by Cliff Rold, photo by Damien Acevedo
The least hyped fight of Saturday’s Showtime quadruple-header might just be the one most worth paying attention too. Hot on the heels of September’s trio of division shaping 160 lb. wins for champion Sergio Martinez, Gennady Golovkin, and Daniel Geale, two undefeated battlers will lock horns.
They’ll be fighting for the WBO’s belt in class.
More important, they’ll be jockeying for position.
In a fight game that sees few in the title picture fight more than two or three times a year, position can be everything. Let’s assume the winner on Saturday wants a crack at Martinez (and any Middleweight with professional pride would want not nothing more at the moment). Let’s also assume Martinez ends up in rematch with Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. the next time he gets into a ring.
That leaves Hassan N’Dam N’Jikam (27-0, 17 KO) and Peter Qullin (27-0, 20 KO) anywhere from nine months to a year away from scoring a crack no matter how good they look this weekend.
That’s the timetable for the winner.
It would have to be a damning feeling to be the loser.
While he enters defending the belt at stake, N’Jikam is largely unknown to the U.S. audience. Sure, there are hardcore followers who have seen his consecutive wins in interim title fights (two WBA, one WBO) against Avtandil Khurtsidze, Giovanni Lorenzo, and Max Bursak.
The Bursak fight has over 32,000 views on YouTube.
One assumes those aren’t all from the States. The Cameroon-born titlist has had many more viewers than that in France and Morocco in recent years, but neither is the robust market in terms of fight dollars he enters this Saturday.
This is the biggest opportunity of his fistic life.
For Quillin, the opportunity came in his last outing. Slowly building his audience with wins over Jesse Brinkley and Craig McEwan, Quillin had the chance in June to get what every young fighter of note needs at some point.
He got a veteran with a real name.
Ronald “Winky” Wright hadn’t fought in years and was well past the point where he unified the Jr. Middleweight division and came close to lifting the Middleweight crown off of Jermain Taylor. To his credit, he showed he could still handle himself respectably.
He just wasn’t goo enough to beat Quillin anymore. From the Quillin perspective, that’s just fine. He, or at least his team, knows something boxing history provides myriad examples of: beating yesterday’s names can be a critical part of building the base to be tomorrow’s champion.
It’s a big step before the next, bigger, step: proving capable of beating another young lion just as poised for a run at the top.
That’s all narrative. What about what makes this a potential show stealer?
One week ago, fans saw Brandon Rios and Mike Alvarado take their “0’s” in the ring and let it all hang out. N’Jikam-Quillin might not hit those heights, but their styles should make for a grueling encounter.
Both guys come to fight. They each have effective jabs and, to date, solid beards. N’Jikam goes effectively to the body and in this match he’s also probably the quicker man.
They both carry some pop, if not of the regularly lethal variety. That lends itself to drama and rounds. Quillin managed to drop Wright in their fight, a tough task for everyone not named Julio Cesar Vazquez over the years, but didn’t finish him. N’Jikam has gone the distance in all of his last three, but only one of those foes had ever been stopped (and only once at that).
Oh, and they both get hit. It’s not that they mean too. It’s just that neither can really avoid it all night. Quillin is probably better defensively, and both are willing to tie up in spots, but they want to land and that means the risk of incoming. Neither man is 30 yet. The fire of youth still burns.
Put it all together and this one has the feel of a fight that few see coming. On a night where one of this generation’s best one punch killers (Randall Bailey) and this generation’s greatest action fighter (Erik Morales) will also ply their trade, both as underdogs, it would seem hard to assume anyone could better their efforts.
No assumption is made here.
It’s just a hunch.
If the hunch plays out, Sergio Martinez will have one more strong name to throw in the hat and Middleweight will have one more name to point to as a sign of a strong future.
The Weekly Ledger
But wait, there’s more…
Donaire, Rios Win Big: http://www.boxingscene.com/donaire-rios-secure-high-impact-wins-home-depot--58162
Pedraza Continues to Climb: http://www.boxingscene.com/jose-pedraza-continues-his-climb-through-ranks--58164
Picks of the Week: http://www.boxingscene.com/boxingscenecoms-television-picks-week--58272
Cliff’s Notes… There will be readers who take exception to the idea that Erik Morales is his generation’s premiere action fighter. In this Hall of Fame voting season, there will be those who say, “Wait, Gatti.” They’re wrong. Period…Orlando Cruz’s decision to come out has resulted in more press for a Telemundo show than any in recent memory. Brave personal decisions can also be good business. It’s not mutually exclusive…Nonito Donaire versus Jorge Arce anywhere, but especially Mexico, is good business. It’s still not a good fight. In this case, it is mutually exclusive…The idea that what fighters like Brandon Rios do is not a skill is bizarre. Sure, he and Alvarado got hit, but watch again. They manage to not get hit often as well. It’s not an accident…Glen Johnson-George Groves isn’t a great idea for the old man but it’s a great career progression step for Groves. See above…David Haye-Vitali Klitschko is in chatter again. It makes too much money not to happen if Vitali continues. Here’s a big question though: if, and it’s a big IF, Haye doesn’t stub his toe or get a hangnail or something and wins the fight, does the world brace for Haye-Wladimir II?
Cliff Rold is the Managing Editor of BoxingScene and a member of the Yahoo Pound for Pound voting panel and the Boxing Writers Association of America. He can be reached at [email protected]