(Raymond Serrano, left; Karim Mayfield, right)
Friday Night Fights continued its much appreciated upswing this week, and bouts once again lived up to expectations for the most part. Having hit a nice little stride with a few weeks in a row of solid bang ups, fight makers at ESPN seem to have either gotten in tune with the desires of fight fans, or they just got sick of what had to have been some not-quite-excellent ratings of the earlier shows in the season.
Overall three fighters kept their unbeaten records intact as Karim Mayfield suckered Raymond Serrano into a bruising TKO loss, and Jason Escalera and Nick Brinson skirmished to a stalemate at the Times Union Center in Albany, N.Y.
And we even got our weekly share of Mike Tyson references, and then some, from commentator Teddy Atlas, as the son of his old pal and fellow Tyson trainer Kevin Rooney happened to also fight on the televised portion of the card.
A “somebody’s 0 has to go” main event between two unbeaten junior welterweight prospects offered up some good whacks, even if it was mostly one-sided in terms of action.
Karim Mayfield, whose record improved to 16-0-1 (10 KO), repeatedly timed and laid traps for much rangier Raymond Serrano, who dropped to 18-1 (8 KO) and suffered a cut over his right eye to boot.
A lazy jab and some blind leaping shots did Mayfield little good with Serrano pressing in the 1st, as he was caught reaching a few times. But he caught Serrano lunging forward in turn once or twice in a round that was a bit heavy on collisions. Serrano was almost sent down by a mixture of frantic shots off the back foot from Mayfield and iffy balance early in the 2nd, and the grappling continued in close. Mayfield looked to be finding range with quick rights better than Serrano could with his jab though, and the proof was in Raymond Serrano’s constant resetting.
A few stealthy right hands clipped Serrano in round 3 and clearly had his legs thinking on their own, and Mayfield was able to send Serrano down with a pair of rights. Serrano got up though, and in the frenzied rush to finish his foe, Mayfield tossed Serrano to the canvas twice and began fighting tired. But Mayfield scored at least a 10-8 round, unable to miss with his right for stretches.
The slower pace resumed in the 4th, with Serrano wading in behind a jab and Mayfield countering with forceful clips from his right. Both men bled freely from cuts, though Karim Mayfield’s was ruled to be from a head butt in the 3rd. A terrible right hand at the bell sent Serrano straight onto his face, and he managed to tear himself off the canvas to beat the count. Referee Eddie Claudio gifted Serrano the chance to recover over the next minute despite Serrano’s inability to keep himself from swaying.
Between rounds in Serrano’s corner was a pitiful sight, as one team member wanted the fight rightfully stopped, while Serrano’s father and trainer Ramon insisted on letting his son go out for the 5th. Absent in the corner was his stool, as were icebags or even towels to cool him off.
Still, Serrano bravely answered the bell for round 5, but was predictably banged all over the ring by Mayfield, who was anxious to end matters. And following however many right hand bombs, ref Claudio halted the bout with :40 remaining.
He may have looked awkward and reckless at times, but Karim Mayfield evidently made the plan work for him, and he sure found his optimal range quickly with those weird rights. At 31-years-old and only 17 fights into his career, this is exactly the type of performance he needed to make his claims of enthusiasm towards taking on top guys seem believable. He worked out a few math problems and erased the chalkboard when he was done. Now it’s probably time to move on to someone ranked to see what he can do there.
It’s difficult not to feel at least a little bad for Serrano, whose corner spent more time bickering than actually tending to their badly hurt fighter. He actually had some bounce to his step when coming out for round 5, and he may have had more with a less-war torn corner. He actually had moments in the bout where he was able to find timing of his own, he just had no defense for Mayfield’s right hand once it began landing, which doesn’t bode well for him against anyone above the FNF level.
The sandwich bout was a draw between middleweights Jason Escalera, 13-0-1 (12 KO), and Nick Brinson, 9-1-2 (5 KO), that was difficult to boo at, no matter how much fans hate when there’s no winner. The combatants both found ways to execute within their stylistic designations and means, though Escalera’s heavier hands were apparent throughout.
Looking the more solid guy physically, Escalera stalked forward throwing hard jabs to the body and winging big shots. But Brinson’s dodging ability and foot speed paid off for him as he jabbed and slipped out of range more often than not in round 1. As Escalera attempted to take the fight to the gutters and muscle Brinson around in round 2, he actually caught a number of wild slaps on the inside and even drew a warning for holding. The geometry of the fight belonged to Brinson until he was caught by a left hook from Escalera off the ropes and appeared wobbled momentarily. Escalera kept smothering his own work and walking into Brinson’s guard though, and the Geneva, N.Y. native closed decently.
