Tonight's season finale edition of Friday Night Fights is live from the Horseshoe Casino in Hammond, Ind., my neck of the woods. It's lovely country, really. (No, not really.)
The card was originally supposed to feature a rematch main event in the junior welterweight division, which would have let the Friday Night Fights season end as it began, with Ruslan Provodnikov battling the man who upset him on January 7, Mauricio Herrera. But Provodnikov pulled out with an injury, forcing promoters to come up with a plan B.
They've got a good one, as highly-touted but untested junior middleweight prospect Demetrius "Boo Boo" Andrade will take on veteran Grady Brewer. Andrade (13-0, 10 KO) has the skills and the natural talent, but the 23-year-old from Providence has been matched very soft thus far in his young pro career. Nobody he's faced was really there to present him with a challenge, even on the scale you might usually see from a fighter's first 13 fights. That soft touch schedule has been a criticism on past Friday Night Fights appearances from Andrade, who has been a bit of a punching bag for usual color analyst Teddy Atlas. (Andre Ward is filling in for Teddy this week.)
Across the ring this time will be a test: 40-year-old Brewer (28-12, 16 KO) doesn't have the prettiest record, and never really capitalized on his "Contender" reality show victory (but then who has?). But we saw him on June 17 looking very fit and very strong at 154 pounds, as he blasted out then-unbeaten Fernando Guerrero in the fourth round with a barrage of heavy shots. Though Guerrero wasn't really a blue chipper no matter how many times Joe Tessitore said so, he was definitely the favorite in the fight and was considered a solid prospect. Brewer simply out-fought him and was too much for the youngster to handle.
Guerrero, like Andrade, had the athletic advantages. What he didn't have was the savvy to recover when he was hurt by Brewer, and that led to his downfall. Can Brewer pull off another upset here? Sure, he can. It will depend a lot on what type of shape he's in. Given that he's only had two months off and didn't take much punishment against Guerrero, he should be fine, but this is a short-notice fight, and even though 40 isn't as old as it used to be in the fight game, it's still pretty damn old.
I'm cautiously picking Demetrius Andrade to win this fight, but I think he's going to have some problems along the way. If he doesn't struggle and manages to blow out the veteran, then it's a sign that we can start taking him very seriously as a prospect. This is a good, risky fight for a prospect who thus far hasn't opened many eyes and is still relying on the same hype he had when he made his pro debut in 2008. Andrade UD-10
The night's co-feature has the card's hopeful draw: Chicago's David Diaz is the local favorite, and the former lightweight titlist is getting what could be a final shot at getting back in the race. In January, he struggled with Rob Frankel in his home city at the UIC Pavilion, winning a 10-round majority decision.
This time out, the genuinely likeable Diaz faces Philadelphia's Hank Lundy, who frankly isn't quite as affable or charming as Diaz. Lundy (20-1-1, 10 KO) is a FNF regular, but that doesn't mean he regularly makes for good fights. Sometimes he's downright unpleasant to watch ply his trade, but he's got some talent and he's in the right tax bracket for the show. He has spent some time on Twitter calling out the top fighters at 135 or 140 pounds, which he's not ready for, with a career still trying to get back on track after a loss to John Molina last year. Since then, Lundy has won two in a row, but Omri Lowther and Patrick Lopez weren't exactly world class. Lundy still has work to do.
Diaz (36-3-1, 17 KO) may unfortunately just be well past his best years. He was never a special fighter, always a hard-working grinder who seemed to overachieve and get more out of his toughness and determination than many ever get out of superior talent. At 35, the clock is ticking, and he knows it. He says he'll only fight two more years at the most, as he wants to devote more time to and be healthy for his family.
This fight could be either really spirited, or really ugly. Despite their personality differences, both have a habit of fighting emotionally, even angrily. And if they both get into that kind of fight, this could be a good one to watch. If they don't, well, it might be a snore. Neither has big power and it's very likely we'll see the full 10 rounds in this one. If Diaz wins, then Lundy should probably be counted out as ever rising above this level. If Lundy wins, then he can look forward with some confidence, and hopefully we could get a rematch with Molina, perhaps on ShoBox, or when FNF returns in January.
My instinct is to go with the younger man. The 27-year-old Lundy should be fresher and in better shape. He should be. But I just don't see anything special with him. He's got more gifts than Diaz, but can he apply those gifts well enough to beat a more experienced fighter, a guy who has been in the ring with Manny Pacquiao (where he was blown out) and Humberto Soto (whom he gave a very tough battle)? I don't know. I think this is a lot closer to a 50-50 fight than most might believe, and I won't lie: I'm rooting for Diaz. If Lundy can keep the pace where he wants it, he will win this fight. Diaz has to force him out of his comfort zone. I'm picking Lundy, but I am doing so cautiously. Lundy UD-10