Cornelius Lock Dominates Lonnie Smith; Vernon Paris Overcomes a Very Game Manny Perez on FNF

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On the May 10th edition of ESPN’s Friday Night Fights series, a pair of ten-round bouts were hoping to build on momentum set by the increasingly physical nature of the NBA playoffs.

The opening bout of the night was the co-main event which pitted lightweights, Cornelius Lock (20-6-1, 13 knockouts) and Lonnie Smith (14-4-3, 10 knockouts) against each other for a 10-round affair. With the hometown crowd and a better résumé of opposition, Lock was the favorite going into the bout with Smith. The bout would prove to play out much like many had expected, but to his credit, Smith managed to keep what many had foreseen as a one-sided drubbing, as a fairly fun action fight instead.

Early in the fight, Lock was quick to establish his range against the much more aggressive Smith. As Smith would come charging forward in an attempt to force Lock against the ropes, Lock would bludgeon Smith with a pair of straight lefts that would leave the underdog reeling. This pattern would continue for most of the fight, but as Lock’s confidence grew, so did his aggression. Lock began to trade his damaging straight lefts for winging hooks that mostly missed their mark. Smith would manage to capitalize on this in the fourth and fifth round by once again lunging forward with a shot that led to consecutive (although highly questionable) knockdowns.

Instead of capitalizing on what many thought would be a swing of momentum in his favor, Smith kept his predictable pace while Lock really began to turn it up in an effort to prove that the knockdowns were nothing more than a fluke. From the 6th round on, Lock managed to have Smith reeling as Lock embraced the role of aggressor and looked to end the bout in an impressive fashion. Although he wasn’t awarded the stoppage he so badly sought, Lock managed to walk away with a unanimous decision victory on scores of (97-91), (96-92), (95-92).

In a surprising turn of events, the main event of the night proved to be the most exciting and competitive match-up of the two featured. The bout featured once-defeated welterweight, Vernon Paris (28-1, 16 knockouts) up against a blown-up lightweight in Manny Perez (19-8-1, 4 knockouts). To put it bluntly, no one saw Manny Perez overcoming his test in Vernon Paris. After all, with no size and no power it seemed obvious that Perez would stand no chance. Just when things seemed so sure, boxing reminded everyone that no outcome is predictable.

For ten hard-fought rounds, Paris and Perez engaged in a contest that was as even in the ring as it was on most spectators score cards. Perez would prove to be the more aggressive and busier fighter, while Paris often landed the more sporadic, but effective shots. It’s this aspect of the bout that made it so competitive and difficult to score. Regardless of who was landing the harder shots, it was hard to ignore the fact that Paris was getting pushed to and along the ropes in just about every round by the much smaller Perez. This along with the fact that Paris seemed to fight in a lethargic manner that seemed to scream of uninterest, and it was easy to see why so many scored the bout as either a draw or a victory for Perez.

In a trend that it all too familiar in boxing however, the judges appeared to have seem a completely different fight. While most saw the give-and-take nature of the fight as enough of a reason to deem it a draw, the judges scorecards reflected a fight that saw Paris as the clear,and fairly dominant, victor. The unanimous decision scores were: (97-93), (96-94), (98-92) in favor of Vernon Paris. Although one would be hard-pressed to find a supported of such a wide margin of scores, there’s no ignoring that Perez managed to make the most out of a seemingly hopeless situation. Given no chance at all against Paris, Perez managed to prove that he’s a tough test for anyone in the welterweight division. Although he will never be considered a world-beater, Perez is the gutsy kind of fighter that one couldn’t help but watch. For Paris, this fight left more questions than answers. By not scoring the resounding victory that many had expected, questions will inevitably rise concerning whether he has taken his preparation for bouts seriously. Regardless, here’s to hoping that with this Perez victory, good things will come from Paris’ future in the sport.