By Stephen "Breadman" Edwards
The Gary Russell vs. Jhonny Gonzalez matchup is intriguing because everyone keeps referencing what Vasyl Lomanchenko did to Russell last year. But Lomanchenko is a once in a decade type of talent.
Russell's biggest attribute is his hand speed, but Lomanchenko has more overall quickness than Russell which neutralized the speed. Lomanchenko also has great footwork which left Russell baffled. Gonzalez does not possess the qualities that Lomanchenko has. What Gonzalez does have is a solid punch and tons of experience. He is now in the middle of late career resurgence. He has loss just once in the last 6 years.
When I watch Gary Russell he usually dominates his opponents but the opponents who strongly resist him, he usually can't stop them. Because of how well Gonzalez has been performing in the last few years, I believe the resistance will be strong. Gonzalez also has trainer Nacho Beristain and that is a big plus. Beristain could be the best mind in boxing. Beristain trained fighters usually do well with speed.
I expect Gonzalez to shoot a left uppercut under the lead southpaw hand of Russell and I believe Gonazlez's punching power and punch variety will keep Russell honest. Russell won't be able to bare down and just dig in with big shots. I suspect he will resort to just winning rounds and not try to do anything spectacular. The hesitant pick here is Gary Russell by decision.
Gonzalez has much more wear and tear. I feel Russell will land enough judge friendly right hooks to win rounds and take home his first championship. Although Gonzalez has been stopped multiple times by smaller fighters than Russell I can't pick Russell by stoppage because he has an interesting physical makeup. He has fast hands but very short arms. In order for him to really punish a guy like Gonzalez he would have to step in with quick sustained footwork. Russell is talented but he hasn't shown me that at the elite level. So again the safe pick is Russell by decision.
Jermell Charlo vs. Vanes Martirosyan is a hardcore fan's dream fight. You have two elite level talents fighting in their physical primes. They also happen to be leading contenders in a red hot division. This fight should be for a title and it should be a 12 rounder.
I once viewed this fight as a 50/50 fight because Martirosyan has looked really good under the guidance of Joe Goossen. But Goossen does not seem to be a part of Martirosyan's team anymore. I always felt that Vanes had the physical tools but mentally he would lose his bearings in competitive fights. I think in a close competitive fight he will miss Joe Goossen who I think is the most underrated coaches in boxing.
Jermell Charlo is the less celebrated twin out of the Charlo brothers because he is not the puncher his twin brother is. But Jermell has fought the much stiffer competition and he has much more experience than his more powerful twin. Jermell has a unique mindset because he is one of the few younger fighters who won't force things in order to impress. Jermell has uncanny patience for a fighter his age. He has a clutch gene because even in his not so impressive performances, he finds something that works and he finds a way to win. See the Charlie Ota fight.
Martirosyan is pretty tall for the weight class but he has short arms. Charlo is proportioned perfectly he will have a big edge in actual reach. Charlo's best punch is his jab. I feel as though Charlo will out jab Vanes and make him impatient. Vanes actually has more of an offensive arsenal than Charlo. When Vanes can force Charlo into extended exchanges I feel as though he has an advantage.
Charlo is more of a jab, jab, right hand type of puncher. He doesn't throw extend volleys. That's why this fight should be close and competitive. But Vanes has extremely poor defense and he raises up after he gets his hands off. I suspect Charlo will adjust to this. I think both fighters will suffer knockdowns but Charlo will find a way to pull out another clutch decision victory.