That fight, of course, was the six-round war between Artur Szpilka and Mike Mollo.
Tonight, the two fighters are meeting in the ring for a second time on a much larger stage – the co-main event at U.S. Cellular Field, home of the Chicago White Sox.
“I’ve watched the first fight 100 times,” Mollo said. “I wasn’t watching it for [entertainment]. I’ve seen how many things I did wrong. I learned how to fight a lefty.”
Said Szpilka, “It was a good thing the first fight happened. I got knocked down. Now I know my mistakes and what to do in the ring. It was a lucky punch before and I want to show how easy it is to beat Mike Mollo.”
In the first fight, Szpilka, 15-0 (11), earned a sixth round knockout. A blood-soaked Mollo, 20-4-1 (12), charged forward and Szpilka connected with a left cross that sprawled Mollo across the canvas. The knockout made SportsCenter’s top 10 list for the night and is a candidate for “Knockout of the Year.”
Up until that point, the two fighters engaged in a constant back-and-forth battle. Mollo, coming off a three-year hiatus due to contract problems, made a statement in the first round by knocking down the Polish crowd-favorite. Szpilka recovered and outboxed Mollo in the next two rounds cut Mollo over both eyes with an accidental headbutt and an elbow. During the fourth round, Mollo dropped Szpilka again after the doctor almost stopped the fight because of Mollo’s cuts.
The fight was so good that ESPN is re-airing the fight on tonight’s telecast.
“I am really happy about [the fight being re-aired],” Szpilka said. “This is a chance to show people how good we are. If television likes [our] fight, then we’re in the right place.
Both fighters have prepared for the rematch in different ways. Szpilka chose to stay active, fighting twice in his home of Poland. Szpilka came away victorious both times, defeating Taras Bidenko and Brian Minto.
Mollo, on the other hand, decided to start over from scratch. He fired his trainer - and more importantly, his cutman - and hired Dino Spencer of Miami’s legendary 5th Street Gym as chief second and Pete Brodsky as his cutman. Mollo raved about his conditioning under Spencer and says he is in the best shape of his life.
“This fight is the hardest I’ve ever worked for a fight and the funnest I’ve ever hand in training camp,” Mollo said. “It took boxing for me to a whole new level. The conditioning was amazing.”
Besides conditioning, Spencer told Maxboxing that Mollo will be making many adjustments for the rematch. In his evaluation of the first fight, Spencer said, “There wasn’t much advice being given to him in his corner, technique or strategies. I know you’re alone in that ring but he was really left alone in that ring.”
Szpilka said he isn’t too worried about Mollo for the upcoming fight. He said the rematch will be much easier this time around.
“Mollo won’t punch me like he did before,” Szpilka said. “He won’t have a chance. My trainer has a good tactic and I will get the knockout.”
The manner in which the first fight went down – including controversial officiating by refereeing Celestino Ruiz – and the war of words between the two fighters have created a lot of animosity for the rematch. At the final press conference Tuesday, Mollo and Szpilka had to be separated when it was time to square off face-to-face.
Adding to the tension, Mollo told Maxboxing there won’t be a fight unless he comes into the ring second. Mollo, from Chicago, felt slighted the first time around for having to come into the ring first in his hometown.
“I’m not walking out first in my hometown again,” Mollo said. “There won’t be a co-main event on ESPN if I’m not announced second.”
Not so fast, says Szpilka.
“Mollo will go first,” Szpilka said. “I’m undefeated and I’ve already beat him. He’ll go first.”
When approached by Maxboxing, Mollo reaffirmed his position.
“No,” Mollo said. “There won’t be a fight unless I come into the ring second. They can sue me all they want. I don’t care.”
8 Count Productions told Maxboxing the issue will be resolved. However, one thing is sure – there’s going to be a fight.