Brinson was able to back Escalera to the ropes early in the 3rd but again caught a little flak and looked to stay away. A few sizzling uppercuts snapped Escalera’s head around, but Brinson’s lack of punching power hurt him as the bigger man waded in without fear. When Brinson began connecting loudly with exaggerated shots in the 4th, Escalera replied with borderline slugs to his belt. More following from Escalera earned him a tasty jab diet, though his body work was thudding when they landed. Even Escalera’s misses moved Brinson, who tried to create space off the ropes and dust his man with hooks, but Escalera wouldn’t let him get away easily in round 5. Another warning for low blows was sent Escalera’s direction, and he laid up a bit towards the end.
His corner imploring him to throw more and apply pressure ahead of the 6th, Jason Escalera came forward, but without a ton of intelligence at the start of the round. Brinson was again allowed to maneuver here and there without much issue, but absorbed short shots on the inside as if he’d accepted that he’d have to every so often. Brinson landed looping rights around Escalera’s higher guard, but was slammed with a series of single rights as the round ended. Brinson looked either hurt or fatigued in round 7, and he ate a number of brutal midsection punches and became easy prey for bombs upstairs. Heart, holding and an apparently solid chin kept him upright, with emphasis on the clinching, but Escalera was in complete command.
The 8th and last round saw Brinson actually attempting to work in spots, but again eating leather as he was unable to pinpoint his movement as he had earlier, which meant more body work for Escalera when he remembered it. Wide swinging ended the fight, and the two congratulated each other following the bell.
Judges turned in cards tallying 76-75 Escalera, 76-75 Brinson, and 76-76 for the draw.
This outing was a good example of how a guy can do more damage and seemingly deserve a win, but ultimately fail on the scorecards by losing a few close rounds. Former Ring Magazine editor Nigel Collins disagreed, reacting on Twitter with, “Draw! Talk about home cooking.”
Jason Escalera clearly has a bit of punching power, or at least punching effort, to spare. But he didn’t threw much that wasn’t hurricane force and his wide whiffs were memorable to fans, and perhaps to judges too. Some patience is in order — maybe even a protractor to help straighten out some of those haymakers. He won’t be able to bowl over the opposition with brute strength on higher levels, and a sharp counterpuncher would likely even have a field day. Good television could be in his future though.
While he didn’t show a ton of promise, Brinson did flash some skills here and there, but his lack of punching power hurt him, as he was able to land at will but couldn’t do much with it. And the pulling straight back to the ropes and just bracing for punches isn’t a type of defense that will suit him against anyone better.
In the opening bout, Kevin Rooney, Jr. and Anthony Jones did a fine job of right away negating the half-hour of women’s college softball we had to endure waiting for the fights. Anthony Jones, now 2-0-1 (0 KO), scored a clear unanimous decision over fellow middleweight Rooney, whose record dipped to 4-2 (2 KO).
Jones came storming out of the gate in the 1st throwing hard and fairly wide. Rooney countered with a nice left hook between the shots, but not a ton more early on. As the pace slowed, a cuffing right hook from the southpaw Jones sent Rooney sideways into the ropes, and he arose expecting a slip ruling. It was deemed a knockdown, despite a replay suggesting it was more foot entanglement than anything else. Rooney wanted immediate get back, but was out-worked and cut towards the end of the round.
The better reflexes and hand appeared to belong to Jones, who got caught a bit in the first minute of round 2. A long left hand that buzzed Rooney evened matters though, and as Rooney looked to come forward and earn back some points with tight blows, Jones walked him into cleaner counters. Another left hand sent Rooney back to the floor, and this time legitimately. After Jr. arose stunned at best, Anthony Jones swarmed Rooney in a neutral corner and didn’t appear to land much, but put a clear period on a 10-8 round with his effort.
Rooney had no answer for Jones’ accuracy in the 3rd, despite attempts to score clean. Jones used good footwork and movement to bamboozle Rooney until the final minute, when the latter sharpened up his shots and began landing well, perhaps taking the round with later work. And for a man likely down three to four points on the cards from two 10-8 rounds, Rooney showed little urgency in the 4th, and instead marched the same straight lines forward. Finally, in the last minute, Jones appeared bothered by a series of hard rights and left hooks, but he pushed Rooney to the ropes and ended the round in charge once more.
Scores of 39-35 and 38-36 twice for Jones were on the mark.
There’s not a lot of wiggle room in a four round fight, and one knockdown is hard enough to even up on the cards, much less two. Rooney stuck to a relatively bullheaded game plan, as if he felt Jones just didn’t belong in there with him, and if he smirked and gritted his teeth enough, that idea would manifest itself in the ring. It didn’t, and Jones walked away with a decent second win after showing fine movement and good hands. Between the two, he’s likely the one to watch.
Again ESPN served a reminder that it doesn’t have to scintillate to satisfy, bad taste left in mouth by Serrano’s corner notwithstanding. If you match with good intentions and pit guys willing to work for victories against one another, you have a much better shot at sending fans away happy than when there’s some schlub fighting a guy simply because he has a name.
By all means, FNF, continue.