Eddie Goldman is the host and producer of the No Holds Barred international podcast, the publisher of the No Holds Barred blog, and a senior contributing editor at the ADCC News.

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Saturday, February 18, 2006

Friday Night Fouls 

It was an increasingly bizarre edition this week of ESPN2’s “Friday Night Fights” in a show coming from the FedExForum in Memphis, Tennessee.

The first televised fight proceeded smoothly enough. There undefeated junior welterweight prospect Lamont Peterson notched his record up to 16-0 (7) with a near-shutout ten-round decision against an overmatched Leo Moreno, now 12-2 (10). According to the ESPN2 Punch Track numbers, the busy Moreno actually threw more punches than the far speedier Peterson, 1196 to 928, but it was Peterson who was by far the more accurate and effective, and almost as busy. Peterson landed 316 of his punches for a 34 percent connect rate, to 259 and just 22 percent for Moreno. Peterson also outlanded Moreno in head shots, 269 to 124. Peterson deservedly won by scores of 100-90 twice and 99-91, the latter also being ESPN2 announcer Teddy Atlas’s score.

Thus it was mission accomplished, as Peterson had beaten an opponent hand-picked to showcase his speed and boxing ability, and who did not have the power to hurt him. Such is usually what “Friday Night Fights” is for.

Then things went downhill.

The main event pitted welterweight prospect Delvin Rodriguez against Alexis Divison. This one started out as a competitive fight, as in the first round the underdog Divison landed with high, overhand, looping rights. Although Divison seemed to be doing well, the first round ended with referee Bill Clancy warning him for hitting behind the head.

As the fight went on, Rodriguez was soon able to time these shots and outbox the awkward and wild Divison. That, however, did not become the main story of this main event, as more warnings for more fouls by Divison followed.

In round two, Clancy told Divison, “Arriba,” Spanish for “Up,” after he hit low. Then he was cautioned for holding. Later he told Divison, “No mas” after another blow to the back of Rodriguez’s head. And yet another low blow by Divison rocked Rodriguez, who was given extra time by Clancy to recover.

Round three saw Clancy warn Divison for hitting with his elbow, with yet another warning for yet another low blow.

Round four started with Divison smacking Rodriguez in the back of his head, for which an increasingly annoyed Clancy deducted one point. The ref then stated, “No mas.” He next told Divison and his trainer, in a warning clearly picked up by the ESPN2 microphones, “He does it again, I’m going to toss him.”

So what did Divison do? Just seconds after the fight resumed following this warning, Divison landed still another low blow on Rodriguez. Clancy had seen enough, and so had we, as Divison was disqualified for repeated fouls. Rodriguez is now 18-1-1 (10) while Divison, who has faced much more limited opposition, falls to16-3 (12)

Since this bout ended short of the distance, another one had to be televised to fill up this valuable prime time slot. We would have been better off, however, seeing the entire Brian Kenny interview with Floyd Mayweather from last week.

Next up was a bout billed as a heavyweight fight, but with only one real heavyweight. Alonzo Butler, 20-0-1 (15), 253 pounds, and 26 years old, with his most impressive credentials apparently being that he was a top high school wrestler and football player, was matched, or more precisely hopefully mismatched, with cruiserweight Terry Porter, 15-17-3 (9), 38 years old, only 197 pounds, and the loser of seven of his last nine fights. Even this didn’t go as planned.

Fast forward to round three of this scheduled six-rounder, the best way to view this one anyway. In the opening minute, Butler landed a few punches which caused Porter to flee to the ropes on the other side of the ring. Butler pursued him, swinging wildly and clearly missing with a right. As Butler arrived at the other side of the ring, Porter crouched down to avoid this blow, but was met instead by Butler’s butt. Butler’s momentum carried him right into Porter, which pushed the smaller man right through the ropes and onto a ringside table. Porter was unable to arise, and the fight was over.

Butler’s butt butt, if you will, was clearly inadvertent. No punch had caused Porter to fall through the ropes, only this accidental push. Nonetheless, referee Randy Phillips ruled that Butler was victorious by a knockout.

Whatever rules were in effect for this bout in Tennessee, if the fight is stopped because of an accidental foul in the third round, the uninjured fighter should not be declared the winner by knockout. We’ll see if this verdict is corrected.

Even the appearance of junior welterweight champion Ricky Hatton as a guest commentator on this show didn’t work out that well. While sitting, a close-up shot of Hatton made his face and chin look pudgy and soft. He did not look that way when showing his boxing moves to Brian Kenny and hitting a heavy bag, so Hatton is just one of these guys who looks fat on TV.

And you wonder why boxing has trouble getting enough commercial sponsors to return to network TV in the USA.

Note: After writing this, I read another, similar critique of this show, “ESPN's Pathetic Excuse of a Fight”, by Alex Stone on TheSweetScience.com. You can read it as well by clicking here.

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