Commentary

Experienced Arnaoutis ready to tangle with Tyner

Lanardo Tyner has a sterling 19-0 record. Mike Arnaoutis has fought the better competition. Who will have the edge when they climb into the ring?

Updated: May 8, 2008, 9:27 AM ET
By Joe Tessitore | ESPN.com

Mike ArnaoutisAP Photo/Eric JamisonAt 28, Mike Arnaoutis, left, must act now if he's to live up to his vast potential.
A fighter with a record of 19-0 is in the main event of this week's "Friday Night Fights." He's taking on a younger boxer who has two losses and a draw on his professional ledger.

An advantage for the older unbeaten, right? Wrong!

At 32, Lanardo Tyner is older and has a perfect mark (19-0, 11 KOs), but that age doesn't equal experience, and that unblemished record isn't built on sturdy bricks.

"I want to prove to the world that I'm an up-and-coming fighter, and I'm not ducking nobody," Tyner said.

Ducking, at least the kind that slips incoming punches, would be a good thing this week. By far, Tyner will fight the best opponent he has ever faced.

"Mighty" Mike Arnaoutis, 28, has taken an interesting path in this game.

He just as easily could be an unbeaten world titlist instead of a contender looking for another shot. Arnaoutis is on the outside looking in on the alphabet soup organization's top-10 lists. It's fitting that he now looks to give his career a boost on our network. He's the first boxer I know of who is a product of ESPN's far-stretching reach.

"I was born in Athens," Arnaoutis said. "My father was an amateur boxer when I was young, and I used to go to the gym and watch him train when I was 12. That's when I started boxing. I watched Muhammad Ali's classic fights on the TV; we had ESPN there."

Who knew that all those endless hours of Ali fights that are burned into your digital cable guide display penetrated Greece? Glad they did, because they have brought the fight game a solid junior welterweight.

[+] EnlargeMike Arnaoutis
Chris Cozzone/FightWireImagesArnaoutis, left, had Ricardo Torres in all sorts of trouble, but couldn't put the durable Colombian away.
Arnaoutis' career is peppered with matchups against 140-pound peers. He had a draw with future titlist Juan Urango. He knocked out the iron-chinned Jesse Feliciano in one round. He lost a controversial WBO title fight to Ricardo Torres. Then he lost a decision to the very talented Kendall Holt.

This natural southpaw could easily be a 21-win fighter with a WBO belt wrapped around his waist. Instead, he is the victim of close fights against comparable competition.

After the loss to Holt in April 2007, he took nearly a full year off. Most recently, he bounced back with a dominating distance performance over Harrison Cuello nine weeks ago.

The target for the Atlantic City-based Greek import is now Tyner. Tyner's a Detroit native who got a late start to the fight game. As the story goes, he was 26 years old when barbershop talk became boxing-gym reality.

"I was actually getting a haircut, and two guys came in and they knew the barber," Tyner said. "We were talking, and they said they were boxers. I was like, 'I can do that. I always wanted to do that.' It happened that one of the barber's fathers was a trainer. He told me where [the gym] was at, so I went up there. I was telling those guys I could fight, and nobody wanted to believe me. I said, 'I could get up there right now.'"

He got in the ring with a young pro and knocked him out.

Fast-forward 16 amateur fights, and at the ripe age of 29, Tyner turned pro. He has since feasted against weaker opponents in the cozy confines of Michigan. He has had only two fights outside of his home state -- one in Illinois and one in Texas, where he currently trains. Now he heads to Atlantic City, where Arnaoutis makes his American home base.

"I been trying to fight undefeated guys and good guys, but they ain't been wanting to fight me," Tyner said.

Now one does want to fight him. This isn't barbershop chitchat; it's the real deal, a tough test with the unbeaten now playing the role of underdog.

Joe Tessitore is the blow-by-blow announcer for ESPN2's "Friday Night Fights."

Joe Tessitore has been the blow-by-blow announcer for ESPN2's "Friday Night Fights" and "Wednesday Night Fights" since 2002 and contributes a weekly boxing column to ESPN.com.