By: William Holmes
The Morongo Casino Resort Spa in Cabazon, California was the host for ESPN Friday Night Fights and they immediately jumped into the first fight of the night between Jose Pedraza (13-0) and Gabriel Tolmajyan (13-2-1) in the junior lightweight division.
Tolmajyan is a southpaw and gave up some size inside the ring to Pedraza. Pedraza started off in an orthodox and found success with his straight right hand early on. His defense was sound and he was able to easily avoid the punches of Tolmajyan. Then Tolmajyan switched to a southpaw stance in the second round and started to dictate the pace of the fight.
Pedraza looked confident as a southpaw and began to let his combinations go. He ended the second round with a three-punch combination and was touching Tolmajyan at will. Tolmajyan found his punches were a little short in the first half of the fight and the fight looked like it was going to turn into a clear victory for Pedraza.
Tolmajyan began to find some success in the sixth round on when his lead right hooks were starting to land and throw Pedraza off his game. As the fight progressed towards the later rounds Pedraza began to throw less combinations and was becoming more defensive. By the end of the fight, Teddy Atlas had the fight scored a draw, but he likely gave Tolmajyan all the close rounds.
All three judges scored it 97-93 for Pedraza.
After a brief televised interview of Manny Pacquiao and Brandon Rios, the main event of the night, was shown between Rustam Nugaev (24-6) and Jose Hernandez (14-6-1) in the lightweight division. Even though it is unlikely either fighter will ever receive a shot at a legitimate title, they delivered an exciting and suspenseful fight.
Nugaev was the shorter fighter, giving up four inches in reach to Nugaev. Nugaev was able to start off the fight by landing a good straight right hand and uppercut that hurt Hernandez on the first round. Hernandez got on his bike and tried to survive by fighting defensively. Hernandez temporarily stopped the momentum of Nugaev with a jab/cross combination upstairs, but Nugaev’s shorter and more compact punches were landing with more accuracy and power.
It was a very good first round and the rest of the fight did not disappoint.
Hernandez recovered and started off the second round well by staying on the outside. Nugaev backed Hernandez into the corner, but ate a hard uppercut in the process. The second round was just as good as the first round, and it was a close one to call.
They both came out firing in the third round, but Hernandez was backed up by Nugaev after he landed a hard short left hook. Nugaev was throwing bombs on Hernandez by the ropes and Hernandez was responding by throwing wild and hard punches. Even though Hernandez was hurt, he did not tie up. He was able to land hard shots of his own, including a ridiculously wild-five punch combination.
In the fourth round, Hernandez started off by sitting down more on his jab, but he quickly resorted to his wild and wide hooks. His connected with an almost desperate body-head combination, but he was backed up by another left hook from Nugaev. Hernandez was on wobbly legs and it would have been nearly impossible for either fighter to keep up this pace for the entire fight.
In the fifth round, Hernandez had blood coming from his mouth and he eventually succumbed to a body attack. Hernandez took one knee and failed to answer the count.
Nugaev won by a knockout at 1:38 of the fifth round.
Roy Tapia (5-0-1) and Eliezer Agosto (2-2) also met in the super bantamweight division. Agosto was the taller fighter, but was expected by most to lose to the undefeated Tapia.
Sometimes the script goes exactly as expected. Tapia knocked Agosto down in the third round with a hard combination to the body. Agosto took one knee, but was able to beat the count. Tapia walked Agosto down to the corner of the ring and landed a vicious straight right hand to the chin of Agosto that sent him down again.
The referee waved off the fight at 2:15 of the third round.