Friday Night Fights followed its worst broadcast in years with one of its best, as a pair of meaningful fights with world titles on the line lived up to the hype in the season finale. In the opener, Tavoris Cloud finally got back into the ring for the first time in over a year and brought his relentless pressure to Clinton Woods, earning a clear unanimous decision victory for his first world title. The main event featured a grueling slugfest between Juan Urango and Randall Bailey in which Urango showed tremendous grit and an otherworldy chin, surviving a brutal knockdown and beating down Bailey to earn a TKO in the 11th round.
I’ll take a look at the fights in a little more depth and take a look around the rest of the action the last two days, including an impressive performance from Abner Mares on Fight Night Club. But first, like Dr. Tobias Funke, I can’t live without my plugs, so I would just like to remind you that my boxing blog, 3 Mintes of Hell, can provide a nice diversion from the annoying necessities of life like jobs and families. And don’t forget to take your Teamocil.
Juan Urango TKO.11 Randall Bailey – I had high hopes for this fight because the matchmaking was so appealing, pitting the power-punching Bailey against Urango’s dogged aggression, and the fight absolutely lived up to my expectations. Both fighters are somewhat one-dimensional but both feature unique gifts that elevate them to top-tier one-dimensional fighters (long-winded oxymoron that may be); namely, Bailey’s bone-crushing power and Urango’s tireless stamina and iron chin.
The fight was less a matter of fight-of-the-year style exchanges and more akin to the tense atmosphere of a good horror film. They exchanged the early rounds with Bailey flicking out his jab and lining up his canon right hand in the rounds he controlled and Urango working his way inside and launching hooks that rocked Bailey’s body and head in his rounds.
In the sixth round Bailey provided the first concussive payoff to the building tension, landing his otherworldy right hand straight and clear as Urango was coming in to drop Urango for what initially looked like a crushing knockout. Urango lay flat on his back with a gash under his right eye as the referee counted but rose suddenly and shook off the cobwebs at the count of nine. Urango regained his legs astonishingly quickly and he arguably scored a knockdown that referee Tommy Kimmons missed just seconds after he rose from the mat, though I thought it could have been considered a slip.
Despite a rapidly swelling right eye and a painful familiarity with Bailey’s power, Urango never stopped coming forward. In the eighth round Urango’s relentless body work began to pay noticeable dividends as Bailey slowed significantly and momentum shifted in Urango’s direction. Early in the ninth round, Urango caught Bailey coming in with a monster counter left that dropped Bailey and signalled the beginning of the end to the fight. Urango landed an uppercut/left hook combo that dropped Bailey again in the middle of the round and Bailey held and danced to barely survive the ninth round.
Urango continued his assault in the tenth, putting constant pressure on a tiring Bailey until placing a beautiful right hook to the body with a minute remaining in the round to score his third knockdown of the fight. Kimmons could have justifiably waved the fight off here but Bailey showed heart to rise to his shaky legs again and finish out the round. He came out for round 11 but, as Urango continued battering Bailey around the ring, Bailey’s corner got Kimmon’s attention a minute into the round and stopped the fight, giving Urango a hard-earned TKO victory.
This was not the fight of the year but it may have been the Friday Night Fights fight of the year. Urango showed again that, if he is matched right, he can provide highly entertaining slugfests against top-notch opponents. Matched against speedsters like Andre Berto, he can’t compete. However, there are a number of top contenders in the 140-lb. division – guys like Kendall Holt, Marcos Maidana, and Juan Diaz – who could make sensational wars with a guy with Urango’s abilities. I would be thrilled to see him matched up with any of those guys. As for Bailey, what he wants to do at this point of his career is ultimately his decision. He is almost certainly finished as a title contender but he is still a tough opponent and entertaining fighter because of his power and also because of his great limitations in other elements of the sport. Whatever he decides, I wish Bailey the best. Win or lose, he comes to fight and keeps things interesting.
Tavoris Cloud UD.12 Clinton Woods – Tavoris Cloud is source of great ambiguity for me. Inside the ring, he is one of my favorite young fighters to watch right now. Outside of the ring, he makes mind-bogglingly misguided decisions, like turning down a co-feature spot on HBO and a future shot at Chad Dawson for a co-feature spot on ESPN2 and an uncertain future. I haven’t had many good things to say about Cloud in the past year because he hasn’t been in the ring since his TKO win over Julio Gonzalez last August but I thoroughly enjoyed his agressive beat-down of Clinton Woods to claim the IBF title that Dawson vacated to fight Glen Johnson.
Cloud is an offensive machine. He threw well over 1000 punches in the fight, an astonishing total for a light heavyweight, and threw most of those punches with bad intentions. He had some slight problems with Woods jab and ring savvy early in the fight but adjusted well and simply overwhelmed Woods with volume and power as the fight wore on. Woods showed a tremendous chin as Cloud rocked him with a number of punches that would have ended the night for most other fighters. All three judges scored the fight 116-112, though my scorecard was closer to Teddy’s 119-108.
The question is, where does Cloud go from here? I want to see him again soon but the light heavyweight division is in a somewhat transitional period right now. Other than Dawson, the established stars are all near the ends of their careers and none are likely to face a young monster without a major backing like Cloud. There is zero incentive for Bernard Hopkins, Antonio Tarver, or Roy Jones to fight Cloud. I doubt he gets a shot at Dawson anytime soon after he turned down a spot on the Dawson-Johnson undercard. One fight I would love to see would be Cloud against Jean Pascal, a guarenteed all-action slugfest. I just hope I don’t have to wait another year to see Cloud again.
Abner Mares TKO.6 Carlos Fulgencio – Thursday’s Fight Night Club featured its biggest name headline fighter as Mares continued his comeback from an eye injury that temporarily halted his ascent. He looked outstanding against an overmatched opponent, breaking down Fulgencio with sharp combos before stopping him with a body shot in the sixth round. Mares looks like he is ready for the best of the division and should be in line for a title shot by early next year at the latest.
On the Fight Night Club undercard, Ricky Lopez looked good in dominating John Wampash… David Rodela outworked Gamalier Rodriguez for a unanimous decision win… David Gaspar outlasted Sergio Espinoza to win an entertaining scrap… In other notable fights from Friday, Joachim Alcine fought for the first time since his knockout loss to Daniel Santos, earning a unanimous decision over Eric Mitchell in Montreal… On the undercard, prospect David Lemieux maintained his perfect knockout record, improving to 17-0 with 17 KO with a fifth-round stoppage of Bladimir Hernandez… Pongsaklek Wonjongkam retained an interim strap and a shot at his fifth fight with Daisuke Naito with a sixth round TKO over Takahisa Masuda in Thailand.