Tonight's ESPN Friday Night Fights had a Teddy Tantrum, some controversy in the main event, a world title that didn't change hands, and an upset in the co-feature. Mike Tyson's debut as a promoter (which is about as legit as Jack Tunney the WWF President) went pretty well in terms of in-ring entertainment, as both of the bouts on tonight's card were spirited affairs, but Tyson predictably stole the show, and after the cameras were off, perhaps not in a good way.
Tyson and ESPN commentator Teddy Atlas have a long and unpleasant history with one another, as Atlas was one of Mike's early trainers at Cus D'Amato's camp in Catskill, New York, a relationship that ended very badly in 1983, when Tyson was sexually inappropriate toward an 11-year-old niece of Atlas', which led to Atlas pulling a gun on Tyson.
The show started tonight with a shot of Atlas and Tyson at ringside, shaking hands and embracing. It was a nice moment between a man who says he has changed his ways and started to walk a new path in life (more on that in a moment) and a man who had a legitimate beef going back 30 years. Atlas only would say on camera that Tyson came to him as a man, and he respected that.
Tyson later spoke with ESPN's Todd Grisham, the host of FNF, and discussed his sobriety and his desire to make amends with people he's hurt in the past. It came off very sincere, and it probably was. Corey Erdman was on the scene tonight in Verona, New York, though, and tweeted that after the show, Tyson said, "I've been lying to everyone saying that I've been sober," admitting he hadn't drank or done drugs in just the last six days.
What you make of that -- and what you make of Mike Tyson in general, really -- is up to you. Now that we've got that all out of the way, let's just talk about tonight's fights, a pair of good scraps that closed shop on a fine season of Friday Night Fights that had an extremely limited budget, even more than before.
In the main event, Argenis Mendez (21-2-1, 11 KO) and Arash Usmanee (20-1-1, 10 KO) went to a disputed draw, with most feeling that Mendez had clearly won the fight, even if I saw nobody that had it as lopsided as Atlas, who scored it 119-109 for Mendez. BLH had it 115-113 Mendez, which was a score I saw quite a bit on Twitter, along with 116-112 for Mendez. I didn't see any 114-114s or scores for Usmanee, so in the end, it looks like Arash Usmanee started the FNF season on January 4 by getting robbed, and ended it on August 23 by getting a very lucky draw.
Atlas ranted and raved at ringside as he often does, pleading with the public (I guess?) that we need to have someone overseeing the sport's judges. My questions on that are many, but that's beside the point, really. Atlas isn't wrong when he rails against the shoddy and possibly corrupted scoring in boxing, but OK, fine. Now what? Teddy's got some connections in the sport. He'd be a great mouthpiece for some kind of serious movement of this nature. Is there anything that can actually be done, or do we all just have to sit back and accept the sport for what it is, warts and all? Probably that, but maybe not. I'd be very interested in seeing Atlas put his money where his mouth is, or whatever. I don't have any suggestions for how to go about it. That's for Atlas. He's the guy. Not me. I'm just a blogger.
Anyway, in the co-feature, Argentina's Jesus Cuellar made about 6000 people ask "What's in the water there?!?!?!" by scoring an upset over house prospect Claudio Marrero, winning on scores of 115-112, 114-113, and 116-111. BLH had it 115-112 for Cuellar, who may have been the more crude of the two, but was also by far the more determined fighter, scoring a knockdown on Marrero (14-1, 11 KO) in the sixth round and basically brawling his way to the victory. It was a really fun fight, and Cuellar (23-1, 18 KO) probably earned himself a return TV date in the States. So, too, should Marrero, who has things to work on, but did show some real promise. There's plenty of time for him to learn from this setback.