By Cliff Rold
What a week it was. Lamont Peterson’s return delivered a hot crowd and fight. Tony Thompson introduced David Price to the realities of defeat. Ishe Smith found redemption for a career.
And Malik Scott got jobbed on NBC Sports, seemingly the place to be if you want to see bad scoring in Heavyweight fights these days. Tomasz Adamek deserved the nod over Eddie Chambers last year, but the actual scoring was highly questionable. Steve Cunningham (against Adamek) and Scott (against undefeated Vyacheslav Glazkov) just flat got the business.
Three steps forward, one step back.
This week, the best match on paper is happening well south on the scale while Lightweights take center stage in the U.S. on Saturday night.
These are the picks of the week.
Pick It: #4 Richard Abril vs. #9 Sharif Bogere (Saturday, Showtime, 10 PM EST/PST)
The victim of one of 2012’s worst decisions, Abril (17-3-1, 8 KO) handed Brando Rios his first loss but didn’t get the call. In a rare case of fairness from fudging, Abril was allowed to remain as interim WBA titlist and now has a chance to make their full title all his. He’s matched with Bogere (23-0, 15 KO), he of the massive lion head worn into the ring. Abril has a stinky style and this one could get ugly but, in a shallow Lightweight division, the belt they fight for is critical real estate. If WBC titlist Adrien Broner can’t secure a unification match with the winner of Ricky Burns-Miguel Vazquez, could the winner of Abril-Bogere get a call? It’s not the most likely scenario, but it’s there. Excellent Featherweight prospect Gary Russell Jr. (21-0, 13 KO) will also be on the show against Vyacheslav Gusev (20-2, 5 KO). Is this, finally, the year when Russell starts to marry his talent to quality opposition? So far, the outlook is unclear.
Pick Little: #2 Donnie Nietes vs. #3 at 105 Moises Fuentes (Saturday, The Philippines, ?)
This week’s YouTube special is a clash of reigning WBO titlists with Nietes’ 108 lb. belt on the line. Nietes (31-1, 17 KO) is one of the game’s most underrated beltholders, a solid boxer with decent speed and a good story. Nietes has the comfort of homefield here. Mexico’s Fuentes (16-1, 8 KO) is slow of hand but rugged in the ring, a willing warrior who has shown the ability to come off the floor to win. In his last bout, he ended the career of Puerto Rico’s Ivan Calderon. Now he has the chance to become an unlikely two-division titlist. On paper, this could be the fight of the week.
Pick Deuce: #8 Billy Dib vs. Evgeny Gradovich (Friday, ESPN2, 9 PM EST/6 PM PST)
One week after Peterson’s win over Kendall Holt, ESPN has major title action in the main event again. This week might not be as much fun. Dib (35-1, 21 KO) is not always a fun viewing experience and, while he has the IBF belt at Featherweight, still struggles for recognition at 126 lbs. Gradovich (15-0, 8 KO) is making a big step up in competition but the Russian-born challenger has a shot. He’s fundamentally sound and comes forward with plenty of leather. Maybe this one will sneak up on us.
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Cliff Rold is the Managing Editor of BoxingScene and a member of the Transnational Boxing Ratings Board, the Yahoo Pound for Pound voting panel, and the Boxing Writers Association of America. He can be reached at [email protected]