By Jake Donovan
It’s been a week and Argenis Mendez still wonders how he managed no better than a majority draw in his August 23 title defense against Arash Usmanee.
As bitter of a taste the final decision leaves in his mouth, it beats what almost was the alternative – the fight not happening at all.
“I said before the fight that I had a tough opponent in front of me and I was prepared to win. But I missed four days of training due to being sick,” Mendez reveals of the struggles he endured towards the tail end of training camp. “I couldn’t even swallow food or water without throwing it up.
“I know I won the fight, but also know I could’ve done better. I felt weakened going in, and my team wanted to cancel the fight,” Mendez continues. “But I refused to accept that, because I want to change the profile of Dominican fighters. I wasn’t in my best condition, but I proved that the Dominican Republic has a great champion.”
The bout—which took place at Turning Stone Casino in Verona, NY—headlined the 2013 season finale of ESPN2’s Friday Night Fight series. Many viewers saw Mendez (22-2-1, 11KO) serve up a boxing clinic for the majority of the fight, but Usmanee was inexplicably rewarded for what largely amounted to ineffective aggression.
Mendez’ weakened physical state was a factor in the later rounds. The Dominican talent slowed down tremendously by the 10th round, at which point Usmanee was able to make things far more interesting than should have been the case.
By night’s end, Usmanee won on one judges card (115-113), only for the boxing public to be spared a completely horrendous decision when the other two officials turned in identical cards of 114-114 each. The majority draw was not the decision Mendez, but could have actually turned into a loss had a knockdown been ruled after the defending titlist touched his glove to the canvas late in the 12th round.
“Thank God we escaped with the title, even if the judges were unfair to me,” Mendez says. “Maybe it wasn’t my best fight, but as the champion I clearly did enough to defend my title and should’ve won a unanimous decision. It’s amazing that none of the judges saw me win.”
The 12-round 130 lb. title fight marked Mendez’ first defense of the belt he won via 4th round stoppage of Juan Carlos Salgado in their rematch this past March. The feat avenged a loss in Sept. ’11, as Salgado survived a 12th round knockdown to take a unanimous decision and the vacant title.
Mendez’ headlining appearance also marked the official promotional debut of former heavyweight king Mike Tyson. The card was promoted by Iron Mike Productions, which is largely a formation between Tyson and Acquinity Sports’ boxing division.
Jake Donovan is the Managing Editor of Boxingscene.com, as well as a member of Transnational Boxing Ratings Board and the Boxing Writers Association of America. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox