- Michael Woods, Boxing
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There will be some symmetry in ESPN's final "Friday Night Fights" episode of the 2013 season, with Arash Usmanee taking part in the main event clash, just as he did to kick off the first show of the year. Let us hope that Friday's headline clash, however, doesn't end with one of those patented -- and sadly, all too frequent -- impassioned rants from analyst Teddy Atlas, shouting to the heavens about bad judging.
If Argenis Mendez has his way, the judges will be removed from the equation as the Dominican Republic-born junior lightweight titlist tries to render them moot against Usmanee, who "lost" to Rances Barthelemy in the Jan. 4 season kickoff in Miami, despite landing and throwing more than the "winner."
Atlas, hopeful that this season would feature regular miracles (aka, correct decisions from competent arbiters), speculated at the time as to why the three watchers with pencils and scorecards messed up. To save his larynx and heart from more punishment, we can hope that Mendez (21-2, 11 KOs), a smart, slick boxer who picks his spots well and often, attempts to be a finisher at the Turning Stone Casino in Verona, N.Y. (ESPN2/ESPN3, 9 p.m. ET).
Mendez, 27, showed that his left hook isn't to be trifled with, as he blasted out Juan Carlos Salgado with the punch while backing up in their March 9 clash, which secured Mendez the title that had belonged to Salgado.
Viewers who enjoy conclusive finishes can hope that Mendez will channel Mike Tyson, who will be ringside, in a promotion tagged "Mike Tyson Is Back!" which alludes to this being Tyson's first show as a promoter.
Mendez gets points for decency, as he recognized what Atlas was saying, that Usmanee (20-1, 10 KOs) got hosed against Barthelemy.
"In my opinion, Usmanee did win that fight, and that's one of the main reasons I chose him to defend my world title [against]," he said.
His sense of compassion has its limits, however. "I'm sure Arash is hungry, but I'm even hungrier than I was before," Mendez said. "Friday night, Usmanee will have to go through the storm, Argenis Mendez."
Usmanee is a 31-year-old Afghan who lives in Canada and has a heart-breaking backstory (his dad was killed by a Soviet missile in 1988) and a fighting style (comes forward, throws punches from the National Anthem onward) to be admired. But he can be found and hit. He drops his hands, sometimes gets off balance and doesn't fear contact or work excessively to slip or weave away from launches.
Tyson said that he sees the main event as a pick-'em scrap.
"In most fights, you know who is going to win before the fight," the 47-year-old Hall of Famer said. "It's not going to be that way with us. We want the best fighting the best."
Viewers can also look forward to seeing Claudio "The Matrix" Marrero (14-0, 11 KOs) face Jesus Andres Cuellar (22-1, 18 KOs) in the 12-round co-feature for an interim featherweight title.
There will be some symmetry in ESPN's final "Friday Night Fights" episode of the 2013 season, with Arash Usmanee taking part in the main event clash, just as he did to kick off the first show of the year.