By Cliff Rold
This is a packed Saturday. From Jr. Featherweight to Middleweight, fans will see a slew of competitive matches featuring some of the world’s best.
All this and college football’s final weekend before bowl season? It’s enough to make a head (or at least a DVR) explode.
Viewers will want to be aware of start times. Showtime goes live Saturday at 8 PM EST and 5 PM PST. HBO will be live 9:45 PM EST/PST. We start with the man regarded as the most talented of the broad bunch on display. The Middleweight fight will not be live in the US but replays December 15th on the ProSieben network, available on some cable packages.
Let’s go the report cards.
Title/Previous Titles: Lineal World/TBRB/Ring/WBO Jr. Featherweight (2013-Present, 1st Attempted Defense); WBA “Super” Super Bantamweight (2012-Present, 3 Defenses)
Height: 5’4 ½
Weight: 121 lbs.
Average Weight – Last Five Fights: 121.4 lbs.
Hails from: Miami, Florida (Hails from Cuba)
Record: 12-0, 8 KO
Record in Major Title Fights: 4-0, 2 KO (6-0, 3 KO including interim title fights)
Current/Former World Champions/Titlists Faced: 3 (Ricardo Cordoba SD12; Rico Ramos KO6; Nonito Donaire UD12)
Previous Titles: IBF Bantamweight (2007-09, 2 Defenses; 2010)
Height: 5’5 ½
Weight: 121.6 lbs.
Average Weight – Last Five Fights: 117.75 lbs.
Hails from: Bronx, New York (Hails from Accra, Ghana)
Record: 29-4, 22 KO
Rankings: At 118 lbs. - #4 (BoxingScene, ESPN), #6 (TBRB, Ring)
Record in Major Title Fights: 4-3, 1 KO
Current/Former World Champions/Titlists Faced: 5 (Wladimir Sidorenko L12; Luis Perez RTD 7; Vic Darchinyan UD12; Yonnhy Perez L12, UD12; Abner Mares L12, L12)
Pre-Fight: Speed – Rigondeaux A+; Agbeko B+
Pre-Fight: Power – Rigondeaux B+; Abgeko B
Pre-Fight: Defense – Rigondeaux A+; Agbeko B
Pre-Fight: Intangibles – Rigondeaux A; Agbeko A
Finally back in the ring after seemingly being punished for schooling a franchise player in Nonito Donaire, Rigondeaux gets one of the best of the fantastic recent run at Bantamweight. Agbeko can be drawn into fights but is capable of boxing well and throws hard, straight shots. If he can come forward and get past the guard of Rigondeaux, he can force the defensive wizard to fight. Can he do enough to win?
Previous Titles: IBF Light Welterweight (2007-08, 2 Defenses); WBA Welterweight (2012-13, 1 Defense)
Weight: 147 lbs.
Average Weight – Last Five Fights: 146.6 lbs.
Hails from: Brooklyn, New York
Record: 32-5, 7 KO, 2 KOBY
Record in Major Title Fights: 5-4, 1 KO, 2 KOBY
Rankings: #6 (ESPN), #9 (Ring), #10 (BoxingScene, TBRB)
Current/Former World Champions/Titlists Faced: 7 (Miguel Cotto L12; Lovemore NDou UD12, SD12; Ricky Hatton TKO by 11; Juan Diaz L12, UD12; Amir Khan TKO by 11; Vyacheslav Senchenko TKO9; Adrien Broner L12)
Previous Titles: IBF Light Welterweight (2000-01, 5 Defenses); WBO Light Welterweight (2003-04, 1 Defense); Lineal World/Ring/WBA/WBC/IBF Welterweight (2005-06, 1 Defense); IBF Welterweight (2006); IBF Light Welterweight (2011)
Height: 5’7 ½
Weight: 146 lbs.
Average Weight – Last Five Fights: 139 lbs.
Hails from: Brooklyn, New York
Record: 42-8, 29 KO, 3 KOBY
Rankings: At 140 lbs. - #5 (BoxRec), #6 (Ring), #7 (BoxingScene, TBRB, ESPN)
Record in Major Title Fights: 11-8, 9 KO, 3 KOBY
Current/Former World Champions/Titlists Faced: 13 (Junior Witter UD12; Terron Millett TKO4; Kostya Tszyu TKO by 2; DeMarcus Corley SD12; Cory Spinks L12, TKO9; Rafael Pineda SD12; Carlos Baldomir L12; Floyd Mayweather L12; Miguel Cotto TKO by 11; Joshua Clottey L Tech. Dec. 9; Lucas Matthysse SD12; Amir Khan KO by 5; Danny Garcia L12)
Pre-Fight: Speed – Malignaggi B+; Judah A-
Pre-Fight: Power – Malignaggi C; Judah A
Pre-Fight: Defense – Malignaggi B; Judah B
Pre-Fight: Intangibles – Malignaggi B+; Judah B+
It’s an old-fashioned neighborhood battle between two of Brooklyn’s recent finest. One could look at this as a clash of under and overachiever. Malignaggi has persevered despite a lack of notable power, sticking around and getting big fights long after he’d been written off. His loss to Adrien Broner last out was more competitive than many would have expected. Judah enters off a loss that generated new respect, falling behind early but posting a dramatic late stand against Danny Garcia in his last outing. Both men need a win here. Can Malignaggi take advantage of Judah’s inconsistencies in the ring? Or is Judah, at 36, still too fast and too hard hitting, for Malignaggi to overcome?
