While there were plenty of fights to keep fans occupied last weekend, there simply wasn’t a heck of a lot of action. There’s a lot less to see this weekend, but still some compelling match ups to consider.
The UFC’s next pay per view isn’t until the end of May, and the WEC won’t be back in action until June. Showtime has gotten behind the revived Strikeforce promotion, but still won’t have any new action until the middle of May as well. Outside of this weekend’s premier of the movie “Fighting”, starring Cung Le, MMA fans have little to look forward to. (I did an interview with Cung Le on Wednesday, it’s in the audio vault on the home page.)
Boxing fans, on the other hand, patiently awaiting the Hatton vs. Pacquiao match up next week will still have plenty of action to chew on this weekend. In fact, with 2 events each on television, both Friday and Saturday, fight fans will have a tough time deciding which to watch live, and which to set the DVR up for.
Friday Night Fights – Friday on ESPN 2
Antonio Escalante – 5’ 6”, 122 lbs. – (19-2, 12 KO) vs. Gary Stark Jr. – 5’ 9”, 122 lbs. – (22-2, 8 KO) – Scheduled for 12 Rounds
The 23 year old Escalante comes into Friday’s fight riding a 5-fight winning streak that dates back to July of 2007. Ranked 14th in the world at super bantamweight by boxrec.com, Escalante stopped each of his last 2 opponents with 3rd round KOs. A pro since 2003, Escalante dropped a 4 round decision in just the 5th fight of his professional career, and has been beaten just once since, an 8th round KO at the hands of then NABO super bantamweight champion Mauricio Pastrana.
In Stark, Escalante has drawn a game fighter, riding a 4 fight winning streak of his own, all by decision. Not known for his power, Stark has been known to fight through difficult performances, and pull out most fights with strong finishes. Stark is ranked 64th in the world among featherweights by boxrec.com, and should have even less power at the lighter weight.
Both orthodox, point fighters, the feeling out process in this one could be painful, although neither man should be able to completely control the ring, nor keep his opponent at bay with a long jab. It should go to the cards, and likewise should be a tough one to score. It’ll make for an interesting decision, and I certainly wouldn’t want to be the one charged with scoring it.
My Pick: Escalante by Split Decision
The under card for this one is tough to get a read on but should feature undefeated middleweight Daniel Jacobs (14-0, 13 KO), undefeated junior welterweight Ivan Popoca (9-0-1, 7 KO), undefeat6ed young heavyweight Deontay Wilder (3-0, 3 KO) and at least another fight or two.
SHOBox – Friday on Showtime
Cory Spinks – 5’ 9”, 154 lbs. – (36-5, 11 KO) vs. Deandre Latimore – 5’ 9”, 154 lbs. – (19-1, 16 KO) – Scheduled for 12 Rounds for the IBF Junior Middleweight Title
Once dubbed “The Next Generation”, Spinks is fighting to remain relevant on the boxing scene, and may be passing the torch to one of the next generation in this one. A cagey southpaw, and a member of one of the most accomplished fighting families in all of boxing, Spinks never had the size or power commensurate with his bloodline. Still he was as frustrating an opponent as most have ventured to box with, and his list of opponents reads like a who’s who of the middle and junior middleweight scene. He has lost 3 of his last 5 fights though, losing split decisions in each of his last 2 fights against Verno Phillips and Jermain Taylor, and being KO’d by Zab Judah in February of 2005.
Latimore, the 23-year old American is currently the 11th ranked junior middleweight by boxrec.com, but hasn’t yet cracked the Ring Magazine rankings. He’ll get there soon if he’s able to score a win over Spinks, who’s unrated by boxrec.com, presumably because of his transient weight, but ranks 4th at junior middleweight by the Ring Magazine. Latimore shouldn’t have difficulty with Spinks’ southpaw style, as he’s a lefty himself, but certainly hasn’t yet seen an opponent the caliber of Spinks. Latimore has won 8 straight fights going into this one, including 6 by KO. He’ll have to be careful to avoid being overanxious though, his propensity for early KOs, along with the added pressure of the biggest opportunity of his life, and the potential for big money fights down the line may press Latimore into being too aggressive early. Spinks is still dangerous, and strong enough to drop the young contender if he leaves his chin out there.
