(Dierry Jean connects on Cleotis Pendarvis; credit: Tom Casino, Showtime)
Nearly three years ago on a trip to Montreal for the light heavyweight clash between Jean Pascal and Chad Dawson, the one fighter on the undercard who made an impression on me was Dierry Jean. Watching him struggle with Cleotis Pendarvis on ShoBox Friday night through three rounds, I began to wonder whether I had overrated him back then. But with a deep gash in his eye at the start of the 4th round, Jean found a laser overhand right that put Pendarvis down and nearly out. Suddenly, I was wondering whether I had, in fact, underrated him. Jean closed the show with his badly hurt opponent against the ropes and the referee had no choice but to step in and call it a technical knockout.
The junior welterweights had been playing a high-speed game of cat-like pattycake through three rounds, with most of the rounds interchangeable. Both were quick, both were setting traps and countering, both displayed good reflexes and defensive instincts. I had it 2-1 through three for Jean, but it could've been the other way around, too. The head butt swayed the 3rd on my card; Jean's right eye was cut right on the outside, but it was a long, deep hole and the bleeding might have trickled over into his field of vision. Or maybe Pendarvis, seeing blood, began to find a home for his punches at the end of that round because he had some crimson to target. The blood might've sharpened Jean's focus too in the 4th, though, because that right hand was on the money. That Pendarvis was incredibly able to get up at all might've been what saved him from being on the wrong end of a KO of the Year candidate.
As if the 140-pound division wasn't deep enough, Jean just announced his arrival. True, Pendarvis doesn't have a really notable win on his record, but he has close losses to Mauricio Herrera and Terrence Cauthen, and he's made a name for himself on the Southern California sparring circuit against top pros like Shane Mosley and Antonio Margarito. This was a good win, one that shows Jean can handle adversity against an authentic, tricky, southpaw pro and rise to the occasion. He's next in line for Lamont Peterson's alphabet strap, but Peterson is tied up through at least next weekend against Lucas Matthysse, and the winner might face Danny Garcia next, so don't count on Jean getting in there against a top guy until fall at the earliest. While he's not yet in the league of that trio, Jean did show he'd be a viable opponent for the winner of that round-robin, at minimum.
On the undercard, John Thompson won a middleweight unanimous decision against fellow undefeated Geovanni Rodriguez, but neither of them wore the role of "prospect" all that well. Thompson had size (6'1"), wingspan (77"), speed and reflexes on his side, but he punched sloppily and bent his neck back at a 45 degree angle with every shot, so much so that if he meets anyone with a modicum of countering ability and punching power, you have to figure he gets knocked out. Still, after some seesaw early rounds, Thompson began to work from long range and dial in sharper right hands, with a left hook and then a jab dropping Rodriguez in the 4th and a right cross hurting him badly in the 10th. Thompson's trunks were 'merican-themed and tasseled, so he has crazy fashion going for him, but he needs to work on his punch technique and what he's doing with his chin way up there before he can be considered even "someone to watch."