By Marc Livitz: ESPN kicked off its 15h season of “Friday Night Fights” from Key West, Florida. The main event between super middleweights Dyah Davis (20-2-1(9)) of Boca Raton, FL and Alfonso “El Tigre” Lopez (22-1(17)) of Corpus Christi, TX was very much a case of neither fighter being in much of a rush to emerge from their respective defensive shells.
Dyah Ali Davis is the son of 1976 Olympic gold medalist Howard Davis, who trained him for his first eleven fights until famed trainer John David Jackson took his place after Dyah suffered his first loss as a professional. Alfonso Lopez has fought the majority of his bouts within his home state of Texas and was undefeated until he met former middleweight champion Kelly Pavlik in Las Vegas in May of last year. Lopez was handed a split decision loss. He returned to action last September before a lively home crowd in Corpus Christi and scored a TKO victory over Michael Walker of Chicago.
Inside the ring at Mallory Square in Key West, Davis and Lopez hardly produced thirty total punches between the two of them in the opening round. The initial two minutes provided lots of movement about the squared circle, but seemingly nothing else. Whenever the two fighters would get too close to each other, one of them would grab and stall any potential progress. Rounds two and three very much followed the same mold. The grabbing increased anytime the chance for action appeared. Surprisingly, the crowd did not throw any jeers in the direction of the ring. Dyah Davis finally landed a straight left to end the third round and became just a bit more active from this point in the bout. The activity level shown by Davis, however was not saying much in terms of the inactivity shown by both combatants. In the fourth and fifth rounds, the prevailing pattern of punch and grab began to fizzle ever so slightly. Both fighters seemed to be relying more on instinctual movement and avoid being hit more than anything else. By round six, Dyah Davis let his hands go just a bit more. At the halfway point of the seventh, Davis landed the most meaningful punch of the fight. Alfonso Lopez walked into a right uppercut from Davis which certainly got his attention, but did not shake him at all.
Midway through the eighth, Davis and Lopez caught each other in simultaneous fashion with short left hooks. The final two rounds didn’t strike much of a sense of urgency in Davis and even less in Lopez. Davis had somewhat figured out that exchanges of any kind were out of the question, while Lopez did not take advantage in any way of the openings to the body that Davis would present him. By the tenth and final round, each side tried to make up for lost time, but they were too fatigued to produce anything meaningful. All three judges saw the bout as a unananimous decision win for Davis (100-90 on two cards and 99-91 on the third).
The co-main event was much more entertaining. In another super middleweight matchup, two New York fighters met in a pleasing fracas. Undefeated Steven Martinez (11-0(9)) of the Bronx clashed with Denis Douglin (13-1(8)) of Marlboro, New Jersey by way of Brooklyn. Martinez was a Golden Gloves champion in 2008 and also a three-time New York champion. The corner of Douglin was a unique one because of his trainer and mother, Saphya. The southpaw versus orthodox clash was a contrast of styles. Martinez possessed a four-inch height convenience over Douglin and used this to his advantage in the early going. Douglin’s plan appeared to be to get in close, exchange and then retreat. It did not work right away. Martinez used his jab very effectively in the opening rounds, while Douglin relied more on his speed.
Rounds 1, 2 and 3 saw Martinez utilize his height and reach and Douglin land short punches from close inside. Douglin was expending much of his energy to do this and couldn’t get close enough to Martinez to plant either foot in order to land a strong power shot. After the bell sounded for the end of round three, Douglin was told by his mother/trainer to abandon his original plan “A” and switch to different tactics. Although the changes shown by Denis Douglin from round four onward were not as different as night and day, he began to take advantage of the openings created when Martinez would overextend his jab. This caused Martinez to forget about his height and move closer to Douglin.
The switch allowed Douglin to land a few power shots, but Martinez was wise enough to not stay inside for too long. Round five was much of the same, only with each fighter losing his mouthpiece in thirty second intervals and Martinez going back to his jab, only this time he was firing way too high. Steven Martinez was cautioned twice in the sixth round for low blows. He then went back to jabbing almost exclusively, while Douglin threw everything he had at him. Although he was off-balance at times, Denis Douglin began to connect in a conclusive manner with shots to the body and head of Martinez. In round seven, Martinez started to follow his left jab with a straight right. This strategy confused Douglin a bit, but he managed to work around it. By the eighth and final round, each fighter felt the need to up the activity level. Martinez was able to land close range shots after Douglin would miss with wide shots of his own. Douglin outworked and out hustled Martinez for the last two minutes of the fight. At the end of eight very close rounds, the story was the more active Martinez and the much speedier Douglin. The judges awarded Denis Douglin a split decision win (all 3 cards read 77-75. Two for Douglin and one for Martinez).