Argenis Mendez retained his IBF junior lightweight world title on Friday with a majority draw against Arash Usmanee on the first fight card promoted by former heavyweight champ Mike Tyson.
Tyson, whose ring career veered from triumph to disgrace, was much in evidence at Turning Stone Resort in Verona, New York, in his latest incarnation as the head of Iron Mike Productions.
In the main event, Dominican Mendez retained his belt against Usmanee, an Afghan-born Canadian who was getting his first world title chance.
Usmanee was the more aggressive fighter, with one judge rewarding his relentless effort by scoring the bout 115-113 in his favor.
However, the more skilled Mendez was able to avoid the worst that Usmanee had to offer and in the later rounds was able to dictate the pace and counter effectively.
The two other ringside judges scored it 114-114, allowing Mendez to keep the title he earned in March with a fourth-round knockout of Mexico’s Juan Carlos Salgado.
Mendez emerged with a record of 21-2-1 with 11 wins inside the distance, while Arash now has a record of 20-1-1 with 10 knockouts. On the undercard, Argentina’s Jesus Cuellar posted a unanimous decision over previously unbeaten Dominican Claudio Marrero to claim the WBA interim featherweight title.
Cuellar, who knocked Marrero down in the sixth round, improved to 23-1 with 18 knockouts, while Marrero fell to 14-1.
However, much of the attention on the night focused on Tyson, the Hall of Fame boxer who served time in jail for rape and infamously bit Evander Holyfield’s ear during a fight in 1997.
The self-styled “baddest man on the planet,” who won 44 of his 58 fights by knockout, said that as a promoter, he just hopes to take care of his fighters.
“The only thing I know is that at the end of the day, the fighters won’t be like Mike Tyson and say: ‘Hey, where’d my friends and money go?” said Tyson, who claimed in a 1998 lawsuit that flamboyant promoter Don King cheated him out of millions. “I want to be here and look after the best interests of the fighters. I don’t know where this is going to lead yet, this is just my first event and I’m very grateful.”
“You’re never going to hear them say: ‘Mike Tyson stole from me.’ Hopefully, they’ll never end up like me,” he said. “I’m not a magician. The only thing I can do is suggest — go in the right direction. We have to look for happiness within.”
Additional reporting by AP