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ESPN2 Friday Night Fights TV Cheat Sheet- July 15, 2011

Teddy Atlas and Joe Tessitore return to a familiar haunt, New York City’s historic Roseland Ballroom, reappearing after a successful PR Best promotion five weeks ago. This event should attract a good crowd as well, with all four boxers hailing from the New York City vicinity. Even if they were not, the foursome could draw based on their ethnicities, with New York City’s diverse makeup keen to support boxers of Polish, Puerto Rican, and Dominican heritage. This was the case for decades until the mid-1980s, when “The Big Apple” hosted boxing events every week. Marquee fighters will always travel to New York City to headline famed Madison Square Garden but cards like these are what local boxing fans feed on and need to support.

At the Roseland Ballroom, New York, NY
(ESPN2) Pawel Wolak (29-1) vs. Delvin Rodriguez (25-5-2)
(The Ring magazine #8 rated junior middleweight vs. unranked)
(ESPN2) Raymond Serrano (15-0) vs. Daniel Sostre (11-3-1)

Daniel Sostre – Six-year pro enters the fight on a hot streak, undefeated in his last ten bouts, and at age 27, seems to have cultivated a perilous boxing style predicated on defense and counterpunching. Born in Puerto Rico, Sostre showed self-belief moving to Harlem to further his boxing ambitions despite a rough start to his career. Was a good amateur, winning one Puerto Rican national title, but never registered on the international scene or distinguish himself consistently. Sostre suffered early pro losses because he was matched tough (to Ray Robinson on ESPN2 in his fifth fight) but learned from the setbacks going 9-0-1 after starting with a 2-3 record. Took a year-and-a-half off after a debut loss, making his move to New York City, determined to make it as a boxer. In his last fight, Sostre went to Miami and scored a contentious draw with hometown favorite Damian Frias, an experienced southpaw from Cuba. Did this despite entering the ring after a one-year layoff and taking the fight on two weeks’ notice. Inactivity is Sostre’s bane, with only one fight in 2008, 2010, and 2011 so far, obviously hampering his ability to sharpen his timing-based offense. At 5’9”, does not use his size ideally, preferring to counter, falling short with a jab he does not step into or snap. Sostre does have good defensive instincts and is a relaxed boxer who avoids punches by inches and lives for the counter. The tactic has led to losses, since Sostre allows opponents to press him and look as if they hold the initiative. Looked good taking the fight to a physical Tommy Rainone, stepping out of his shell to push and force him to the ropes. In his last couple of fights, has improved on offense, throwing one-twos at openings instead of waiting to counter. A lead right is coming along and in general, Sostre has been performing better, even fighting off the ropes, though still ignoring the body. Is a light hitter (27% kayo ratio) but Sostre’s punches land flush and foes have swollen up and left the ring with red faces. Finishes well, picking up the timing and using it to counter more accurately. A win over Serrano would represent a new start for Sostre.

Raymond Serrano – Another quality product of the tough Philadelphia gym system, who graduated from those rings to become a sparring partner for Manny Pacquiao. However, the youngster has his sights set far beyond simply being a world-class sparring partner. At 22, Serrano has time to develop into a contender and took the right step of hiring trainer Danny Davis (who studied under Naazim Richardson) to supplement his father’s guidance in the corner. One reason Serrano was selected as a Pacquiao sparring partner (for the “Pac-Man’s” fight with Ricky Hatton) is his upper-body strength. Also, Serrano goes to the body with a neat left hook to the ribs. Boxing since the age of eight, he was a solid amateur (won a national and world Junior Olympics and bronze at the World Cadet Championships and favored to make the 2008 team), registering over a hundred wins and victories for the American national team. Has made a good impression with his attacking style but outside of Jay Krupp and Ayi Bruce, his opposition has not been good enough to bring out the best in Serrano. Best win was a six-round decision over Krupp, also on ESPN, but he got overanxious after knocking down Krupp in the first round and headhunted too much. Showed great mental toughness coming back from a first-round knockdown and cut, knocking down Anthony Bowman in the next round to win a six-round decision. Serrano is still not fully matured, in terms of power, and should add some pop once he gets more comfortable with the pro game and switches from defense to offense more fluidly. Is rapidly upping his 53% kayo ratio as well, stopping his last two foes by cutting off escape paths with his feet and crippling body work. Lived in Philadelphia his entire life but moved his training camp a few months ago to his family’s native country of Puerto Rico. For the past two months, Serrano has been training at the Wilfredo Gomez Boxing gym, adding the watchful eye of trainer Felix Pintor (known for his work with smooth-boxing former champion Ivan Calderon) to his team. It looks to be working out well, with Serrano reportedly at his lightest weight ever and punishing his sparring partners. A good prospect who has had the advantage of growing up around the sport and in one of America’s hotbeds of boxing.

Verdict – This is the first ten-rounder for both men, though both have gone eight rounds on multiple occasions with little problems. I see a one-sided victory for Serrano, whose all-around ability and offensive mindset will make the judges look at him vice Sostre for 90% of the fight. Sostre allows opponents to take the initiative and with Serrano’s body attack and superior hand speed, Sostre will be forced into a shell. Sostre will not find counter opportunities with his back to the ropes or on his back foot. The straight punches and direct lines of Serrano cut Sostre’s reaction time, making him ineffective and often swinging at air. Sostre is an improved product but will never be in the physical class or have the boxing acumen of Serrano. I take Serrano nine rounds to one.

