It should be a hot night in Carson, California on Saturday night. About 7,000 fanatic boxing heads, most of them rabid supporters of Mexican fighters, will be in attendance at the Stub Hub Center. Many of them may be consuming alcoholic beverages. The hot lights and HD television cameras of Showtime will also be in the building to broadcast the proceedings to all of us that cannot be there. We may even see some celebrities like Jack Nicholson in the house!
Most importantly though, the card put on by Golden Boy Promotions will feature two title bouts that should produce outstanding action. In the main event, three division titlist Abner Mares (26-0-1) will defend his WBC featherweight title against former two bantamweight and featherweight titlist Johnny Gonzalez (54-8). Mares is a terrific young fighter who has already won three major world titles in three weight classes at 27 years of age. He has victories over Vic Darchinyan, Joseph Agbeko (twice), Anselmo Moreno and Daniel Ponce de Leon. As an amateur, he was a 2004 Olympian for Mexico. He is a terrific boxer with an aggressive offensive style. With all that in mind, it is easy to see why he is becoming a centerpiece of Golden Boy’s efforts as he has been featured in the Showtime bantamweight tournament, was given the co-feature spot on Floyd Mayweather’s last pay per view outing, headlined at the Staples Center in Los Angeles, California and will be a star of the upcoming Spanish-language reality show, “Golden Boys.” Mares is clearly a fighter on the rise.
On the other hand, Gonzalez seems to be a fighter that is on his way down. Despite being only 31 years old, Gonzalez has been a professional for 14 years and has 8 losses. In three high profile title fights, against Israel Vasquez, Gerry Penalosa and Toshiaki Nishioka, he was knocked out. In his last title fight, against Daniel Ponce de Leon, he lost his WBC featherweight title by decision against a fighter who is not known as very skilled boxer. That said, he is a big puncher who has knocked out notable foes such as Rogers Mtagwa, Hozumi Hasegawa, Roger “Speedy” Gonzalez and Gabriel Elizondo. In fact, Gonzalez even owns a 2006 knock out victory over hall of famer Mark “Too Sharp” Johnson (in Johnson’s last fight and at a time when he was clearly past his prime). He also owns a split -decision win against Fernando Montiel in a terribly boring 2006 fight. Putting that aside, Gonzlez is generally an exciting fighter but who is clearly on the back nine of his career.
Thus, it is no surprise that Mares is a big favorite (www.bet365.com lists Gonzalez at 7-1; www.sportbet.com has Mares at -1370 and Gonzalez at +750; www.bovada.lv lists Mares at -1200 and Gonzalez at +700). Indeed, Mares is fresher, faster and stronger. He was also able to stop Ponce de Leon while Gonzalez was not so it could even be argued that Mares may be the better puncher at 126 pounds. Whether he boxes, pressures, throws major power shots or just overwhelms Gonzalez with activity… Mares is the pick.
Interestingly, the co-featured bout on Saturday also involves long odds. Former IBF bantamweight titlise Leo Santa Cruz (24-0-1) is a massive favorite to dethrone WBC junior featherweight titlist Victor Terrazas (37-2-2) (Bet365 lists Terrazas as a 9-2 underdog; SportBet has Santa Cruz at -750 and Terrazas at +525; and Bovada has Santa Cruz at -700 and Terrazas at +450). Despite the odds, many boxing insiders (Doug Fischer or Ring Magazine and Dan Rafael of ESPN, for example) are giving Terrazas shot to win. After losing his first professional fight by knockout (which he later avenged by knockout), Terrazas went undefeated in his next 26 bouts to set up a title elimination bout in England with Rendall Munroe. He lost that fight (more on that below) but followed it up with 11 wins including decision victories over notable fighters such as former WBA interim bantamweight titlist Nehomar Cermeno, Montiel and former unified super flyweight titlist Cristian Mijares. During that stretch, Terrazas also captured the title that is on the line against Santa Cruz and showed that he is an aggressive boxer who is willing to mix it up, especially against classy boxers.
