By: William Holmes
The finale for ESPN’s Friday Night Fights took place at the Turning Stone Resort Casino in Verona, New York, and it featured the promotional debut of “Iron” Mike Tyson and an IBF Junior Lightweight Title bout between Argenis Mendez and Arash Usmanee.
Iron Mike Productions is actually the renamed Acquinity Sports, a smaller promotion with some solid fighters on their roster.
The first bout of the night was between Claudio Marrero (14-0) and Jesus Andres Cuellar (22-1) for the vacant WBA Interim Featherweight. Both Marrero and Cuellar are prospects that faced the toughest test of their careers inside the ring tonight.
Marrero controlled the bout early on by using his jab to keep the hard-charging Cuellar at bay, but Cuellar remained relentless and was able to begin to land his lead straight left hand in the third round. Both fighters were throwing nonstop, but Cuellar was the one who was pressing the action and he eventually scored a knockdown in the sixth round.
Cuellar appeared to be wearing Marrero, down but Marrero dug deep and fared better from the eighth-to-the-tenth rounds. They were both throwing bombs in the eleventh round and landed punches after the end of the round. By the twelfth round, it was a very close fight to call and both fighters fought like they needed the knockout to win the fight.
At the end of the night, the judges favored the aggressor and gave Andres Cuellar the decision victory with scores of 115-112, 114-113 and 116-111.
The main event of the night was between Argenis Mendez (21-2) and Arash Usmanee (20-1) for the IBF Junior Lightweight Title. Usmanee is a pressure fighter from Afghanistan who now fights out of Canada, while Mendez is a defensive fighter from the Dominican Republic.
Usmanee came out aggressively against the taller Mendez in the first round, and connected with some early straight right hand bombs. He was able to trap Mendez in the corner in the first round and mixed up his head shots and his body shots well.
Mendez, however, was able to create some distance in the second round, and use his reach to land his jab and counter the hard-charging Usmanee. Mendez’s defense was solid, as he was able to slip and duck most of Usmanee’s punches.
Usmanee started off the third round by landing some good shots on Mendez by the ropes again, and was throwing a lot more combinations than Mendez. Usmanee was hit with a short left hook by the ropes that probably could have been ruled a knockdown, but the referee ruled it was a punch behind the head instead.
Usmanee started to slow down in the sixth round. Mendez was able to keep the fight in the middle of the ring and was doing much better at dictating the action when he was not fighting with his back against the ropes. Usmanee however never stopped coming forward despite having difficulty solving the defense of Mendez.
As the middle rounds progressed, Mendez appeared to do a better job of countering Usmanee. He actually began to back Usmanee up and was becoming the aggressor. Usmanee now needed the knockout to win the fight by the last round and he fought like he knew it, but he was unable to knock down Mendez, despite the fact Mendez was hurt by a last minute desperate attempt by Usmanee.
The late flurry by Usmanee and his nonstop aggression helped him in the eyes of the judges and the final scores were 114-114, 114-114, and 115-113 for Usmanee.
The result was an unsatisfying majority draw that probably should have went to Mendez, making it a bookend of disputed decisions for Usmanee, who opened the the Friday Night Fights season this year with a seeming robbery loss to Cuban ex-pat Rances Barthelemy.