Title/Previous Titles: IBF Middleweight (2013-Present, 1st Attempted Defense)
Height: 6’0 ½
Weight: 158.9 lbs.
Average Weight – Last Five Fights: 160.15 lbs.
Hails from: London, UK
Record: 26-1, 16 KO, 1 KOBY
Rankings: #2 (Ring), #3 (BoxingScene, TBRB, ESPN), #4 (BoxRec)
Record in Major Title Fights: 1-1, 1 KOBY
Current/Former World Champions/Titlists Faced: 2 (Sergio Martinez KO by 11; Daniel Geale SD12)
Previous Titles: WBO Middleweight (2003-04, 1 Defense); WBA Middleweight (2006; 2007-12, 12 Defenses)
Height: 5’11 ½
Weight: 159.3 lbs.
Average Weight – Last Five Fights: 159.4 lbs.
Hails from: Cologne, Nordrhein-Westfalen, Germany
Record: 38-3-2, 17 KO, 1 KOBY, 1 NC
Rankings: #5 (BoxRec, Ring), #6 (BoxingScene), #7 (TBRB), #8 (ESPN)
Record in Major Title Fights: 14-3-2, 4 KO, 1 KOBY, 1 NC
Current/Former World Champions/Titlists Faced: 9 (Hector Javier Velazco SD12; Oscar De La Hoya L12; Hacine Cherifi KO3; Bert Schenk KO2; Maselino Masoe UD12; Javier Castillejo TKO by 10, UD12; Sebastian Sylvester UD12; Sebastian Zbik RTD9; Daniel Geale L12)
Pre-Fight: Speed – Barker B; Sturm B+
Pre-Fight: Power – Barker B; Sturm B
Pre-Fight: Defense – Barker C+; Sturm B
Pre-Fight: Intangibles – Barker B+; Sturm B+
Could this be the fight of the weekend? Sturm appears to have slipped in the last couple years and regularly is drawn into tough fights. He still has one of the game’s more underrated jabs but he’s had a long career. Barker rose to the occasion against Geale over the summer in a fantastic fight and exceeded expectation in his loss to Martinez before that. Younger and fresher, Barker has a chance to perhaps put a nail in the career coffin of the German star. Sturm will likely come hard knowing this could be a last real chance to stay in the title picture.
Beginning with the Middleweights, Sturm just looks like a fighter whose best days are behind him. A good fighter at his best, he never stepped out of his cocoon after the controversial De La Hoya loss and tested himself on the global stage. His loss to Geale came after fights that also could have been losses to Matthew Macklin and Martin Murray. Barker will be flush with confidence after the best win of his career and with the incentive to win and keep earning. The nod here goes to the fresher man. Barker by decision.
In the Showtime main, Malignaggi has always struggled to defeat men at a certain level. Judah is a fighter who flirts with that level. While never consistent, Judah has more speed and power and should be too strong for Paulie. This could be a late stoppage win for the former Welterweight king but a decision may be more likely.
Finally, HBO matches two of the best smaller men of recent years. Agbeko has been largely inactive since a memorable run of fights before and during the Showtime Bantamweight tournament. In his lone 2013 outing, he looked like he can still go. That might not matter against a Rigondeaux who was superlative in outboxing Donaire. Agbeko may have moments and has the experience but Rigondeaux's precise output, and Agbeko's willingness, could mean a late stoppage for the Cuban.
Report Card Picks 2013: 57-25
And now, more picks (!) beginning with the Showtime undercard…Former WBA 154 lb. titlist Austin Trout (26-1, 14 KO) throws more than Erislandy Lara (18-1-2, 12 KO) but the Cuban is more precise and hits harder. Lara should be able to counter Trout effectively and snare enough of what could be many close rounds to win a decision… IBF Welterweight titlist Devon Alexander (25-1, 14 KO) had hoped to face Amir Khan here but gets undefeated Shawn Porter (22-0-1, 14 KO) instead. Even if Alexander struggles with accuracy, and he has in the past, Alexander appears too fluid and experienced for a Porter who tries hard but can be easy to hit. The choice is Alexander by decision…The fight that may steal the Showtime comes at Super Middleweight. WBC titlist Sakio Bika (32-5-2, 21 KO) makes his first defense against the more exciting of a notable brother pair. Anthony Dirrell (26-0, 22 KO), brother of 2004 Olympic Bronze Medalist Andre Dirrell, could bring professional gold home first. Dirrell lacks the experience of Bika but he’s fresh, willing, and has skills he hasn’t shown yet. This should be a coming out party and decided points win for the challenger…On HBO, there is a chance for war before the main event. Anytime Jr. Middleweight James Kirkland (31-1, 27 KO) is with trainer Ann Wolfe, one has to like his chances. Glen Tapia (20-0, 12 KO) is solid but hasn't shown anything that speaks to handling the all out assault Kirkland can unleash. The choice is Kirkland by stoppage around the fifth round in a fast paced affair…Whew, this is one hell of a lot of boxing for one day.
Cliff Rold is the Managing Editor of BoxingScene, a founding member of the Transnational Boxing Rankings Board, and a member the Yahoo Pound for Pound voting panel, and the Boxing Writers Association of America. He can be reached at [email protected]