Bettor’s Guide/Preview: Malignaggi-Judah and More!

Seven (yes 7!) fights are on premium cable this weekend.  Amazingly, most of them provide some amount of intrigue as to who may win and who could perform terribly, if not excitement.  As such, this weekend provides some significant pitfalls for gamblers looking to make money.  Hopefully, this will help you get around some of the pitfalls and make some money.

Showtime will air a quartet of fights originating from the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York.  The main event features two Brooklyn fighters facing off not for a title belt but for neighborhood bragging rights and, maybe more importantly, redemption as both are coming off losses.  Amazingly, after all the career ups and downs, Brownsville’s Zab Judah (42-8) is favored (-170 on www.sportbet.com) to beat Bensonhurst’s Paulie Malignaggi (32-5).  Judah has lost two of his last three but both losses were in junior welterweight title bouts to Amir Khan (by fifth round knockout) and Danny Garcia (by competitive unanimous decision).  While he is certainly on the downside of his career, Judah did look very good in the loss to Garcia as he survived an eighth round knock down to finish strong and hurt the champion in the 11th round.  Usually, the knock on Judah is that he will lose focus late in a fight and cruise to a decision loss.  His last fight shows that this issue may no longer be a problem. 

Malignaggi was in the midst of a career resurgence of some sort following a knock out defeat to Khan in 2009 and a move to the welterweight division.  He won five fights in a row, including a title winning stoppage (on cuts) victory over Vyacheslav Senchenko in Ukraine, before losing a split decision in his last bout to Adrien Broner.  Like Judah, Malignaggi also looked very good in the loss as he was very active and had a good punch output… his problem was that his punches did not have enough on them to keep Broner off of him. 

Both fighters are skilled offensive and defensive fighters with very good speed.  Judah has an obvious edge in power but he has not always been the sturdiest fighter and such a quality may allow Malignaggi’s punches to be able to do some damage or at least to effect Judah.  This fight is expected to be close and both fighter’s flaws make it fascinating to analyze.  Because it is so close to call, a look at the political ramifications of the fight is in order.  Malignaggi is a Showtime commentator and, according to Steve Kim of Maxboxing, is close to signing a deal with boxing’s main power broker/manager, Al Haymon.  He is also angling towards a rematch with Broner which given the contempt the two share and their outsized personalities could be a sellable fight.  Judah, on the other hand, has been given more chances than any other fighter and this could finally be the end of the line.  Malignaggi is the pick.

It the co-featured bout, Devon Alexander (25-1) defends his IBF welterweight title against prospect Shawn Porter (22-0-1).  Alexander is a huge favorite (Sportbet says -700) and there is certainly a reason for it.  He has wins against quality opponents such as Marcos Maidana, Lucas Matthysse, Juan Urango and Andriy Kotelnik and his only loss was to top fighter Timothy Bradley.  Porter, on the other hand, has not faced nearly the opposition that Alexander has and his best wins are against Julio Diaz (in a rematch of draw which Porter probably could have lost) and Alfonso Gomez.  Porter may be the bigger man but Alexander has advantages in boxing skill, experience, speed, defense and maybe even punching power (neither is one shot type of boxer).  Alexander is the easy pick in a fight that is not likely to produce much excitement.

The Brooklyn card features another fight that is not likely to be very exciting when two skilled southpaw counter-punchers meet up for the interim WBA light middleweight title.  Erislandy Lara (18-1-2) will defend the title against former titlist Austin Trout (26-1) but the Cuban is actually a small underdog here (www.bet365.com has him at 10-11; SportBet and Bovada have it an even money fight).  It is highly possible that those odds are a reflection of Trout, coming off of a close decision loss to Canelo Alvarez in highly viewed April bout, is the fighter who is more well known to the public.  They could also reflect the experts’ belief that Lara can be wildly inconsistent from fight to fight with the exception of not having a very high punch output as proved in his draws with Vanes Martirosyan (which probably should have been a close win) and Carlos Molina (which should have been a loss).  However, Lara has shown that he has good power in his left hand especially in his last fight when he came from behind to stop the rough Alfredo Angulo.  Additionally, Lara’s only “loss” was to Paul Williams in a fight that he basically roughed Williams up to the point that the commentators were calling for the bout to be stopped and the judges who awarded the bout to Williams were suspended by the commission.  That one fight alone is a better performance than any Trout, whose best win was against Delvin Rodriguez or Canelo’s brother, has had.  Lara is the pick in an ugly fight.

