When pickings are slim on the U.S. fight scene due to cancellations, dramas and whatever other nonsense, fight fans need something a bit more rock solid to cling to when on the brink of starvation.
It’s nice having a program to depend on, and Friday Night Fights came through with a little bit of Ji-Hoon Kim action, which by now should probably be designated an official boxing idiom whether he’s fighting or not. Kim is the type of fighter that’s able to elevate the overall entertainment value of a boxing broadcast, and even when the co-feature is mostly snooze-worthy.
He and fellow lightweight Alisher Rahimov traded shots and took turns executing their respective game plans over 10 rounds in St. Louis, and a difficult to score bout ended with Kim winning by unanimous decision. In said dreary co-feature, undefeated heavyweight prospect Vince Thompson took a wide unanimous verdict over bland should-be cruiserweight Joell Godfrey in 8.
Ebbs and flows in action accented what was at times a physical and rough fight, but over 1220 punches thrown through 10 rounds was Kim’s highly effective tool for disguising much of what Rahimov did. Cleaner and seemingly harder shots from Rahimov, an accomplished amateur, were ultimately obscured in a number of rounds.
The main event began with the taller and slightly rangier Kim looking for proper distance with jabs and a few blasts from range, but it wasn’t long until the action moved closer to the pocket thanks to Rahimov’s efforts, where both men chucked willingly. Ji-Hoon Kim went back to a more intelligent game plan though, keeping away for the most part in round 1.
Rahimov got his wish as far as the territory of the bout in round 2, pushing Kim to the ropes early, but taking more than he could dish out in the process. A funky defense from Kim left him wide open for some licks to the midsection, but Rahimov didn’t bite. The round ended with Kim nailing the shorter man off the ropes and pulling the action back to ring’s center. Busier in the 3rd, Rahimov ran into a low left hook that stopped the action briefly. But when they came back together, exchanges were had, usually punctuated by Kim’s right hand either going in or pulling out. “Ali” Rahimov managed some solid sequences though, helped by leaving with his head and generous helpings of elbows and forearms inside.
Ji-Hoom Kim averaging something like 120 punches per round wasn’t deterring Rahimov from pressuring and roughing the South Korean up in the trenches. The last half of round 4 had Kim setting a pace and range that favored him through and through, however. And he kept it up with some fancy footwork and longer cracks in the 5th, until Rahimov sucked him back in briefly. Rahimov’s punches were more eye-catching and rocked Kim’s head back from time to time, it’s just that Kim threw so much more, eclipsing the prospect’s quality edge.
Two guys looking to bull in with offense led to more head clashes, especially early in the 6th, but Kim still tried to make it more tactical than Rahimov wanted. And the non-stop barrages put Rahimov more on the defensive than he really needed to be in the face of so many shots. ESPN2 Commentator Teddy Atlas disagreed with that take, scoring four of the first six rounds for the Uzbek.
Rahimov’s right eye swelled up by the minute courtesy of more headbutts and the million and one shots Ji-Hoon Kim, though he Kim remained hittable and took his share of whipping punches to the dome. About halfway through round 7, Rahimov found success with smarter pressure and pressed the advantage until the bell. Well-times pot-shots aided Rahimov in his quest for more stifling real estate in the 8th, but he got a bit rough with his tactics, which earned Kim a few quick breaks. More foreheads and elbows from Rahimov appeared to irritate Kim’s left eye, but he battled back to the end the round as the two traded.
More head movement from Kim was the key to his success early in round 9, and Rahimov actually had issues landing effectively. In close, Kim was more concerned with Rahimov’s head than anything else, and both men began looking tired as action got sloppy. A potent body attack from Kim in the last minute had his opponent backing up more than he had been previously.
There was no resting in the 10th and final round for Kim, who landed a stinging left hook in the middle of a combination that made Rahimov think twice about wading in. He did, of course, but Kim was able to either blunt his momentum by tying him up, or forcing him outside with some leather. Alisher Rahimov’s best moments came in the last few exchanges, but may not have been enough to take the round.
Scores of 96-94, 98-92 and 97-93 rang out for Ji-Hoon Kim, and brought his record to 24-7 (18 KO). In losing the right to be called “undefeated,” Alisher Rahimov fell to 23-1 (12 KO).
