(left to right: Argenis Mendez, event promoter Mike Tyson, Arash Usmanee; Tom Casino, Iron Mike Producions)
Disputed decisions involving Arash Usmanee served as bookends for this season of Friday Night Fights on ESPN2, and he's now been on both sides of the dispute. Few thought he deserved to lose the season debut to Rances Barthlemy back in January, and few thought he deserved to get the draw he got against Argenis Mendez in the season finale.
I scored it 115-113 for Mendez, the more talented fighter and the man who came in with a claim to be of the couple best junior lightweights in the world. I couldn't find anyone who gave it to Usmanee other than the one judge who had it 115-113 for him, and didn't even see anyone with a 114-114 scorecard like two judges had. But Mendez made it harder on himself than he had to, and Usmanee was the aggressor, and sometimes this kind of thing happens when a fight is close.
The talent gap was extremely obvious from the outset, with Mendez's speed, defense and even his stiff arming and forearming tactics making it so he resembled a poor man's Floyd Mayweather. When he had his foot on the gas in the 5th, 6th and 7th, he was the damn truth. When he didn't have the pedal anywhere near the floor, Usmanee took advantage of Mendez's passivity. Usmanee had the right game plan -- get close, throw a ton of punches -- and the fearlessness to implement it. Even in the rounds where Mendez wasn't operating at his peak, he was countering and landing the heavier, cleaner shots. Usmanee might've had Mendez hurt at the end of the 10th, but otherwise Mendez did the heavier damage.
The 12th was back and forth. It's not clear whether the referee missed a knockdown by Usmanee, since Mendez appeared to slip or may have gotten hit while off balance. ESPN2 never showed a replay, unfortunately. It would've made a difference on the scorecards, not just in swinging a win to him but maybe in turning the draw into a legitimate one.
As good as Mendez is, he still doesn't do what he ought to with all that goodness, after apparently getting his act together in the rematch with Juan Carlos Salgado. Usmanee showed he could hang with a real contender, even if the draw can only be defended as karmic restitution. It was, at least, a good fight to wrap up this season of FNF, a season that has contributed mightily to an overall excellent year of boxing in the ring in 2013.