My Pick: Latimore by KO – Round 8
Devon Alexander – 5’ 7”, 140 lbs. – (17-0, 10 KO) vs. Jesus Rodriguez – 5’ 7, 140 lbs. – (19-3, 5 KO) – Scheduled for 10 Rounds
My Pick: Alexander by Unanimous Decision
Showtime Championship Boxing – Saturday on Showtime
Carl Froch – 6’ 0”, 168 lbs. – (24-0, 19 KO) vs. Jermain Taylor – 6’ 1”, 168 lbs. – (28-2-1, 17 KO) – Scheduled for 12 Rounds for the WBC Super Middleweight Title
Froch is a name that many in boxing circles are becoming aware of, although this weekend could serve as his true coming out party. Having already established his dominance on the growing British fight scene, this weekend, Froch will seek to make a name in front of a much bigger audience, and capitalize on the multitude of big fight opportunities at and around super middleweight. Froch is ranked 4th at super middleweight by boxrec.com and 6th by the Ring Magazine.
If not for Kelly Pavlik, Taylor would likely be considered the dominant fighter of his time, and the biggest attraction on the scene, period. After 2 straight losses to Pavlik, Taylor got his career going forward again with a unanimous decision win over Jeff Lacy in his last fight in November of last year. Ranked 2nd in the world by boxrec.com and 5th by the Ring Magazine at super middleweight, Taylor is just 30 years old, and has several prospectively good years left if he’s able to regain his old form. Taylor though, hasn’t scored a KO since February of 2005, and doesn’t appear to have the gas that he once did.
Froch will likely give away most of the early rounds in this one, climbing into the ring with a fighter of Taylor’s caliber should take some getting used to. Froch will also likely figure out early that Taylor’s punches should show well, but shouldn’t hurt the durable Froch much. If Taylor gasses early, it could be lights out for him at the end, even if he’s well ahead in the fight.
My Pick: Froch by KO – Round 11
Allan Green – 6’ 2”, 168 lbs. – (27-1, 19 KO) vs. Carlos De Leon Jr. – 6’ 2”, 168 lbs. – (21-2-2, 14 KO) – Scheduled for 10 Rounds
My Pick: Green by KO – Round 9
HBO Boxing After Dark – Saturday on HBO
Juan Manuel Lopez – 5’ 7”, 122 lbs. – (24-0, 22 KO) vs. Gerry Penalosa – 5’ 4”, 122 lbs. – (54-6-2, 36 KO) – Scheduled for 12 Rounds for the WBO Super Bantamweight Title
Lopez, the 25-year old southpaw is quickly rising up the rankings of the world’s best super bantamweights, and gaining a reputation as well, as one of the most avoided fighters in the division. Piling up KO’s in impressive fashion, Lopez has yet to find the big money opportunities that would seem natural for a fighter of his caliber. While this fight won’t do much to boost his already robust reputation, it’s a relatively safe way to continue to position himself as a mandatory challenger for one of the division’s elite. Lopez currently ranks 2nd in the world by boxrec.com and 3rd by the Ring Magazine in the super bantamweight division.
Penalosa, the much lesser known veteran ranks 3rd in the world at super bantamweight by boxrec.com, and and 6th at bantamweight by the Ring Magazine. In this one, he’s stepping up to super bantamweight for just the second time in his career, the first being a KO loss at the hands of Daniel Ponce De Leon in March of 2007. He holds the edge in ring experience by a nearly 6 rounds to 1 margin in professional experience, and also fights southpaw, so he won’t be troubled with that aspect of Lopez’ game. Still, in 444 professional rounds, it’s unlikely he’s fought many against fighters with power the caliber of Lopez’. Penalosa will have to out slick the younger Lopez to stand a chance in this one, but should have a tough time avoiding Lopez’ big overhand left.
My Pick: Lopez by KO – Round 4
Lamont Peterson – 5’ 9”, 140 lbs. – (26-0, 12 KO) vs. Willy Blain – 5’ 8 ½”, 140 lbs. – (20-0, 3 KO) – Scheduled for 12 Rounds for the Interim WBO Lightweight Title
My Pick: Blain by Unanimous Decision
It’s also worth noting that boxrec.com’s top ranked super bantamweight, and Ring Magazine’s #2 junior featherweight and #9 pound for pound, Celestino Caballero will be fighting in Panama City on Saturday night too. There’s no indication that the fight will be televised, but would be worth a look if it were on. Caballero is one exciting fighter, but his chin is suspect too.
Celestino Caballero – 5’ 11”, 122 lbs. – (31-2, 22 KO) vs. Jeffrey Mathebula – 5’ 9”, 122 lbs. – (22-1-2, 12 KO) – Scheduled for 12 Rounds for the IBF Super Bantamweight and WBA Super World Super Bantamweight Titles
My Pick: Caballero by KO – Round 7
Enjoy the Fights!!!