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The ESPN2 Friday Night Fights TV Cheat Sheet- July 29, 2011

This is, to my eyes, the most complete card ESPN2 has put together all year, featuring two former world title challengers facing once-beaten prospects. The winners could cut in line for title shots and Golden Boy Promotions CEO Richard Schafer already stated he is eyeing the victor of the main event for Amir Khan in December. Usually, with the “Friday Night Fights” series, when the main event is good, the opener is weak (in terms of competitiveness) and vice versa. Not tonight, as all four boxers are quality and have enough talent and backstories to merit headline status on other ESPN shows. It is a welcome change and one that has taken place every time broadcasts originate from the Cosmopolitan Casino in Las Vegas. The decision makers at the Cosmopolitan are doing things right by demanding quality bouts and even brought in Mike Tyson and Roberto Duran to hype their event as well.

At the Cosmopolitan Casino, Las Vegas, NV
(ESPN2) Lamont Peterson (28-1-1) vs. Victor Cayo (26-1)
(The Ring magazine #7 junior welterweight vs. unranked)
(ESPN2) Edison Miranda (34-5) vs. Yordanis Despaigne (8-1)

Yordanis Despaigne – It seems talented boxers are as common as cigars in Cuba. Despaigne is another Cuban expatriate, defecting in 2008 with Guillermo Rigondeaux, but was not as highly prized by promoters because of his age. At 31, Despaigne has taken a steady stream of fights to make an impact, since he does not carry Rigondeaux’s name recognition or Yurorkis Gamboa’s flash. To that end, Despaigne defeated respectable Richard Hall and handed undefeated prospect Frank Paines a loss in an ESPN2 follow-up. Did lose in a big step-up against fellow prospect Ismayl Sillakh but was handicapped by cuts over both eyes and an early knockdown. Despaigne was a great amateur, posting victories over future champions Andre Dirrell, Tomasz Adamek, Jean Pascal, and Karoly Balzsay. A two-time bronze medalist at the World Amateur Boxing Championships, he failed to medal at the 2004 Olympics and subsequently supplanted in the ultra-competitive Cuban system. Fought above his natural weight, Despaigne was best at middleweight but moved because of the depth of the Cuban team. Had over 200 victories as amateur and, in the pros, trained down from 180 pounds in his debut to 172 for his last fight. A reported 6’1” (he looks smaller), Despaigne has good height for the division and his upper body is not large or conducive to the infighting he favors. Does not fall into the mold of slick Cubans, preferring to launch big punches and lean into his shots instead of artistically slicing up opponents. Is a bit of a brawler but more dangerous than the average mauler because of Despaigne’s accuracy and expert punch selection. Works the body with wide punches, leaving himself open for uppercuts or well-timed jabs from experienced opponents. When Despaigne switches to the head, his punches become straight - a sign of his ring savvy - and are quicker than most light heavyweights. Has shown a good attitude about his loss to Sillakh (who I see as a future champion), ”I went out of my game plan against Sillakh. I felt that I got hit in the second round and instead of sticking to outboxing him, I attacked. I didn’t stay smart.” Just as impressive is that Despaigne is stepping back into the ring less than five months after that setback. Remains a solid prospect in a suddenly hot division but Despaigne needs to show the flair associated with other Cubans to get a title shot of his own.

Edison Miranda – Colombian has the most derogatory mouth this side of Ricardo Mayorga or David Haye. Miranda says of tonight’s opponent, “I have asked the Nevada Boxing Commission to lay pads around the outside of the ring. If Despaigne’s big head doesn’t stop him from going through the ropes then the pads will be his only hope.” That brashness works, since he has received opportunities off personality instead of quality wins. Miranda has not defeated a top opponent since Allan Green in 2007 and has been knocked out in three of five losses to championship-quality opposition. A boxing writer cannot compose a bio sketch of Miranda without using the word power but, unfortunately for Miranda, he believes those press clippings and now only guns for kayos at the cost of his work rate. Began boxing at age 15, reportedly winning over 125 amateur bouts in racking up four national titles and won a bronze medal in the 2000 Olympic trials before faltering in the last stage of Olympic qualifying. There is a question as to whether Miranda could show more variety in the ring if he applied himself and given his already dented chin, one would think Miranda’s team would work more on defense and footwork. However, Miranda did not make it on HBO and Showtime for his footwork and proves that with the damage he inflicts every time an opponent is hit and driven backwards. Miranda is the only man to stop former middleweight champion Howard Eastman but has regressed in terms of volume punching since. Defense is virtually nonexistent but Miranda does get his hands up to block punches early in a bout. Was frustrated by Andre Ward’s speed in the only fight where Miranda shut down mentally and gave in to defeat. Has not faced a good light heavyweight but is confident nevertheless. “I can finally work hard on boxing during my training camp and not have to worry about losing weight. Now, I don’t have to worry about losing muscle to make weight.” Miranda said same thing when moved up to 168 pounds and there are questions about his power at 175. For Miranda to beat Despaigne, he will need a return to the accuracy he showed at middleweight and have the confidence to actually be less reliant on his biggest weapon...power.

