Although the current season of ESPN’s Friday Night Fights series is near its end, the all-action trend amongst the televised bouts has continued. With a three-fight card featuring potential contenders, veterans, and an anticipated rematch, it was easy to predict that this would be one of the more memorable cards of the season.
The opening bout of the broadcast was actually the co-main event which featured a heavyweight rematch between Artur Szpilka (16-0, 12 knockouts) and Mike Mollo (20-5-1, 12 knockouts). The two fighters had previously crossed paths on a February Friday Night Fights card in which Szpilka knocked Mollo out in six rounds. Since that February fight, Szpilka has been the more active of the two fighters, going 2-0 in his most recent fights, and that work paid off in the rematch.
At the sound of the opening bell, neither fighter wasted any time in picking up from where there their last fight had left off. The two engaged in a brutal exchange early, but as each round progressed it was obvious that Szpilka was the much more technically sound and properly conditioned fighter. Even with this fact, Mollo was able to drop an over-eager Szpilka in round three. Instead of capitalizing however, Szpilka managed to once again take control of the fight and stop Mollo after landing a thudding blow. Mollo managed to beat the count, but the ref was forced to wave off the fight after it was obvious that Mollo still hadn’t recovered from the hellacious blow.
The second bout of the evening proved to be just as exciting as the first, as Adrian Granados (12-2-2, 8 knockouts) and Mark Salser (15-1, 9 knockouts) enaged in a junior welterweight bout that was set to go eight rounds. Although not on the forefront of the broadcasts initial promotion, Granados and Salser managed to put on a show that to some was one of the most exciting bouts of the year.
Both Granados and Salser came out aggressive at the opening round, and it was a pace that was continued throughout the bouts length. With both fighters having some vicious but even exchanges early, many couldn’t help but wonder why Granados was having such a hard time against Salser. After all, Granados is a counter-puncher with a much more calculated style that would normally thrive against an opponent with Salser’s style. Instead, Granados went out to prove a point and it almost cost him the victory.
After an aggressive start that saw him land some solid shots early, Granados became a bit anxious in his attack and was quickly caught and knocked down by Salser in the second round. Much to his credit, Granados managed to come back and win some rounds against in hard-charging Salser, but it wasn’t before Salser dropped Granados once again in the fifth.
Salser’s confidence only grew as the fight reached its sixth round, but before he could get anything of significance off, Granados came out aggressive and scored the quick knockdown. Salser was hurt by the blow, and this led Granados to force Salser along the ropes before unloading a series of shots to both the head and body which eventually led to Salser dropping to a knee. With all the damage absorbed at the hands of Granados, the referee was forced to step in and wave an end to what ended up being a terrifically exciting fight.
The main event of the broadcast certainly wasn’t the most exciting fight of the night, but it was definitely was of the most dramatic. Going into the 12-round light heavyweight contest, former champ Gabriel Campillo (22-6-1, 9 knockouts) was set to face-off against Andrzej Fonfara (24-2, 14 knockouts) in a fight that was set as an IBF title eliminator.
Early on, the fight played out like many expected. Using his superior in-ring experience, Campillo was able to take control of the fight with a technical attack that may not be the most crowd-friendly, but is effective nonetheless. Fonfara did his best to keep with Campillo, but it was fairly clear that Campillo was just a couple notches ahead of Fonfara as far as fundamentals.
As clear as Campillo’s impending victory seemed, the judges at ringside saw the fight as being much closer than it actually was. With all of the three judges seeing only two winning rounds separating a clear victor from their score cards, the tension during the bout only grew. Round after round, the fighters went back and forth with Campillo getting the better of most exchanges. This all changed as soon as Fonfara came forward in the ninth round, and began applying relentless pressure on Campillo as he stood along the ropes. Campillo took some big shots early and tried to move away, but Fonfara followed suit with a volley shots to the head and a quick shot to the body which dropped Campillo. With Campillo unable to continue, Fonfara won a shot at the IBF light heavyweight title, while alost seizing his opportunity and scoring a dramatic win over a respected veteran.