This week's edition of ESPN Friday Night Fights was not one for the history books, as two clinch-filled fights made boxing fans drowsy and drove some to watch The Canyons in its debut night on Video On Demand. Only the lights going out at the Buffalo Run Casino in the first round of the night's main event really stood out when all was said and done.
In that main event, Javier Fortuna, the young featherweight apple of Sampson Lewkowicz's eye, saw his designed ascent take another sharp little blow, as he fought to an unimpressive draw with Luis Franco, a second-tier Cuban who chose to retire five months ago instead of facing Billy Dib for the IBF featherweight title, opening an opportunity that Evgeny Gradovich took full advantage of in Franco's stead.
Fortuna (22-0-1, 16 KO) had one of his "off" nights, which may or may not really be off nights at all, but rather a 50-50 shot depending on the opposition. We've seen the supposedly electric prospect sort of labor through wins over Miguel Roman and Patrick Hyland in the past, but most want to remember his nasty stoppages of Yuandale Evans, Cristobal Cruz, and Miguel Zamudio instead, because those paint the rosier picture of his potential.
There's no doubt that Fortuna, 24, has the talent, but does he have that something extra that takes a talented boxer to that next level? That is very much in doubt. Franco (11-1-1, 7 KO) is not special by any means, and yet Fortuna found little opportunity to take openings and do something with them, resulting in an entirely forgettable fight that bordered on downright boring far too often.
The 31-year-old Franco is a solid fighter, without question -- decent, at the least. His lone pro loss was argued and came in his opponent's backyard in Argentina, but this was neutral ground with an opponent who was the house fighter, at least in theory.
BLH scored the fight 96-94 for Franco, but it was a fight that could have gone to Fortuna 6-4 or 7-3. ESPN's Teddy Atlas had it 99-91 for Fortuna, which seemed terribly generous, and sort of muted his attack on the official judge who did have it, quite absurdly, 99-91 for Franco. The other scores were 96-94 Fortuna, and a 95-95 card that made for a split draw.
Fortuna is young enough that he could still become the fighter that Lewkowicz has been trying to sell, but there's a pattern that has already developed. It seems as if he struggles when he can't totally overwhelm opponents, because while his natural physical gifts of speed and power are certainly assets, they aren't always enough to give him an easy win. Is he able to adjust? Maybe not. Does he have anything further than the plan of "win fast, win big"? Hard to be sure so far.
Again, he's young, and there's a lot of road ahead. But there is some work to do if Fortuna is going to become a serious player at 126 or 130 any time soon.
In the co-feature, haggard veteran and former welterweight titlist Kermit Cintron won a too-wide decision over Jonathan Batista over 10 rounds, taking home scores of 99-88, 98-89, and 98-89. Cintron did deserve to win the fight, but the scores were a bit much. Batista suffered an illegitimate knockdown call from referee Gerald Ritter, whose brother Gary worked the main event as the two put on a clinic of how to referee in Oklahoma or maybe Texas forever.
The fight was another non-event, as Twitter boxing fans bitched and moaned about an exciting tennis match sending FNF into a short delay getting onto the air, only to have many of them wish the tennis could return to their screens as an aged, mentally fatigued version of Cintron (34-5-2, 28 KO) looked cooked against Batista (14-2, 7 KO), a fighter who should have been overmatched. Cintron and Batista were both fairly negative in the fight, holding plenty. Batista was penalized two points, Cintron none. Hopefully this won't lead to Top Rank or Golden Boy exploiting Cintron against someone already quite good; using him as a stepping-stone for a prospect still early in his career is one thing, but Keith Thurman does not need to rip Cintron.