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Friday Night Fights: Mollo and Szpilka put on another show in Chicago

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It was a historic night on the south side this past Friday night inside of US Celluar Field when ESPN2’s Friday Night Fights went down under the beautiful Chicago sky. It was the first outdoor boxing event in the city in fifty years. It was a night filled with action, knockouts and even a few surprises. The biggest surprise may have been the weather which checked in at 73 degrees with 52 percent humidity. As someone who lives in the city I can tell you this is not your typical August evening. Which makes sense that on a special night the weather came through magnificently and set the stage for some great fights. Let us take a look at the rematch for the night.

The night started with a look back at one of the best fights of the series this year. It was a heavyweight battle between Mike Mollo and Artur Szpilka. Before the rematch started the first bout between these two was broadcast at the stadium and for the viewers at home. Both fights had their similarities, including the same result, but they also had some key differences. One of them being the referee.

The first fight was simply a boxing brawl. Mollo had been inactive for over two years and looked it. Teddy Atlas lets us know that Szpilka’s camp had selected Mollo for his straight forward basic style. You do not have to chase Mollo as he will be in your face the whole fight. He was able to put Szpilka down twice before he finally lost the fight in the sixth round via TKO. By that point in the fight Mollo was sporting a bloody mask and a cut on each side of his face courtesy of an elbow and head butt from his opponent.

Fortunately Szpilka was able to score the TKO to clearly win this fight. The referee’s actions in this fight would have guaranteed a controversy for sure if it had gone to a decision. Right from the first round when the ref was swearing at Mollo; it seemed like he had a bias in this fight. He was constantly on Mollo throughout the fight though he was the one that received the damage in all of the exchanges. It culminated when the ref took a point away from Mollo without a warning. Szpilka leaned forward off balance into Mollo who just leaned back on him and Szpilka went down. If anything both fighters should have been warned, instead he deducted a point from Mollo. Throughout the fight Teddy Atlas was calling for the commission to look into the ref’s actions in this fight.

For the rematch you are looking forward to these two squaring off without the interjections of a clearly biased referee. This is Chicago and things are a little different here and sure enough the same ref is scheduled to work the fight. This apparently caused Mollo to go ballistic when he arrived to the venue and fortunately the refs were switched. Apparently the commission was too busy to look into the first fight because there is no way you would bring him back for the rematch if they did.

Mollo was clearly in better shape for the rematch but it did not change the results. Just like the first fight Mollo is able to send Szpilka to the canvas first in the third round. It looked like Szpilka was about to close out the fight as he had Mollo in trouble against the ropes. Suddenly Mollo catches him with a short left hook and it stuns Szpilka who literally paused before stumbling backwards to the canvas. If Mollo throws a right hand in that moment instead of raising his hands he might have ended the fight. Instead Szpilka gets back up and survives the round.

That moment might have been Mollo’s chance to win the fight. They happen in just an instant and it is easier to see for the observer than it is for the fighter. It is the ability to recognize those moments amidst the chaos and violence that separates the greats from the rest. You cannot really criticize Mollo for raising his hands, he was getting battered and landed a nice shot that sent Szpilka down. There are a lot of fighters that would not have gotten back up from that shot. Szpilka was not one of them however, he came back in the next round and laid Mollo out with a beautiful left hook that ended the fight.

This was the fitting ending to the classic battle between these two fighters. It was clean and controversy free. Both fighters looked in shape for this fight and gave us another action packed struggle. It was back and forth with both fighters again getting up close and personal with the canvas. They both showed that they have a lot of heart, but in Mollo’s case he could use a little elusiveness to go with it. Between their two fights they gave us almost twelve rounds of some of the most entertaining action of the year. It included the winner, Szpilka, getting knocked down three times total but always rising back up. Meanwhile Mollo just kept coming until forward leading with his chin and heart until getting KO’d. The first fight was marred not by the KO but instead the questionable antics of the referee and had Mollo’s corner enraged at the end of that fight. It was a much better image to see the two fighters with their arms raised and embracing each other with smiles after this one. The battles between these two fighter are a perfect example of what this series is all about.

via Dwayne Wolff

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