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The ShoBox TV Cheat Sheet- Oct. 7, 2011

(Photo © Tom Casino / SHOWTIME)
(Photo © Tom Casino / SHOWTIME)

As often as possible, I endeavor to make the point that “ShoBox” is the most undervalued franchise in all boxing and tonight is another prime example of that mission. In the main event, two undefeated prospects clash to see which one is elevated to a borderline contender while the co-feature highlights a prospect many boxing insiders tab as a can’t-miss star. Longtime Showtime color analyst and respected boxing scribe (for decades) Steve Farhood applauds the fighters and matchmaker. “This is a main event that I’m looking forward to as much as any this ‘ShoBox’ season. It will be the speed and quickness of Bogere vs. Contreras’ power. Bogere proved his heart and fighting spirit against Raymundo Beltran in his ‘ShoBox’ debut and we got a brief glimpse of Contreras on ‘ShoBox’ in 2010 where he was spectacular. It’s a sensational matchup of undefeated lightweights.” I echo that sentiment and in a series that seldom disappoints, this looks like a sure thing.

At the Texas Station Casino, Las Vegas, NV
(Showtime) Sharif Bogere (20-0) vs. Francisco Contreras (16-0)
(Showtime) Jermell Charlo (15-0) vs. Francisco Santana (12-2-1)

Francisco Santana – Laidback Californian is anything but relaxed in the ring, challenging difficult opposition since 2008. Santana engaged in slugfests with top prospect Karim Mayfield, coming out on the losing end in competitive matches on both occasions. The 25-year-old has rebounded from those setbacks and benefitted from training alongside former champion Victor Ortiz. Santana’s father was a boxer, so he has hung around gyms since age eight, turning into an excellent amateur finishing with a 78-8 record. Won National Silver Gloves and gold at the Junior Olympics but slowed at the senior level as teenage distractions limited Santana to State and Regional Golden Gloves titles. Became a regular at the Wild Card Gym, sparring Vanes Martirosyan (with whom he split a pair of fights in the amateurs) and Ortiz, eventually moving toLas Vegas in 2007 to train under Wayne McCullough. Signed with Goossen Tutor Promotions at that time also but homesickness and wanting to fight and live in California caused an amicable split from McCullough. As a pro, fashioned himself after Oscar De La Hoya, both in and out of the ring with “pretty boy” looks but never made the leap to blue-chip prospect. Santana has cited nagging injuries, shoulder and inner ear mostly, that prevented optimal performances. Keeps a high guard on defense, both gloves up by the eyebrows, and tucked chin while advancing. This prevents a solid jab from materializing and hurts accuracy as well when looping his hooks. Upright stance sometimes borders on European but suits Santana’s short accurate jab, which should be followed by more combinations to make the jab a more impactful weapon. At times, almost skips to opponents, lifting his feet unnecessarily high off the canvas but he makes up ground quickly and cuts off the ring well. Shows a solid chin and Santana has a fighter’s heart, reacting by fighting back with big punches of his own when hit. Took two years off after second loss to Mayfield and has come back rededicated and with seemingly more strength behind punches. Santana’s nose was busted up in last outing but he survived the early rounds catching a second wind to dominate the final three rounds for a unanimous 57-57 draw against undefeated Julian Williams. Most thought Santana won the fight and the way he was able to stand toe-to-toe against a strong prospect was the biggest revelation. A well-spoken man, he works with kids and received community service awards as well. Santana is now trying to fashion himself in the mold of friend Victor Ortiz. 

