by Cliff Rold
All signs point to go, even if four title fights are now three with Pablo Cesar Cano blowing a title opportunity on the scales.
That, of course, is not the real story. The real story is Erik Morales, the future Hall of Famer, testing positive on at least one testing date for a banned diuretic. The show appears to be going on with later clean tests, but the date will rage.
For now, we have a fight.
We have four.
Let’s go to the report cards.
Title/Previous Titles: WBC Light Welterweight (2012-Present, 1 Defense); WBA “Super”/Ring (2012-Present, 1st Attempted Defense)
Weight: 139.8 lbs.
Average Weight – Last Five Fights: 139.6 lbs.
Hails from: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Record: 24-0, 15 KO
BoxingScene Rank: #1 at Jr. Welterweight
Record in Major Title Fights: 2-0, 1 KO
Current/Former World Champions/Titlists Defeated: 4 (Nate Campbell, Kendall Holt, Erik Morales, Amir Khan)
Previous Titles: WBC Jr. Featherweight (1997-2000, 9 Defenses); WBO Jr. Featherweight (2000); WBC Featherweight (2001-02, 1 Defense; 02-04, 3 Defenses); WBC Jr. Lightweight (2004, 1 Defense); IBF Jr. Lightweight (2004); WBC Jr. Welterweight (2011-12)
Weight: 139.2 lbs.
Average Weight – Last Five Fights: 142 lbs.
Hails from: Tijuana, Mexico
Record: 52-8, 36 KO, 2 KOBY
BoxingScene Rank: #10 at Jr. Welterweight
Record in Major Title Fights: 19-4, 12 KO (19-5, 12 KO including interim title fights)
Current/Former World Champions/Titlists Defeated: 12 (Hector Acero Sanchez, Daniel Zaragoza, Jose Luis Bueno, Wayne McCullough, Marco Antonio Barrera, Kevin Kelley, Guty Espadas Jr., In Jin Chi, Paulie Ayala, Jesus Chavez, Carlos Hernandez, Manny Pacquiao)
Current/Former World Champions/Titlists Faced in Defeat: 4 (Marco Antonio Barrera, Manny Pacquiao, David Diaz, Danny Garcia)
Pre-Fight: Speed – Morales B; Garcia B+
Pre-Fight: Power – Morales B; Garcia B
Pre-Fight: Defense – Morales C; Garcia B
Pre-Fight: Intangibles – Morales A+; Garcia B+
Whatever Morales did this time, it worked. He failed to make weight in the first Garcia fight and has made it here. Will it make any difference?
Morales is only older now and while he should still be able to find Garcia with straight punches, the younger and quicker man should still be able to land the blind left hook. This is a fight about seeing where Garcia really is off the first Morales win and his monster triumph over Amir Khan. Is Garcia a fighter just beginning to see prime, just beginning to mature?
And what if he loses? Can Morales possibly win now without a taint on the bout? The bigger question may be whether he can compete a full twelve. Against Garcia, and epically last year versus Marcos Maidana, Morales made it a show but he couldn’t sustain into the championship rounds. We know the heart is still there. He got up from a late knockdown against Garcia and found his way to the finish. It’s just hard to figure how he wins.
Titles: IBF Welterweight (2012-Present, 1st Attempted Defense)
Previous Titles: WBO Light Welterweight (1999-2000, 2 Defenses)
Weight: 147 lbs.
Average Weight – Last Five Fights: 146.2 lbs.
Hails from: Miami, Florida
Record: 43-7, 37 KO, 3 KOBY
BoxingScene Rank: #10 at Welterweight
Record in Major Title Fights: 4-5, 4 KO, 2 KOBY; 5-5, 5 KO, 2 KOBY including interim title bouts)
Current/Former World Champions/Titlists Defeated: 2 (Carlos Gonzalez, DeMarcus Corley)
Current/Former World Champions/Titlists Faced in Defeat: 5 (Ener Julio, Diobelys Hurtado, DeMarcus Corley, Miguel Cotto, Juan Urango)
Previous Titles: WBC Light Welterweight (2009-11, 2 Defenses); IBF Light Welterweight (2010-11, 1 Defense)
Weight: 146.8 lbs.
Average Weight – Last Five Fights: 140.8 lbs.
Hails from: St. Louis, Missouri
Record: 23-1, 13 KO
BoxingScene Rank: #7 at Welterweight
Current/Former World Champions/Titlists Defeated: 3 (DeMarcus Corley, Junior Witter, Juan Urango, Andriy Kotelnik)
Current/Former World Champions/Titlists Faced in Defeat: 1 (Timothy Bradley)
Pre-Fight: Speed – Bailey B; Alexander A
Pre-Fight: Power – Bailey A+; Alexander B
Pre-Fight: Defense – Bailey C-; Alexander B
Pre-Fight: Intangibles – Bailey B; Alexander B
Bailey needed every second of the fight to find the perfect finish for Mike Jones earlier this year but he chipped away more than it looked like all night. Bailey is the sort of puncher who seems to hurt with every touch.
But he needs to be able to get in those touches.
Will Alexander to let that happen. He was hit some but not enough by Marcos Maidana. He was hit plenty by Lucas Matthysse and Andriy Kotelnik, and there are those who believe both did more than enough landing in those engagements. Bailey, who has mostly lost to the best he’s seen over the years, lacks the youth or technique to do what Matthysse or Kotelnik did. Alexander’s defense, which will mix movement with smart clinches, could wear on his legs.
The puncher’s chance remains.
Titles: WBA Welterweight (2012-Present, 1st Attempted Defense)
Previous Titles: IBF Light Welterweight (2007-08, 2 Defenses)
Height: 5’8 ½
Weight: 146.2 lbs.
Average Weight – Last Five Fights: 145.6 lbs.
Hails from: Brooklyn, New York
Record: 31-4, 7 KO, 2 KOBY
BoxingScene Rank: #9 at Welterweight
Record in Major Title Fights: 4-3, 1 KO, 2 KOBY
Current/Former World Champions/Titlists Defeated: 3 (Lovemore N’Dou, Juan Diaz, Vyacheslav Senchenko)
Current/Former World Champions/Titlists Faced in Defeat: 4 (Miguel Cotto, Ricky Hatton, Juan Diaz, Amir Khan)
Pablo Cesar Cano
Titles/Previous Titles: None (Missed weight; cannot win title)
Weight: 148.4 lbs.
Average Weight – Last Five Fights: 137.7 lbs.
Hails from: Atizapan de Zaragoza, Mexico
Record: 25-1-1, 19 KO
BoxingScene Rank: Unrated
Current/Former World Champions/Titlists Defeated: 0
Current/Former World Champions/Titlists Faced in Defeat: 1 (Erik Morales)
Pre-Fight: Speed – Malignaggi B+; Cano C
Pre-Fight: Power – Malignaggi C; Cano B
Pre-Fight: Defense – Malignaggi B+; Cano C-
Pre-Fight: Intangibles – Malignaggi B+; Cano B+
Cano can punch pretty good, and we know from his fight with Morales last year that he’s got heart, but he enters this title shot with a big deficit in speed and skill. Malignaggi, flush off a career saving win over Vyacheslav Senchenko, gets to play the role of hometown hero in Brooklyn.
On paper, Malignaggi appears to have a foe that can make him look good but Malignaggi has been stopped twice. If the younger man starts to land, will Malignaggi’s legs hold up for twelve? Senchenko was more boxer than fighter; the physical threat wasn’t as great. Conversely, can Cano land enough to make it matter? Paulie still has more than enough leg to keep from getting them worn down if he opts to play is smart...and safe.
Hassan N’Dam N’Jikam
Titles: WBO Middleweight (2012, 1st Attempted Defense)
Previous Titles: None
Weight: 159 lbs.
Average Weight – Last Five Fights: 158.35 lbs.
Hails from: Pantin, Seine-Saint-Denis, France (Born in Cameroon)
Record: 27-0, 17 KO
BoxingScene Rank: #6 at Middleweight
Record in Major Title Fights: 3-0 in interim title fights
Current/Former World Champions/Titlists Defeated: 0
Titles: 1st Title Opportunity
Weight: 159.2 lbs.
Average Weight – Last Five Fights: 161.55 lbs.
Hails from: Brooklyn, New York
Record: 27-0, 20 KO
BoxingScene Rank: #7 at Middleweight
Current/Former World Champions/Titlists Defeated: 1 (Winky Wright)
Pre-Fight: Speed – N’Jikam B+; Quillin B
Pre-Fight: Power – N’Jikam B; Quillin B
Pre-Fight: Defense – N’Jikam B-; Quillin B
Pre-Fight: Intangibles – N’Jikam B+; Quillin B+
As noted in a column earlier this week, this is the scrap that could steal the show. N’Jikam can box using the ring or play aggressor. Either way, he leaves holes to hit through while aiming to land big lead hooks and body blows. Quillin in the more orthodox man and the better defensive man, but he isn’t too hard to find either.
This is, in many ways, a fight about its questions. Both undefeated men have reached the point where we know they’re good. Now we find out how good. To date, they’ve passed every test in front of them, thus the high marks for intangibles.
Neither has had a test like this before.
Beginning with the latter two bouts, the picks here are for a favorite and an upset. Malignaggi is too quick, and skilled, especially against a Cano who doesn’t appear to have trained down to where he should be. Malignaggi should win a wide decision. The same shouldn’t be the case at Middleweight. A tough fight is expected, and N’Jikam will likely have to weather some storms. But, watching both he and Quillin, he appears the more versatile fighter and his edge in speed should allow him to steal rounds. N’Jikam by decision is the call in what will be seen as an upset in the U.S.
At Welterweight, Bailey beating Mike Jones was a great story, but let's not forget (apologies to Paul Harvey), the rest of the story. Bailey hasn't beaten many of the better fighters he's faced in the last ten-plus years. Alexander, off a nice win over Marcos Maidana, is one of the better fighters. He'll box circles around Bailey en route to a lopsided decision or late stoppage.
Finally, it comes down to the main event. One could make a case for a late stoppage here but it's hard to see Morales staying down against Garcia. This is probably his last, last, last shot. He'll let it all hang out. Garcia, at this point, is just too good and should win easier than the first time.
Report Card Picks 2012: 54-16
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]