By Johnny Walker
It’s too bad the powers that be at ESPN’s Friday Night Fights decided to shunt tonight’s heavyweight tilt between Polish bad boy Artur “The Pin” Szpilka and American veteran Mike Mollo over to their web site, because the scrap between the two heavweights proved to be much more exciting than did the program’s televised main event-
Those who complain that the heavyweight division is “dull” and “boring” should have been watching this wild scrap, which was edge-of-your-seat kind of stuff.
Szpilka, who showed up in his usual orange prison jumpsuit, was making a comeback of sorts, having not fought since decisioning American veteran Jameel McCline in Poland last summer. For Mollo, the time spent out of the squared circle was much longer, as due to a series of hard luck incidents, Mollo had not fought since 2010.
Both men seemed to want to make up for lost time in this intense clash, with Mollo attempting to bull his opponent around the ring and rough him up, and finding Szpilka mostly eager to mix it up with him. Szpilka was obviously the most talented and skilled boxer of the two, but Mollo was working from sheer frustration and desire after having been out of the ring so long.
Mollo (20-4-1, 12 KOs) is a pressure fighter, a smaller version of Chris Arreola, and Szpilka was initally thrown by the relentless, bullish forward movement of his opponent. A body shot sent Szpilka ever so briefly to the mat in round one, and he received a count. Szpilka got up and dusted himself off, opening a cut on Mollo’s face in the second round.
When Szpilka got settled into a boxing instead of brawling mode, he was strafing Mollo’s face with hard shots and cutting him to ribbons. But the hard-charging American wasn’t easily dissuaded, and when Szpilka got a little sloppy and off balance during an exchange in round three, Mollo nailed him on the chin–a chin which was broken in “The Pin’s” win over McCline–with a hard left that sent the Pole sprawling to the canvas in a far more convincing second knockdown.
Such was the torrid pace here that Szpilka seemed to be tiring early, resembling David Haye against Wladimir Klitschko as he kept falling to the mat as the fight progressed. The referee docked Mollo a point for rough tactics in the fifth, but in truth, both fighters didn’t shy away from using their heads–literally–plus elbows, and whatever they could find to hurt each other as the bout got even more intense.
Mollo’s face was a mass of blood from a combination of punches and headbutts during round six, and he also was visibly weakening. Finally, the southpaw Szpilka gathered himself and hit Mollo with two straight lefts, the second sending him crashing to the canvas like a felled tree. No count was deemed necessary: Artur Szpilka (13-0, 10 KOs) had prevailed in a far tougher fight than he expected, the winner by knockout at 2:45 of round six.