Jermell Charlo – Texan has great mix of athleticism and ingrained boxing intuition only developed by taking up boxing before one’s teens. Charlo grew up in a boxing family (his father was a pro), boxing by age nine ending his amateur stint with a 56-8 record and represented America in international bouts. Placed third in the Junior Olympics but could not replicate that success at Senior-level national meets, mostly because his goal was to work on bettering his pro potential, never committing to the amateur ideals of scoring points instead of inflicting damage. Has an identical twin brother, Jermall, also an undefeated prospect. Both men are great physical specimens, standing 6’2” with a perfectly proportioned musculature. With neatly cropped dreadlocks, Charlo looks like a bigger version of Livingstone Bramble and has a style similar to the punishing Bramble. Charlo sports two-fisted power and used both, besting unbeaten Mexican prospect Luis Grajeda (a two-time national amateur champion) by punching him into inaction with creative combinations. Faced solid competition overall- no double digits losers- and only three foes with losing records and defeating Stalin Lopez (a good Cuban amateur) showed willingness to face difficult styles. Charlo gets plenty of good sparring with Kermit Cintron, Erislandy Lara, Tarvis Simms, and Lanard Lane in Houston. First fell under the guidance of trainer Willie Savannah but I have variously read that Ronnie Shields is in his corner now. Has the considerable promotional muscle of Golden Boy too and at 21 years of age with an elongated body to build on, they see tremendous upside in Charlo. Best weapon is a hard and accurate jab; he also understands the importance of that weapon, using it to blind opponents to impressive hand speed and a varied arsenal of punches. Footwork matches thoughtful movement up top, taking small and measured steps to his prey. Nickname of “Ironman” needs to be earned defensively since Charlo sometimes retreats into a shell against pressure fighters. Described his style to writer Jon Reynoso, “Whenever I’m the ring, I always make sure that my fans are enjoying it and being entertained by me. My style is more about technique but I still go in like a bull when I want. I keep things different so my opponents don’t know what to expect for the remaining rounds.” Now Charlo is taking positive steps toward world title ambitions, given he is a nearly four-year-pro with only 15 fights (and only one bout in 2011), this seems the right time. Aspired to become a pastor early in life but if he develops into the fighter many think Charlo can be, his opponents won’t have a prayer.

Verdict – The only advantage Santana enjoys is being the naturally bigger man and it will take much more than that to derail someone with Charlo’s gifts. The most important is speed; Charlo is much faster than Santana and unlike Karim Mayfield, throws straight punches. Charlo does not tip off his punches with obvious shifts of weight as Mayfield does and has little windup before unleashing punches. Those facts will be on display early and often and I would not be surprised if Santana does not see the halfway point of the fight. Not because Santana lacks talent but because Charlo is that good and will either stop Santana outright or on swelling and/or cuts. Either way, Charlo wins by impressive stoppage with the crowd “oohing” and “aahing” noticeably at times.

Francisco Contreras – Powerful Dominican is attracting a lot of attention, signing with veteran manager Cameron Dunkin who has a record of elevating prospects to champions. Contreras began boxing at age five, developing a natural fluidity, and now rattles off an instinctive combination when his muscle memory is sparked by an opponent’s mistake. Enjoyed an extensive amateur career, establishing a 350-14 record against national and international competition. In TV debut, impressed with a one-round destruction of useful Juan Castaneda, a five-punch combination, ending matters in the first round. Scored three victories since and despite only fighting 40 pro rounds, his team thinks Contreras is ready for a ten-round bout. Contreras sparred with the likes of WBA champion Brandon Rios and hot contender Mikey Garcia to prepare mentally and physically for future challenges. Won his first 11 fights by knockout; only one foe lasted past three rounds but has tried different styles allowing his last two opponents to survive the distance. Got solid learning experience going eight rounds with veteran trial horse Adolfo Landeros, displaying discipline not reaching or loading up on hooks when it was obvious a kayo was not materializing. On the negative side, Contreras could not cut off the ring or find accuracy, survivors like Landeros and Marteze Logan who have moderate speed did. Power is what catches the eye with Contreras, but his punch volume is high for a fighter who often likes to load up. Sports a long skinny physique (5’10” with 70-inch reach) like Diego Corrales, seemingly stretching arms like they are made of rubber to reach the opponents’ chins. Uses that advantage as well, standing at mid-ring, daring opponents to advance towards him. Snaps off his jab despite carrying left hand by his waist, so the jab has to come up quickly and often lands while elevating. Contreras’ right hand is arrow-straight but his chin is in the air when Contreras retreats from the right hand. Finishing instincts are superb but people wonder if that tendency remains intact when the level of opposition and opposing defenses increase. Quality finishing skills are the result of extensive amateur career, with Contreras confident enough to take a step back and evaluate his options before launching a coup-de-grace. At 27, is a mature prospect and taking this fight shows confidence that he is ready to challenge on a world level next. “ShoBox” is a perfect stage for the hard-charging Dominican to display his brand of power to a wider audience.

