lone stoppage defeat was to Bryant Jennings—yes, that Bryant Jennings, the one who’s fighting Wladimir Klitschko in two weeks—in only the second pro fight for both men.
There are four eight-rounders. Two of them might very well not last past one round, never mind eight. If ever there was a time for the Worldwide Leader to show us some bonus boxing, this would be the time—one hopes that they keep those two fights on ice to be served up in case of knockouts.
Friday Night Fights airs April 10 on ESPN2 and the WatchESPN app at 9 PM Eastern/6 Pacific. The Boxing Tribune will have a full recap of the night’s 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. Bible verses from a pagan writer…truly, cats are lying down with dogs. Fan mail, hate mail, and salvation and/or damnation can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.