A sure thing? Could it really be? Televised on premium cable? For those of you thinking its not possible, I assure you it. HBO will be televising two fights on Saturday night from San Antonio, Texas and the outcomes of those bouts are not in much doubt. The card, which will air at 10:45 pm, features WBO featherweight titlist Miguel “Mikey” Garcia (31-0) taking on former two division titlist Juan Manuel “Juanma” Lopez (33-2). In the co-feature, undefeated lightweight prospect Terrence Crawford (20-0) faces Alejandro Sanabria (34-1-1).
Garcia – Lopez is especially easy to pick and not just because Garcia won his title by destroying Orlando Salido who had won the title by knocking out Lopez on two different occasions. We all know that styles make fights and so beating the guy who beat your opponent is no sure indicator of future results. However, it is something to take into consideration. During the course of 19 rounds in their two bouts, Lopez landed some hard shots on Salido and while he hurt him on a few occasions, he never dropped him. Neither did Yuriorkis Gamboa in the 12 rounds he went with Salido. This past January, however, Garcia was able drop Salido FOUR times in eight rounds. Garcia is certainly a strong puncher. Additionally, he is the bigger man in this bout. Garcia has fought at featherweight his entire career and during the buildup to this fight, his team has talked about a need to move up to 130 pounds. Lopez, on the other hand, began his career at 122 pounds and his wins at 126 pounds were over the light hitting Steven Lueveno, the smaller Bernabe Concepcion (who floored Juanma) and faded former bantamweight and junior featherweight champion, Raul Marquez. If the size difference wasn’t enough, Garcia missed weight today by two pounds and didn’t even try to make the featherweight limit. Meanwhile, Lopez squeezed himself down to 125.5, a weight he hasn’t made since the rematch with Salido in March, 2012 (although it must be said that Lopez looked better at the weigh-in today than Garcia did).
All of that is before you get to a comparison of boxing skills. While Lopez is a gifted offensive fighter with good handspeed, his defense is horribly suspect and he does not have a granite chin. Garcia, on the otherhand, is defensively responsible and while his punch output is not high, he can lead or counter and his accuracy is deadly. That is perhaps why the oddsmakers list him as high as a 6 to 1 favorite (www.bet365.com has Garcia at 5.5 to 1; www.sportbet.com lists him at -600). The oddsmakers know what they are doing. Garcia is the pick.
You may have forgotten because of the awesome fight that followed it but Crawford was quite impressive in upsetting Bredis Prescott on the undercard of Mike Alvarado and Brandon Rios’ March rematch. He used his fundamental boxing skills, good speed and counterpunching to outpoint the larger Prescott. On Saturday, he returns to his natural weight class to face Sanabria who, although only having one loss (to a 7-8 fighter in his 26th fight!), has not faced quality opposition (his best win was over the faded and smaller Rocky Juarez in a fight close enough that one judge scored it 114-113). The quality of the talent in the lightweight division is not great and Crawford’s promoter, Top Rank, and HBO know that if he looks impressive, they can sell him as an opponent for Gamboa or popular British titlist, Ricky Burns. Thus, the plan here was to get Crawford an opponent who will make him look good. The oddsmakers agree that Sanabria is that man (Bet365 has him at 6.5 to 1). So do I… Crawford is the pick.
Other than the HBO card, the NBC Sports Network will air a card from Bethlehem, Pennsylvania on Friday night (and I hope this gets posted in time. Heavyweight prospect/contender Bryant Jennings (16-0) takes on Andrey Fedosov (24-2). Jennings proved in five fights last year that he has very good skills for a heavyweight and decent punching power. No one has ever heard of Fedosov (probably because he hasn’t fought anyone of note – his best win is against former light heavyweight contender Darnell “The Ding-a-Ling Man” Wilson and he lost a split decision to the ancient Lance Whitaker). Jennings is anywhere from a -800 (SportBet) to a 6 to 1 (Bet 365) favorite and he is possibly in line to get a shot at a Klitschko brother after they are done with Alexander Povetkin and Bermane Stiverne respectively. Jennings people are too smart to risk such a shot. Jennings is the pick. In the co-featured bout, light heavyweights Sergei Kovalev (20-0-1) and Cornelius White (21-1) face off in an elimination fight to determine IBF titlist Bernard Hopkins next mandatory challenger. If you watched the HBO broadcast, you heard Max Kellerman gush about Kovalev. Indeed, many people were extremely impressed by his 3 round destruction of quality contender Gabriel Campillo. If Kovalev wins this fight, he is not only in position to face Hopkins (who because of Karo Murat’s visa issues, has had his next bout moved to September and is looking for a new opponent) but could also be tabbed to face WBO titlist Nathan Cleverly (in a fight HBO is interested in) or new division champion Adonis Stevenson. Clearly, Kovalev is going places and he is a big favorite here (both Bet365 and SportBet have him as a 7 to 1 favorite). Kovalev is the pick.
Author’s Record for the Year: 32-11-2 (Last week, I was a terrible 3-3. I went for the upset with Josesito Lopez and although he almost had Marcos Maidana out of there in the 4th round, Maidana steamrolled Lopez for a stoppage win. Then, I called that one of the underdog-punchers group [Adonis Stevenson, Alfredo Angulo and Darleys Perez] would beat one of the favorite-skilled boxers group [Chad Dawson, Erislandry Lara and Yuriorkis Gamboa]. Unfortunately, I picked Angulo to pull the upset and although he dropped Lara twice and seemed on his way to wearing the Cuban out, he called it a day when Lara caused massive swelling to the area around Angulo’s left eye [I’m not going to criticize Angulo for quitting because 1- I have no idea how much pain/vision loss he suffered; 2- I never laced up gloves and 3- quite honestly, if Angulo makes it out of the round, the doctor probably stops it anyway]. I did not pick Stevenson who obliterated Dawson in around a minute and a half. See, that is why I was talking about sure things… we need them!)