By Chris Cella
In the 10-round co-feature of the night, lightweights Cornelius Lock (20-6-1, 13 KO) and Lonnie Smith (14-4-3, 10 KO) fought a hardnosed battle to get things started for fans on ESPN’s Friday Night Fights.
Hometown favorite Lock got off to a quick start by taking advantage of using his angles to land shots as Smith came charging in. There was a lot of bad blood between the two fighters leading up to this bout, and it could be felt in the ring. Both boxers threw heavy wild punches with bad intentions, though Lock was able to win the majority of the exchanges early on.
A known slow starter, Smith was able to pick up his pace in the fourth round. During the course of the round he threw a right hand which missed, and in the process his feet became entangled with Lock’s resulting in Lock hitting the canvas. The referee immediately ruled the obvious slip a knockdown; subsequently in the fifth round, again the referee ruled a knockdown for Smith when Lock hit the canvas after having his opponent step on his foot.
This could have come into play and resulted in a major controversy if the fight had been closer, but from the sixth round on Lock found a home for his uppercut and began to land it at will, often doing damage to Smith and halting his charging in.
Smith’s confidence seemed to be growing in the mid rounds but he was unable to get in on Lock and do any damage to the elder fighter.
Lock allowed this fight to appear much closer than it needed to be as he chose to stand and bang on the inside with Smith rather than using his angles and elusiveness.
To cap the drama of the two early incorrect knockdown rulings, in the 10th and final round Smith was deducted a point as he excessively spit out his mouthpiece each time he found himself in trouble. That was the icing on the cake as Lock went on to be awarded the unanimous decision victory.
In the main event of the evening, Detroit native Vernon “Iceman” Paris (27-1, 16 KO) looked to re-embark on the road to a title contention fight, which he found himself in last year against Zab Judah, which he lost when he was stopped in the 9th round. In his only fight since he finished opponent Guy Packer in three rounds this past March.
Coming into this fight there were a lot of questions as to which Vernon Paris would show up…the undisciplined, wild fighter or a refined new boxer, the product of a new coach and training regime. Across from him was the determined and relentless Manuel Perez (18-9-1, 4 KO).
A big focal point Paris discussed leading up to this fight was the improvement within his defense, but throughout the fight he ate a lot of Perez’s leather. But through each round he maintained and fought patiently. Having nothing to lose in this fight, Perez did a solid job executing his game plan in staying active and throwing a lot of punches, the majority of them being multiple punch combinations while changing levels. He found success when he threw his jab to the body followed by the right hand to the head, but he lacked the power to do any damage to Paris.
A problem for Paris in previous fights was him gassing out and unable to finish a fight strong, but by fighting patiently and not overexerting himself early on looking for the stoppage, he preserved what he had in the gas tank and was able to utilize his fast and heavier punches.
This was a battle that was up for grabs in the last rounds, where Perez continued to let his hands go and land combos on Paris. But each time he got caught, Paris was able to pick some of his own shots, snapping the head back of Perez and distinguishing his momentum.
Going into the 10th round the fight easily could’ve been a draw on the judge’s scorecards, with the ‘W’ being up for grabs depending on the outcome of the final round. The fans were treated to an all-action round as both fighters let their hands go in one exchange after another, with no evident winner of the round.
Paris was awarded the unanimous decision, though one has to question the judge’s scorecards. Perez proved to be a gamed opponent and could’ve easily won the decision or at least been awarded a draw.
This was a good fight for Paris in that he got more than a handful of rounds in, was tested often, forced to fight and go the distance, and showed that he is ready to get back on track to work his way to a contention fight.
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