ESPN Friday Night Fights: Mendez vs. Barthelemy

There's no doubt that professional boxing has seen a precarious drop in popularity since peaking in the late 1980s. Dismayed by lackluster bouts orchestrated by conniving promoters, former fans have flocked to the comparatively fierce combatants of mixed martial arts. Following such a tumultuous slide, it's strangely fitting to see Mike Tyson watching over a world he once dominated. The undisputed heavyweight champ by the age of 20, Tyson fought with a ferocity known to utterly terrify his opponents. His electrifying rise was countered only by the unsavory details of his fall, including the infamous gnawing of an opponent's ear and a conviction for rape. Still a polarizing figure, Tyson nevertheless has a laudable achievement in Iron Mike Productions, a boxing promotion group devoted to fostering the careers of promising young fighters. Partnering with two organizations that possess a similar ethos, Warriors Boxing and Seconds Out Promotions, Iron Mike Productions will be opening ESPN's latest season of Friday Night Fights in Minneapolis with a title match between IBF Super Featherweight Champion Argenis Mendez and undefeated challenger Rances "Kid Blast" Barthelemy. A seven-fight undercard, however, is likely to steal the spotlight by featuring four Minnesota boxers, including Osseo native Caleb "Golden" Truax, the USBA Middleweight Champion, battling former champ, Derek "Pooh" Ennis. Even Tyson will be in attendance, hoping to restore his sport's faded luster one knockout at a time. (Pictured: Caleb "Golden" Truax)
Fri., Jan. 3, 7 p.m., 2014

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