During the March 29th edition of ESPN’s Friday Night Fights two words immediately came to mind: 1) Mismatch 2) Confusion, and by the end one would be hard pressed to find better words to describe what they just saw.
The opening bout of the night featured a pair of pro-debuts as full-time Starbucks barista and part-time fighter, Kamal Muhammad (0-1), took on Ukrainian bronze medalist, Taras Shelestyuk (1-0) in a 154-lb. match-up. Unfortunately, nothing much can really be said about this bout considering it was over about as soon as it started. As the two fighters answered the bell to touch gloves, Shelestyuk came out aggressive and starting his attack on Kamal’s body. This flurry caused Kamal to take a knee, and it was obvious that Taras already smelled blood. After Kamal answered the refs 10-count, Taras came out swarming the Starbuck’s employee which forced the ref to step in and stop the bout. Considering it was his pro debut, there’s not much that could be said from Taras’ performance. However, one could be sure that much more will be seen of him on Friday Night Fights.
The co-main event of the evening would end up capitalizing on the momentum and fairly uncompetitive nature of the opening bout as undefeated Jackson Junior (14-1, 12 knockouts) fought Umberto Savigne (11-1, 8 knockouts) in the sole light heavyweight bout of the evening. Going into the fight, many thought Junior would be far too much for Savigne. With Savigne’s sole less coming by way of knockout, many were under the impression that Junior’s power would eventually catch-up to the Cuban and lead to a violent stoppage. Instead, fans were treated to a four round drubbing by Savigne as he dominated every aspect of his short fight with Junior. Early on it was becoming apparent that Savigne was consistently finding success landing a hard left hook that would wobble Junior. Things came to a peak in the second when Savigne wobbled Junior with a right-cross, and dropped him with a left hook. Things didn’t look good for Junior, but to his credit he came in the third round looking as fresh as ever, but still fairly inactive. Sensing the weakened state of his opponent, the much bigger and stronger Savigne swarmed Junior, dropping him three times during the course of the fourth round. With the three knockdown rule in effect, the referee was forced to halt the bout and put an end to the beating. Savigne left the victor, as well as being awarded the WBO Latino Light Heavyweight Championship. As fans are left to wonder where the win places Savigne in the rankings, Junior is forced to go back to the drawing board in an attempt to pick up the pieces after what proves to be a massive set back in his career.
Ironically enough, the main event was the most criticized match-up going into the broadcast. Pitting the surging Brian Vera (23-6, 14 knockouts) against Donatas Bondas (17-4-1, 6 knockouts) , many felt that a bout that seemed this lopsided on paper didn’t deserve its recognition as a main event. Instead of a one-sided trouncing however, fans were treated to the most competitive, albeit most bizarre, bout of the card. To the surprise of many, Bondas answered the opening bell as the aggressor, and found some success in the early rounds. With a frustrating, high pressure style it was easy to understand how Vera seemed overwhelmed in the early moments of the fight. Bondas found most of his success from landing a stiff right hand that would catch Vera off-guard, both early and often. Things quickly changed as Vera began to warm up by the third round, and finally began to really pour it on Bondas. Just as things seemed to go in one fighter’s favor, the other would roar back to steal the round. It was this competitive nature of what supposed to be an absolute drubbing of a fight that led to an overall entertaining scrap between the two middleweights. Unfortunately, things were soured by the end of the bout. After suffering a cut on the bridge of his nose, the referee approached Bondas’ corner in between the 7th and 8th round in order to gauge the severity of the cut. When he asked about Bondas’ vision, Bondas supposedly responsed, “Not so good”. This led to an immediate halt of the fight, causing an uproar of confusion and anger from Bondas’ corner. Regardless of whether one agrees with the ref’s call to end the fight or not, Vera was awarded the TKO victory and a potential title shot against Peter Quillin. It was a shame to see a bout end this way, but at least fans were treated to a exciting back and forth fight after what seemed to be a night full of mismatches.