By Cliff Rold
It might feel like this week is a step down from last. When a hardcore fan’s wet dream of a fight is the cornerstone of a week, the feeling is to be expected.
It would be a mistake.
Last week did not provide a classic fight but it did give us a classic moment, Nonito Donaire’s stoppage of Fernando Montiel electrifying all who witnessed it. There is still an appetite to be whetted for a sustained brawl.
And there is always room for more knockouts.
This week, boxing might get both.
These are the picks of the week.
Pick Showtime: #1 Miguel Acosta vs. #6 Brandon Rios (Saturday, Showtime, 10:00 PM EST/PST)
While it might not be quite as stacked, talent wise, as Bantamweight, Jr. Welterweight, and Super Middleweight, Lightweight circa now provides more bloody brutality on a regular basis and this weekend should be no exception. Acosta (28-3-2, 22 KO), the WBA titlist, can be seen as the leading contender to real 135 lb. champion Juan Manuel Marquez on the strength of stoppage wins of Urbano Antillo and Paulus Moses. That won’t mean a thing once the bell sounds and the fury of Rios (26-0-1, 19 KO) comes forward. Rios might, might, just be the sort of action superstar Lightweight hasn’t had in a while. His win over Anthony Peterson last year spoke to a potential beast rising. If he can get by the learned Acosta, the thought of Rios facing men like Antillon, Humberto Soto, and maybe even one day Marquez sets the mouth to watering. Acosta is good enough to make those fights consolation prizes while he moves on. This is the first of three serious top ten matches at Lightweight already signed between now and May. Anyone betting the Fight of the Year happens at 135 lbs. this year should feel pretty good on their wager.
Pick Deuce: Juan Carlos Burgos vs. Frankie Archuleta (Friday, ESPN2, 9:00 PM EST/6:00 PM PST)
Acosta-Rios could wind up a war and the quality of the fighters could still mean a distance contest. It’s probably not likely but it’s more probable than this one going the distance. Here’s the almost surefire KO of the week. Burgos (25-1, 18 KO) makes his first start since his first loss, a scorching affair with the excellent Hozumi Hasegawa in Japan. Burgos was relatively inexperienced heading in and had to learn a lot. That was likely to be bad news for former Featherweight titlist Cristobal Cruz. It should be worse news for the aged Archuleta (27-7-1, 14 KO). At 35, Archuleta the borderline contender he once was and, with four stoppage losses already on the ledger, this could get ugly. Archuleta, always a game guy, will make a go for as long as he can.
Pick Mexico: #8 Gilberto Keb Baas vs. Jose Antonio Aguirre (Saturday, ?)
This doesn’t appear headed for any U.S. airwaves. Those whose who see a joke in the making of the contest, in the story of the contest, are within their rights. The sentimentalist in this scribe sort of likes the whole thing. Keb Baas (34-20-4, 21 KO) has been stopped five times in his some 16-year career. He’s lost to just about every world-class fighter he’s ever seen and plenty less than that. He is also the reigning WBC titlist at 108 lbs. In what some (this site included) called the upset of 2011, Keb Baas proved that every world class guy has their kryptonite and he plays green glowing rock to Omar Nino. Nino was knocked out in five by Keb Baas in 1998, an outcome virtually ignored heading into a title clash last year. Over twelve rounds, he beat Nino again for an improbable but fun story. Belts are silly. Sure. But a guy with 20 losses is about to put a serious meal on the table with the proceeds from the strap and, at the blue-collar level, who can’t love the tale? Former 105 lb. titlist Aguirre (35-9-1, 21 KO) has lost 7 of 9 so winning a second belt, for him, would be about as crazy as Keb Baas being a defending champ.
Only in boxing.
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Cliff Rold is a member of the Ring Magazine Ratings Advisory Panel and the Boxing Writers Association of America. He can be reached at [email protected]