Location, Location, Location
The fight hinged on a simple premise; when Lundy threw his jab consistently, keeping the fight in the center of the ring, he controlled the action and won rounds. When he abandoned that elemental unit of warfare—defying the counsel of his corner and fandom—Beltran routinely escorted him toward the ropes and aggressed effectively. As the judges saw it, the latter scenario played out a fraction more frequently than the former.
In the first round, it was not clear whether Lundy would need his offensive arsenal at all as he demonstrated his almost peerless reflexes on the other side of the ball. Lundy slipped, parried or danced away from virtually everything that Beltran threw at him without being more than grazed over the course of the three minutes. The second was not all that different as Lundy began to use his jab and score with a sporadic power punch.
It was in the third where the fight inadvertently pivoted. Midway through the round, Lundy stumbled and momentarily retreated toward his corner to regain his footing as Beltran walked forward. It was as though the brief interplay was a moment of enlightenment for Beltran. He suddenly seemed to decide that keeping Lundy against the ropes as often as possible was a novel idea. Beltran soon landed the first of a number of sharp, compact left hooks and then began implementing a thudding body attack. As the round ended, Beltran landed a pair of powerful right hands and Lundy bounced from the ropes to counter with a cracking left hook at the bell. The two fighters flashed big, knowing smiles at each other and embraced before returning to their corners. Game on.
But for all of Lundy’s advantages in speed, he continued to find it difficult to avoid being methodically walked backward to the ropes by Beltran, who continued to be the bully, applying a body attack and his timely left hook. It was not until the sixth round when Lundy again began firing the jab consistently, effectively stopping Beltran in his tracks. Lundy intermittently fought out of the southpaw stance with the right jab working just as soundly as the left one and the occasional power shot following.
But the strategic realignment would not sustain itself. By the eighth, Lundy once again found himself in the unenviable position of having to continually weasel his way off of the ropes and he was not always able to do so without coming away worse for the wear. Whether it was due to a strategic lapse or the cumulative effect of Beltran’s hooks to his ribs—some of which sounded like phone books being dropped on a wooden floor—Lundy had lost the elusiveness and activity that carried him through the earliest parts of the fight. Beltran closed the show strong, dictating that the fight would be held along the margins of the ring and establishing himself as the busier fighter. He definitively landed the most meaningful punches in the final rounds.
The fight was a close affair with several tight stanzas, so the outcome was still very much uncertain as the scores were read and even more so after the first of those scores was revealed to be a 95-95 draw. Suspense lingered when the next two were read as 96-94 and when Beltran was announced the “new” NABF champion, he and his corner rightfully went ballistic. It is no guarantee that Beltran will assume Lundy’s position on the precipice of a world title fight but it seems as if that question had little bearing on his satisfaction. In a career spanning three decades, he beat a world-class opponent for the first time (after several unsuccessful prior bids) and earned by far his biggest achievement.
In the evening’s co-feature, also broadcast on “Friday Night Fights,” Richard Pierson once again proved the old adage that you cannot land a punch you do not throw. With rare exception, Pierson, 11-3 (8), proved in his 10-round bout with his more experienced opponent, Farah Ennis, to be a statuesque fighter—and obviously not in a good way. He stood behind a peek-a-boo guard from round-to-round, waiting hesitantly for openings that either were not there or on which he could not pull the trigger.
Ennis, 20-1 (12), was economical as well, landing here and there with nothing especially deleterious to Pierson, but it was enough to win almost every round. He adopted an exemplary approach to combating Pierson’s high and stationary guard with regular body work and also navigated his way around Pierson’s shield on occasion to land upstairs. When Ennis sensed that Pierson was attempting to establish a rhythm, he let a jab fly or crowded him into stasis, forcing him to start thinking anew. Pierson landed a few noteworthy punches but only a few—not nearly enough to swing the bout in his favor.
Hope Springs Eternal
“He’s tired already!” This exclamation came approximately eight seconds into the first round of the night’s second bout, blurted by an overzealous member of the regiment who traveled from the southernmost tip of New Jersey to encourage the apparent pride of Cape May, Josh Mercado, 6-1 (2). The opponent in the four-rounder was Philadelphia’s Korey Sloane, whose then-2-4-1 record had been almost exclusively amassed in Atlantic City over the past year. Sloane, abnormally tall for a 140-pounder, moved gingerly around the canvas and threw long, awkward punches. Mercado’s movements were far more polished; he landed the first meaningful shot, a hook, and his fans hollered.
Then one of Sloane’s telegraphed crosses found its way to the chin and his smaller legion sounded off. Then he landed another cross and then one more that seemed to unexpectedly secure the first round. Sloane continued to fight Mercado evenly through a spirited but inefficient round two until Mercado finally landed one big right hand and the crowd erupted again as he propelled forward. Sloane gamely fought back and landed his own power shots, but Mercado continued pressing and putting glove to target. The supporters traded outbursts from their respective sides of the ring, the Mercados drowning out the Sloanes.
Exhaustion did finally seem to set in for Sloane during the third frame but he continued flailing at Mercado, perhaps sensing he was still very much in the fight. But Mercado slowly began to land in rhythm, even nodding patronizingly after one effective hook-cross combination. As Sloane sat in his corner at the end of the round, he panted rapidly. He hung tough for most of the final round but Mercado again barraged as the clock wound down, his crowd yelling maniacally. In fact, the onslaught became so one-sided at one-point that Mercado stopped, turned to the referee and shrugged as Sloane remained crouched against the ropes. But as his corner pleaded for him to keep fighting—exuding hope for their underdog—Sloane held on, even mustering a final one-two as the bell sounded. For all of the late punishment he suffered, a draw at least still seemed feasible.
It was not to be—Mercado took a decision with one score at 39-37 and two at 39-36. Sloane exhaled genuine disappointment upon hearing the scores and then walked out of the theater, his seconds close behind him. Afterward, one of the men in his corner, William Snow, talked about this latest defeat. Like Sloane, he thought the bout and several others that Sloane has fought could have conceivably been scored draws but he was not too surprised. Snow remained hopeful for his friend though, mentioning that if Sloane could get behind his jab more, maybe he could string some wins together and get some more significant fights. For better or worse, hope springs eternal even in the lower rungs of the sport. For whatever it is worth, Sloane can at the very least say he did his part in providing fans with the most entertaining fight of the night.