Sloppy action accented what was a fairly lackluster Friday Night Fights on ESPN2 last night, as what might have been entertaining match ups on paper turned out to be a bit underwhelming. But boxing fans looking to FNF for their pre-Saturday warm up have become somewhat accustomed to fights that look better the week before than they wind up being on the night of.
Hard-nosed scrapper and former featherweight titlist Cristobol Cruz, who is usually good for a solid effort with his "land what I can" style, was generally out-classed by recent WBC title challenger Juan Carlos Burgos.
In place of a firefight, fans instead witnessed Burgos often fighting jumpy and looking to avoid any exchanges. It's not that it was necessarily the incorrect tactic, just that Burgos was unable to sustain much of an offense that wasn't based on waiting for Cruz to attack and countering.
Burgos, now 29-1 (19 KO), came forward behind a few jabs early in the 1st and made the visibly smaller Cruz reach for combinations. By the 2nd, it became apparent that scoring the bout would be a matter of valuing Burgos slightly cleaner and harder counters vs. crediting Cruz for pressing the issue, albeit largely ineffectively.
The lack of jab seemed counter-intuitive for Burgos, and Cruz began leaping in to land in the 3rd and 4th. Cristobol's wild efforts caused a few feet tangles, but he wasn't able to break through with much until later in 4, when Burgos began trying to hop away in close, failing to set his feet for counters.
A kind-of knockdown in the 5th for Burgos was ruled a slip, as the punch was glancing and landed as Cruz was already off-balance and headed to the canvas. The 6th saw Cruz hit the deck courtesy of a solid left hook in the middle of an exchange, and the follow-up from Cruz was rough. Referee Gary Rosato took control and disallowed the borderline tactics, and Burgos' countering opened up a cut over his right eye.
The smaller Cruz showed little in the way of slowing his seemingly fruitless attack in the 7th, and Burgos appeared content to work at the slower pace and lay back. Unfortunately, Burgos went long streatches without committing to much offense, regardless of the quality of his punches as compared to Cruz.
Cruz took the fight to the streets a bit early in round 8, cuffing Burgos with a few wide shots. But the fight went back the the beaten path, Cruz following, Burgos landing slightly better but failing to impress. A jab that snapped back Cruz' head may have even been the best shot of the round.
Burgos caught a stiff left to the kisser that put him down in the 9th, and despite Cruz' lack of quality connects on the follow-up, Burgos' overall inactivity hurt. The 10th round saw Burgos again landing more cleanly, but looking reluctant to engage, clinching inside and drawing more rough efforts from Cruz.
Judges scored the bout 96-92 twice, and 98-90 for Burgos, likely scoring it more wide than most fans had it, and more wide than Burgos' unimpressive effort deserved.
With the loss, Cruz fell to 39-13-3 (23 KO) and 1 No Contest, with a record of 1-2-2 in his last five.
Burgos, Ring Magazine's #10 guy at 130 lbs., appeared uninterested in making any sort of statement or kicking the fight into a different gear, unfortunately. Cruz, while willing and partially able, was out-sized and lacked the class to find Burgos through his movement and stifling work inside.
The co-feature proved to be a more interesting style match up, however. Even though the action was more one-sided than the main event (despite what scorecards indicated), Manuel Perez' upset decision win over Edgar Santana simply felt like a better fight because one guy was clearly willing to work through whatever return fire came his way to snatch the win he wanted.
An apparent height disadvantage did little to deter Perez from landing more cleanly and using angles to steal hooks on Santana in the opening round. The larger Santana attempted to walk his man down and land the visibly harder shots, but to little avail.
"Indecision" was the word of the evening for Santana, who seemed confused as to whether or not he should be covering up, moving his head or coming forward and slamming hooks downstairs in rounds 2 and 3. And Santana did all three with varying degrees of success.
Spotty offense for Santana may have won him the 4th, as his shots around Perez' guard to his body were hard and thumping, but still few and far between. Any possible momentum was stalled as he all but sat still waiting to get hit in the 5th though, and aside from a hard uppercut later in the round, Santana was clearly being outworked.
The 6th round had Santana firing hard from the outset, only to inexplicably lay back and fall into the pattern of waiting for opportunities that did indeed come, but were passed on anyways. Santana exhibited impressive head movement at times, but was unfortunately moving his head right into the way of Perez' shots much of the time.
In round 7 urgency appeared either fleeting or non-existent for Santana despite easily being outworked and out-fought. Santana relied more on style and slick moves than actually putting some leather to work. Much of his single-shot offense was dodged by Perez and he was snapped with shots to his slightly bloody mug.
Welts around Santana's nose and right eye darkened in the 8th, though Perez' face wasn't exactly spotless. But snappy hooks were marking up the face of the bigger man, and a few big right hands from Perez cemented the round for him.
Seemingly sending urgency, Santana attempted to lash out a few times in the 9th, managing a few shoeshine combinations here and there, but a series of excellent shots from Santana that landed nicely on Perez in the 10th only led to more speculation as to why he didn't attempt a groove earlier.
Official cards for the bout all read 96-94, but the actual action was likely a bit farther apart than just one round from a draw.
Perez' will to stick out whatever shots sailed at him won the day and improved his record to 17-7-1 (4 KO), while Santana goes back to the drawing board with a 26-4 (17 KO) ledger.
Santana's inactivity due to legal issue likely had something to do with his effort, or lack thereof. Santana was once regarded as a solid prospect though, and seems to have a bit of rebuilding to do, if it can indeed be done at the age of 33.
As for Perez, it's basically a feel-good win for a guy whose activity and in-ring attitude made him easy to root for.
What has usually been a weaker point of ESPN's boxing broadcasts in recent years -- the in-studio segments -- has been noticeably better this season, and likely because of new-ish host Bernardo Osuna, who actually knows a thing or two about the sweet science, and can hang with the boxing vernacular.
In-studio guest Tim Bradley, who takes on Manny Pacquiao in June, appeared sans trademark mustache to talk about how much his liberal use of the cranium wasn't an issue in big fights, leading to what should assuredly be a slew of one-liners from TQBR readers....?
Remember to tune in to next week's Friday Night Fights, featuring the weight class-impaired Joan Guzman vs. Jesus Pabon, and Ed Paredes vs. former title challenger Cosme Rivera in the co-feature.
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