Don’t call it a comeback, but if this week’s ESPN2 Friday Night Fights is any indication as to the health of boxing in the city of Chicago, it should play host to big fights more often.
With a card taking place at U.S. Cellular Field, home of Major League Baseball’s Chicago White Sox, prognosticators were unsure at what the turnout would be. An estimated number of around 10,000 people showed up, and nobody went home disappointed.
Hometown favorite Andrzej Fonfara headlined in an intriguing light heavyweight crossroads fight against former titlist Gabriel Campillo. After being outclassed for much of the fight, Fonfara earned a satisfying victory when he delivered the proverbial three-run home run while down to his final few outs, stopping Campillo with a right hand body shot in the ninth round.
Fonfara (24-3, 14 KOs) has played a large part in the rebuilding of Chicago’s boxing scene, having fought at the UIC Pavilion in 12 out of his last 13 fights. The crowd there has often approached 4,000 people in attendance, an impressive number.
In the opening round, Fonfara found a home for some straight right hands, enough to probably earn the nod on the judges’ cards. Campillo (22-6-1, 9 KOs) was working himself into a groove and his head movement and southpaw style gave Fonfara some issues.
In the second, Campillo landed a beautiful one-two combination that showed Fonfara might be in over his head. Campillo hardly missed landing lead straight left hands, taking the atmosphere out of the crowd from an early point.
Since the fight took place at a baseball stadium, the analogy to use would be that Campillo was your typical singles hitter; he got on base a lot with his jab. Fonfara is the kind of fighter that takes big swings, misses more, but hits more doubles and home runs.
In the fourth, Campillo made Fonfara bleed outside of his left eye and the Spaniard put his foot on the gas, backing Fonfara up. Campillo’s own right eye began to swell towards the end of the round as well.
Campillo controlled the fifth round but it was sandwiched by good rallies at the beginning and end by Fonfara. Campillo continued to prove that he was the more equipped fighter. His footwork helped him control the small ring that was supposed to benefit the fighter almost a decade his junior.
Campillo played the role of the professor, giving a boxing lesson to Fonfara from the sixth round onwards. Though the 34-year old’s legs wore down in the later rounds, he was still spectacular on the inside.
Fonfara caught lightning in a bottle for a second when he finally landed a good right hand at the end of the eighth round, his first solid shot since the opening salvo. That rally would carry into the ninth round, where Fonfara got his man.
A nice assault early in the round put Campillo on the back foot and an impeccably placed right hand to the solar plexus dropped Campillo to a knee. Referee Genaro Rodriguez waved off the fight at 1:37 of the round.
Fonfara is still a bit limited skill-wise and likely not ready to challenge any of the current titlists. He is a great draw that should be utilized to continue cultivating the boxing fanbase in the region.
When unbeaten Artur Szpilka met a rusty Mike Mollo in February, it was expected to be easy work for the popular Polish heavyweight. Instead, Szpilka had to pull himself off the canvas twice in order to stop Mollo cold in the sixth round of their scheduled eight-round bout.
The bout was an instant classic that originally only saw air on ESPN3.com. Friday Night Fights replayed it prior to the start of the night’s live card, which opened with the rematch between Szpilka and Mollo. This fight was set for a ten round distance, though everybody knew it wasn’t going that long.
Like the first fight, the bout was devoid of much technical proficiency. Mollo showed up in seemingly better shape than he did the first time, but it didn’t look as though he worked much on avoiding his opponent’s punches.
Szpilka (16-0, 12 KOs) easily won the opening frame by landing his less primitive punches. Mollo (20-5-1, 12 KOs) showed the same kind of determination he did in the first battle, and in the second round he managed to land some hurtful bombs. Szpilka took the shots well and buzzed Mollo a number of times, particularly at the sound of the bell to end the second.
Szpilka built his offense around a lead straight left that he landed to the body fairly often. In the third, he avoided some wild shots from Mollo and turned him onto the ropes, unleashing a furious assault that buckled Mollo. Somehow, Mollo stayed upright.
This is when Szpilka got far too brave like in the first fight and Mollo produced left hook knockdown from out of nowhere. The remainder of round three was fought evenly but with zero regards to defense.
The fourth round felt a little subdued, but only in comparison to the action that preceded it. Both guys were looking to get their second wind in a round that wound up being close to judge. Mollo’s right eye was dripping blood and it was ruled as caused by a punch, adding further drama.
Though Mollo had momentum in his favor, it all turned in the fifth when Szpilka landed a home run blast straight left hand that put Mollo down in a heap. Somehow, Mollo managed to make it to his feet, but referee Gerald Scott wisely stopped it at 1:41 of the fifth.
In the evening’s eight-round swing bout, the Chicago kid Adrian Granados (12-2-2, 8 KOs) met unbeaten but unheralded Mark Salser (15-1, 9 KOs) from Mansfield, Ohio. Granados began the fight more or less having his way with Salser. This resulted in Granados getting a bit cocky.
What resulted was a straight right hand that caught Granados flush, sending him crashing down towards the end of the second round. Granados had previously been pot shotting his opponent with little difficulty, but this time Salser timed his opponent’s incoming fire correctly. Granados got up on unsturdy legs and just barely survived the round.
In the third, Granados found his legs but still ate more clean shots than he shoud have, given his skill advantage over his limited opponent. Granados battered Salser when he had him in the corner, but his opponent stood his ground.
Perhaps the atmosphere was getting to Granados, because he fought an unintelligent fight considering he could have boxed Salser with ease. The fifth round was a total firefight and Granados kissed the canvas again. When he returned to his feet, he marched right back to fighting Salser on the inside.
Salser finally began to feel the pain when Granados chopped him down with some body shots to begin the sixth round. A left hook to the body put Salser on a knee. He returned to his feet but was still feeling the effects of the assault to his ribcage and the mouthpiece came out on the follow up assault. Referee Celestino Ruiz stopped it at 56 seconds of the sixth.
Granados previously was robbed against Kermit Cintron back in March on ESPN2 as the former welterweight beltholder luckily walked away with a split draw. His performance against Salser should earn him another opportunity on the network when ESPN2 returns in 2014.