By Thomas Scherr: This Friday in Pittsburgh, PA Monty Meza-Clay faces former International Boxing Federation featherweight titlist Eric Aiken in the headline bout of ESPN 2’s Friday Night Fights. This bout will help prove whether Meza-Clay is a legitimate contender in the Featherweight division or just a regional draw with a padded record.
Monty Meza-Clay compiled an impressive 26-1 (17 knockouts) record fighting mostly in Pittsburgh and the surrounding area. He has firmly established himself as the best fighter in the region, ahead of former top amateur Verquan Kimbrough and heavyweight contender Brian Minto. Meza-Clay’s first step up in class came in December of 2005 when he faced Shamir Reyes for the IBA Super featherweight title. Meza-Clay won a close but unanimous decision, as his high work rate and incredible hand speed kept his opponent on the defensive throughout the fight. Cracks in Meza-Clay’s armor were apparent as showed a lack of head movement and was hit more than he should have been.
Two fights later Meza-Clay fought Edner Cherry in Tampa, and his defensive weaknesses were certainly on display. Cherry used his six inch height advantage and a solid jab to keep Meza-Clay at a distance from the opening bell. Cherry tagged Meza-Clay repeatedly with headshots, and while Meza Clay fought valiantly, the referee was forced to stop the fight in the eleventh round due to the accumulation of punches. Since then Meza-Clay has gone on a six fight win streak (4 KOs) albeit against limited opposition.
In Eric Aiken, Meza-Clay will find a true test of his skills. Aiken is a true featherweight, so he will not have the natural weight advantage that Edner Cherry had, who fights at lightweight and junior welterweight. Aiken has fought top fighters in the divisions, including an upset victory over previously unbeaten Valdemir Pereira for the IBF championship, a technical decision loss to current IBF champion Robert Guerrero, and a draw with tough veteran Cruz Carbajal, so he should be a great measuring stick for the 27 year old prospect.
This fight will define Meza-Clay’s career path. A win would likely make him a top 10 contender, with more nationally televised fights and possibly even a major title shot in his future. A loss would define him as a regional showcase fighter, and would end his hopes of gaining national prominence. To win Meza-Clay will have to show improved defense and head movement, as Aiken will hold a five inch height advantage. It will be interesting to see if Meza Clay can take a giant step towards a title shot this Friday.