On the May 25th edition of ESPN’s Friday Night Fights series, boxing fans were reminded of two things: 1.) You can’t always judge a fighter based off of his record 2.) Bad judging is a problem that has yet to disappear from the sport of boxing. As controversial as the results may have been there is no denying that the featured bouts featured the type of fan-friendly action that tends to be a rarity among some of the latest broadcasts.
The first bout of the evening took place in the junior welterweight division as lightweight journeyman Chris Howard (16-2, 7 knockouts) moved up in weight to take on Issouf Kinda (16-1, 6 knockouts). Going into the bout, few actually expected Howard to emerge victorious. After all, 140 lbs. was the heaviest he had ever weighed before a fight, so that was just one of the many factors that led to Howard’s slim chances at victory in most fan’s eyes.
In the early rounds of the bout, things managed to play out much like many had expected. Kinda was set on out-boxing and out-maneuvering Howard, while Howard charged forward in an attempt to nullify the significant difference in size. As the fight slowly progressed it quickly became obvious that headbutts were going to be a problem throughout this fight. In the first round alone, Howard’s cheek was already showing visible bruising from a clash of heads.
With each passing round, Howard’s left eye was becoming more and more swollen because of this initial headbutt. Much to his credit though he ignored the disadvantage, and continued in his relentless attack on Kinda. To much surprise, Howard was beginning to find some success landing power punches against Kinda. With Kinda not throwing the stiffest of jabs, Howard managed to slide within range and blast the undefeated fighter with a few hard hooks. This led to a series of heated exchanges that saw both fighters going blow for blow in attacks that went for both the head and body of their opponent.
Things went south for Howard after such exchanges because the eye was now hindering his vision. With only one eye, Howard tried his best but Kinda was beginning to land at will. As Kinda gathered a couple of more rounds under his belt, the ring-side doctor eventually called an end to the bout based on the fact that Howard could no longer see out of his left eye. With a technical decision on the horizon, it seemed Kinda had run away with the victory after dealing with a slow start. Unfortunately for him, the judges saw things differently. With scores of (58-56), (55-59), and (58-56) Chris Howard managed to walk away with the split decision. Although controversial, there’s no ignoring that it was a gutsy performance from a fighter who seemed to embrace the underdog role in his situation.
Unfortunately, the bad judging didn’t end there. In the main event of the evening, Friday Night Fight’s staple, Delvin Rodriguez (28-6-3, 15 knockouts), took on all-action veteran, Freddy Hernandez (30-5, 20 knockouts), in a junior middleweight bout. Just like in the opening bout, one fighter was believed to have a serious disadvantage over the other, but by the end of the fight no one would have guessed that Hernandez was that fighter.
From the opening bell, Hernandez managed to prove that he was a handful for the slow-starting Rodriguez. In his usual aggressive manner, Hernandez came out in his all-pressure style as he seemed poised to take Rodriguez out of the fight early. With Hernandez managing to land his booming left hooks at will, it looked as if Rodriguez would be stopped before he can ever manage to really get any kind of offense going. Luckily for him, a seemingly constant clashing of heads between himself and Hernandez led to him realizing just what kind of points deficit he may be facing.
When Rodriguez came alive, he began to look much more like the type of fighter people had grown accustomed to watching. His technique was sound and superior, his movement was slick, and his punches were effective. With a few rounds finally under him, Rodriguez seemed set to earn another come from behind points decision against Hernandez. Before this could happen however, the fight was stopped by the ring-side doctor after a cut on Hernandez’ left eyebrow was deemed too deep to let the fight continue. Initially, the cut was attributed to a clash of heads, but later replays showed that it was indeed caused by two right hands by Rodriguez. Nonetheless, the technical decision was announced and once again it was controversial.
The judges scored the bout (76-76), (77-75), and (78-74) in favor of Rodriguez. This was only made more bizarre by the fact that the victory was then deemed a TKO, but that did little to erase the fact that Hernandez was robbed from a victory many felt he deserved. Although Rodriguez looked vulnerable against Hernandez, don’t be surprised if you see him get the call to face an opponent on Showtime and HBO again. Even Hernandez in loss could look forward to a similar situation after proving that no matter what his record shows, he’s a tough test for any fighter in the division.