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The HBO TV Cheat Sheet- July 9, 2011


Historic Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City, plays host to HBO and a divergent lot of boxers tonight. The quartet of fighters arrived from around the world (USA, Japan, and Cuba) and bring a conflicting mix of styles that should make for intriguing clashes inside the ropes. The career stages are diverse as well, with a hot prospect, a legitimate contender, a new champion and a former pound-for-pound threat returning from a devastating loss. The storylines are many but only two will emerge with bright prospects for the future. In a city known for gamblers, which fighter will take risks and be willing to gamble his future?

At Boardwalk Hall, Atlantic City, NJ
(HBO) Paul Williams (39-2) vs. Erislandy Lara (15-0-1)
(The Ring magazine #3 middleweight vs. unranked)
(HBO) Akifumi Shimoda (23-2-1) vs. Rico Ramos (19-0)
(The Ring magazine #2 junior featherweight vs. unranked)
(WBA junior featherweight belt)


Rico Ramos – An elite amateur boxer who hooked off the jab before his tenth birthday, Ramos rose to the level of 2006 PAL champ, a silver medalist at the Golden Gloves and USA Nationals and was selected for international competitions. Was considered a favorite for the Olympic team but there was a lot of depth and Ramos lost in the finals to Raynell Williams. Has made the transition to the pros easy for himself with a combination of speed and timely aggressiveness. The Los Angelino displayed crisp, zipping punches against Alejandro Perez in his TV debut; his accuracy and willingness to stay in the pocket to trade made me take note. In a fight against Reynaldo Lopez, who had 30 wins to his credit, Ramos put his opponent down twice but could not get the stoppage. Seemingly, never throws less than three punches at a time but without getting greedy and remaining stationary. Displayed maturity by not letting Perez’s headbutts get to him and in his last fight, Ramos defeated awkward southpaw Alejandro Valdez to ready himself for Shimoda. Maintains sharpness by staying in the ring, averaging six fights a year, keeping the 24-year-old fresh and focused. In only his 13th bout, Ramos won a six-round decision over former two-weight champ Kermin Guardia but had problems with the southpaw failing to stop his older and smaller rival. Maintains a 53% kayo ratio but other than Heriberto Ruiz (worthy of “Kayo of the Year” consideration), Ramos has not dispatched his best opponents. A hard worker in the gym, which is why his weight has never fluctuated above four pounds from his pro debut, Ramos is sure to work on finishing skills. Went the eight and ten round distance twice, without taking a deep breath, against mauling opponents who tried to push him backward. Has the managerial backing of Al Haymon and is promoted by Goossen Tutor, a connected team that will accentuate Ramos’ positives even more with an alphabet title. Ramos is succinct in describing himself, "I’m not looking for a knockout. I just want to win every round and look good at the same time. I will box like I was taught to do and if the knockout comes, I guess I make the fans a lot happier. You can expect to see a lot of jabs from me, right-hand ring generalship. You can expect that I will stay composed and use the ring a lot for to my advantage.”

Akifumi Shimoda – Newly minted WBA champion took the title from countryman Ryol Lee in his last fight and travels outside of Japan for only the second time. This is Shimoda’s first defense (merely the second time a Japanese champion has defended in America) but the 5’8” southpaw has more big fight experience than his challenger. Shimoda fought his way up at the talent-laden Teiken Gym (the country’s most prominent) in Tokyo but also trained in California and Las Vegas with Kenny Adams on several occasions. Just as in American cities, boxing molds wayward Asian kids, providing them direction and purpose. This was the case with Shimoda, often suspended from school for fighting and rejected by five high schools because of his behavior. Eventually dropped out of high school but welcomed in Teiken Gym finding favor there as a lead sparring partner for hard-hitting former champion Alexander Munoz and current champ Toshiaki Nishioka. Shimoda learned the hard way, sparring and shadowboxing incessantly, turning pro after two amateur bouts. Regardless of pedestrian pedigree, was nicknamed “Sugar” and despite lack of fluidity, is a tricky boxer and counterpuncher. Shimoda uses his legs to aggressively dart at opponents, slashing in to score a two-punch combination, then evaluating if a quick retreat or continued pressure is needed. Is not afraid to use his brawn and has imposing physical strength to push foes onto their back feet. Tremendous stamina might be Shimoda’s biggest asset, getting stronger as the rounds progress. I rate Shimoda a pressure fighter, who uses movement to set up spurts of action instead of staying on top of foes. On the negative side, Shimoda is a mostly erect fighter and only moves his head when both legs are planted. Sways from side to side when approaching, from the waist up, and keeps hands high. Scored three knockdowns in title win, which featured a particularly exciting third round where both men rose off the canvas. In two losses, Shimoda was only behind on the scorecards by one point, which might have been different if he averages more than two fights a year. Shimoda has fought quality opposition; only two opponents had losing records and beat six foes with undefeated records. At 26, Shimoda is in his prime and judging from recent pictures, is absolutely ripped and in peak physical condition.

Verdict – Styles and how they are appreciated by judges will play a part in the outcome, as I see the pair inflicting equal damage in different ways. The amateur pedigree, smooth motion and crisper punching favor Ramos. A lot of herky-jerky motion is not appreciated by judges, who prefer clear connects and flowing punches vice quick connects and retreats. Shimoda is a one-two puncher who attacks from awkward angles and rudimentary assaults like that will be seen and countered by Ramos. Defense could be the key to victory; Ramos is quicker on “D” and better at evading or rolling with shots. Ramos might score a couple knockdowns against an off-balance Shimoda, increasing his lead on the scorecards and making Shimoda increasingly desperate. Ramos is a little faster, little stronger, smoother, and has better lateral movement. In boxing, a little means a lot and Ramos wins eight of 12 rounds for a deserved decision.

