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ESPN2 Friday Night Fights TV Cheat Sheet- Apr. 15, 2011

Poor Marvin Quintero, the Mexican battler is on his third scheduled opponent, gaining my admiration for a willingness to face any style of opponent. Quintero was slated to face tough Korean slugger Ji Hoon Kim (who fell out with a detached retina) and accepted a stylistic opposite in slick Armenian southpaw counterpuncher Gabriel “The Ghost” Tolmajyan as a replacement. Now that fight has fallen apart and Quintero is left with Midwest brawler Juan Santiago. Thankfully, ESPN’s feature fight between hard-hitting prospects Ivan Popoca and Ruslan Provodnikov remains intact. That is a match sure to produce fireworks, given both men’s aggressive nature, and should make everyone forget about the patchwork nature of the lead-in bout.

At the Pechanga Casino, Temecula, CA
(ESPN2) Ivan Popoca (15-0-1) vs. Ruslan Provodnikov (18-1)
(ESPN2) Marvin Quintero (21-3) vs. Juan Santiago (13-6-1)

Marvin Quintero – 24-year-old Mexican banger surprised in his American television debut, on “ShoBox” two years ago, stopping Nick Casal in the third round. Followed that win with another impressive victory over Wes Ferguson, thus consecutively defeating a tricky mover and slugger, respectively. Has cooled off since then, losing to Tyrone Harris (who his team fought despite Harris coming in over the weight limit) and more disappointingly against a limited Daniel Attah. The inability to notch more victories over B-level boxers translated to Quintero’s failure to establish himself as a contender. Quintero did have his way against resurgent Casal but showed very little on the defensive side in that fight. In the Ferguson victory, showed patience, volume punching his way to an eight-round decision win. The southpaw has a good mix of speed and power, with all three factors augmented by Quintero’s ring intellect to produce an impressive 71% kayo ratio. Quick punches allow for combination punching at range, or on the inside, and as a busy puncher, he sets a fast pace. Is often compared to fellow “ShoBox” alum Antonio DeMarco (but with less height), which makes sense since they train at the same gym and spar each other. Quintero got good marks as a sparring partner for Ricky Hatton too and gets plenty of quality sparring at his Tijuana headquarters. Lacks defense, more often than not because he is concentrating on offense, and Quintero has little upper body movement. Will pick off some punches with his gloves and his feet are quick enough to keep Quintero out of danger along the ropes. Questionable chin has let Quintero down early in fights but once he gets warmed up, Quintero rides out potent punches. Is a quick learner in and out of the ring, only a year away from graduating from college with a degree in engineering. Quintero’s best results have come at junior lightweight, so he will have his work cut out for him against a physically imposing Salido. A solid boxer who tries to employ the “Sweet Science” to open fights but regresses to slugging once pressed, since that seems to be his nature.

Juan Santiago – Late replacement, on three days’ notice, has erased the zero on two prospect’s records and packs a punch that surprises opponents with its persistence, if not power. Santiago has also lost to three other solid prospects, so this fight is indicative of which direction the 26-year-old’s career goes in the future. In a loss to prospect Diego Magdaleno, Santiago got his pound of flesh, knocking Magdaleno down in the first round and scoring with some nice counters. In wins and losses, Santiago showed he can switch from orthodox to southpaw but does his best work out of the right-handed mode. Against Archie Ray Marquez, looked weight drained, not able to move or deal with the speed of his opponent and falling in three rounds. Last year, dropped seven pounds in a month’s span before defeating capable Donaldo Holguin over ten compelling rounds. Before that, lost on national TV to undefeated Vernon Paris, by somewhat unpopular split decision, showing his tendency to make every fight close and scrappy. A come-forward mauler, standing a bit too straight, who takes a good punch (Eloy Perez bout stopped because of eye swelling) and, frankly, too many of them. Some of that is because Santiago reaches with his jab and does not put a lot behind it, preferring to overwhelm foes with his volume and staying on top of them. His feet are good but because of his forward lean, seems off-balance and does not get full leverage and power on punches. Has fought as high as 146 pounds but his lean frame is able to support the extra weight when needed. Kept busy with eight fights in 2009 and faced very good opposition, given Santiago’s limited amateur credentials. On final analysis, Santiago is a hard-to-discourage brawler who is improving and has the wherewithal to overcome the odds and fight up to the level of higher-caliber opposition.

Verdict - Despite not looking impressive, Santiago is an awkward fighter who knows how to makes things uncomfortable. He is much like Sergio Mora in that sense but less reflexive and effective. The zip and smoothness of Quintero’s punches are the telling factor, with judges appreciating their impact and intelligence. While Santiago is herky-jerky, he cannot move well laterally and will be beaten to the spot by the more accurate southpaw. A more prepared Quintero gets all the benefit of the doubt from the judges and wins every round before stopping a gassed Santiago in the sixth round.

