By Jake Donovan
When HBO’s boxing departments first mapped out plans for 2012, the card we get this weekend was originally slated as its season debut. However, emergency surgery required by Erik Morales to remove gallstones instead pushed back the televised doubleheader by two months, though only enhancing the anticipation in the process.
With that, the HBO cameras head back down to Texas for the second time in less than two months as Morales (52-7, 36KO) defends his alphabet 140 lb. belt against unbeaten rising star Danny Garcia (22-0, 14KO) in the main event live from the Reliant Arena in Houston.
The chief support features a resurging contender against the sport’s premiere spoiler today as James Kirkland squares off against Carlos Molina. The promise of a future title shot is suggested for the winner, but both fighters know better than to hold their breath, instead agreeing to face each other just for the thrill of it.
Fans and media members remain torn in determining the outcome in both fights, always a good thing for your viewing pleasure and a tip of the hat to the evening’s matchmakers. Such is reflected in the predictions offered by the Boxingscene.com staff, where most of the final picks are accompanied by an admission of hesitance.
Read on to see how the staff experts believe it will all go down.
PREDICTIONS – MORALES vs. GARCIA
“I see Garcia giving Morales hell with his speed and youthfulness but I think El Terrible will dig down midway through the fight and win a somewhat controversial decision to set up a rematch with Maidana.”
– Ryan Burton (Morales)
“Would love to see Morales dig deep for that one last (or one more) great win, but my thinking is that it’s Garcia’s fight to lose. I like Garcia by decision in a fight that begins slow but picks up steam in the second half. Morales makes his presence felt (as always), but remains a step behind.”
– Jake Donovan (Garcia)
“Morales UD. This is more heart than logic but whenever I pick against Morales he always seems to do the exact opposite. I think he has rejuvenated himself enough to make the younger stronger Garcia rethink his plan.”
– Ernest Gabion (Morales)
“Danny Garcia W12 Erik Morales. Unlike Marcos Maidana or Pablo Cesar Cano, who were easy to find, I think Garcia has what it takes to stay disciplined and not get lured into a brawl--the type of fight that suits "El Terrible." I think Garcia's speed will be the key here, and he'll do just enough to outbox Morales to victory.”
– Ryan Maquinana (Garcia)
“Garcia W12: Garcia has enough boxer in him to take advantage of the aged Morales' slow feet and hands. He should be able to jab and step around Morales and may even be able to add enough punishment for a late stoppage. As it is, I think Garcia would have to stand in front of Morales and try to war all night to have a chance to lose.”
– Cliff Rold (Garcia)
“This is a tough one. My head says Garcia but my gut says Morales. I predicted earlier this week on The Boxing Lab that I would go with Garcia and I'll stick to it. I think youth will prevail in an exciting fight. Morales went to war with Cano in his last bout and I think Garcia can push him more than that. Garcia by Unanimous Decision.”
– Luis Sandoval (Garcia)
Danny Garcia UD12 Erik Morales. El Terrible's short revival in Maidana fight was very impressive, although he has legitimately lost to a younger and stronger opponent. However, against ordinary Pablo Cesar Cano he didn't look that great. The feeling is that Erik's decreasing speed and the absence of power in a higher weight class will prevent him from giving any significant problems to fresh and talented Garcia (who - on the record - possesses an underrated command of the ring), although his unbelievable toughness and experience will help him to last the distance.”
- Alexey Sukachev (Garcia)
Total picks: Danny Garcia 5, Erik Morales 2
PREDICTIONS – KIRKLAND vs. MOLINA
“I see Molina out boxing Kirkland early on. I envision him up on the cards but getting caught late like around 9th or 10th as Kirkland keeps stalking. Molina just doesn't have the pop to keep Kirkland off of him till the final round.”
– Ryan Burton (Kirkland)
“I can see Molina making Kirkland miss enough to make this fight somewhat of a rout. I can also see Molina make Kirkland miss by just enough to where it appears he’s getting hit, or at least outworked. Call it blind faith (or perhaps sheer stupidity), but I’ll go with the judges rewarding Molina with a well-deserved split decision.”
– Jake Donovan (Molina)
“Kirkland TKO 8. I know a few who think Kirkland rolls Molina easy but I don't see it I think it will take attrition and everything in his arsenal to get James the win. Hey may be down on the cards when he stops Molina.”
– Ernest Gabion (Kirkland)
“James Kirkland W12 Carlos Molina. I think Kirkland's swarming pressure and angles coming from the southpaw stance will be just enough to outwork Molina on the cards. While Molina's steadiness and versatility will allow him to stay competitive throughout, he might not have the power to prevent Kirkland from coming forward with impunity.”
– Ryan Maquinana (Kirkland)
“Kirkland KO9 Molina: I think Molina is crafty and has developed a real solid all around game. Too bad for him the one missing element, power, is the one he needs. Eventually, Kirkland's offensive momentum will take over (even if he gets stunned at some point) and he'll break Molina down over the long haul.”
– Cliff Rold (Kirkland)
“Two guys who like to come forward. We are no doubt in for a treat and while Molina has upset other opponents, I think Kirkland will be a little too much. I think both fighters have their moments (and get hurt) but I expect Kirkland to overwhelm Molina. Molina will last the full ten rounds but Kirkland comes out winning a tough Unanimous Decision.”
– Luis Sandoval (Kirkland)
“Carlos Molina UD12 James Kirkland. I smell an upset here. In his fights versus Erislandy Lara and Kermit Cintron Molina has thoroughly proven how much he has upgraded his ability even after a two-year long hiatus. Kirkland hasn't an iffy chin, more of a Trinidad-like, but he still has way too many flaws despite a dynamite in his gloves. I feel he might be outboxed by such a fighter like Molina.”
- Alexey Sukachev (Molina)
Total picks: James Kirkland 5, Carlos Molina 2
The HBO Boxing After Dark doubleheader airs live at 10:00PM ET/PT.
Jake Donovan is the Managing Editor of Boxingscene.com. Follow Jake on Twitter at twitter.com/JakeNDaBox or submit questions/comments to JakeNDaBox@gmail.com