Boxing Briefs: DeGale prevails, ESPN bids farewell to Friday Night Fights

Memorial Day weekend seems a fitting time to say goodbye to Teddy Atlas and ESPN’s longtime boxing series.

James DeGale scores a second round knockdown over Andre Dirrell Saturday enroute to a unanimous decision. Photo: Suzanne Teresa, Premier Boxing.
James DeGale scores a second round knockdown over Andre Dirrell enroute to a unanimous decision. Photo: Suzanne Teresa, Premier Boxing.

SAN DIEGO, May 23, 2015 – Memorial Day weekend isn’t traditionally a big boxing weekend. Most people have other plans, and so it’s a natural break before the summer boxing schedule gets started up in earnest. Nevertheless, hard-core fight fans still had plenty of action to check out this weekend.

Premier Boxing from Boston: The marquee matchup on NBC Saturday saw Britain’s James DeGale win a unanimous decision against American Andre Dirrell in Boston. DeGale becomes the first British Olympic Gold Medalist (2008) to win a professional title, the IBF super middleweight belt.

James DeGale raises a hand in victory Saturday in Boston. Who's next? Photo: Suzanne Teresa, Premier Boxing.
Britain’s James DeGale raises a hand in victory Saturday in Boston. Who’s next? Photo: Suzanne Teresa, Premier Boxing.

DeGale came on strong, with two knockdowns of Dirrell in the second round, and a strong third round. DeGale settled in, putting together strong combinations but not quite enough to stop the determined Dirrell. Inexplicably, DeGale eased off and let Dirrell get back into the fight with strong combinations in the second half of the fight. DeGale buckled down, won the final two rounds and won by scores of 114-112 on two scorecards, and an odd 117-109 on the third.

“I will take on any super middleweight in the world. When I’m at my best, I’m hard to beat … There is no other super middleweight that would beat me,” said DeGale. When the adrenaline wears off, DeGale will need to press the action to have a chance to be competitive with someone like Andre Ward.

Edwin Rodriguez knows. Light heavyweight “La Bomba’s” single loss was a unanimous decision to Ward in Ward’s last fight back in 2013. Rodriguez (28-1, 19 KOs) won via a third round TKO over formerly undefeated prospect Craig Baker (16-1-0) in a light heavyweight contest on the PBC undercard. Referee Robert Benoit appeared to be in a hurry to go somewhere else; no one saw Baker in any real peril when the fight was stopped. Rodriguez was getting the better of him against the ropes, but he didn’t appear to be hit so hard. Rodriguez admitted he was a little surprised the fight was stopped. Baker said, “You’ve seen the replay man, I was shocked. But that’s part of the game.” Baker said feel off his game plan, not coming forward like he was supposed to. Sometimes a lesson learned early in your career can benefit you in the long run.

Rodriguez says he wants Adonis Stevenson, Sergey Kovalev, “all those guys.” Stevenson called Rodriguez out on Twitter. Sure, anything to avoid Krusher.

John Thompson IV is the unlikely champion of ESPN's 2015 Boxcino Tournament. Photo: ESPN
John Thompson IV is the unlikely champion of ESPN’s 2015 Boxcino Tournament. Photo: ESPN

Boxcino Tournament Winners: Junior middleweight John Thompson IV and heavyweight Andrey Fedosov were crowned the 2015 Boxcino champions on ESPN Friday night from Corona, California. Both scored impressive knockout victories. Federov took down Donovan Dennis with a wicked overhand right in the eighth round after putting him on the canvas earlier in the fight.

Thompson’s second round knockout of tournament favorite Brandon Adams was impressive. Adams put Thompson down in the first round, although it looked like a mild pop combined with a slip. Thompson came back in Round 2, beginning with a counterpunch, followed by repeated left hooks that sealed the deal. Thompson was a walk on replacement in the tournament on one days’ notice. It will be worth keeping an eye on Thompson to see whether he can build upon this unexpected opportunity.

Teddy Atlas (left) and Joe Tessitore will move over from FNF to PBC on ESPN. Photo: ESPN
Teddy Atlas (left) and Joe Tessitore will move over from FNF to PBC on ESPN. Photo: ESPN

Turn Out The Lights on Friday Night Fights: The Boxcino Tournament brought the end of an era for fight fans. It was the final broadcast of ESPN’s long running series “Friday Night Fights.” At a time when the only other options were attending live, or premium cable, ESPN stuck with boxing. It began televising boxing its first year on the air, in 1980. Boxing had not been aired on a weekly basis on TV since 1964. For 17 years, ESPN’s Friday Night Fights gave the public the first look at some rising stars of boxing. Bouts could be a treasure hunt with some hits and more misses, but it never failed to produce action for the fans week in and week out, even if that action came via the unpredictable but honest man of the people, Teddy Atlas.

ESPN will still broadcast boxing. Premier Boxing will now produce monthly fights for ESPN on Saturday nights. Friday bouts will appear on Spike and TruTV. What type of fights will fans get to see in this new era for ESPN? PBC on ESPN will have access to all of Al Haymon’s stable of 100-plus boxers. The inaugural bout on Saturday, July 11 will feature welterweight Keith “One Time” Thurman (25-0, 21 KOs) against Luis Collazo (36-6-, 19 KOs). The undercard features a junior middleweight bout between exciting young Detroit native Tony Harrison (21-0, 18 KOs) against Willie Nelson (23-2-1) of Cleveland. This bout could steal the show.

Povetkin Blasts Perez: Russian heavyweight Alexander Povetkin (29-1, 21 KOs) thrilled the home town crowd in Moscow with a wicked first round knockout of Cuban-born boxer living in Ireland, Mike Perez (21-2-1, 13 KOs),  Povetkin put himself on track for a title challenge against the winner of the June 13 bout between world titleholder Deontay Wilder and Eric Molina.

Boxing Hits the Streets in Las Vegas: Fans wiling to stay up late saw two lightweight bouts on the CBS Sports Network from a new outdoor venue next to The D Hotel at the downtown Fremont Street Experiece, shown on delay on the CBS Sports Network. Lightweight Richard Commey, a native of Ghana, won an eighth round TKO over Bahodir Mamadjonov (17-2) to remain undefeated at 22 and 0. On the undercard, Las Vegas lightweights Jesus “Chuy” Gonzalez and Angel Hernandez fought to a draw in an entertaining scrap.

Gayle Lynn Falkenthal, APR, is President/Owner of the Falcon Valley Group in San Diego, California. She is also a serious boxing fan covering the Sweet Science for Communities. Read more Ringside Seat in Communities Digital News. Follow Gayle on Facebook and on Twitter @PRProSanDiego. Gayle can be reached via Google +

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