The first televised fight from Brooklyn will feature Sakio Bika (32-5-2) defending his WBC super middleweight title against Anthony Dirrell (-0).  Bika is a rough customer who makes for ugly fights.  When he faces the best of the best, such as newly named hall of famer Joe Calzaghe, Lucian Bute and Andre Ward, he loses.  Against all other levels of opposition, Bika does very well.  Dirrell, whose career has been beset with long layoffs (one caused by cancer, the other by a motorcycle crash) has not yet shown that he is at a world class level or even the level that his brother, Andre Dirrell was at.  This is a massive step-up in competition for Dirrell and despite not being able to find odds on this fight, one must figure he is a big underdog.  Bika is the pick.

Changing networks, HBO will air a tripleheader from Atlantic City, New Jersey.  The main event will feature another Cuban southpaw, Guillermo Rigondeaux (12-0), defending the junior featherweight championship against former bantamweight titleholder Joseph Agbeko (29-4).  Despite Rigondeaux’s well-earned reputation as being a non-entertaining fighter, he has also proven to be a remarkable boxing talent.  He captured his first title in only his seventh professional fight against the tricky Ricardo Cordoba.  He also has quickly dispatched lesser foes such as Willie Casey, Rico Ramos and Teon Kennedy.  Of course, Rigondeaux’s most impressive win came in April when he out-boxed Nonito Donaire.  While he was less than scintillating in that bout, he did overcome a 10th round knockdown to have a big final round where he hurt Donaire and closed his eye.  Agbeko, on the other hand, has had a rough go of it since defending his bantamweight title against Vic Darchiniyan in 2009.  He followed that up by losing his title to Yonnhy Perez and then beating him in the rematch.  That propelled him into the finals of Showtime’s bantamweight tournament where he lost a close decision to Abner Mares.  Since losing a wider decision to Mares in the December 2011 rematch, Agbeko has only fought once, a May decision win over a journeyman.  Now, he is stepping up in weight to face a more skilled bigger puncher.  Rigondeaux has all of the advantages and that is why he is a huge favorite (Bovada has him at -1800).  Rigondeaux is the pick.

The co-featured fight from AC is an interesting juxtaposition to the Lara-Trout contest of junior middleweight counter-punchers.  Indeed, James Kirkland (31-1) and Glen Tapia (20-0) are on the other end of the spectrum as they are come-forward bangers who care little for defense.  Kirkland, coming off of a 20 month long layoff and re-united (again) with trainer Ann Wolfe, is the bigger puncher but has had chin issues in the past.  Tapia’s record indicates that he is a slugger too but his level of opposition is limited compared to Kirkland’s.  In short, this is a fascinating match up.  If this fight was two years ago, when Kirkland defeated Angulo in an outrageous slugfest in Mexico, you would be hard-pressed to find someone who did not think that Kirkland would run over Tapia.  But now, coming back from incarceration, promotional issues and whatever weight and/or conditioning issues he may have had, Tapia’s pressure style could be one that is able to beat Kirkland (remember, Kirkland had all kinds of trouble with Molina’s mauling style before an ill-advised disqualification of Molina saved him).  Indeed, Maxboxing’s Gabriel Montoya reported on a sparring session between Kirkland and Porter where Porter seemed to get the better of a winded Kirkland and insinuated that this caused the reunion with Wolfe.  Odds on this bout could not be located but Kirkland figures to be the favorite.  But that is just based on public knowledge of the fighters.  Tapia has good management and promoters behind him and they know what they are doing.  Tapia is the pick.

The first HBO televised fight features Irish middleweight Matthew Macklin (29-5) returning from a third round body shot knockout at the hands of Gennady Golovkin to face late substitute Lamar Russ (13-0).  As ESPN’s expert commentator Teddy Atlas would surely point out, Russ is from North Carolina where you can build up a record fighting terrible opposition.  The formula of Russ jumping way up in competition on short notice simply overpowers any notions of Macklin, a world class fighter, being diminished from a body shot knockout.  Macklin is the easy pick.

If those seven picks are not enough, we will go to the European scene to give you one more selection.  British IBF middleweight titleholder Darren Barker (26-1) will travel to Germany to defend against mandatory challenger and former two time titleholder Felix Sturm (38-3-2).  The hometown hero, Sturm, has been the recipient of some favorable judging in Germany but lately he has proven to be very vulnerable.  He got a gift decision against Macklin, drew against Martin Murray, then lost to Daniel Geale and most recently lost a decision to an over-the-hill Sam Soliman who later tested positive for a banned substance.  In short, Sturm is no longer what he once was.  Barker, on the other hand, is really coming into his own following a good effort in a knockout loss to Sergio Martinez and a terrific performance in his title-winning last fight against Geale.  Additionally, Barker showed in both of those fights that he travels outside of his native England quite well.  The oddsmakers are listing this as an even fight so don’t look a gift horse in the mouth… Barker is the pick.

Author’s Record for the Year: 64-19-5 (Last week I stayed with the chalk and went 7-0, with a little help from the massively controversial stoppage in Carl Froch’s knockout victory over George Groves).

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