At 34, this is a severe setback for Rahimov considering he’s already seven years deep in the pro ranks. His mugging style isn’t likely to prolong his career either. There’s a case to be made that he deserved the decision, and Kim is a hard, determined scrapper, but the loss hurts. That doesn’t mean he couldn’t return for some solid match ups though.
As for Kim, Ji-Hoon’s gonna Ji-Hoon. It might not be on any elite plane of boxing existence, but dammit he’ll deliver some hurt when he’s able to. As long as he’s reliable, putting him back on FNF is very kosher, 24-7 (18 KO) fighter or not.
There aren’t too many things in boxing worse than two low-output heavyweights taking up more than four or so rounds on a boxing telecast. One of them is two low-output guys who should be fighting at cruiserweight pairing up as heavyweights.
Former Contender Season Four participant Joell Godfrey stepped in with undefeated prospect Vince Thompson, and that seems to be about where his role stopped, as he did very little in a slow-paced fight that didn’t tell us a whole lot.
Round 1 began like a game of sloppy chess, with the clearly heavier Thompson, southpaw, plowing ahead on Godfrey, who looked to stay away and play a game more akin to Connect Four, because that’s about how many shots he landed in the opening stanza too. Maybe. The lankier and lighter man, Godfrey found his range a bit in the 2nd as Thompson grunted and clowned at his man when he took shots. When actually throwing, the better hands belonged to Thompson, as did the better pipes, as evidenced by Thompson’s karate-like exclamations.
Godfrey wisely concentrated on Thompson’s ample midsection early in the 3rd and was able to pick off much of what came back at him. Both men waited, feinted and wriggled around plenty though, flirting with some sort of fruitless mind game. Coming in a bit wider and wilder, Thompson’s rushes were being timed consistently. The 4th was more a test of hand speed and output, with Thompson simply throwing more, and Godfrey twiddling his thumbs waiting for countering opportunities.
Vince Thompson’s overall lack of punching power was apparent through out, but glaring in round 5 when he appeared to swing about as hard as his arms would allow on a handful of occasions, even landing a few, but Godfrey went nowhere, both figuratively and with his offense. Some collisions locked the two up inside, drawing warnings from the ref.
Likely reacting to his corner’s please for work, Godfrey got busier in the 6th, displaying more aggression early and taking initiative… before going back to the inactivity. Cries of “Work, Joell! Work!” did little to motivate their guy, though Thompson took his own break in the down time. Between rounds, it was revealed by commentator Joe Tessitore that Godfrey had lost a contact lens that he was apparently allowed to wear during the bout. There wasn’t much to choose from between Godfrey’s apathy and Thompson’s holler-punching in the 7th.
In the 8th and last round, again a bit more effort on Thompson’s part appeared to weigh more as far as determining a winner, which was essentially a microcosm of the entire fight.
Judges scored the bout 80-72 two times, and 78-74 for Vince Thompson, who now sports a record of 11-0 (2 KO), while Godfrey’s sunk to 14-7-1 (6 KO).
Having lost six years on a prison stint for robbery, Thompson is likely older than your average 10 or 11 fight prospect at 29-years of age, and losing some of the padding around his waist would serve him well in the future. At only 6’2″, he’ll need a much busier style and greater defensive acumen to compete at higher levels than this considering he doesn’t seem to hit very hard. And the fact that Godfrey was able to give him issues when he did open up, which admittedly wasn’t often, probably isn’t very encouraging as to where his career can go.
Godfrey got stuck in sparring partner mode, and he suffered the third defeat in his last four fights for it. His ledger indicates that’s the direction he’ll likely be heading in from here on out, too.
Packed to the gills with non-stop punching is great, but one fight that gets the blood flowing is good enough, and appreciated. It took a while for FNF to find the tracks, but now it’s motoring along at a friendly pace that’s unlikely to drive anyone to the edge of lunacy.
The program returns two weeks from now on June 8th to aid in the comeback of Kelly Pavlik under the tutelage of new trainer Robert Garcia, and he takes on Scott Sigmon at super middleweight. In the co-feature, junior featherweight Jesse Magdaleno meets up with Carlos Valcarcel.