(Bahodir Mamadjonov, left, and Darley Perez, right; Photo: Carlos Baeza/Thompson Boxing)
Good action traced the dusky landscape of Cabazon, Ca. this evening, as this week's Friday Night Fights from Morongo Casino showcased three unbeaten fighters coming for more than a paycheck.
At the end of the night, Colombian lightweight Darley Perez stood victorious over Uzbekistan native Bahodir Mamadjonov, and habitually entertaining junior featherweight Chris Avalos was made to work for a solid win over Yenifel Vicente over 20 total rounds of milling in which two of three men lost the right to be called "undefeated."
It wasn't all Larry Holmes-Ken Norton type of stuff, but it wasn't all John Ruiz-Hasim Rahman nonsense either, and each of the four fighters on the televised card came to win.
In the main event of the telecast, Perez moved forward to a record of 26-0 (19 KO) with a split decision over Mamadjonov in a fight that was of subtle high quality despite plenty of jarring and somewhat reckless punches thrown and landed over the course of the 10 rounds.
A slow and probing 1st round from both fighters mostly featured feints and jockeying for a footwork advantage in the southpaw vs. orthodox match up, and not much of a significant nature was landed. But in round 2, Mamadjonov stung Perez with a lead overhand left and a few follow up shots that had the latter on his heels.
In round 3, Mamadjonov clearly established an effective game plan, timing more lead left hands and a defensively reactionary style while Perez failed to nudge his way inside with jabs. And round 4 was more of the same, as Mamadjonov swatted away Perez' jabs and sprung forth with left hands that surprised his man. The 5th round was slightly more competitive, though, and Perez shot some right hands downstairs, likely attempting to slow down the movement and angling of Mamadjonov.
But all jabs and no lead rights make southpaw slaying a dull affair, and finally in the 6th, Perez was able to find Mamadjonov with some right hands with his foe's back to the ropes, appearing to stagger the Uzbek, whose in-ring attitude looked to become more cautious. And Mamadjonov's reluctance to take offensive risks carried over into round 7, and his back hit the ropes some more and Perez worked his left hook into the equation. Perez stepped up the psychological end of the skirmish too, shrugging when Mamadjonov managed to land and scowling his way forward.
A few lashes from Mamadjonov slowed Perez' pressure down some in the 8th, and both men began playing the feinting game again before Perez' corner implored him to get busy. Almost on cue, Perez backed Mamadjonov to the ropes and floored him with a right uppercut. Patiently stalking, Perez failed to land another knockdown-worthy shot, and even snacked on a right hook at the bell, but the Colombian made his punching power known regardless.
Without much issue, Mamadjonov went right back to trickstering in the 9th, doing well from a distance and pulling lead left fake outs from nowhere, though Perez had a few moments, including a hard jab that turned Mamadjonov around. Both men traded in spots in round 10, looking to close big and grab the victory, and it was another close-ish three minutes that saw each fighter taste what looked to be the other's best, though it was Perez who was landing better at the final bell.
Scores of 95-94 for Mamadjonov and 96-93, 95-94 for Perez were turned in, giving the split verdict to the former Colombian Olympian by deservedly close margins.
Mamadjonov's unbeaten record took a hit and stands at 11-1 (7 KO), though his worst moment was essentially a miscalculation, and he's likely to do much better against an opponent who doesn't have a quality amateur pedigree. Stylistically, he looked similar to a Montell Griffin type with less "cute" to him and more punching power, throwing shots that almost seemed unlikely to land, but did anyways because of timing and a good gauge of distance. If nothing else, he made it clear that he wasn't there to be stepped on, and accounted himself well.
As for Perez, his seventh bout in the U.S. was a success in that he escaped with the win, but he impressed only in spots. It should be taken into account that the guy he was in against wasn't giving up much, was a replacement, and certainly didn't look slouchy, but had the win gone to Mamadjonov, it's doubtful many would have complained.
