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ESPN Opens Its 18th Season Of Friday Night Fights as Perez Defeats Maicelo

by Sean Crose

“Are you ready for a new year of boxing?”

Teddy Atlas asked this question of audiences, albeit kiddingly, at the start of the 18th season of Friday Night Fights from the Chumash Casino in Santa Ynez, California.

The program, which had a spike in ratings last year, opened with welterweights Francisco Santana (22-3-1, 11 KOs) versus Kendal Mena (20-1-0, 11 KOs).

A harsh left hook put Mena, who was fighting in the United States for the first time, to the mat. A second shot put the man on his back, unconscious with his eyes wide open. The fight was over before it really began, ending at 1:43 of round one.

Brooklyn’s Jarrell Miller (11-0-1, 9 KOs) and Newark’s Aaron Kinch (5-4-2, 1 KO), both burly heavyweights, were next on the deck with a six-rounder. Neither man was lightning fast, but Miller banged away at Kinch throughout the first round, making it questionable if Kinch would last into the second.

Round two was more of the same. Kinch fired back gamely in round three, but he simply couldn’t be effective against the harder hitting Miller. Kinch took tremendous punishment, but gamely continued on.

He rocked Miller in the fifth, but it was too little too late. Kinch was tough and admirable, but dropped a unanimous decision to the far more effective Miller (who, for the record, goes by the name “Big Baby).

In the main event – for that WBA light interim title – Peru’s Jonathan Maicelo (21-2, 12 KOs) faced Columbia’s Darleys Perez (32-1, 20 KOs).

Maicelo, who is quite famous in Peru, looked crisp and sharp in the first, flicking his jab and controlling his energy well. Perez, however, was able to land on his man effectively.

In the second, it became clear that, while Maicelo had a speed advantage, Perez had at least the ability to control the range. Still, it was Maicelo who was the more active of the two.

Things developed into a pattern in the third. Maicelo would thrust with the jab and utilize his speed while Perez would try to land effective shots. Rather than a slugfest, this was a becoming a thinking man’s fight.

Perez looked to be controlling the tempo a bit more in the fifth, but Maicelo’s flicking jab was allowing the Peruvian celebrity to be the more active of the two. By the midway point of the fight, the bout had become a relatively close battle, if not a thrilling one.

The match remained close as it progressed. Perez was landing the harder punches overall, but Maicelo was quick, aggressive and game. Yet by the final third of the fight, Perez was landing thudding shots on his foe, whose face had become puffy.

Maicelo was nothing if not game, however, aggressively striking at Perez in the tenth. But, by the end of the eleventh, Maicelo was down from a barrage of Perez blows. Maicelo looked sharp enough when he came out for the twelfth, yet Perez was still able to land hard.

Maicelo got hurt again, but fought on bravely. Courage couldn’t carry the night, however, and Perez stepped out of the ring with a unanimous decision win.

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