By Cliff Rold
For all the people who scream Armageddon about counter-programming in boxing, consider this:
Sergio Martinez-Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. and Saul Alvarez-Josesito Lopez will combine on Saturday night for over 30,000 full seats in Las Vegas. A few thousand more will watch from Closed Circuit and sports book locales. Interest is high and one can assume more than the 1.3 million viewers who tuned in for the U.S. last weekend for Andre Ward-Chad Dawson across the boxing spectrum.
It’s not just the main events meriting attention, though they get the lion’s share. There is a strong support bout to Lopez-Alvarez, one that might steal both shows. And, across the pond, Cruiserweight gives us a potential barnburner as well.
Boxing goes Frankenstein this weekend. It’s alive.
Let’s go to the report cards and quick picks for a massive weekend.
Title: Lineal World Middleweight (2010-Present, 4 Defenses)
Previous Titles: WBC Jr. Middleweight (2009-10); WBO Middleweight (2010); WBC Middleweight (2010, 1 Defense)
Weight: 159 lbs.
Average Weight – Last Five Fights: 158.2 lbs.
Hails from: Oxnard, California (Born in Argentina)
Record: 49-2-2, 28 KO, 1 KOBY
Record in Major Title Fights: 5-0, 4 KO (6-0-1, 5 KO including interim title fights)
Current/Former World Champions/Titlists Defeated: 3 (Kelly Pavlik, Paul Williams, Sergiy Dzinziruk)
Current/Former World Champions/Titlists Faced in Defeat or Draw: 3 (Antonio Margarito, Kermit Cintron, Paul Williams)
Julio Cesar Chavez Jr.
Titles: WBC Middleweight (2011-Present, 2 Defenses)
Previous Titles: None
Weight: 158 lbs.
Average Weight – Last Five Fights: 159.65 lbs.
Hails from: Culiacan, Sinaloa, Mexico
Record: 46-0-1, 32 KO
BoxingScene Rank: #5 at Middleweight
Record in Major Title Fights: 4-0, 2 KO
Current/Former World Champions/Titlists Defeated: 1 (Sebastian Zbik)
Pre-Fight: Speed – Martinez A; Chavez B
Pre-Fight: Power – Martinez B+; Chavez B
Pre-Fight: Defense – Martinez B+; Chavez B-
Pre-Fight: Intangibles – Martinez A; Chavez B
Chavez should do much better than some might assume, especially in the first six rounds. As was the case against Andy Lee, he might drop the first round or two, but he comes on strong. That suits him well against Martinez. Versus Darrin Barker and Matthew Macklin, Martinez warmed to the task and Chavez has more firepower than either. If Chavez can grind enough, the 37-year old champion's legs could look their age on the back half. The one concern has to be the shape Chavez is in. He looked horribly dried out at the weigh-in Friday and was sucking down liquids as soon as he came off the scale.
Chavez came in the lightest he has since 2009. Martinez looked like he was ready to go on the scale. Chavez looked like he needs every second until fight time to get his body in gear. In the era of same day weigh-ins, he concern would be high.
As is, if he’s not at peak, against a fighter as sharp as Martinez, he could be in for a long night (or a short one?).
Let’s assume Chavez is in his best form by the opening bell. Martinez will have to be careful not to stay in the pocket too long, saving energy to accelerate down the stretch. Ultimately, talent takes over and Martinez has more of it. He's beaten some of the best. Chavez is leaping from borderline contenders to the man.
It's a big leap.
Chavez will fall short.
In a fight that might resemble Martinez-Kelly Pavlik, the real champion should be laying down a beating in the final third and do enough to earn a decision in a crowd-pleasing affair on HBO PPV.
What about the action down the strip on Saturday? Two fights merit closer inspection, including the main event.
Titles: WBC Light Middleweight (2011-Present, 4 Defenses)
Previous Titles: None
Weight: 154 lbs.
Average Weight – Last Five Fights: 153.3 lbs.