Santa Cruz meanwhile is riding high on his 5-0 record in 2012 which won him the IBF bantamweight title, got him exposure on Showtime and CBS, put him in the discussion for the “Fighter of the Year” award and eventually led to him being showcased on the Mayweather-Robert Guerrero pay per view show. However, his level of competition can be scrutinized because during that stretch he faced 8-loss Alejandro Hernandez, unheralded South African Vusi Malinga, a shopworn Eric Morel, an outmatched Victor Zaleta, the unbeaten but untested Alberto Guevara and the smaller and shot Alexander Munoz. What cannot be scrutinized is his talent, endurance and the level of excitement he brings to a telecast. Simply put, Santa Cruz walks forward and throws a ton of punches, most of them with incredibly bad intentions. In particular, his body punching is tremendous and has left your author grabbing his midsection after watching one of Santa Cruz’ bouts from approximately 2,800 miles away. Even more spectacular is the Santa Cruz can maintain such an offensive onslaught while still being responsible defensively. Indeed, in none of his recent fights has Santa Cruz taken good number of punches.
That isn’t a good sign for Terrazas. When Terrazas faced Munroe, he outboxed the Brit during the fitst four rounds. Then, Munroe’s pressure and body shots began to take effect and Terrazas got stuck on the ropes and his energy quickly faded. Eventually, he was stopped by a body shot in the 9th round. Santa Cruz is much more brutal than Munroe and has heavier hands. Santa Cruz is the pick.
For some other picks, we go to ESPN2’s Friday Night Fights and overseas. FNF will feature a main event where Argenis Mendez (21-2) will defend his IBF junior lightweight title against Arash Usmanee (20-1). Usmanee really opened eyes and impressed a lot of people when he used a pressure style to wear down and beat the more talented former Cuban amateur Rances Barthelemy (the judges gave Barthelemy the decision which was competely deplorable – Usmanee should still be undefeated). He also holds wins over undefeated fighters Chris Howard and Alan Paredes. Simply put, I am really tempted to pick Usmanee despite the odds (Bet365 lists him as a 7-2 underdog; and Sportbet has Usmanee by +425 and Mendez at -550). There were also reports in March of this year that Mendez would move up to lightweight because of problems making 130 pounds. However, Mendez was a talented amateur who insiders predicted big things for as a professional. Those predictions cooled after an eight round split decision loss to the unheralded Jamie Sandoval and especially when lost his first title challenge to Juan Carlos Salgado. In that second loss though, he came on late and dropped Salgado in the 12th. As a response to that loss, Mendez won two fights in a row to secure a rematch with Salgado where he dominated his rival and stopped him in 4 rounds. Mendez is more talented than Usmanee and he is on quite a roll. If his weight is right and he is motivated, he should beat Usmanee… Mendez is the pick.
In Germany, there is a card featuring Arthur Abraham and Jurgen Brahmer facing overmatched foes (12-1 and 8-1 respectively) that I will not discuss. The interesting fight on the card is Kubrat Pulev (17-0) facing Tony Thompson (38-3) in an elimination fight to determine Wladimir Klitschko’s next IBF mandatory challenger. Pulev was a highly regarded amateur (though not an Olympian) who has amassed an undefeated professional record with knock out victories over notables such as Derric Rossy, Michael Sprott, Alexander Dimitrenko and the undefeated Alexander Ustinov. Indeed, those last two foes were 6’7 and 6’8, both taller than Thompson. While Thompson’s kryptonite has been the 6’7 Klitschko, he has knocked out 6’8 David Price twice this year to put himself in this position. Thus, you may be thinking Thompson is a good pick, especially with his power, southpaw stance and experience (and the odds, Bet365 lists Thompson as a 4-1 underdog; SportBet has Thompson at +550 and Pulev at -800). I just find it hard to believe that the 41 year old Washington, DC native can pull off a third upset in 7 months. Plus, I have had a terrible time picking underdogs recently so I am going with the chalk this week… Pulev is the pick.
Author’s Record for the Year: 48-17-3 (In the 4th round of last week’s Andrezej Fonfara-Gabriel Campillo fight, I was thinking I had another six for six week and was in the money. Then, Campillo got stopped and the wheels fell off. Enzo Maccirenlli, who I declared shot, scored a knockout victory dripping my weekend to 1-2. Sergey Kovalev stopped the bleeeding by knocking out Nathan Cleverly but I took two more losses when Kiko Martinez stopped Johnatan Rhomero and Darren Barker edged out Daniel Geale in a very exciting fight. A 2-4 weekend is unacceptable and I apologize).