by Cliff Rold
On a weekend where U.S. fans anticipate the replay of eleven long rounds and one really fast one, fan abroad are treated to two intriguing main events in the Lightweight and Cruiserweight divisions.
In one, fans will be treated to a U.K. showdown between a talent well on the rise in recent years and a man trying to show he’s more than a bad knockout loss. In the other, a challenger attempts to avenge what looked like a win but was not.
It’s a full day of boxing exhibiting one place where globalization can be called nothing but a success.
Let’s go to the report cards.
Title: WBO Lightweight (2011-Present, 1 Defense)
Previous Titles: WBO Super Featherweight (2010-11, 3 Defenses)
Weight: 135 lbs.
Average Weight – Last Five Fights: 131.8 lbs.
Hails from: Coatbridge, Scotland, U.K.
Record: 34-2, 9 KO
BoxingScene Rank: #4 at Lightweight
Record in Major Title Fights: 5-0, 2 KO (6-0, 2 KO including interim title fights)
Current/Former World Champions/Titlists Defeated: 4 (Alex Arthur, Roman Martinez, Nicky Cook, Paulus Moses)
Titles: 1st Title Shot
Weight: 135 lbs.
Average Weight – Last Five Fights: 135.55 lbs.
Hails from: Dagenham, Essex, U.K.
Record: 33-1, 24 KO, 1 KOBY
BoxingScene Rank: #8 at Lightweight
Record in Major Title Fights: 0-1, 1 KOBY including interim title fights
Current/Former World Champions/Titlists Defeated: 1 (Sebastian Zbik)
Pre-Fight: Speed – Burns B+; Mitchell B+
Pre-Fight: Power – Burns C; Mitchell B
Pre-Fight: Defense – Burns B; Mitchell B
Pre-Fight: Intangibles – Burns A; Mitchell B
While neither man is a defensive wizard, Burns has shown real improvement since moving into the title ranks. His guard is aided by effective combination punching, including consistent work to the body, and a ready jab. He was able to blunt the offense of Michael Katsidis and keep Moses from getting off by getting off first.
Mitchell also has an effective, if more deliberate, jab and brings a snappy right behind it. His loss to Katsidis isn’t the negative some might assume it. Katsidis can hurt anyone he catches; he just didn’t catch Burns much. Burns doesn’t have the power of Katsidis so Mitchell’s task is to outbox the Scot and he’s capable. If he can keep Burns guessing and on the outside, his chances of doing so increase greatly.
Keeping the champion at bay is the same task to be found at Cruiserweight.
Titles: WBC Cruiserweight (2010-Present, 3 Defenses)
Previous Titles: IBF Cruiserweight (2006-07)
Weight: 199 lbs.
Average Weight – Last Five Fights: 198.8 lbs.
Hails from: Piaseczno, Poland
Record: 46-2-1, 33 KO
BoxingScene Rank: #4 at Cruiserweight
Record in Major Title Fights: 5-1-1, 1 KO
Current/Former World Champions/Titlists Defeated: 3 (Steve Cunningham, Giacobbe Fragomeni, Danny Green)
Current/Former World Champions/Titlists Faced in Defeat: 1 (Steve Cunningham)
Titles/Previous Titles: None
Weight: 195 lbs.
Average Weight – Last Five Fights: 198.25 lbs.
Hails from: Bayamon, Puerto Rico
Record: 21-1, 13 KO
BoxingScene Rank: Unrated
Current/Former World Champions/Titlists Defeated: 0
Current/Former World Champions/Titlists Faced in Defeat: 1 (Kryzysztof Wlodarczyk)
Pre-Fight: Speed – Wlodarczyk B-; Palacios B+
Pre-Fight: Power – Wlodarczyk B; Palacios C+
Pre-Fight: Defense – Wlodarczyk B-; Palacios B
Pre-Fight: Intangibles – Wlodarczyk B; Palacios B
Palacios, at 35, doesn’t fight like a one getting up in years and can be expected to use many of the same tactics he did in the first Wlodarczyk fight. Fans who saw that one knows it came with a whiff of controversy, maybe even the scent of home cooking. Wlodarczyk is tough to beat on the cards in his native Poland.
Palacios switches from southpaw to orthodox in spots and is wise is using his legs. That may not have appealed on the road against a natural aggressor. Wlodarcyzk is not particularly swift of hand or foot but he is steady in pressing his foes and takes what he can get inside. The risk here could be the first outcome. The pressure is on Palacios to do more offensively, to force the judges hand. If he does that, he risks giving Wlodarczyk more opportunities to make it a rough night.
Fighting in Glasgow and Wroclaw, it’s hard not to favor the reigning titlists this weekend. Both men will have the crowd on their side against opponents who may feel the need to push with their backs against the wall.
At Lightweight, Burns’ superiority inside should be the difference. Mitchell isn’t going to keep him off all night and Burns is very good at letting his hands go when opponents try to get loose and make room. Mitchell will have some success with his right hand, but it won’t be enough in what should be a crowd-pleasing full twelve rounds. Burns by decision is the pick.
Steve Cunningham was able to turn a controversial loss into a win on a second trip to Poland years ago. Palacios is good but not quite as complete a fighter as Cunningham. Wlodarczyk will do better this time and, even if there is argument on the final scores, it should be enough to snare another title defense.
Report Card Picks 2012: 48-16
Cliff Rold is a member of the Ring Magazine Ratings Advisory Panel, the Yahoo Pound for Pound voting panel, and the Boxing Writers Association of America. He can be reached at [email protected]