by Cliff Rold
The building of a potential international star versus the explosion of a well-matched international fight…what does one watch this Saturday night?
The answer, of course, is both. Gennady Golovkin-Curtis Stevens, with undercard support, will be the HBO (10 PM EST/PST) presentation for the evening. Tyson Marquez-Giovani Segura will go live on UniMas (11 PM EST/PST). Whether it airs first or after a support bout remains to be determined. These fights may or may not air at roughly the same time.
Let’s hope they don’t.
If they do, regardless of which fight gets the live treatment, and which goes to DVR for later viewing, fights fans know this: in two marquee matches, four serious punchers will collide at ring center.
If there isn’t at least one devastating knockout on Saturday night, it might just be a Douglas-Tyson level upset.
Okay, that’s probably a little bit of hyperbole. Boxing, at its most exciting, is a sport that has always embraced hyperbole. It’s part of the fun.
One element making this weekend interesting is that the best match on paper, and arguably the most meaningful, won’t garner the most headlines in the US.
It might gather the most eyeballs.
Let’s go to the report card.
Hernan “Tyson” Marquez
Current Title: None
Previous Titles: WBA Flyweight (2011-12, 2 Defenses)
Weight: 112 lbs.
Average Weight - Five Most Recent Fights: 113.8 lbs.
Hails from: Empalme, Sonora, Mexico
Record: 36-3, 26 KO, 2 KOBY
Rankings: #3 (Ring, ESPN); #5 (BoxingScene); #6 (TBRB); #8 (BoxRec)
Record in Major Title Fights: 3-1, 3 KO, 1 KOBY (3-2, 3 KO, 2 KOBY including interim title fights)
Current/Former World Champions/Titlists Faced: 4 (Nonito Donaire TKO by 8; Luis Concepcion TKO11, TKO1; Brian Viloria TKO by 10; Carlos Tamara UD12)
Current Title: None
Previous Titles: WBA Light Flyweight (2009-11, 5 Defenses); Lineal/Ring/WBO Jr. Flyweight (2010-11, 1 Defense)
Weight: 112 lbs.
Average Weight - Five Most Recent Fights: 112.8 lbs.
Hails from: Bell, California (Born in Mexico)
Record: 30-3-1, 26 KO, 1 KOBY
Rankings: #7 (BoxRec); #9 (ESPN); #10 (BoxingScene, TBRB)
Record in Major Title Fights: 5-1, 5 KO, 1 KOBY (6-2, 6 KO, 1 KOBY including interim title fights)
Current/Former World Champions/Titlists Faced: 6 (Carlos Tamara UD12; Daniel Reyes KO1; Sonny Boy Jaro KO1; Ivan Calderon KO8, KO3; Brian Viloria TKO by 8; Edgar Sosa L12)
Pre-Fight: Speed – Marquez B; Segura B-
Pre-Fight: Power – Marquez B+; Segura A-
Pre-Fight: Defense – Marquez B-; Segura C-
Pre-Fight: Intangibles – Marquez B+; Segura B+
While there is no title on the line, the winner of this battle of southpaw bangers is in line for the WBO’s mandatory position and a crack at unified titlist Juan Francisco Estrada, arguably the best of the beltholders (despite the lineal claim of Akira Yaegashi) at Flyweight right now. Segura enters off a competitive, exciting loss to former 108 lb. titlist Edgar Sosa (set to challenge Yaegashi in December) and a knockout of undefeated Jonathan Gonzalez. He is 2-1 overall since a badly damaged eye led to a stoppage loss against Brian Viloria in 2011.
Marquez is 2-0 since his loss to Viloria last year. It was a fabulous fight where he went to the floor three times but was never out of the fight until after the last of those. Marquez’s last win, a dominant decision over former 108 lb. titlist Carlos Tamara, featured a flash fifth round knockdown and a vicious display of precise power punching throughout.
An interesting tidbit on this fight: while HBO is the higher dollar fight network, UniMas is probably available in more homes. Given the number of Latino households in the US, this may end up being the more viewed fight of the evening. Will it be the better of the two?
On paper, the answer seems to be yes.
The styles, and quality, of the combatants pair up almost perfectly. Of the two, Marquez is more versatile. He can box from the outside and is patient about warming to his task if allowed. Over time, his smart jab gets him close enough to land a picturesque right uppercut that he can throw in multiple. Behind the uppercut is often a sweeping left hand that he drives through the target.
Where Marquez can get in trouble is in being caught as he tries to get close. In their first fight, Concepcion drew him into a firefight early by landing a bomb and putting him on the deck. Marquez responded with a knockdown of his own and weathered multiple storms to win the majority of the rounds and ultimately the fight. Against Viloria, it didn’t go as well. Marquez was badly hurt in the first round, shocked by the speed and suddenness of Viloria’s power. He worked his way back into the fight but, every time he seemed ready to turn the tide, he was rocked back into having to chase.