Sharif Bogere – Ugandan speed merchant knows how to get attention, carried to the ring in a steel cage while wearing a full-length lion’s pelt with head still attached. Remains impressive when the lion’s robe comes off, stopping 12 of 20 foes despite upping the level of opposition considerably in the last 16 months. Bogere was a five-time Ugandan champion, joining the national team at age 16, but never won an African Nations Games medal and lost in the quarterfinals of the 2006 Commonwealth Games. Much of that had to do with Bogere fighting in a pro style, throwing his weight behind punches and relying on volume instead of concentrating on accuracy. Grew up idolizing Mike Tyson but fights more in the wantonly loose and hectic style of fellow African Azumah Nelson. Moved his base to Las Vegas and is trained by respected Kenny Adams, whose introducing fundamentals to enhance Bogere’s self-taught techniques and physical gifts. Has a bit of Naseem Hamed about him (without the mocking arrogance) with ring entrances and more importantly, reflexes that allow Bogere to avoid punches, using movement from the waist up. Will throw punches from wild angles, reacting immediately to an opening he sees instead of moving into striking distance with his feet. Still manages to connect despite haphazard nature of his attacks. Bogere had problems doing this against battle-hardened Raymundo Beltran in his last fight, winning a close decision. When not in attack mode, Bogere displays good instincts and calmness. Maintains the right distance to keep safe on defense but Bogere stays within striking range because of unusually long arms. Loves to throw lead right hands, sometimes doubling up to the body and head without a jab. Despite wild tendencies, usually starts everything with an accurate jab. Power is good, not great, and stuns opponents enough for a follow-up attack to force the stoppage. Bogere is a fast starter and wants to get in the first punch, imposing his speed and awkwardness on surprised opponents. Still the only fighter to knock out awkward clutch artist Jose Hernandez (who’s gone the distance with many young prospects) and only two of Bogere’s last seven opponents heard the final bell. Bogere has gotten away with an erect, chin-up stance coming out of a low ducking maneuver on occasion because of his reflexes. Was wobbled by free-swinging Mike Gonzalez with a looping punch but showed good recuperative abilities. Chest lacks definition and musculature but that is not a problem because everything is speed-based with Bogere. 22 year old Ugandan has the look of a contender despite being a couple years away from his physical and mental prime.

Verdict – Contreras has the tools to beat Bogere and if Bogere had not had a tough outing in his last fight to steel himself, I would pick Contreras to win. However, Contreras got to Bogere one fight too late and Bogere’s awkwardness combined with ability to absorb punishment while countering will see him through another tough contest. Contreras is more of a boxer than his kayo ratio indicates who calmly sets up punches behind a snapping jab. Bogere will not give the space or the time for Contreras to think through tactics, forcing Contreras to react and make mistakes despite being four inches taller. Bogere has not mastered combined speed where his feet arrive at the impact point at the same time as his fists but will score often against a constantly repositioning Contreras, using angles. The volume punching of Bogere piles up points while Contreras attempts to counter. Contreras lands the more memorable punches but Bogere wins on activity and getting the judges to watch him instead of Contreras.

Prediction record for 2011: 88% (123-17)
Prediction record for 2010: 85% (218-40)
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