ESPN’s Friday Night Fights season 17 kicked right off with a bout from the Target Center in Minnesota, a middleweight scrap between Caleb Truax, a Minnesotan, and underdog Ossie Duran. This gave our man Teddy Atlas the opportunity to note that Truax has been the recipient of a “little home cookin” in the past. He had the volume edge in this one, but we got off to a stellar start from a judging perspective, with the arbiters deeming the bout a draw, 95-95, 95-95, 95-95. Nope, no hometown cookin’ to start the season, good deal, but the case could be made that Truax didn’t need any aid, that he earned a W in Minneapolis, on a Mike Tyson card.
The Ghana-born boxer waits too much, oftentimes, but he perked up some in the third. We saw blood from Truax’ nose to start the fourth. The jab was working. Truax went to the body, left and right side, but it lacked authority. In the sixth, Duran, who took the fight on three weeks notice, had Truax backing up late. Truax’ corner told him to step up and he got peppier in seven and eight. His uppercuts scored more obviously by this point.
The ninth was a tight one, with Duran not looking to give ground and let the hometown guy derive energy from the homies, and pull away down the stretch. They clinched in the tenth, a bit, and you wanted Truax, who is hoping to become a contender, to put a stamp on the night, look to give the locals a buzz boost. Instead, we went to the cards.
Teddy Atlas offered up a wish list to viewers in between bouts. The Staten Island analyst-trainer-philanthropist first asked that judges, in the year 2014, could be punished for destroying the sport. Also, Atlas wants the sanctioning bodies to be exterminated, like cockroaches. “Get rid of the corrupt sanctioning bodies that base their rankings on relationships with promoters,” he said. “Bring in the Transnational Ratings Organization, a non-biased group of writers who want to do it the right way. They want to give you the champions and the rated fighters based on what they do in the ring, on what it should be…”
Then, he said that networks shouldn’t deal with single promoters. Also, the commissions should have cornermen acting right in the ring. “Let’s bring class and dignity back to our sport,” he said. Finally, he asked for the fans to root for Mago to continue a miracle comeback from brain damage.
In the main event, Argenis Mendez defended his IBF 130 pound crown against Rances Barthelemy, a 19-0 Cuban. The 21-2-1 Dominican boxer looked buzzed early, and was backed against the ropes. But he collected his senses, it appeared, but then again was backed against the ropes. The long jab from Bart worked well against Mendez, who was told by trainer John David Jackson “don’t wait” after the round.
In the second, Mendez got untracked some, went to the body, but then ate left hooks, and went down. He was up, and then got dropped at the bell, by a nasty wide left hook, or a bit after. The ref waved off the fight with Mendez rolling around on the ground.
The end came at 2:59 of the second, though we suspect this issue isn’t over, as I think Team Mendez has grounds for a challenge.
The replay showed that Bart landed a few shots after the bell, two times after the bell, said promoter Mike Tyson. He said he wanted a rematch, and would point out the issue to the IBF, which will be asked to issue a ruling about the disposition.