By Cliff Rold
It’s the first split night of 2014 with HBO and Showtime going head to head with a pair of interesting title matches. HBO (9:45 PM EST/PST) features one of boxing’s with-a-bullet rising stars in Mikey Garcia while Showtime (9 PM EST/PST) presents a bit of a crossroads affair. Lamont Peterson, whose career hit the wall after a career-making win over Amir Khan, can’t afford a loss.
A positive PED revelation after Khan left him out of the ring for a year and, after a successful return against Kendall Holt, he was mauled by Lucas Matthysse. His challenger is undefeated, if largely untested, but that won’t matter once the bell rings. If Dierry Jean is good enough to evolve into the challenge, an upset could be in the air.
Let’s go the report cards.
Title: IBF Light Welterweight (2011-Present, 1 Defense)
Previous Titles: WBA “Super” Light Welterweight (2011-12)
Weight: 139.5 lbs.
Average Weight – Last Five Fights: 140 lbs.
Hails from: Washington, DC
Record: 31-2-1, 16 KO, 1 KOBY
Rankings: #3 (TBRB), #4 (BoxRec), #5 (BoxingScene, ESPN, Ring)
Record in Major Title Fights: 2-1, 1 KO
Current/Former World Champions/Titlists Faced: 5 (Timothy Bradley L12; Victor Ortiz D10; Amir Khan SD12; Kendall Holt TKO8; Lucas Matthysse TKO by 3)
Previous Titles: None
Weight: 139 lbs.
Average Weight – Last Five Fights: 139.85 lbs.
Hails from: Montreal, Quebec, Canada (Born in Haiti)
Record: 25-0, 17 KO
Rankings: #8 (Ring), #10 (BoxingScene, TBRB, ESPN)
Record in Major Title Fights: 1st Title Fight
Current/Former World Champions/Titlists Faced: 0
Pre-Fight: Speed – Peterson B; Jean B+
Pre-Fight: Power – Peterson B; Jean B
Pre-Fight: Defense – Peterson B-; Jean B
Pre-Fight: Intangibles – Peterson B; Jean B
Peterson’s Achilles heel has long been his penchant for slow starts. It was there in the loss to Bradley, the wins over Khan and Holt, and undid him against Matthysse. Jean doesn’t have Matthysse’s power, but he can hit and he’s both quick and awkward.
Jean looks like he should be easy to hit. He leaves his chin high often, but he moves his head and shoulders well in slipping shots. His lead right is sudden and accurate and he uses his feet. Peterson is at his best when he can get inside and start banging but Jean has enough game to make Peterson chase.
Will Peterson suffer any ill effects from the Matthysse loss? Given a large frame, how comfortable is he still making the Jr. Welterweight limit? His slow starts may indicate that his effort to make weight means needed warm up time in the ring. If Jean puts rounds in the bank early, can Peterson catch up in time?
If he has to try, this could be a nail biter as the rounds go by. Peterson will have a hometown crowd on his side. Jean has the dream of being the next ticket attraction in Canada.
On HBO, the dreams for Garcia may include some dramatic moves up the scale. Garcia has business at Jr. Lightweight first.
Title: WBO Super Featherweight (2013-Present, 1st Attempted Defense)
Previous Titles: WBO Featherweight (2013)
Weight: 129.2 lbs.
Average Weight – Last Five Fights: 127.75 lbs.
Hails from: Oxnard, California
Record: 33-0, 28 KO
Rankings: #1 (BoxRec), #2 (BoxingScene, TBRB, ESPN, Ring)
Record in Major Title Fights: 2-0, 1 KO
Current/Former World Champions/Titlists Faced: 5 (Mauricio Pastrana KO2; Jonathan Barros TKO8; Orlando Salido Tech. Dec 8; Juan Manuel Lopez TKO4; Roman Martinez KO8)
Juan Carlos Burgos
Previous Titles: None
Height: 5’8 ½
Weight: 129 lbs.
Average Weight – Last Five Fights: 130.1 lbs.
Hails from: Tijuana, Mexico
Record: 30-1-2, 20 KO
Rankings: #3 (BoxingScene, TBRB), #4 (ESPN), #5 (Ring)
Record in Major Title Fights: 0-1-1
Current/Former World Champions/Titlists Faced: 3 (Hozumi Hasegawa L12; Cristobal Cruz UD10; Roman Martinez D12)
Pre-Fight: Speed – Garcia B; Burgos B-
Pre-Fight: Power – Garcia A-; Burgos B
Pre-Fight: Defense – Garcia B; Burgos C
Pre-Fight: Intangibles – Garcia A; Burgos B
This fight could well have already occurred last year had Burgos received the nod he appeared to earn in his shot at Martinez. Instead it was a draw and Garcia proved Martinez’s title finale. Now, Garcia can resolve any lingering issues with his belt and continue to add to a developing resume.
There is much to like with Garcia. He is patient, accurate, and well balanced. His hands are heavy and, importantly, well timed. Burgos is slow off the first punch but can be quick in combination when he gets going. The challenger can box from outside decently and if he can put punches together could make rounds close. He’ll need that here in hopes that he can score the upset.
Burgos has never been stopped though he has been down. Of the two, Garcia is the harder puncher. Where Burgos might have a chance is in a fight that goes long. Garcia has never been twelve and has only been past the ninth round twice. In an otherwise dominant win against Orlando Salido, there were signs he might have slowing down, that Salido may have been clawing into the fight, when an accidentally broken nose sent the fight to the cards.
If Burgos can draw Garcia into a brawl that lasts, we may have new answers about how good Garcia is, and can be, by night’s end.
In the HBO main, Burgos should give a spirited test and could test a Garcia who isn't as proven as he is hyped right now. Think about it: how deep is the pool of foe Garcia has really faced? Salido is a solid veteran but has never been unbeatable. Lopez was spent. Martinez was a titlist who always looked on the verge of not being one anymore. Garcia is good but we don’t really know how good yet. Burgos, after Salido, might be his best opponent to date. Burgos is another step in finding out about the Garcia ceiling and ultimately the development of Garcia continues with a decision.
On Showtime, Peterson continuing to make 140 is probably tough and Jean is going to be as ready as he can be. Jean leaves his chin high and if Peterson warms up his pressure could work against Jean. But what about the ghosts of Matthysse? Peterson was beaten badly last time out and gets another fighter who can pop and comes at odd angles in his first fight back. This looks like a mild upset in the making.
Report Card Picks 2014: 1-0
There are more than just main event scraps carrying intrigue this weekend…On the televised undercard of Garcia-Burgos, undefeated Heavyweights Bryant Jennings (17-0, 9 KO) and Artur Szpilka (16-0, 12 KO) square off with dreams of tomorrow in their gloves. Szpilka is fun to watch but Jennings looks like a potential comer. He’s too quick and too skilled for the wide-open brawler in front of him. A stoppage is possible but let’s say Jennings by decision until he flashes power a bit more consistently…On Showtime, Jermell Charlo (22-0, 11 KO) makes a step up at Jr. Middleweight against former Middleweight title challenger Gabriel Rosado (21-7, 13 KO). Rosado is a stern test for the rising twin, but one he should be able to pass. Rosado will make it close, but Charlo takes the learning rounds and moves on by decision…Earlier in the day in Germany, we have a rematch at Cruiserweight. WBO titlist Marco Huck (36-2-1, 25 KO) was a little bit lucky to get a decision over Firat Arslan (33-6-2, 21 KO) in November 2012. Older now at 43, it’s likely Arslan already fought his last, best fight in their first encounter. At his age, it's not happening again. Look for Huck to put this rivalry to bed, perhaps with a late stoppage.
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]