That said, it was a solid, competitive fight without a ton of holding, and no controversy. Score one for the fans.
In the co-feature, Chris Avalos of Lancaster, Ca. had a bit of an easier time in taking a clear cut unanimous decision over previously unbeaten Yenifel Vicente of the Dominican Republic, though it wasn't "easy." For Avalos, it was the third time in a row that he'd taken on an unbeaten fighter, and while being undefeated perhaps doesn't mean as much as it once might have, it's still a risk in the sense that the other guy in the ring doesn't yet know how to lose.
True to form, Avalos attempted to move forward on Vicente in round 1, applying pressure yet timing and placing his shots very well, eventually landing a hard overhand right that sent Vicente to the ropes. Things got rough as both men collided inside and battled for the physical upper hand, which Avalos seized with a series of uppercuts and a few more rights in round 2, and Vicente took fairly well. Vicente began really digging with his shots in the 3rd, though, and Avalos' output dipped some temporarily. The two then took turns feinting and maneuvering before another uppercut punctuated matters for Avalos in the final minute of the round.
Tricky head movement from Vicente in round 4 was countered with left hooks and good body work from Avalos, who looked to land more uppercuts before eating one himself. An overhand right from Vicente seemed to stagger Avalos with about a minute remaining, and the Dominican found success timing Avalos' jab with counter rights.
Avalos blunted Vicente's momentum in the 5th with a left hook in the midst of an exchange that made him take a seat. Vicente tried to scrap his way out of danger, but found himself eating shots for much of the remainder of the stanza. Gamely rising from his stool for round 6, Vicente reached with punches to snatch some revenge, and managed to land a number of thudding body shots while on sluggish legs.
It was all about exchanges and tit-for-tat in round 7, and Avalos absorbed a right hand that had him briefly thinking twice about this endeavor about one minute in -- and some ripping body work to boot. But Avalos slowed the pace down to a more manageable one to end the round. As Avalos attempted to hold Vicente's left arm and hit on the inside in the 8th, Vicente let loose with all the body shots he could muster, and a hit on the break that drew a warning. More tussling meant more opportunities for Vicente to get things done, and he took advantage with more shots to Avalos' midsection, but a salvo from Avalos had Vicente holding on when the bell tolled.
Again in round 9 Vicente broke loose with some wild stuff, pegging Avalos with wide hooks and body work in the first minute. Avalos dialed in with uppercuts, though, landing probably a half-dozen in the second minute, finding his range and once more controlling pace. A sweeping right had Avalos holding on momentarily, but he closed strong.
Vicente tried with about everything he could to end matters and close what was likely a wide gap on the cards in the 10th and final round, but his head was regularly snapped around as he bravely leaped forward with hopelessly wide shots.
Judges all scored the contest 97-92 for Avalos, whose record is now 20-2 15 KO).
It wasn't a bad contest between two honest fighters sliding on the leather gauntlets and working for the Yankee dollar -- even if it was a little one-sided in terms of scoring.
Don't ever accuse Avalos of getting things the easy way, though. He's been on and off TV in his last few, fighting guys who are either undefeated and favored, or much more experienced and willing to go some rounds. He shows flashes of dominance in there, hinting that he has what it takes to step beyond the ShoBox/FNF level, but struggles just enough in some wins that many fights are interesting. It's fun to watch, and he should be on TV even more.
Vicente should get more airtime as well. A handful of his body shots were just cracking, and he really oozed urgency when it was necessary, but he fell short against a guy with more tools at his disposal despite some moments where he threatened to make a dent. It was Bernabe Concepcion-like, in a way.
Just as it did last year, FNF has eased its way into a solid summer after a very slow start. Why it seems to take a few months to remember that good matchmaking and not "names" are what produce good shows isn't clear, but here's hoping the brass over there is taking their ginseng.
That's right, ESPN2. Take some of that sting off the Olympic boxing rash.
Feel free to follow Patrick on Twitter at @Integrital
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