|Photo: Ray Bailey|
It's a wonder what even just a few minutes of nice, crisp action can do for boxing fans thirsting for something more than controversy and letdowns.
A spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down, as that Sound of Music lady said.
The normal course of "whine for months, delight for days" should hold true for fans, as in just about any other boxing year. But this is the time of year where we expect a little more bang for our bucks. And bucks. And bucks.
In what hopes to be the rev-up to this summer's peel out on ESPN's Friday Night Fights, "Hammerin'" Hank Lundy rebounded from an early knockdown to seize a unanimous decision from Dannie Williams, who got his face near caved inward with jabs in the process.
But somewhere in there were some terrific exchanges and top shelf mixing.
Even the opening bout had its moments, which has been an unfortunate rarity this season. Connecticut-based middleweight Elvin Ayala, now 25-5-1 (11 KO) toughed out an 8 round decision over inactive yesteryear pseudo-contender Eric Mitchell, whose record fell to 23-9-1 (11 KO).
"Murder" Mitchell was a last minute sub for consistent disappointment Hector Camacho, Jr., who bowed out due to a reported hand injury, and commentator Teddy Atlas was spot-on with his early assessment that Mitchell would be a step up in terms of action potential. Despite the fact that Mitchell's claim to fame is probably losing a decision to Ricardo Mayorga on the Chris Byrd vs. Andrew Golota undercard in 2004, at the very least, he's not prone to springing away from opponents when outmatched, or feigning blindness.
Mitchell began the opening round jabbing and winging punches while moving forward, though he did it without much finesse. Ayala clearly demonstrated a speed and skill advantage, which didn't exactly bode well for the veteran Mitchell.
Multiple warnings for hitting low found Mitchell's ears as he swung freely at Ayala's belt line in the 2nd, but the pace generally slowed, with both men looking to counter and draw the other out to seize an opening. Aside from crouching over to his right side in close, Mitchell's defense mainly consisted of extending his arms at range, which led to getting clipped with a few reaching right hands from Ayala.
Ayala greeted Mitchell's attempts to make things gritty in the 4th with some forward momentum of his own, but it was short-lived. Mitchell was allowed to pick up steam and crunch a bit inside as Ayala retreated to the ropes, not offering a ton of get back.
More warnings were sent Mitchell's way in the 5th as he again tried to gum up Ayala's works with some rough business. Ayala got rough back though, placing some borderline shots downstairs and rallying back at a retreating Mitchell. Then, switching up his strategy, Mitchell tried to flick a jab and counter from a distance early on in round 6, but Ayala nipped that one in the bud with some overhand rights and by pushing Mitchell to the ropes and landing to the pit of Mitchell's gut with hooks.
In the 7th, Ayala controlled most of the action with a jab and some stiff right hands. Mitchell's shots landed every so often, but his messy hooks failed to do any damage, and many were more glancing than flush.
Looking the worse for wear and slightly marked up in the face in the final round, Mitchell settled in and basically got out-jabbed and outworked on the outside, and smothered on the inside.
Judges scored the fight 79-73 twice, and 78-74 -- astonishingly appropriate.
Eric Mitchell's effort wasn't totally without payoff, and he seemed to do just about everything he was capable of doing -- which is to say, not that much. His shots are wide, his jab dawdling, his inside game predictable. And he's 42-years-old. It's difficult to imagine he had a lot left at fight's end, and especially having taken the fight on short notice.
Elvin Ayala? One of the bigger surprises of the evening was hearing "...and NEW!" prior to announcing him as the winner. What the USNBC middleweight title is, isn't quite clear. But it should be a bit of a surprise that Ayala has it. And that's not meant to offend Ayala, who gave an honest effort himself. But this object they're referring to as a belt was picked up in a close-ish fight with an 18-5 Derrick Findley -- a late replacement for former lightweight title challenger Israel Cardona. Ayala should be cut some sort of slack though, as both of his last two opponents were substitutes for guys who probably would've been easier marks than the subs themselves. Super impressive he is not, but he's currently on a five-fight win streak, with most of those coming under the tutelage of Peter Manfredo, Sr.