Ivan Popoca – This is the year in which this Chicago clubber, at age 29, has vowed to replace the “prospect” tag with that of a “contender.” To that end, Popoca takes on a dangerous fellow prospect. Popoca was an excellent amateur, reportedly ending his unpaid apprenticeship with a 137-13 record. Won a national Silver Gloves and Junior Olympics title before his 16th birthday but stopped boxing for three years to engage in normal teenage activities. Born in Mexico, Popoca moved to America at age five and took up boxing before his tenth birthday. Is an action fighter who has fashioned himself into a local attraction and is comparable in ring style and life experiences to fellow Chicagoan Jesus Chavez. Trained and mentored by former champion David Diaz, who is also Popoca’s cousin. Some fans saw Popoca in an exciting slugfest against Jose Soto-Karass on FOX Sports and there are clips of him available on YouTube. Proved his mental strength and aggressive nature in the Soto-Karass victory, rallying from a hard fourth-round knockdown to stop Karass in the fifth. Is a volume puncher first and foremost, lacking speed and not throwing enough accurate combinations from a distance to be considered a boxer/puncher. Plus, at 5’7”, Popoca does not have the reach to box as his trainer would ideally have him fight. Sports thudding power, ten stoppages in 15 bouts, and his body punching wears on opponents as the rounds progress. Lacking defensive basics, given his amateur pedigree, but hides this by staying close to opponents, forcing them to fight of the back foot. Popoca can be suckered into throwing too many combinations- his hands are not the fastest- where that lack of defense is a concern. Speedy movers can give Popoca problems, as limited Martin Tucker did five months ago when Popoca failed to cut off the ring. Popoca was cut over his right eye in the fight and protected it by switching to a southpaw stance displaying a hidden versatility. This will be Popoca’s first fight outside of Illinois but should not hinder his relentless style. Popoca is confident this is his year. “With my strength and conditioning, I feel that I can compete at the highest level and I’m ready to make a move.”

Ruslan Provodnikov – I still view the Siberian-bred Russian as an undefeated prospect, who impresses with brute strength and a willingness to walk through punches to deliver his payload. Three months ago, was narrowly outpointed by Mauricio Herrera, despite pressing the action and landing the bigger punches. Before that, stopped former titleholder Javier Jauregui, concentrating on volume punching (especially the left hook to the body), having mastered his version of the power game in previous appearances. Describes his style as, “A lot of pressure, always going forward, sudden, hard punches.” Because of Provodnikov’s Asian features, comparisons to Kostya Tszyu are made. Is not as intelligent in the ring, nor does Provodnikov economize his punches the way Tszyu did. Two things stand out about Provodnikov: his thudding power and an utter lack of attention to defense. 27-year-old is a fun TV fighter to be sure, and is said to be teachable to the point that he just earned a university degree. In that case, I expect some upper body movement and perhaps even ducking under a punch or two this time out. Moves his head a bit, so there is a flicker of self-preserving instincts in him. Majority of his power lies in a big upper body and shoulders, so Provodnikov does not need a lot of space to hurt an opponent. For a big puncher, does not ignore the body and when he goes to the ribs, he does so with zeal. Gained a reputation at Freddie Roach’s Wild Card Gym for not letting up in sparring. Remains raw for a guy who won 135 of 150 amateur bouts (from age 12 to 23) and holds a European championship, perhaps ignoring basics in the knowledge of his physical superiority. That could be why he did not show a lot of combination punching until the Jauregui bout. Power is not of the one-punch variety, more like the crippling blows of a Julio Cesar Chavez (Mike Tyson is said to be Provodnikov’s boxing inspiration), but has resulted in 12 stoppages in nineteen fights. Provodnikov has gone 12 rounds once, displaying good wind when forced to go hard rounds. When he reaches a higher level, a lack of elite hand speed could hurt him and perhaps a propensity to cut will develop if the defense does not improve. The kid grew up tough in Siberia and Provodnikov fights like he doesn’t want to go back!

Verdict – Provodnikov lost his last fight because he could not cut off the ring but will not have that problem with a Popoca who enters and leaves exchanges in straight angles. These two are mirror images, who win fights in similar fashion by outmuscling foes. So, this comes down to who I believe is the stronger man. That is Provodnikov and the fact that Popoca has never been past eight rounds could be a factor as well. In his last fight, Popoca showed versatility, going lefty, but in this fight it would signal Popoca was losing the strength battle if he were to turn southpaw. This could be a “Fight of the Year” candidate through six rounds, at which point Provodnikov separates himself and Popoca weakens with every backward step. Popoca battles valiantly but falls twice in the final round and is counted out as much because of exhaustion as punishment.

Prediction record for 2011: 90% (61-7)
Prediction record for 2010: 85% (218-40)


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