Hails from: Juanacatlan, Jalisco, Mexico
Record: 40-0-1, 29 KO
BoxingScene Rank: #5 at Jr. Middleweight
Record in Major Title Fights: 5-0, 3 KO
Current/Former World Champions/Titlists Defeated: 4 (Carlos Baldomir, Lovemore N’Dou, Kermit Cintron, Shane Mosley)
Titles/Previous Titles: None
Weight: 153 lbs.
Average Weight – Last Five Fights: 142.7 lbs.
Hails from: Riverside, California
Record: 30-4, 18 KO
BoxingScene Rank: #3 at Welterweight
Current/Former World Champions/Titlists Defeated: 1 (Victor Ortiz)
Pre-Fight: Speed – Alvarez B; Lopez B
Pre-Fight: Power – Alvarez B+; Lopez B
Pre-Fight: Defense – Alvarez B-; Lopez B-
Pre-Fight: Intangibles – Alvarez B+; Lopez B+
Showtime definitely has the less attractive main event. This is a stay busy fight for Canelo Cunningham, perceptually, without Lopez’s Ortiz upset. Alvarez isn't as quick as Ortiz, and Lopez will have some reach on him, but the heavy hands, particularly the jab of Alvarez, won't let Lopez get off enough to spring the upset. Lopez is tough, and he’ll surge to stay in it in spots, but ultimately the steady, consistent approach of Alvarez will be enough for the decision if not a stoppage.
The real corker on Showtime’s show comes in the chief support bout. For as long as it lasts, this fight will be high on drama. Why? It’s simple. The end can come at any moment.
Titles: WBC Featherweight (2011-Present, 4 Defenses)
Previous Titles: WBO Bantamweight (2005-07, 2 Defenses)
Weight: 125 lbs.
Average Weight – Last Five Fights: 125.4 lbs.
Hails from: Mexico City, Mexico
Record: 52-7, 45 KO, 3 KOBY
BoxingScene Rank: #4 at Featherweight
Record in Major Title Fights: 8-3, 6 KO, 3 KOBY
Current/Former World Champions/Titlists Defeated: 8 (Adonis Rivas, Ratanachai Sor Vorapin, Mark Johnson, Fernando Montiel, Irene Pacheco, Mauricio Pastrana, Hozumi Hasegawa, Elio Rojas)
Current/Former World Champions/Titlists Faced in Defeat: 3 (Israel Vazquez, Gerry Penalosa, Toshiaki Nishioka)
Daniel Ponce De Leon
Previous Titles: WBO Super Bantamweight (2005-08, 6 Defenses)
Weight: 125.5 lbs.
Average Weight – Last Five Fights: 127.1 lbs.
Hails from: Huntington Park, California (Born in Mexico)
Record: 43-4, 35 KO, 1 KOBY
BoxingScene Rank: #9 at Featherweight
Record in Major Title Fights: 7-1, 4 KO, 1 KOBY
Current/Former World Champions/Titlists Defeated: 1 (Gerry Penalosa)
Current/Former World Champions/Titlists Faced in Defeat: 4 (Celestino Caballero, Juan Manuel Lopez, Adrien Broner, Yuriorkis Gamboa)
Pre-Fight: Speed – Gonzalez B; De Leon B-
Pre-Fight: Power – Gonzalez A; De Leon A
Pre-Fight: Defense – Gonzalez C; De Leon C
Pre-Fight: Intangibles – Gonzalez B; De Leon B
De Leon has a little better chin, but Gonzalez has shown sturdier legs at 126 than he had at lower weights. It is perhaps the weight he always should have been at, or at least the one he should have been at sooner. Factor in a height advantage and sharper technique for Gonzalez and the pick here is the WBC champ keeping his strap and current momentum.
