By: William Holmes
The Emerald Queen Casino in Tacoma, Washington was the host city for tonight’s ESPN Friday Night Fights card. The main event was changed at the last minute since Arash Usmanee suffered an ankle injury while he was sparring. Yenifel Vicente took his spot in the main event and the decision was made to air three fights on tonight’s broadcast.
The opening bout was in the heavyweight division between journeyman Jonte Willis (9-7-1) and Lateef Kayode (19-0). This was only Kayode’s second heavyweight bout as he had previously fought in the cruiserweight division.
Even though Kayode has previously fought in the cruiserweight division he was still the much taller and longer man inside the ring. Willis was surprisingly more active than Kayode, but most of his punches were unable to get past the guard of his opponent.
Kayode was landing the heavier shots and was very effective when he used his jab. In the second round Willis complained about Kayode hitting him on the break by the referee but it wasn’t ruled a foul. Willis was able to sneek in a couple of straight right hands but they lacked the power to really hurt Kayode.
Kayode focused on the body in the fourth round and landed a good combination on the ropes in the middle of the round. Kayode’s ring experience showed off in the fifth and sixth rounds as Willis was offering little resistance. Kayode had the bout stopped in the sixth round when he landed several hard hooks on Willis who turned his back to Kayode forcing the referee to stop the bout.
Lateef Kayode remains undefeated with a TKO victory at 1:07 of the sixth round.
Thirty seven year old Zahir Raheem (34-3) fought next in the junior welterweight division against Bayan Jargal (17-4-3).
Zahir Raheem is a former Olympian who is best known for defeating Erik Morales. His career however never took off after that major victory and by watching tonight’s fight it was easy to see why.
Jargal is a sub-par boxer who went 2-4 in his last six fights. Raheem was in good shape and his hand speed was vastly superior to that of Jargal. He landed punches at will and was easily able to avoid the shots of Jargal, but he never appeared to go for the stoppage or for the knockout.
It was boring fight with few moments of excitement. Raheem’s double left hook was his best combination of the night, but he did not throw it often enough even when he did hurt Jargal.
The action picked up in the final rounds, but Raheem had built up a large enough of a lead on the scorecards to win comfortably. The final scores were 99-91, 99-91, and 97-93 for Zahir Raheem.
The main event of the night was between Yenifel Vicente (25-1-2) and Juan Antonio Rodriguez (24-4) in the junior lightweight division.
This was Rodrigez’s first fight in the United States and he was the significantly bigger fighter. Vicente was fighting in the highest weight class he had ever fought and took the fight on five days’ notice. When he took the fight he was preparing for a junior featherweight bout.
Vicente was the quicker fighter and was more elusive and he opened up the fight by popping and moving. Rodriguez looked a little gun shy at first but he began to warm up as the fight progressed.
Vicente was on his bike for most of the fight and actually went through the ropes in the middle of the third round. Luckily for Vicente he escaped that fall unscathed. Rodriguez picked up the pace after that fall and began throwing and landing more combinations.
There was some good action in the fourth round as both Rodriguez and Vicente landed good shots. Vicente however had some blood coming from his nose and he was visibly more affected by the punches of Rodriguez than Rodriguez was by Vicente’s punches.
Rodriguez continued to apply the pressure in the middle to late rounds and was outlanding Vicente, but Vicente was still able to land some good shots of his own. When Rodriguez was able to trap Vicente in the corner or by the ropes he got the better of the exchanges.
Vicente was simply too small and not powerful enough for Rodriguez. It was a closer fight than what Teddy Atlas made it out to be, but Rodriguez still won the bout.
The final scores were 77-75 Rodriguez, 76-76, and 77-75 for Rodriguez.
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