We ought to start calling these weekly Friday Night Fights recaps “The Broken Record Column” — at least until ESPN begins to deliver with some entertaining match-ups on Fridays. This year hasn’t been a particularly stellar one for the show, to say the least.
They should be thrown a partial bone this week though, as the Kendall Holt vs. Tim Coleman main event was competitive on paper. It’s only fair to note that a solid effort was made to stage a halfway-enticing main event. It just didn’t travel down the expected path, and, good or bad, these things happen in boxing.
One of the more troubling aspects of the broadcast though, was a large patch of vacant seats at the Morongo Casino venue, just beyond the far side of the ring. If only it were the first time promoter Gary Shaw insisted on staging a potentially meaningful fight for one of his guys at a half-empty desert casino…
The opening bout of the broadcast featured an eight rounder betwixt undefeated featherweight prospect Abraham Lopez, 17-0 (12 KO), and similarly unproven Gabriel Tolmajyan, now 12-2-1 (3 KO), and included a cameo from three misguided characters parading as judges.
Throughout the fight, Tolmajyan applied a very careful, measured pressure, stepping in and almost reaching with shots coming forward, yet posed to scurry back at any sign of trouble.
In round 2, Tolmajyan drew warnings for refusing to let Lopez go inside as they clinched and Lopez swatted with rabbit punches trying to pull away. From the outside, both guys attempted to time the other with longer shots from the outside, both falling in somewhat recklessly — Tolmajyan with his hands often held very low. The Armenian fiddled with his trunks quite a bit as well, adjusting them a few times a round.
In the 4th round a mouse developed under the left eye of Lopez (no pun intended, TLC), likely because Lopez’ wild swings opened him up for some head-wrenching shots, most of which he took well despite appearing to have a balance issue at times.
Action in the 6th became more heated as Lopez showed a sense of understanding that he’d been losing the fight to that point. Tolmajyan almost looked surprised that his opponent was pushing forward, but countered decently with some left hands from sneaky angles. A few lead rights from Lopez hit the mark, but the apparent size disparity told more of a tale when Tolmajyan’s shots near turned him sideways. And when Lopez looked to work in close, Tolmajyan held on tightly. Bless his heart, Lopez seemed to be trying about everything he could to win, but was usually being outclassed.
Fatigue may have set in for Tolmajyan in the 8th and final round, as he danced more than punched and was actually caught by a number of Lopez’ wider shots. Tolmajyan searched for an opportunity to unleash a big counter 1-2 at a few points, but simply waited too much and didn’t move a lot of leather.
Judges scored the fight 78-74, 78-74 and 79-73 for Abraham Lopez, much to the delight of the crowd, which seemed to be pro-Lopez at many points.
Lopez built momentum, yes, but his most impressive rounds — the 1st and 8th — weren’t even all that impressive, and those may have been the only two rounds he convincingly won. It wasn’t that Tolmajyan’s performance blew minds, but Lopez consistently found it difficult to land clean on his foe. When he did, Tolmajyan soldiered through what he ate and dosed out the better shots.
Where both men go from here likely depends on how they’re matched. Tolmajyan is limited by his lack of real punching power, as evidenced by his three stoppage wins in 12 total victories, his last being almost two years ago. But Lopez may very well be limited by his class, as he appeared stunned a few times in the bout and did little adjusting until Tolmajyan’s pace slowed enough that he could. Needless to say, not much should be expected of either man on a world class level.
Leading into the welterweight main event, skepticism was expressed regarding Tim Coleman’s motivation and mindset, and especially his supposed issues with former trainer Roger Mayweather. Additionally, trainer and commentator Teddy Atlas noted that Coleman, now 19-3-1 (5 KO), had been out of action since last August’s TKO loss to junior welterweight Vernon Paris.
Likewise, at 28-5 (16 KO), Kendall Holt had some broader career questions to answer last night, having gone 2-3 in his last five fights going in. The former world titlist looked to be all but past it last October in losing a disappointing decision to Danny Garcia on the undercard of Chad Dawson vs. Bernard Hopkins, and his own inactivity certainly wouldn’t help him.
Holt opened up with a right hand early and dug to the body successfully. Coleman’s only answer throughout the 1st round was a sometimes solid jab and a few wild rushes at Holt that resulted in clinches. With about 30 seconds left, Holt cracked Coleman with a huge left hook downstairs that put him down hard. Tim was up to finish the round, but looking to survive.
The 2nd saw Coleman trying to snake his way inside by crouching and trying to press early on, but he was again put down by some thudding hooks through his guard. He popped up not looking that hurt, but seemed to underestimate Holt’s handspeed and was caught pulling back by a few wide shots, then again put down, though none of the punches seemed to land that cleanly. A pair of hooks upstairs and down dipped him to the canvas once more, though, and Coleman’s corner waved the towel for their man in the middle of the count at 2:23 of round 2.
Teddy Atlas was spot-on with the psychobabble for a change. Coleman never found any meaningful groove, and whether he walked through the ropes not intending to win, or decided it early in the bout, his mind just didn’t seem all there. Holt’s punching power definitely had at least something to do with it, though.
Holt’s career has been very spotty and fairly inconsistent. He’s averaging just over two fights a year for the last five years, and he seems to fight with the ability of someone who can hang with many or most of the best, but he has a habit of taking rounds off waiting for shots. He didn’t do that last night, though, and used his heavier hands to march forward and make it an early night, which can only help him get the title shot he’s so desperately looking for.
As for Coleman, he appeared to say “Fuck it. That’s it,” to the camera before getting checked by the ringside doctor in the corner following the stoppage. Whether that means retirement or “Sorry I blew it” hasn’t been made clear yet, though Coleman fought like a guy unsure of what he wants, even if they fought less than two full rounds.
The swing bout of the evening featured lopsided mohawk-sporting Rufino Seranno vs. Roman Morales.
Morales, 10-0 (6 KO), waded in behind wide, crushing shots, but was caught a few times with sharper counters from Serrano, who looked to have the better technique. Serrano was well-served staying either outside or smothering in close, but was caught in the transition more than once with a few nice ones. Morales worked the body of Serrano a bit nicely too.
A few game exchanges did nothing to help Serrano and he was punished with painful right hands to the chin and some nice body work for his attempt at a good deed, the body shots leading to a knockdown in the 5th. Serrano was able to land a couple crisp counters as Morales poured forward to finish, but the quality shots were one-sided.
Serrano, 12-4 (0 KO), boxed decently in the 6th and final round and both men took turns fighting southpaw, but the eye-catching stuff was again landed by Morales, who wound up with a unanimous decision of 59-54, 59-54 and 60-53.
Friday Night Fights made for a dreary spectacle early on last year as well, but our best hope is that better fights can be locked in for later in the season. That’s precisely what happened in 2011.
By this time last year, the highlights of Friday Night Fights were a few minor upsets, and ESPN’s first 3D boxing telecast. But beginning with Marco Antonio Rubio bludgeoning Montreal’s David Lemieux in early April, the atmosphere of the show changed, and fans were treated to excellent clashes like Pawel Wolak vs. Delvin Rodriguez I and Ruslan Provodnikov vs. Ivan Popoca, and more upsets like Grady Brewer vs. Fernando Guerrero.
Let’s hope that’s the case. The longer weak shows keep getting churned out, the more difficult it is for fans to forgive one of their go-to programs.