The upcoming new season of ESPN Friday Night Fights has a pair of January cards in place, and both look to continue in the tradition of the very strong 2011 season.
On January 6 from Key West (where ESPN loves to do a January show), the season debut of the series will feature super middleweights Dyah Davis (20-2-1, 9 KO) and Alfonso Lopez (22-1, 17 KO) in the main event.
Davis, 30, won a pair of fights this year, including a ShoBox upset of Marcus "Too Much" Johnson in April. In October, he defeated respected trial horse Darnell Boone over six rounds in Connecticut.
Lopez, 29, is best-known (or only known) for his decent showing against a rusty Kelly Pavlik on the Pacquiao vs Mosley pay-per-view in May, where he lost a majority decision in a fight where he had a perfectly good argument for winning six of the ten rounds. Judges scored that one 95-95 (which was what I had), and then 99-91 and 98-92 for Pavlik, which was a little transparent. In September, Lopez beat Michael Walker in Texas.
In the co-feature, a pair of hard-punching junior middleweight prospects will hook up, as 21-year-old Stevie Martinez (11-0, 9 KO) faces 27-year-old Jonathan Cepeda (11-0, 10 KO). The swing bout fight will feature DiBella Entertainment middleweight prospect J'Leon Love (9-0, 6 KO). Love, 24, is currently in camp with Team Margarito.
January 27 is the date for the second set broadcast, from Temecula, Calif., and the Pechanga Resort & Casino.
In the main event, FNF favorite Ruslan Provodnikov (19-1, 13 KO) will be back on the show, facing Mexican veteran Julio Diaz (38-7, 27 KO) in the 10-round main event.
Provodnikov, 27, never has a bad fight, and the Russian has a date with DeMarcus "Chop Chop" Corley first on December 5 in Ekaterinburg. Last year on Friday Night Fights, Provodnikov suffered his first career loss against Mauricio Herrera in the season debut on January 7, and came back to knock out Ivan Popoca on April 15. A rematch with Herrera, set for the August season finale, was scrapped due to injury.
Diaz, 31, also is a veteran of the show. On May 13, he was knocked out in highlight reel fashion by Kendall Holt, and in the past has fought Victor Cayo, Herman Ngoudjo, and others on the series.
The current co-feature will see South Korean bomber Ji Hoon Kim (22-7, 18 KO) facing Uzbekistan's Ali Rahimov (22-0, 11 KO). Rahimov is a legit prospect and at this point, Kim is basically the Korean Randall Bailey -- he's got a monster right hand and little else, but that right hand can knock out anyone in the division if he lands it, so he's a risk. This may not go through, as Rahimov is also supposedly fighting Derry Mathews in the U.K. on January 20, but Rahimov and Provodnikov do share a promoter (Rahimov is also fighting on 12/5 in Russia).