In matchmaking there are numerous story lines that can be followed. Prospect versus Journeyman is the one most often applied while Undefeated Prospect versus Undefeated Prospect and Pound-for-Pounder versus Pound-for-Pounder are the most rare. Somewhere between those extremes likes Veteran versus Veteran in a crossroads situation. Such is the tale describing Saturday's fight between middleweights Curtis Stevens and Saul Roman.
Between them they have 22 years of pro experience and 73 fights, of which 48 ended inside the distance. Both are coming off victories; Stevens decisioned tough trial horse Derrick Findley over eight rounds while Roman emerged victorious in explosive, off-the-floor-multiple times fashion against Jose Pinzon, who he stopped in nine rounds. Both have obvious strengths and equally visible weaknesses and their various ring traits appear fated to produce a pleasing result for the fans, if not themselves. Finally, rewards await the winner while hard decisions probably await the loser.
CompuBox factors that may influence the outcome include:
Reaching Ring Maturity: For most of his career, Stevens had been a fighter of extremes. Either he dispatched his opponents with stunning speed or he produced sleep-worthy distance fights that exposed mental weaknesses. The first phase was incredibly TV-friendly in terms of highlight-reel performances. Stevens' first 11 fights saw him score 10 knockouts that spanned just 20 rounds and some of his fights were measured in seconds rather than rounds. Anterio Vines lasted only 30 seconds while Anthony Konicek and Darin Johnson went 35 seconds and 58 seconds respectively. The first two fights following a career-long 26-month layoff saw Stevens pick up where he left off as he crushed Romaro Johnson and Elvin Ayala in a combined 216 seconds.
A scorching left hook floored Ayala within seconds and a second knockout closed the show in grand style. Stevens was 9 of 22 (41%) overall and 6 of 13 (46%) in power shots while Ayala went just 2 of 19 (11%) overall and 1 of 5 (20%) in power punches. That tremendous performance set up a fight with reliable gatekeeper Derrick Findley and here Stevens showed a boxing maturity that matched his chronological age of 28.
In past fights, Stevens based his entire ring identity with his ability to blast out opponents and Findley's durability would have caused that version of Stevens to unravel mentally. But here, Stevens unveiled new wrinkles to his game. Instead of swinging for the fences
in vain and spiraling downward in a cesspool of self-pity, Stevens remained focused, engaged, active and completely professional. He maintained a high work rate (72.2 per
round) while retaining excellent accuracy (36% overall, 46% power) and out-landed the veteran 208-109 (total), 32-14 (jabs) and 176-95 (power). Moreover, Stevens didn't let a flash knockdown in the seventh deter him. In fact, he reached fight highs of 35 connects, 33 power connects, 81 total punches and 69 power attempts and in the eighth he was 24 of 78 overall (31%) and 21 of 55 in power punches (38%). He popped in long-range flurries, moved in tight semi-circles and showed himself to be much more than a one-dimensional bomber.
The only danger is that Stevens could lose the bomber that lies at his core, but as of now he appears to be a much more well-rounded fighter. He may well need all these dimensions to repel Roman because...
The Super Gate-Keeper: More than one, Roman has served as the ultimate barometer for up-and-comers, the source of numerous "growing up" battles that either toughened prospects or, at time, swallowed them whole.
One of Gabriel Rosado's hardest-earned victories was a 10-round split decision over Roman, who actually out-landed him 226-214 (total) and 82-48 (jabs) in their February 2010 war. But Rosado came through because he landed more power shots (166-144) at a higher rate (50%-39%) -- and also because judges Debra Barnes and Ed Gabler saw him a 96-94 winner, trumping Pierre Benoist's 97-93 score for Roman.
A similar story played out when Vanes Martirosyan faced Roman. Roman scored a first-round knockdown and more than held his own as the 29-0 contender worked his way back into the fight. Martirosyan ended up with a slim 129-128 lead in total connects because his 86-75 edge in power connects beat out Roman's 53-43 lead in landed jabs. In the end, Martirosyan scored a seventh-round TKO but it was anything but easy.
Roman's most recent fight against the 22-4 Jose Pinzon is the definition of "Closet Classic," a Fight of the Year candidate that may be fated to under-the-radar status. Roman overcame knockdowns in rounds one and four to hurt Pinzon severely in round six and drop him early in the seventh. Pinzon roared back to score two knockdowns later in the seventh, surely a Round of the Year candidate, only for Roman to deck Pinzon in the eighth and score the TKO with a flurry early in the ninth.
In all Pinzon out-landed Roman 210-183 (total), 36-32 (jabs) and 174-151 (power) but the decision was split in terms of accuracy (41%-36% overall for Roman, 37%-18% jabs for Roman, 46%-43% power for Pinzon). Of Roman's 442 punches, 355 -- or 80.3% -- were power shots while 65.1% of Pinzon's punches (381 of 585) were hooks, crosses or uppercuts. If Stevens is lacking in any aspect of his game, Roman is tough enough to expose it. This could come down to who has the better beard: Findley, Ayala & Brinkley landed 42% of their power shots vs. Stevens, while Pinzon, Rosado & Martirosyan landed 48% of their power shots vs. Roman. Both Stevens and Roman land over 40% of their own power shots.
Prediction: As tough as Roman is, one part of his anatomy isn't as durable -- his chin. Six of his nine defeats were by knockout and even in victory he tends to go down. Against Stevens' howitzer hook he may well stay down but given the styles it will be entertaining as long as it lasts. If Stevens doesn't get him early, this one may well go the distance because Stevens may shift into boxing mode after that. In short, two dimensions are better than one and because Stevens is the man with more than one plan he will end up with the victory.