Verdict – Quality boxing defeats great slugging and that will be the case in this fight. A look at Miranda’s record shows he destroys B-level foes, so the question is if Despaigne is an A or even B+ fighter. I think Despaigne is at least B-level and if Despaigne can ride out Sillakh’s hard punches, he can handle a Miranda fighting above his best weight. Miranda could take the first two rounds on activity and aggression but Despaigne times and counters Miranda effectively from the third round on. That and the natural size advantage for Despaigne will tell most in the last three rounds that Despaigne sweeps to win a decision by two or three points. I can even see a late round stoppage for Despaigne if he targets Miranda’s body early. Either way, Despaigne scores a minor upset.

Victor Cayo – First thing first; boxing fans and Cayo’s press agent gotta love his name. They just need to add a “Y” to Cayo’s first name and his marketability will skyrocket. Most saw Cayo the first time when he defeated former champion Julio Diaz on ESPN2 in 2009, where he looked like the veteran confidently employing fast combinations and toying with Diaz at times over ten rounds. Destroyed fellow prospect Julio Reyes next, besides scoring three knockdowns, broke Reyes’ nose badly and owns a quality win over Noe Bolanos. Though Cayo sports a 64% kayo ratio, his punches have more zip than pop. Those punches are accurate and speedy enough to land without the aid of a consistent jab. Won’t wreck opponents with one punch but the accumulation and speed with which his punches are delivered are a major deterrent for opponents. The Dominican has been boxing since age 11, with nearly 300 amateur fights and he registered a victory over Olympic gold medalist Felix Diaz. Cayo likesto play the macho role a bit too much, walking to opponents with hands around his waist or stepping back to admire the effects a flurry of punches had on foes. Aside from a frustrated Diaz, the hotshot had not faced an outstanding offensive force until Marcos Maidana stopped Cayo in six rounds with a body shot. The Maidana fight was a case of Cayo hooking with a better hooker and the hope is he learned from that brashness. Excellent reflexes make him satisfactory on defense, where his head and upper body move rapidly and instinctively away from danger. Hones those abilities through activity, averaged five fights a year until last year, and logged 116 pro rounds. At 5’11”, Cayo will enjoy a two-inch height advantage that he has used well in the past. Is good at making the most of his reach, in terms of accuracy and maintaining distance, but needs to do more with it through his jab. Looked equally adept at leading or countering against everyone but Maidana, and showed good balance on both fronts. I like Cayo’s swagger; it is a confidence born of ability but Cayo needs to turn those hot dogging antics off in favor of sound boxing tactics against elite foes.

Lamont Peterson – The younger of the hyped Peterson brothers or, as I tell him apart, the lighter hitting but smoother boxing of the duo. Lamont was a masterful amateur, establishing a 140-28 record, winning titles at the Junior Olympic, US Nationals, and National Golden Gloves, beating the likes of Andre Dirrell, Mike Alvarado, Tim Coleman, and Rock Allen. As mentioned, Lamont is the less powerful Peterson brother but because of that lack of power has become more versatile and fluid in every other aspect. Technically, there is nothing Peterson lacks, using textbook posture and balance to lash out with combinations on offense and block intuitively on defense behind his hands-high stance. DC native has the ring sense to outbox, outmaneuver or outwork opponents depending on how Peterson decides to approach opponents. Outclassed every B level foe that has stepped in the ring with him, leading with punches to draw out opponents and then guiding foes into sharp counters when they try to retaliate. Does both with combination punching but when pressed backward in two setbacks failed to put his punches together and dropped his punch rate when his feet could not create separation for punching angles. Peterson let frustration get the better of him and tuned his trainer (who was telling him the right things) out mentally during a loss to Tim Bradley. Is a better body puncher than given credit for, adept at moving his punches up and down the target according to openings, preferring to target the ribs early. Another knock on Lamont is that he has not gotten rid of his opposition with flair and is satisfied with a comfortable win instead of looking to finish inferior opposition. At 27, is in his physical prime and despite being outclassed by Timothy Bradley, in a brave and respectable loss, did not look worse for the wear, defeating capable Damian Fuller in his subsequent fight. Went back into the deep end of the pool against Victor Ortiz, rebounding from two early knockdowns to rally and scrape his way back into the fight to earn a draw. Did well shutting down Ortiz’s early advantages and upped his offense as Ortiz struggled late in the face of Peterson’s stamina. Which Lamont shows up tonight, the one from the beginning or end of the Ortiz fight, determines whether he returns to HBO or ESPN for his next fight?

Verdict –Peterson survived the punches of Victor Ortiz and constant pressure of Tim Bradley, so he should ride out whatever rough spots Cayo presents him. Another factor is that Cayo has been out of the ring for nine months because of a shoulder injury, his longest absence, which could affect his timing. In his setbacks, Peterson allowed good offensive fighters to take the initiative and early lead; I don’t see that tonight since Cayo can be stalled with lateral movement. Cayo is a good offensive fighter but he loops punches more than Ortiz or Bradley. Those wider shots provide the split-second for Peterson to recognize and counter Cayo, allowing Peterson to beat Cayo to the point of engagement on most occasions. Peterson is the naturally bigger and stronger fighter, not punching-wise but with pure strength, a big advantage in 12-round bouts. Peterson is just a tad better in every department, which enables him to cruise to a comfortable decision victory.

Prediction record for 2011: 87% (102-15)
Prediction record for 2010: 85% (218-40)

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