Erislandy Lara – The busy Lara is on cable TV as often as beer commercials, fighting seven times in 2009, five times in 2010, and twice already in 2011. This Cuban has avoided the dreaded “lackadaisical” tag but is coming off a draw where rugged Carlos Molina stayed on top of him, refusing to give him room to operate. Lara garnered a lot of praise defeating Grady Brewer and Danny Perez last year, displaying classy moves and instincts in those 20 rounds of action. When faced with inferior opposition, destroyed them way a contender should, stopping four or his last five opponents in the first round. To avoid the pitfalls of other Cuban boxers based in Miami, Lara leaves the city to train under the tutelage of Ronnie Shields in Houston. The impressive junior middleweight is a three-time Cuban and one-time world amateur champion and was favored to make an Olympic appearance before his defection. Showed sporadic one-punch kayo power since turning pro and earned a good reputation in sparring sessions against Ricky Hatton. A mature 28-year-old, Lara’s power (63% kayo ratio) and amateur pedigree suggests he will have little problem at the highest levels of the sport. A well-rounded southpaw, I would not classify him a great puncher since he does not look for power punches from the opening bell. He is not a speed merchant either; I would call Lara cunningly fast and exceedingly accurate. Stands 5’9” and body looks like it could make the jump to middleweight if a title opening presents itself. Because of intelligent fists, has been able to avoid physically depleting wars. Lacks the flash, brilliant hand speed, and power- or the cocky persona, for that matter- of fellow Cuban Yuriorkis Gamboa. Is a controlling boxer in the vein of Joel Casamayor or - dare I say - Jose Napoles. Shows a lot of variety in punches despite being right on top of opponents with pressure. Faced solid opposition that his pedigree demands and other than Molina, has shined through smart tactics and timely punching. Lara seems as comfortable countering as leading, with only his finishing skills still in doubt. The question from this point forth is whether Lara progresses from rock-solid to sensational.

Paul Williams – Ending up on the wrong end of the “Knockout of the Year” has created doubts about this elongated volume puncher who, until that loss, was considered a P4P top ten boxer. Given his 6’1” frame and 82-inch reach, Williams could compete comfortably up to super middleweight but needs to reestablish his name value to make such a trip worthwhile. Williams will never overshadow golf in Augusta, his hometown, but he has pitched himself out of the rough in the game of life. Began boxing at age eight and despite spending ten years in the amateurs, had less than 50 bouts without winning national honors. In the pros, has driven opponents crazy with his phenomenal length and reach, which Williams maximizes with an ability to throw nearly 100 punches a round when allowed to come forward. For four years, took a slow developmental path under the radar, after which Williams won a ten-round decision against fellow undefeated prospect Luis Hernandez. Confirmed his arrival by knocking out former Olympic bronze medalist Terrance Cauthen and, from there, rocketed to the top with wins over Antonio Margarito, Winky Wright, Kermit Cintron, and Sergio Martinez. Had an unexpected setback against Carlos Quintana but violently erased that with a first round kayo in their rematch. Is a fighter who prefers to meet opponents in the center of the ring but has shown the versatility to employ a “Plan B.” For a tall guy with a persistent jab, Williams takes more punches than expected, mostly because of a lack of head movement and coming straight at opponents. Could easily be more successful employing a boring style, ala the Klitschkos or Lennox Lewis, but wants to press his advantages offensively. If there is an offensive weakness, it’s an inability to cut off the ring or move in wider swaths, laterally. Despite fighting at middleweight, never weighed above 157 pounds, so making the 154-pound limit should not drain Williams. 29-year-old was considered an elite boxer but worked in the shadows with no hometown advantage despite only facing quality opposition recently. Says of himself and this fight, “Guys that do have comeback fights, they are guys that don’t know themselves or what they are doing. Win or lose, it’s just another big fight. I am going to bring it. You’re either going to get me or I am going to get you.” That willingness to fight anyone can make fighters great or relegate them to history’s dustbin. Williams’ final destination remains uncertain.

Verdict – As much as I praise Lara and enjoy his fights, the Cuban lacks the playbook to overcome Williams’ size. Incapable of getting by height and reach disadvantages with his usual angles, Lara is forced up the middle where Williams wants opponents. Lara lacks requires faster feet to cause hesitation or force Williams to shift his body weight and needs more one-punch power to remind Williams of his kayo at the hands of Sergio Martinez. A concern is that Williams is gun shy, some boxers never recover from a devastating kayo but in interviews, Williams seems upbeat and mentally accepting of the loss. And, let’s face it; despite Williams’ size he is relatively easy to hit when he chases foes. Lara does not stop trying but cannot get by the jab and right-hand counters of Williams, much like the Molina fight. In the end, Williams just outworks Lara and rides out the occasional sharp connect. If Lara does better than I expect, in connect percentage and power shots, I still expect the aggression of Williams to sway the judges in his favor. I like Williams by three to four points on all judges’ scorecards.

Prediction record for 2011: 86% (96-15)
Prediction record for 2010: 85% (218-40)

 
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