By Cliff Rold
Not everyone can be Erik Morales.
The world, at least the boxing world, would be better if it could.
For the second week in a row, fans got a Fight of the Year candidate. Erik Morales-Marcos Maidana may not have had the wild, reckless fervor of the WBA Flyweight title clash between Hernan Marquez and Luis Concepcion. It wasn’t far off. The drama of seeing a legend behave in legendary fashion gave it its own edge.
Is there anything on tap that can make it three weeks of epic in a row?
But no one saw the last two weeks coming the way they did. It pays to be patient.
These are the picks of the week.
Pick Youth: Khan-McCloskey & Berto-Ortiz (Saturday, HBO, 9:45 PM EST/6:45 PM PST)
It’s not every day a card has two ‘world’ title fights with four still young, still hungry competitors, still answering so many questions. The sport could use more of this. The star of the show is obvious even if he’ll be on tape delay. 24-year old 2004 Olympic Silver Medalist and WBA Jr. Welterweight beltholder Amir Khan (24-1, 17 KO) comes off the BWAA Fight of the Year for 2010 against Maidana with increased respect but the same old questions. He survived the Maidana fight, confirming the tremendous heart he’d shown in other battles on his way up the scale while making clear his vulnerabilities ain’t going away. A showdown with Timothy Bradley to decide the real World Champion at 140 lbs. could be coming. The undefeated 31-year old, the oldest man on the broadcast but young in ring years, McCloskey (22-0, 12 KO) has won five in a row by stoppage and just might have the stuff to upset the apple cart. One division up, vulnerability is in high supply on both sides of the ring. 27-year old WBC Welterweight titlist Andre Berto (27-0, 21 KO) has been rocked badly in the past but always managed to come through. While he’s moving up one division to challenge Berto, 24-year old Victor Ortiz (28-2-2, 22 KO) has more power or speed than anyone else Berto has faced. He’ll be the larger man in the ring. Despite that, fans have seen how Berto responds when hurt. The war with Luis Collazo proved his character. Ortiz, faced with such a moment versus Maidana in 2009, folded. If Berto-Ortiz is a test of talent alone, it’s pick ‘em. What if it becomes a test of will, heart, ring character? That’s why all should tune in. This is a hell of a card.
Pick Comparison Shopping: #2 Juan Manuel Lopez vs. #7 Orlando Salido (Saturday, Showtime, 9:00 PM EST/PST)
Like Khan, Berto, and Ortiz, the 27-year old WBO Featherweight titlist Lopez can be vulnerable in the ring. He’s also among the most thrilling pugilists on Earth right now because of it. With a win last November over future Hall of Famer Rafael Marquez, Lopez is creeping on the pound-for-pound lists and a rival is emerging. Yuriorkis Gamboa is the shadow over all things Lopez. Gamboa, last year, won ugly over veteran former titlist Orlando Salido. What this fight, Lopez-Salido, amounts to is a game of can-you-top-it. Lopez will attempt to beat Salido ‘better’ than Gamboa as they build to fighting each other. Call it a proxy war. It doesn’t mean Salido is not game. It just speaks to likelihoods. Because it is Lopez, that likelihood will be worth a look…after the superior HBO card.
Pick Indonesia: #1 Chris John vs. #10 Daud Yordan (Sunday, Indonesia, ?)
While ESPN2 and Telefutura both have solid Friday shows for any interested fans, the final space is reserved here for a fight most will have to hope to see eventually on YouTube. For Indonesian fans, it’s as big a fight as can be made. The Jakarta International Expo will host longtime WBA featherweight king Chris John (44-0-2, 22 KO), still only 31, as he faces 23-year old countryman Yordan (27-1, 21 KO). Yordan was outclassed last year by an awkward, and motivated, Celestino Caballero. There is no shame in that. In 2009, he was giving as good as he got against Robert Guerrero before a cut forced a No Contest. John’s defensive prowess may be too much here but the intriguing cultural aesthetic, the ‘Superfight of another land’ thing makes this a must to pay attention to.
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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]