I could hardly believe my own eyes: Clay-Aiken on ESPN2’s Friday Night Fights!
But thankfully there was no lame singing. And give me Larry Merchant over Paula Abdul as far as possibly blitzed TV personas go. But Friday night, Joe Tessitore and Roy Jones, Jr. were calling the action in Monroeville, PA as Pittsburgh’s Monty Meza-Clay TKO’d Washington DC’s Eric Aiken in the 7th round of an exciting featherweight bout.
The diminutive Meza-Clay was impressive in front of his hometown crowd as he overwhelmed the larger Aiken, throwing over 700 punches in less than 7 full rounds of boxing. Aiken, a former IBF featherweight champion, is now 0-3-1 since winning the belt 18 months ago. His career-path is heading in the opposite direction of the clearly hungry Meza-Clay.
Meza-Clay’s lone career loss came to Edner Cherry in 2006 and he has been a buzzsaw ever since. On Friday night, he overcame a substantial height disadvantage (in the neighborhood of a half-foot) and was consistently able to work his way inside on Aiken. Aiken landed several solid blows early in the fight, particularly in an action packed second round, but it was nowhere near enough to discourage an eager and willing Meza-Clay, who constantly moved forward all night.
Despite a pretty well-sustained effort, Aiken failed to establish his jab and work from the outside. At no point was he able to control the action by utilizing his height and reach to his advantage. Consequently, Meza-Clay would not be denied, as the crowd fueled him with chants of his name. He ended the fight 39 seconds into the 7th round with a flurry of punches that had Aiken backed up against the ropes eating fist for nearly 20 gut-wrenching seconds. Aiken may have still been alert enough to counter punch. But the problem was that there was nary a pause from Meza-Clay during which Aiken could jump in. He absorbed several solid body shots and at least two neck-rocking shots to the dome. The ref had seen enough.
When the referee stopped the fight, Roy Jones, Jr. called it a “beautiful stoppage.” Now, a fight stoppage can obviously be a crucial and difficult decision, but I can’t help but chuckle when it is elevated to an art form that can be called ‘beautiful.’ That’s truly top-shelf, Roy. Thanks for that.
Back to the fight, though: Meza-Clay, now at 27-1, is an active, action fighter with good enough chops that I’m sure we’ll see him on TV again in the future. Jones feels that he deserves some consideration for top-10 contender status in the featherweight division.
Roy Jones, Jr.,on the telecast in place of Teddy Atlas, who was "on hiatus," was clearly pleased with himself after his dismantling of Felix Trinidad. He also did his best to make it clear that he’s the best fighter at any weight 168 and up. He listed the 5 people he would most like to fight. Headlining the list was Joe Calzaghe, whom he called the best of super-middleweights (obviously). Surprisingly, his #2 name was Oscar De La Hoya, whom he called a “chicken” and said would never fight him. I’d hate to be Oscar’s dietitian with people calling him out to fight at every weight on the map right now. However, I'd gladly be his accountant. Rounding out the list was B-Hop, Kelly Pavlik, and Jermain Taylor. “One of them will be crazy enough to fight me at 168,” said Jones of Pavlik and Taylor.
And finally, read this Super Bowl tidbit at your own risk:
Bert Sugar presented an interesting theory for predicting the Super Bowl, based upon the movement of the heavyweight title in the previous year. I understand what he meant, but I’ll be damned if I can explain it. Basically, Sugar, likes the Pats based on the premise of the heavyweight title not changing hands on a KO this year, though. This applies to all Super Bowls with the Giants or Pats since 1986. For instance, Tyson KO’d Berbick in 1986 and the Giants won in 1987. Douglas KO’d Tyson in 1990 and the Giants won in 1991. Mike Tyson KO’d Frank Bruno in 1996 and the Packers topped the Patriots in 1997. In the years with KO’s, the NFC won. When the Ravens topped the Giants and in the 3 Patriots Super Bowl wins, there was not KO’s in heavyweight title matches with the belt changing hands. My apologies if my convoluted description has wasted more than a few brain cells for all parties involved. Enjoy the game, everyone.
PS EDITOR NOTE: We all love Larry here, and know full well that as a consummate pro, he's never pulled a Paula on air, for the record.