Expect hard-hitting action at the Hard Rock

6/27/2006 - Boxing

Traveling on the ESPN boxing circuit brings you more casino visits than a slot repairman. One thing you learn quickly is that the buffet is a point of great pride. It's all about variety, just like a good night at the fights.

This week, "Friday Night Fights" is at the Seminole Hard Rock in Hollywood, Fla. It is a plush palace with that Hard Rock flair. But unlike every other casino we seem to set foot in, you're not going to find any all-you-can-eat here.

The Hard Rock doesn't offer a buffet. Just like you wouldn't see Paris Hilton shopping at Wal-Mart. Yet this Friday, the restaurant is making an exception. The Hard Rock is putting on a spread that rivals any smorgasbord the Vegas strip has ever seen.

This feast has multicultural and ethnic pride, American classics and even some comfort food from when you were a kid.

It's not a buffet, though -- it's the fight card.

An undefeated Colombian and native Tunisian is the world title main course. The carving station includes cruiserweight contender Dale Brown, who is as steady and consistent as his Canadian home's very own cowboy cut rib-eye steak. And just in case you forgot what Mom's meat loaf tastes like, there's the return to action of former heavyweight champion Oliver McCall.

"It should be a fun show," said Leon Margules, the head of Warriors Boxing, the Hard Rock's in-house promoter.

Fun is a relative term when you hold the promotional rights to a power-punching junior welterweight world title hopeful. Juan Urango (16-0-1, 13 KOs) has a bright future, and the Hard Rock is banking on it. If everything goes according to plan, it will be a fun night for the local fans.

Urango is 25 years old and unbeaten. He is fighting Naoufel Ben Rabah (24-1, 13 KOs) for the IBF 140-pound title vacated by Ricky Hatton (ESPN2, 9 p.m. ET on Friday).

Urango has that look in the ring that grabs your attention.

"He is a little Tyson. From the back he looks just like him. He fights just like him also, just left-handed," Margules said.

There is one other difference. Urango is very religious and practices what is preached.

"I've been waiting for this for my whole life," Urango said. "And with the glory of God and the guidance of God, I feel that I will reach the heights that I need to reach."

Word is he goes to church every day. He once felt uncomfortable about taking sponsorship money from a beer company. You get the idea. Fight like Mike Tyson, live like Mother Teresa.

Fellow southpaw Naoufel Ben Rabah is all that stands between Urango and a world title. His first name is pronounced NO-fell; fittingly, he hasn't fallen as a pro.

Ben Rabah lost a 12-round decision more than four years ago in Australia as the only blemish on his record. When asked what he thinks of Urango, Naoufel simply acknowledged, "He's a big puncher."

That big puncher brings the left hand crashing in so hard that he even hurts himself. Urango is coming off the longest layoff of his career. He last fought in August 2005 when he knocked out Andre Eason.

Then, in January of this year, Urango underwent surgery. Doctors removed cartilage and scarring built up on his middle knuckle. It was a result of the thunderous pounding of that money-making left hand.

"My left hand feels very good," Urango said. "I've been hitting with it extremely hard. I feel like it's going to be much stronger than in the past."

His past includes growing up as a twin brother on a farm in Monteria, Colombia. At 10 years old, his love for boxing overtook his family chores. Juan never looked back. He was a five-time national amateur champ, but his style was pure pro.

Urango is a hard hitter who hunts opponents down and at times neglects defense. It sounds like he could be not just a world champion but the kind of world champion you want to watch.

Margules has been sold on him for a long time: "He is the next great fighter at 140 pounds."

Finding out if it's true should be fun.

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