By: William Holmes
With the host site for the Super Bowl being less than thirty minutes away, ESPN Friday Night Fights was held at the Richard J. Codey Arena in West Orange New Jersey.
The broadcast immediately started off with a welterweight bout between former amateur standout and nineteen year old Dusty Harrison (18-0) and Tim Witherspoon Jr. (10-3-1) the son of a former heavyweight champion.
Harrison started off strong and continued to stay strong for all eight rounds. He used his strength advantage to crowd Witherspoon and deliver a withering body attack. Witherspoon did have a couple of good rounds, but for the most part he would start off each round strong and fade as it progressed.
Harrison has a deep amateur background but was still popped with a few combinations that would have hurt him if they came from a boxer with more power than Witherspoon Jr. Harrison outworked Witherspoon and dictated the pace of the fight.
Tim Witherspoon Sr. came into the ring after the fight and was yelling at Harrison inside the ring. ESPN however muted the heated verbal exchange. Harrison was warned by the referee for an elbow and low blow, but he did not appear to do anything to deserve that reaction from Witherspoon Sr.
The final scores were 78-74 on all three scorecards.
Luis Rosa (15-0) met Jorge Diaz (17-2) in the featherweight division for the night’s co-feature. Jorge Diaz was coming off a knockout loss but started the bout off aggressively. He connected with a straight right hand in the first round that had Rosa backing up. It was a high volume round and both fighters landed their fair share of blows.
Rosa switched to a southpaw stance in the second round and it may have helped him out a little bit. They both landed very hard punches and Diaz was continuously coming forward, but Rose was landing crisper shots with deft footwork. Both boxers landed hard hooks at the end of the round.
Rosa switched back to an orthodox stance in the third round and dug in some hard body shots. Diaz was hurt by a hard right hand in the third round and fell to the floor as he was
attempting to hold on. It was ruled a knockdown but could have also been ruled a slip.
Rosa scored another knockdown in the fourth round with a hook to the jaw of Diaz. Diaz was able to get back to his feet but took several more hard shots in the fourth round. Diaz never looked the same after the second knockdown and was worn down by the hard pressing Rosa.
Their faces at the end of the fight told the story. Rosa’s face looked unmarked and Diaz’s face was badly swollen. The final scores were 78-72, 79-71, and 80-70 for Rosa.
Blake Caparello (18-0-1) and Elvir Muriqi (40-5) met in the light heavyweight division for the main event of the evening.
Caparello is from Australia and this was his first fight outside of the United States. Elvir Muriqi is thirty four years old, a forty five fight veteran, and in his first fight in ten months and only his second fight since 2011. He also came in at his lightest weight in fifteen years.
He was rusty and it showed in the ring.
Caparello had the longer reach and used it well tonight. He had a measuring jab and controlled the distance and pace throughout the entire bout. Muriqi well when he was able to momentarily trap Caparello in the corner and land his straight right hand, but those moments were few and far in between.
Caparello was able to snap the head of Muriqi several times, especially with his left uppercut in the seventh round. Muriqi needed a knockout to win by the later rounds but lacked the power to do so.
The final scores were 98-92, 98-92, and 100-90 for Caparello.