By Jake Donovan
It's as classic a scenario as you can ask for a crossroads bout.
Antonio Orozco is a super lightweight on the rise, going up against his toughest test to date. Humberto Soto is a grizzled veteran boxer still with plenty of fight left in his career.
Tonight, they collide in the televised opener on HBO, live from the famed StubHub Center in Carson, California.
The fan friendly venue is known for churning out Fight of the Year entrants, with the possibility for both legs of the HBO doubleheader landing in that category.
Orozco (22-0, 15KOs) might not have a choice but to bring it to that level. The good-looking prospect is weeks away from his 28th birthday and perhaps one win away from becoming a formidable contender in the always loaded super lightweight division.
However, his last test raised a few questions as he overcame tough moments to edge divisional gatekeeper Emmanuel Taylor over 10 rounds in May. The bout was an upgrade from his eight-round shutout of Stevie Forbes, a known fighter but also a badly faded one who offered little more than name value in their clash nearly one year ago.
Soto (65-8-2, 35KOs) represents a perfect mix of both worlds - a known fighter who still has enough left in the tank to bump off those who claim to be in contention.
The 35-year old boxer - now entering his 19th year as a prizefighter - served that reminder in an underrated 2014 ring campaign. Soto was brought in as "the name fighter" but wound up with wins over then-unbeaten Juan Carlos Abreu, Wilfredo Buelvas and a still-relevant John Molina Jr.
He hasn't fought since then, but largely due to fights getting postponed and falling through altogether. Soto was ready to go in May, but Frankie Gomez managed to miss weight by more than a full division, thus killing a prime opportunity for a showase fight on the undercard of Saul Alvarez' knockout win over James Kirkland in front of 30,000-plus fans at Minute Maid Park in Houston.
Instead, Soto was forced to play the role of spectator, while awaiting another young gun to dare step to him.
That moment comes tonight, in a fight where a title shot is highly likely for the winner.
Just whom will that contestant be? Read on to see how the staff at BoxingScene.com believes the action will play out.
BOXINGSCENE.COM STAFF PREDICTIONS: ANTONIO OROZCO vs. HUMBERTO SOTO
Ryan Burton (Orozco UD): I think the young warrior dispatches the old veteran. Orozco looked good in his last fight, a step up vs Emmanuel Tayor and Soto has been plagued with inactivity.
Jake Donovan (Orozco Dec.): Through no fault of his own, Soto stands a better chance had he managed an interim fight between Molina Jr. and now. Orozco is a good looking fighter with tremendous upside. It's been a while since his last knockout; doing so here would send a hell of a message, but I will go chalk and predict that Soto hears the final bell, though not winning many rounds in the process.
Michael Gibbons (Orozco Maj. Dec.): A little too much wear and tear for Soto to keep up with the Orozco.
Takahiro Onaga (Orozco TKO9): Soto shows experience early but gets broken down as Orozco refuses to back up. Potentially the best fight of weekend
Cliff Rold (Orozco KO): Soto finally gets the HBO date he just missed a couple times recently. He'll be a good stepping stone win for the promising Orozco.
Victor Salazar (Orozco Unan. Dec.): It’s probably the best fight of the weekend, a true crossroads fight. Orozco out to prove he’s more than a prospect and Soto wants one more crack at a world title. A victory for either would prove so. It should be a fight that will resonate with the lore of the Stub Hub Center.
Reynaldo Sanchez (Orozco UD): Youth vs. Experience. Soto in my opinion, had many problems to overcome and I think he never rise into the next level.
Alexey Sukachev (Orozco Split Dec.): Soto seems to be eternal but he is not. Orozco is a good little fighter to stop another of Zorrita's runs. It won't be easy for him, while the fight itself will be grueling. But at the end Orozco's young body and energy will help him to outlast the veteran.
Jake Donovan is the managing editor of BoxingScene.com.
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