Against Segura, he can’t afford to have to chase. Segura is the less technically refined of the two, but he is a bear to slow down. Viloria pulled it off with speed, consistently beating him to the punch. Sosa beat him by boxing well to build an early lead and then pulling ahead again late. Marquez is probably as quick of hand as the veteran Sosa; he’s certainly not as quick as Viloria. If Segura can back him up with his wide, hammering body shots, he gains an advantage. Inside, Segura has improved at slipping shots and uses work rate to keep foes from setting and leveraging power shots against him. He can be rocked but of the two has shown a sturdier chin.
He’ll need that chin because he’s going to taste leather. Marquez’s uppercut is a perfect weapon against the raw aggression and wide punching of Segura. Segura’s ever-present power is an offset to Marquez, a chance to turn the fight at all times or at least steal close rounds by sending his man to the deck.
Both men have shown the ability to fight through adversity. They may not always win, but they don’t go away easy even in defeat. This is a crossroads fight for both and there is every reason to believe they will dig as deep as they can to give the fans a fantastic fight.
At the Madison Square Garden Theatre, it might be more likely fans can a fantastic show more than a two-way fight.
Pre-Fight: Speed – Golovkin B+; Stevens B+
Pre-Fight: Power – Golovkin A; Stevens B+
Pre-Fight: Defense – Golovkin B; Stevens C
Pre-Fight: Intangibles – Golovkin A; Stevens B-
While they are closely matched in speed (Stevens might even have a slight athletic edge there), and both are dangerous in terms of power punching, on paper there appears to be a dramatic difference in class here. The 28-year old Stevens (25-3, 18 KO), 159 ¼, of Brownsville, New York, had a stoppage loss to journeyman Marcos Primera on the way up, a sluggish loss to Andre Dirrell in one of the most unwatchable affairs ever aired on HBO, and a lopsided decision loss to Jesse Brinkley. To his credit, he returned from a two-year layoff after Brinkley to score three first-round knockouts in four fights and earn his crack at Golovkin’s sanctioning body title.
Stevens doesn’t come to box. He comes to fight and makes no bones about it.
The title on the line, the WBA Middleweight belt, has seen an uptick in the quality of challengers for it holder since the 31-year old Golovkin (27-0, 24 KO), 159 ½, of Kazakhstan, debuted in the US in 2012. Attempting his ninth defense, Golovkin, a Silver Medalist at the 2004 Olympics and the man who eliminated Dirrell in the semi-finals, has an impressive pedigree. Golovkin will also defend the IBO title for the sixth time, a belt he captured in December of 2011.
A 2003 amateur World Champion at Middleweight, Golovkin might have been where he is now in terms of public esteem as early as five years ago. Promotional struggles with Universum, and plenty of opponents who found safer roads to travel, seem to have played a part in delaying his rise to the top of the division.
He’s making up lost ground quickly. Golovkin already appears to be the real number one contender to lineal World Champion Sergio Martinez and a splash on the New York stage could bring that showdown closer to reality. His big punch draws raves but Golovkin is more than a puncher. He is a skilled pressure fighter who uses an educated jab, never neglects the body, and fires in combination. He can be hit, but his defense his getting better too and creates more opportunities to get close and land bombs.
But can Golovkin take it? That’s the big question of the weekend for him. Stevens is a decided underdog, but he has a puncher’s chance and if he catches Golovkin he can make it count. Many a fighter has looked like the next big thing only to hit the floor in the latest big splat. While he may not have been fully healthy for the fight with Gabe Rosado, Golovkin was touched plenty even while winning almost every round en route to a stoppage. Can Stevens derail what looks like an inevitable coronation?
The Middleweight fight looks like fun given the power both men possess, but beyond power what does Stevens challenge with? Golovkin has a superior amateur pedigree, better boxing skills, and while hittable is also better defensively. This has been well promoted but Stevens just isn't on the level of Golovkin. He'll come to fight, get caught because of it, and put to sleep early…like probably by the second round early. A first round knockout here wouldn’t be a surprise if Golovkin comes to make a statement on the New York stage.
The tougher pick is in the more competitive (on paper) contest. As noted in a column earlier this week, Marquez-Segura looks as can’t miss as Ruslan Provodnikov-Mike Alvarado did going in. There are reasons to pick both men. There are reasons to think this could go the route or end suddenly at any time.
In an evenly matched contest with the makings of a war, it is sometimes the safer bet to go with the sturdier man. That appears to be Segura. While Marquez is the better boxer, he’s also slightly more vulnerable. He overcame the wild nature and thundering power of Concepcion but Segura is a more complete fighter than the Panamanian despite his flaws.
Sosa had to take some big shots in the middle rounds to get by Segura. Marquez is going to have to absorb his share as well and Segura’s pressure is going to take leverage off some of Marquez’s best shots. The choice here, with almost no conviction, is that the wild abandon of Segura overcomes the more refined boxing of Marquez for a stoppage win inside ten rounds.
Report Card Picks 2013: 44-24
Cliff Rold is the Managing Editor of BoxingScene, a founding member of the Transnational Boxing Rankings Board, and a member of the Boxing Writers Association of America. He can be reached at [email protected]