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FNF Report: ESPN2 Vet Verno Phillips Escapes With Win

BY Michael Woods ON February 15, 2007
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Eddie Sanchez has a gangly physique, and looks like he should have slow hands and like he'd be easy to hit. Yes, the 31-year-old New Orleans-based junior middleweight is a certified spoiler, and he very nearly wrecked Verno Phillips' evening on ESPN's Friday Night Fights.

The judges had the final say in the end, though, and all three tabulated it 97-93 for "Slightly Colder Than Sterno" Verno.

The proceedings took place in the Wynn Las Vegas facility, and the junior middle beef between the heavily favored 37-year-old Phillips (41-11-1, 21 KOs), and Sanchez (15-6-2, 9 KOs) headlined the card.

Phillips, a Colorado resident, is a three-time junior middleweight beltholder, and he looked to be the slightly higher caliber battler from the get-go.

But Sanchez, who downed the favored JC Candelo in a 2004 contest, started using his reach advantage, and kept Verno at bay as he picked away. After four, Verno's trainer Trevor Wittman told him to shorten up his punches, and minimize his movement. "I want a different Verno coming out," he told his guy.

Phillips didn't look much different in the sixth, as he seemed to be put off with the size of his foe. It looked at this point that this style matchup didn't do Phillips, who craves another late-career title shot, any favors.

In the seventh, Verno scored with a smart left hook. He also scored with a right cross that perked up the crowd. But he didn't show the pep one might expect he'd show with a potential title shot on the table.

Teddy Atlas had the bout going in to the tenth and final round. Phillips looked like he wanted it just a tad more, and Sanchez simply didn't exhibit the pep one might've expected.

Sanchez, who handed 20-1 Jose Celaya his second loss right before he upended Candelo, last gloved up 11 months ago. In the end, conditioning may have ruled the night—Sanchez just wasn't busy enough, and he landed fewer punches than Verno: 88 to 139.

Brian Kenny was released from the Bristol campus and worked from the Wynn facility in Sin City; BK opened the broadcast with a chat with Diego Corrales, who told viewers that he'll be fighting on April 7 at welterweight. Chico said he's confident that his pop will remain at that increased poundage.

Twenty-seven-year-old Tennessean Alonzo Butler (25-0-1, 18 KOs, 257 pounds) opened the televised portion of the program against Arizona resident James Walton (21-9-2, age 35), who stepped in at 212 pounds. Butler cracked wise about Chris Byrd and John Ruiz in a pre-fight interview, saying that he knows he hits harder than either of them. Maybe so, but I'd venture to say either of those cats could teach the young buck a lesson or two if they were tossed in together.

Butler shows some building blocks that may bode well for the future—he unleashes the jab with ill intent, remembers to breathe as he goes about his business and generally remembers to protect himself with his mitts when the other guy is within striking distance. The downside—Butler tends to lunge at times, can use some tutelage in cutting off the ring and could make better use of his bulk. There's more but you get the point. Butler's no bum, but the jury is out, and they're leaning towards a thumbs down verdict, to be blunt. Butler didn't look like an imminent titlist in the division, I'll put it that way; he did, however, rack up a win, as he tossed a left uppercut in the tenth that put Walton down for a mandatory eight, and then heard the judges give him the W, UD10.

After that hors d'oeuvre, BK chatted with Chris Byrd, who said he was disappointed in his performance against Wladimir Klitschko. CB said he'd like a crack at The Giant Valuev. He'll have to get in line behind Holyfield...Byrd may, he said, also take a dip in the cruiserweight waters, especially if there's a title at stake. CB also said Sugar Shane could beat PBF. Byrd is perhaps leaning towards ODLH in the May 5 showdown because they were Olympians together.

Next week, Kelvin Davis clashes with Darnell Wilson in a cruiserweight tussle.

SPEEDBAG FYI, don't count all the eggs on the Micky and Dickie movie just yet. Matt Damon and Mark Wahlberg, two Massachusetts natives, are rumored to be starring in the Micky Ward/Dickie Eklund tale. The deal is almost done, but in Hollywood, until the damn thing is in the can, you can't assume the deal is done. Wahlberg's brother Jimmy told me it looks like chances are really good, pegging it at 80-85% that the flick will get made. Paramount, the studio that is on board, wouldn't put me in touch with anyone affiliated with the film, but I did get Ward himself on the cellular. Mick thinks it'll happen, but knows full well that Hollywood is a whole different ballgame. Off the record, don't tell anyone, but Wahlberg would play Ward, and Damon would play Eklund. You heard it here first, people...

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