Delvin Rodriguez – As this slugger came up on ESPN2 (13 appearances), I thought his familiarity with the network lead to an overhyping by the announcers, resulting in a limited brawler making it to a title appearance. I felt vindicated when Rodriguez was upset by Jesse Feliciano; however, Rodriguez then registered some good victories and surprised me with a quality win over Shamone Alvarez. Just as I was about to reverse myself and declare Rodriguez a real contender, he went and lost twice in world title challenges to beatable titlists. So I remain confused, given the circumstances of his wins and losses, as to Rodriguez’s true abilities. Rodriguez is 1-3 in his last four bouts but all three losses were close and could have gone his way on the scorecards. There is no doubt Rodriguez is a good TV fighter, who comes out swinging from the opening bell, looking to end fights at any chance afforded him. Dominican-born but raised in Connecticut, Rodriguez started boxing at age ten. Won some regional titles but, because of a reliance on power, never advanced far in national tourneys. A physical force, Rodriguez wears on opponents with thudding blows and a lot of pushing and leaning when allowed to get inside. His blows are of the thudding variety but when allowed to get full extension, Rodriguez can end a bout with one shot. Gets caught with punches and has been rocked on multiple occasions, especially when his offense is clicking and he lapses mentally by widening his stance to load up for more power. In title setbacks, Rodriguez, surprisingly, could not finish Isaac Hlatshwayo and Rafal Jackiewicz after hurting them, which is usually a strong suit. Averaged three fights a year since 2006 but this is his first fight in 2011. Is not afraid to travel, fighting in South Africa and Poland. Many thought location hurt Rodriguez in his draw to Hlatshwayo and controversial loss to Jackiewicz, where Rodriguez threw many more punches but did not follow a consistent jab with enough combinations. Has brought in a new trainer and condition coach to help him with the move up in weight and remains confident of victory. “The knockout is really gonna come because this guy will make it easy for me when he comes forward. He is a very easy guy to hit and I know with my combinations and my movement, it can very easily happen.” Regardless, win, lose, or draw, Rodriguez delivers on the entertainment front.

Pawel Wolak – Hard-charging Polish immigrant is garnering a lot of attention. Sports Illustrated knocked on his door for an interview this week and earned his reputation as a crowd pleaser. Wolak is rated in The Ring magazine’s top ten at junior middleweight, making his debut there after some B-level wins and a sound drubbing of former champ Yuri Foreman. Wolak promises to be even better this time out, taking six weeks off from his construction job to train full time for the first time in his career. Wolak’s win over Yuri Foreman was his eighth straight and his fifth knockout in that streak. Came to America at age nine and began boxing age 17 (concentrated on wrestling and kickboxing), compiling a 47-3 amateur record winning regional titles. Gained a solid reputation as a sparring partner of Zab Judah and displayed rapid improvement after hiring trainer Tommy Brooks after his lone professional loss. The last time television viewers saw Wolak on a non-PPV card (a close decision loss to Ishe Smith on “ShoBox”), he gave his only poor performance and Wolak won’t get many more chances if he loses tonight since it took him three years to work back to this place. Wolak is willing, busy, and tough but limited by a lack of hand speed against boxers who present angles. If Wolak gets you in his sights, he unloads in bunches and goes after opponents by working his way from the body up to the head. Will not stop opponents with one punch but his work rate and accuracy has accounted for a 63% kayo ratio. Defeated the usual suspects like Jonathan Reid and Troy Browning with little problems and had enough good moments against Smith to merit another look. Has cut in the past and can get swollen and puffy around eyes when not bleeding. A busy volume puncher, Wolak goes to the body well and has an underrated set of feet that keep Wolak on top of his target. If Wolak cannot smother his opposition, he outworks them, forcing opponents into a shell with constant pressure, not allowing them to get away with mistakes. Twice had scheduled fights against Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. canceled on him and at age 29, Wolak’s time is now. Describes himself like he fights, to the point and with no hint of false bravado. “Constant pressure from first second of every round. The only way I fight and the reason why my fights are never boring. There’s nothing beautiful in my boxing. It’s just a simple destruction.”

Verdict – Too many intangibles are lining up against Rodriguez- like his moving up in weight with a new trainer- for me to pick him to win. I sense desperation around Rodriguez, while the opposite is to be found for Wolak and his rising career trajectory. However, Rodriguez grants no foe an easy fight and will get his pound of flesh with long right hands and bending hooks to the liver. Having said that, Wolak eats punches up and comes back for more, displaying a primordial toughness. Wolak is willing to walk through fire to deliver his payload and improving with each fight with his new trainer. Facing a tough physical specimen like Wolak in your first bout at a new weight is folly, especially when defense has never been a strong suit for Rodriguez. This should be an entertaining brawl, though Rodriguez tries to avoid it early on with lateral movement. Watch the “punches landed” statistic rise every round for Wolak and for Rodriguez to slow with each new round card girl before he falls in the ninth stanza.

Prediction record for 2011: 87% (100-15)
Prediction record for 2010: 85% (218-40)

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