By Cliff Rold, photo by Chris Farina/Top Rank
In a spirited main event between quality rising young Jr. Featherweights, 25-year old Teon Kennedy (17-1-2, 7 KO) of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and 25-year old Christopher Martin (23-1-3, 6 KO) of Chula Vista, California, both managed to avoid a second consecutive defeat in their careers. Instead, they settled for a dramatic draw over ten rounds on Friday night at the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas, Nevada.
Both men weighed in a half-pound below the division limit of 122 lbs. The referee was Jay Nady.
Martin landed first after a few misses from both, a single quick left jab. Kennedy responded by moving forward with his own left lead. They traded jabs, Martin pushing an off balance right uppercut and missing with a wide left hook. Both men missed big shots near the ropes, both men struggling with timing each other. Kennedy blocked a three-punch combination, and then took a shot to the body, in the closing seconds.
A lead left landed for Martin as he circled to his left near the start of the second. In close quarters at ring center, Kennedy started to land to the body and, moments later, near the ropes, just missed with a left. Martin found three rights in the final minute and then another pair of quick blows.
A Kennedy right over the top caught Martin on the side of the head after each man took turns measuring with the jab in the third. Kennedy landed another right in a close quarters exchange near the ropes. A partly blocked Martin left caught Kennedy but it was Kennedy again to the body as the fight moved towards the ropes. A counter Kennedy right landed as Martin attempted a lazy right uppercut. Kennedy used the opportunity to open up briefly as Martin went to the ropes. A Martin flurry closed the frame, countering a missing Kennedy right.
The more active Kennedy pressed the action at the start of the fourth, Martin attempting big shots between attacks. Into the final minute, Kennedy was struggling to find openings while Martin landed some stiff uppercuts and thudding single body punches. A hard Martin right landed in the final ten seconds.
With Martin again against the ropes, Kennedy did quality work in the fifth, landing a right, then a left and right. A left hook landed as Martin moved into a corner again shortly after. Martin tightened his defense, blocking as Kennedy came forward, countering Kennedy with a right to the body.
Referee Jay Nady warned Kennedy for a low blow in the sixth, Kennedy also landing a sharp left before the break. Both men landed lefts just before the midway mark. Still being out thrown, it was Martin landing the clean single shots in the second half of the round. In the closing seconds, Kennedy broke through with a left uppercut, Martin responding with a shot to the body.
Swelling around the right eye, Kennedy took a counter left and answered with a straight right in the first minute of round seven. Kennedy drew a second warning for low blows and seemed to slow his attack. Martin took advantage, throwing more as the fight reached a pace he liked. Kennedy went to the floor in the waning seconds, Nady correctly ruling a slip.
In round eight, the steady flow of Kennedy punches resumed, out-countering Martin through the first half while also landing first most often. Two body blows and a left to the head landed for Kennedy near the corner inside the final minute. Martin managed a few clean counters in the final twenty seconds, but all one at a time.
There was more bounce in the step of Martin to start the ninth but the game of hard counters versus volume would not abate. It was a scoring nightmare and anyone’s fight heading into the tenth and final round.
Both men came out winging but not much was landing early in the round. Martin landed a hard right counter off the ropes but stayed against the strands as Kennedy stayed touching him, waiting for a chance to land a loaded bomb. They traded to the body before leaning against each other to catch their breath. A crisp Martin left off the ropes seemed to stun Kennedy but he kept his feet. Moments later, again with Martin to the ropes, it was Kennedy with a couple of big lefts. Both men let their hands go at the clap to signal the final ten seconds and the fight went into the hands of the judges.
Ultimately, there would be no victor. The greater activity of Kennedy carried one card at 97-93 but was overruled by twin counts of 95-95. It was hard to fault the decision and fans got their money’s worth without a conclusive ending.
The televised card kicked off in the Jr. Welterweight division.
25-year old Cuban former World Amateur Champion and 2008 Olympic Bronze Medalist Yordenis Ugas (11-0, 5 KO), 141 ½, of Miami, Florida, used an early knockdown and consistent attack to earn a lopsided unanimous decision in the televised opener. Ugas was never seriously tested on the night but 31-year old Esteban Almaraz (10-5, 4 KO), 142, of Harlingen, Texas, gave a respectable effort for all eight rounds.
The knockdown came in the very first round, Ugas using a left to the body to blind Almaraz to a right coming over the top. Almaraz rose quickly and didn’t appear particularly hurt. Coming into the bout, Almaraz had never failed to finish. Ugas never really forced the issue enough to see if he could change that. Almaraz worked hard and managed to get on the board on two of the judges scores but it was a moral victory alone, Ugas hand raised at 79-72 twice and a shutout 80-71.
The referee was Hall of Famer Joe Cortez.
The card was televised in the U.S. on ESPN2 as part of its “Friday Night Fights” series, promoted by Top Rank.
Cliff Rold is a member of the Ring Magazine Ratings Advisory Panel, the Yahoo Pound for Pound voting panel, and the Boxing Writers Association of America. He can be reached at [email protected]