By: William Holmes
ESPN 2 broadcasted a special edition of their Friday Night Fights telecast on a Wednesday night from an airport hangar in Santa Monica, California. The main event was between Curtis Stevens and Hassan N’Dam in an IBF Middleweight eliminator.
The first bout of the night was between the undefeated Miguel Marriaga (18-0) and Chris Martin (28-3-3) in the featherweight division.
Michael Buffer served as the ring announcer even though this wasn’t a pay-per-view or premium network card.
Martin works as a full time corrections officer but has still been in the ring with some solid opposition, including Teon Kennedy on a prior ESPN Friday Night Fights card. Marriaga has considerable power, but has never fought in the United States prior to tonight.
Both boxers fought out of an orthodox stance and Marriaga was landing right crosses to the body early on. Martin’s counter left hook was accurate in the first and he was showing good defense, but he was still backed up by Marriaga, and likely lost the round due to the latter’s superior ring generalship.
Marriaga started the second round by backing Martin up and landing heavy right hands to the body and head. He mixed up his combinations well and seemed to be growing in confidence as the second round progressed.
Martin came out aggressive at the start of the third round, but Marriaga was able to re-establish ring generalship and continued to pound the body and head of Martin with a variety of combinations coming from all angles.
Marriaga found the home for his left uppercut in the fourth round and opened up a cut over Martin’s left eye. Marriaga dominated the fourth round and the doctor took a long look at Martin’s cut before the start of the fifth. It was more the same in the fifth round, as Marriaga’s high volume output was overwhelming Christopher Martin.
Marriaga scored a knockdown in the sixth round when a left hook sent Martin rolling backwards and onto the mat. He was able to beat the count but was sternly warned by the referee about a possible stoppage. Marriaga jumped on Martin by the corner and continued his high volume attack that Martin was unable to consistently slip and dodge. A hard left uppercut by Marriaga forced the referee to jump in a call a halt to the assault.
Miguel Marriaga wins by TKO at 2:30 of round six.
The next bout of the night was between Fredrick Lawson (22-0) and Ray Narh (26-5) in the welterweight division. Both Lawson and Narh are from Ghana, with Lawson being the younger prospect with a higher upside.
Ray Narh was the longer and taller fighter but Lawson made his presence known early with a combination that knocked Narh off balance. Narh stayed on his feet and was able to avoid danger for the rest of the first round, but that was mainly due to the fact Lawson was reaching for his punches.
Narh was using his reach to his advantage in the early parts of the second round, but he found himself on the mat when a straight left from Lawson landed directly on Narh’s chin. Narh survived the remainder of the second round but he showed he was susceptible to Lawson’s power.
Lawson’s punches were quick and wild in the third round and he missed a lot of his punches as a result. Narh threw a high volume of punches in the third but the difference in power was noticeable whenever Lawson snapped the head of Narh backwards.
Lawson landed a low blow in the fourth round but appeared to control most of the action. Lawson’s trainer urged him to be busier before the start of the fifth round, and Lawson had plenty of time to think about his trainer’s since a hanging piece of metal on the edge of the ring caused a several minute delay to the start of the round.
The fight slowed down in the middle rounds and featured a clash of heads in the fifth and a push down by Lawson on Narh in the sixth. Lawson did show the ability to fight his way out of a corner and with his back to the ropes in the sixth round.
The action picked up late in the eighth round when Lawson’s left hand landed cleanly to Narh’s jaw in and a follow up body shot sent a wobbly Narh crashing to the mat. He was hurt badly but the round was near an end when he got to his feet. Narh was cracked with another straight right hand as the eighth round concluded.
Narh clearly needed a knockout in the final two rounds in order to win the fight, but he was unable to close the show. The final scores were 99-89, 95-93, and 99-89 for Frederick Lawson.
The main event of the night was between Hassan N’Dam (30-1) and Curtis Stevens (27-4) in an IBF Middleweight Eliminator. Stevens did not look N’Dam in the eyes during the referee introductions.
Stevens came out fast in the first round and connected with an early clean left hook. He crowded N’Dam by the ropes and was able to land several hooks to the body and head before N’Dam tied up. N’Dam fell to one knee but it was ruled a slip. N’Dam regained his composure in the middle of the first and began circling away from Stevens’ left hand while landing long clean jabs.
N’Dam slipped again early in the second round but got back to circling once he regained his transactions. Stevens was missing short with his combinations while N’Dam flicked out a constant jab in the face of Stevens. Stevens was trying to time his counters but was unable to do so.
Stevens stalked N’Dam throughout the third round and tried to fight on the inside, but N’Dam either clinched or deftly moved out of the way whenever Stevens got in tight.
N’Dam continued to stick and move in the fourth and fifth round and had Stevens really reaching for his punches. N’Dam’s jabs were active and he was showing a lot of movement.
N’Dam started to showboat in the sixth round but was hit with some solid body shots by Stevens. Stevens was able to throw a few decent flurries by the ropes on N’Dam but did not do any damage. N’Dam was talking trash to Stevens in the middle of the ring while flicking out his jab, and he landed a hard right cross in the end of the sixth round.
Stevens had a strong opening half of the seventh round that was punctuated by hard body shots, but N’Dam took over the second half of the round by sticking and moving.
The eighth round featured some of the best action of the night. A straight right cross connected for N’Dam and sent Stevens crashing to the mat. He was able to get back to his feet and was immediately met with a flurry of punches from N’Dam. Stevens was not throwing back at the multitude of punches from N’Dam and looked to try and set a trap. The trap eventually sprung near the end of the round when Stevens connected with an overhand right and then a hard left hook that sent N’Dam stumbling backwards.
The round ended with the momentum in favor of Stevens despite the knockdown.
N’Dam turned the momentum back in his favor in the ninth round by going back to sticking and moving and circling towards Stevens right hand. Stevens corner, most likely incorrectly, told him it was five rounds to three before the start of the tenth round and urged him to apply more pressure.
Stevens attempted to apply more pressure, but N’Dam was able to hold on and circle out whenever Stevens got in tight.
There were some exciting moments in the final two rounds when Stevens needed a knockout. Stevens had N’Dam holding on in the final thirty seconds of the fight when a right hand found its home, but Stevens was unable to provide a thrilling finish.
The judges scored it 116-111, 119-108, and 119-108 for N’Dam.