Don't blink! All-action fighters ready to rumble on FNF
Andrey Tsurkan likes to punish his opponents. Jesse Feliciano has a knack for blocking punches with his concrete chin. Joe Tessitore guarantees brutality when the fighters meet on Friday.
Updated: April 24, 2008, 11:22 AM ETBy Joe Tessitore | ESPN.com
This week on "Friday Night Fights," two guys are going to beat the hell out of each other.There you go. Can I end my column now? Trust me on this. That simple and crude analysis is not far off from all that needs to be written. Our main event is anticipated excitement and just about guaranteed brutality. Andrey Tsurkan is taking on Jesse Feliciano. If you are a hard-core fan, you know what that means. Tsurkan loves to throw bombs in the form of head-crushing left hooks, while Feliciano has never met a punch he didn't welcome and withstand. Both guys are as tough as forged steel. Tsurkan, 30, grew up in Lugansk, Ukraine. You can imagine what it looks like just by saying the name -- "Lugansk" -- cue the gray clouds, dark and grimy industrial buildings and weathered streets filled with ragtag gangs. Lugansk! Tsurkan's father worked construction underground in train tunnels. Meanwhile, on the gravel-eroding asphalt above, Andrey was surviving street fights in what he describes as "a bad neighborhood."
Feliciano grew up in Las Vegas as a proud Puerto Rican, having to endure gym wars and professional fights against hard-nosed Mexican-American warriors. He turned pro at the tender age of 19. Tender didn't last long, though. A baptism by fire followed. In just six years, Feliciano faced a list of fighters far beyond what other prospects would consider taking on. Both men are committed pros and are willing to sacrifice everything to win. Those in the know say Tsurkan trains harder than any fighter they've seen. "If they knew the way I trained Andrey, they would arrest me like Michael Vick," manager Anthony Fiorino said. "He never once says, 'Enough.' He's like, 'Come on, what do you want me to do next?'" Feliciano (15-6-3, 9 KOs) is no slouch himself. In recent years, he has been training nonstop against top talent in Vegas. In his free time, he crawls through air conditioning ducts in 100-plus-degree heat to help his father. "I think it's going to be a good fight and exciting," Fiorino said. "It's definitely going to be one for the fans. Jesse loves to fight for the fans." The last time I called one of his bouts, Feliciano was fighting for more than just the fans. He was going up against then-IBF welterweight titlist Kermit Cintron. Jesse gave one of the best examples of pure heart I've ever seen. But perhaps he showed so much heart because he was fighting with a broken heart. On June 11, 2007, Jesse celebrated the birth of his first child. Thirteen hours later, he suffered through the horror of his son's death. "It was probably the biggest reason why I lost to Kermit Cintron," Feliciano said. "I'm not making any excuses, but I took the fight a little too soon. Emotionally, I wasn't there, but physically, I was. I tried." Jesse did more than just try. He made a very close fight out of what, on paper at least, appeared to be a mismatch of skills. Cintron was landing clean head punches consistently. Jesse shook them off and kept pressing forward in an effort that made Rocky Balboa look like he had no chin. Finally (and only because of the pure quantity of unanswered punches in Round 10) the fight was stopped in Cintron's favor. Feliciano never went down. Jake LaMotta would have been humbled to have seen it ringside. Tsurkan (25-3, 16 KOs) provided one of my other highlights of 2007. His one-punch left hook knockout of Sammy Sparkman was sensational. There's something about a snapping left hook landing flush that just instantly hits every neuron in a fight fan's senses. Tsurkan's left hook was sent forth with laser-beam speed and a sledgehammer thud. Lugansk! I sense that Tsurkan will land another one like that on the defensively open Feliciano. But how will Tsurkan react when Feliciano takes it, laughs and throws a right hand right back at him? I can't wait to find out. Like I said, two guys just beating the hell out of each other. Joe Tessitore is the blow-by-blow announcer for ESPN2's "Friday Night Fights."
Bryan Crowe/FightWireImagese.comJesse Feliciano, left, absorbed an uncanny amount of punishment before being rescued by the referee against Kermit Cintron.