ESPN's Friday Night Fights returns tomorrow night for the 2012 season premiere from a familiar January haunt of the program, Mallory Square in Key West, with a 10-round super middleweight main event between the son of a former contender and a fighter who nearly pulled off a big upset in 2010.
Dyah Davis is the son of Howard Davis, the 1976 Olympic gold medalist in the lightweight division. Now 30, the late-blooming Dyah is looking to continue a climb up the ladder that didn't seem likely two years ago. After losing to fellow second generation fighter Aaron Pryor Jr and drawing with Francisco Sierra, Davis was matched on ShoBox with prospect Marcus "Too Much" Johnson in April 2011, and toppled the favored man for a career-best win.
[ Related: ShoBox Preview for Jan. 6, 2012 ]
Six months later, Davis defeated noted chin checker Darnell Boone. Now, he gets a chance as a main event fighter on Friday Night Fights, which is coming off of its best season in years, against a scrapper from Cut and Shoot, Texas, who has only been seen once by, well, just about everyone.
29-year-old Alfonso Lopez was a true unknown when he was matched with Kelly Pavlik on the May 7 Pacquiao vs Mosley pay-per-view. Though he gave Pavlik a stern test and pushed him to the limits in the former middleweight champ's comeback, Lopez wasn't given a fair shake on two of the scorecards, losing 99-91 and 98-92, while the third judge had it a 95-95 draw. (Bad Left Hook scored it 96-94 for Pavlik.)
It was a performance that should have earned him another shot, but instead he fought just once more in 2011, stopping fading journeyman Michael "Night Stalker" Walker on September 24 in Corpus Christi.
Like last season on Friday Night Fights, this is a well-matched fight and not a showcase for either man. One of them is going to win and get another shot like this, or something a bit bigger. The loser will take a step back, and neither fighter can afford that at this point. Neither is backed by a big promoter and both have had to fight their way here.
Davis, who is probably the mild favorite going in, says that he has worked hard to get ready for Lopez.
"Lopez is a good boxer who didn’t have a lot of amateur fights," said Davis. "He’s a quick learner, too. He has good movement and he puts his punches together. He can make for a difficult fight with his movement, but we’ve been working hard to nullify that."
Former star John David Jackson trains Davis these days, and says he's made serious strides as a fighter in the last couple of years. And he's extremely confident that he's in the winner's corner tomorrow.
"The biggest improvements I’ve seen since working with Dyah is the confidence he has in himself. He never had an amateur background, so fighting had been like on-the-job-training for him. And he doesn’t move around as much in the ring; his footwork is still there but he’s executing much better, and less movement has resulted in him throwing better punches with additional power. His punches now have more impact when they hit his opponent.
"I haven’t seen much of Lopez other than his fight against Pavlik, but I don’t see anything special. He has decent movement and power, but doesn’t have one dominant area. This fight is about Dyah. If he wins impressively for TV people watching, it should lead to bigger fights and better paydays for Dyah. The way in which he wins, spectacularly, will get him to that next level."
Bad Left Hook will have live round-by-round coverage of Friday Night Fights from Key West tomorrow night at 9 p.m. EST. The show will be live on ESPN3 as well.
The televised co-feature will be an eight-round junior middleweight fight between 21-year-old Bronx fighter Steve Martinez (11-0, 9 KO) and 23-year-old Jersey product Denis Douglin (13-1, 8 KO). Douglin was shocked last February in a TKO-3 loss to journeyman Doel Carrasquillo, and this is a big fight for him, his toughest to date by far. The same can probably be said for Martinez, too.
Also on the undercard will be DiBella prospect J'Leon Love (9-0, 6 KO), a 24-year-old middleweight who spent time with Team Margarito in Mexico before Margarito's fight with Manny Pacquiao. He'll be facing Haitian-born Elie Augustama (5-3, 3 KO) in a swing bout.
Other fights include Dannie Williams (20-1, 16 KO) vs Fernando Trejo (33-17-6, 19 KO), 8 rounds, lightweights and Willie Nelson (16-1-1, 10 KO) vs Gerald Jordan (8-5-1, 5 KO), 6 rounds, welterweights.