Following last week’s upset-filled broadcast, the February 1st edition of ESPN’s Friday Night Fights was looking to ride the wave of momentum with a card made up of Antwone Smith (23-4-1, 12 knockouts) vs. Juan Luis Castillo (64-12-1, 55 knockouts), and headlined by Carlos Molina (21-5-2, 6 knockouts) vs. Corey Spinks (39-8, 11 knockouts).
The opening bout of the evening pitted young but talented journeyman, Antwone Smith, versus the aging veteran, Juan Luis Castillo. Going into the bout, few believed that Castillo would offer anything in the way of an actual challenge for the much younger Smith. Even Smith himself would openly speak about how Castillo offers little in the way of potential reward or challenge. For the most part, Smith and most of the boxing media were right in their assumption.
As the bell sounded to signal the start of the match, it was quickly made obvious that Smith was looking to be the aggressor against Castillo. Smith immediately settles into a type of counter-puncher role that seems to be abandoned as soon as Castillo comes forth ripping body shots to the body and head Smith. Smith starts responding with his own shots, including a 2-punch series that got Castillo’s attention early. With shots being exchanged, both fighters remained in the pocket as they each tried to win what seemed like a fairly even first round. By the end, Smith was beginning to find his range as he landed harder shots, but Castillo had the higher out-put. With a round that could go either way, many felt that this was one of the few rounds that Castillo did indeed win.
Things were very different after that fairly competitive first round. At the start of the second, Castillo’s age was beginning to show. As he came forward, Castillo’s movement was already slowed, however it was obvious his power remained. As Smith began to charge forward, Castillo quickly answered with some hard shots that caught Smith’s attention early. As he begins changing his stance to that of a counter-puncher, Castillo tags Smith with a hook that stings the younger fighter. Things quickly go sour however as soon as Smith responds with his own combination of power shots that visibly shakes Castillo. For the rest of the round, Castillo would go on to show the effects of those power shots as he continued absorbing punishment until the end of the round.
This fight would go on to play out much like the second round did. Castillo would come out aggressive, until Smith landed a series of power shots that would have the veteran reeling as he tried to answer back with his own shots. Things began to take a turn for the worse however as soon as Castillo was docked a point for excessive low blows early into the fourth round. This was made especially significant because it was a round that many felt was Castillo’s best, after he seemed to out-work Smith in attempts to beat him at his own game.
Things didn’t get much better, or competitive, for Castillo as the fight went on. In fact, Castillo seemed to be close to getting stopped by Smith at the end of the 5th as he continued absorbing a vicious volley of punches that were keen on putting him down. Castillo survived, but this pattern seemed to repeat itself for the rest of the fight. With often great back and forth by both fighters, each round ended with Castillo being at the wrong end of most of those exchanges. With Castillo often being cornered into the ropes and absorbing punishment, the pending decision seemed clear. At the end of their 10-round fight, the three judges awarded Antwone Smith the Unanimous Decision victory on scores of (100-90), (98-92), and (99-91). After a performance like that, Castillo’s boxing days seem numbered. Unfortunately, Smith’s future doesn’t seem as clear. Sure, he earned a dominant decision against a big name champion, but little reward comes with a victory that was fairly unexciting as well as non-competitive. It will be interesting to see where Smith’s career goes from here, but for him to become elite it’s obvious that there is still much work to be done.
As mentioned earlier, there is little that can really be said about the main-event bout that pitted Carlos Molina vs. Corey Spinks. In this match-up there was a lot riding on the line. For Spinks, this was a chance at redemption after a recent career skid. For Molina, this was a chance to finally earn a victory that wouldn’t leave any room for scoring controversy. For both however, a victory would lead to a title shot against Cornelius Bundrage (32-4, 19 knockouts) or Ishe Smith (24-5, 11 knockouts).
At the opening bell, it was obvious just how much the time off had affected Spinks. After a seven-month layoff, Spinks looked awkward and gun-shy as he was never able to get anything going in the entire match. Molina also had an unusual performance, but unusual in the sense that he came out as the aggressor rather than the usually patient counter-puncher. In the first round alone, Molina was able to chase Spinks around the ring, and even wobbled him before closing the round.
Things would go much better for Spinks in the following rounds. After starting the second round with a looping right hook that hurt Molina, Spinks seemed content to continue moving about the ring, while throwing the occasional punch. Naturally, this led to Molina snatching up many of these early rounds simply based on the fact that he was the much busier fighter, as well as the harder punching fighter. This cat-and-mouse style of fight would go on to describe much of the fight, even past the middle rounds. Molina would constantly force Spinks on the ropes and unload shots, while Spinks failed to ever get in any kind of rhythm.
The end began to approach as soon as Spinks was docked a point in the 9th round for excessive holding. By this point Spinks looked defeated, but to his credit he managed to stay upright the entire fight. Things quickly took a turn for the worse as soon as Spinks managed to hit the canvas in both the 11th and 12th round, against punches that didn’t seem particularly powerful, but effective nonetheless. As the final bell signaled the end of the fight, it was obvious who the dominant fighter was that night. The judges scored the bout as a landslide unanimous decision for Carlos Molina. The scores read as (119-106), (119-106), and (120-105). It wasn’t the most fun fight, but it’s always nice change to finally see decision go Molina’s way.
There’s no doubt that this wasn’t this season’s most exciting card, but it was a solid night of fights that saw two veterans lace up the gloves for the last time (potentially), and the birth of a contender and potential future champion.