He's worthy of another Friday Night Fights slot or two.
Or six. Because that's how many of lightweight Hank Lundy's last six fights have been shown on the ESPN show. And for good reason, too: he's good TV. In four of those fights, someone has either been down or out. Lundy talks trash, has speedy hands and can swat a little bit. And he's not a bad fighter, all things considered.
Lundy began the bout aggressively, fighting from a southpaw stance and getting twitchy while trying to find his range. Williams countered effectively and seemed the smoother of the two early, even in catching a shot that opened a cut around the bridge of his nose. With about a half-minute to go in the 1st, Williams bashed Lundy mid-swing with a left hook to the temple that sunk him to a knee. Up quickly, Lundy stalked out the round, but probably lost it 10-8.
A more measured (orthodox) attack from Lundy won the day in round 2 and set him on proper path, though Williams' outbursts in the latter half made things interesting. Following a brief period of ring rule with his jab in the 3rd, Lundy was backed to the ropes by Williams, but fought there effectively. Williams began loading up with wide bombs though, Lundy slipping some and returning fire, providing for great action. The back and forth continued with Lundy getting the better until being briefly wobbled by a hook in the final minute.
Williams' face went to war with Lundy's jab in the 4th, the latter stepping into the punch and delivering with pop. Williams was able to catch Lundy moving away from exchanges with his guard down a few times, but was largely controlled from the outside.
Again Williams lost at the distance game in round 5, lunging forward and landing with a wide hook every so often, but getting out-jabbed and countered well too. Not much changed in the 6th either. Lundy's jab found a home upstairs just about any time he wanted it to. The men exchanged at the close of the round, with Lundy still the more effective.
Whether hands high or low, moving backwards or forward, Williams seemed to eat up Lundy's jab upon command. It wasn't for lack of trying on Williams' part, but it was as if the early knockdown had him committing to a different fight than reality dictated.
In the 6th through 9th, Williams ate jabs. Both attacked the body well at times too, but the narrative was Williams' ability to absorb what he did -- even though much of it wasn't that hard.
Not a lot of urgency was displayed in the 10th round by Williams either, and by then he'd shown he could take a solid shot. His set ups were read by Lundy, who dodged a lot of what came his way.
Scores of 98-91 and 97-92 twice were announced, all for the winner Hank Lundy, now 22-1-1 (11 KO). Dannie Williams' record took another hit, as he is currently 21-2 (17 KO).
The expectation here is that Lundy will beat most pretenders at lightweight, produce good action fights more often than not, but will likely never climb past the ESPN2 level. And that's not to suggest he has to, either. In a half-dozen starts on Friday Night Fights, Lundy's been a dependable, fun fighter, and he's worth tuning in to watch. Might not be the worst thing in the world to have him on the show regularly, building a fanbase and consistently providing action -- two things FNF could really use.
Williams turned heads last August on Friday Night Fights when he decked Antonio Cervantes in the 1st, then separated his senses from the rest of civilization with a nasty right hand that found itself edited into the ever-evolving highlight reel on the program's commercial break lead-ins. His inability to not get jabbed is a problem though. His level of opposition going into the Lundy bout simply wasn't very good. Yes, he was able to down Lundy early, but he's been down frequently, and Williams did little to capitalize.
On the heels of three straight wins inside the distance, it's possible Dannie Williams began believing a bit too much in his punching power, and when he felt he could rely on it, he found out its effect just ain't the same on higher levels.
Or it's possible Lundy is actually very good and just demonstrated it.
Either way, put Hank Lundy on the tube. He plays the cocky loudmouth role well and comes to throw leather. Case closed.
Kudos to ESPN for giving a nice tribute to the late, great Bert Sugar.
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