…there is one x-factor to keep an eye on all night. De Leon has improved over the years, sometimes sacrificing power for volume offense. He’s struggled against upper level foes most of the time, but he’s a southpaw with pop. Two of Gonzalez’s knockout losses in title fights, against Penalosa and Nishioka, came against southpaws. Neither of them has the single shot crack De Leon can generate. Gonzalez may be the technically sounder fighter, but De Leon is in this thing as long as both men are standing.
Long before that fight, long before most of the main fights in Las Vegas, gets started, fight fans in Germany will be treated to what could be a fantastic little battle for the Cruiserweight crown.
Yoan Pablo Hernandez
Titles: IBF Cruiserweight (2011-Present, 1 Defense); Lineal World Cruiserweight (2012-Present, 1st Attempted Defense)
Previous Titles: None
Weight: 199.95 lbs.
Average Weight – Last Five Fights: 198.75 lbs.
Hails from: Halle an der Saale, Sachsen-Anhalt, Germany (Born in Cuba)
Record: 26-1, 13 KO, 1 KOBY
Record in Major Title Fights: 2-0 (3-0, 1 KO including interim title fights)
Current/Former World Champions/Titlists Defeated: 1 (Steve Cunningham)
Current/Former World Champions/Titlists Faced in Defeat: 1 (Wayne Braithwaite)
Titles/Previous Titles: None
Average Weight – Last Five Fights: 193.05 lbs.
Hails from: Toronto, Ontario, Canada
Record: 25-2, 16 KO, 1 KOBY
BoxingScene Rank: #7 at Cruiserweight
Record in Major Title Fights: 0-1, 1 KOBY
Current/Former World Champions/Titlists Defeated: 0
Current/Former World Champions/Titlists Faced in Defeat: 1 (Cunningham)
Pre-Fight: Speed – Hernandez B; Ross B+
Pre-Fight: Power – Hernandez B; Ross B
Pre-Fight: Defense – Hernandez B; Ross B
Pre-Fight: Intangibles – Hernandez B+; Ross B+
Ross is best remembered in the boxing world for winning the final U.S. season of the reality “The Contender” series. When the series closed, he appeared to have as much promise as any of the show’s winners. Like too many of the participants, he has been plagued by inactivity.
With a little better luck, he’d already have the IBF belt on the line this weekend. He dropped Steve Cunningham in his lone title shot only for the fight to be stopped on a cut the following round. He has waited a long time for a second chance, and at 37 this may be his last. He has his work cut out for him. Hernandez showed growth from the first to the second Cunningham fight.
However, the champion still has questions about his chin and stamina and Ross can crack. The upset is the choice here, Ross making good on a long life in the ring with a knockout sometime in the second half of the fight.
Whew, that’s a lot of fights. Here are a few more picks on a super busy weekend…On the undercard of Martinez-Chavez, the best fight might be one no one is talking about. Roman Martinez (25-1, 16 KO) always makes for the violence and should have enough to upend Miguel Beltran Jr. (27-1, 17 KO) for a vacant belt at 130 lbs…Guillermo Rigondeuax (10-0, 8 KO) should successfully defend his 122 lb. belt against Roberto Marroquin (22-1, 15 KO) though he might have to work for it…In non-title Middleweight action, Matthew Macklin (28-4, 19 KO) should rebound from a knockout loss to Martinez earlier this year with a win over former Jr. Middleweight titlist Joachim Alcine (33-2-1, 19 KO)…Elsewhere in Vegas, fans waiting for Alvarez-Lopez will most likely see new Bantamweight titlist Leo Santa Cruz (20-0, 11 KO) continue his rise to prominence with a decision over former U.S. Olympian and Flyweight titlist Eric Morel (46-3, 23 KO)…Finally, all-action banger Marcos Maidana (31-3, 28 KO) should have enough to get by the larger Jesus Soto Karass (26-7-3, 17 KO) in non-title Welterweight action. If he does, can we get a little Maidana-Lucas Matthysse action? Please? Alas, that will wait for another day. This Saturday gives us plenty to anticipate for now…Enjoy the shows.
Report Card Picks 2012: 41-14
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 firstname.lastname@example.org