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The ESPN2 and Telefutura TV Cheat Sheet- June 22, 2012


This week features another combined “TV Cheat Sheet,” necessitated by opening bouts on ESPN2 and Telefutura telecasts that feature very good boxers against overmatched foes with little suspense about the outcome. Given the inevitability of those results, I chose to focus on the main events and ignore mismatches that open the shows. On Telefutura, former champion Rico Ramos was scheduled to face unbeaten prospect Jhonatan Romero, who fell out with an injury. For a change, the substitute opponent is of equal quality and adds local flavor for added attraction. Ramos hails from the Watts section of Los Angeles while undefeated Efrain Esquivias resides 20 minutes away in Carson. The fight takes place in Studio City, a half-an-hour away from both boxers’ neighborhoods. It should make for a lively atmosphere. ESPN2’s “Friday Night Fights” show features a contrast of styles with a slick boxer pitted against a come-forward slugger. Both main events offer intrigue and a sense of uncertainty that fans would have appreciated for every televised bout.

Saturday, June 23, 2012
At the Sportsman’s Lodge, Studio City, CA
(Telefutura) Rico Ramos (20-1) vs. Efrain Esquivias (16-0)
(The Ring magazine #10 junior featherweight vs. unranked)

Efrain Esquivias – Multifaceted boxer used to train under the tutelage of Freddie Roach at the Wild Card Gym, holding his own in heated sparring sessions against champions like Abner Mares and tonight’s opponent, Rico Ramos. Esquivias began boxing in his early teens, inspired by watching Julio Cesar Chavez fights with his father and became an amateur standout, winning the 2006 National Golden Gloves. Turned pro two years later after failing to qualify for the Olympics, losing to America’s eventual Olympic representative Raynell Williams. At age 28, only has 16 pro fights but has averaged five fights a year for the last two years after finding a manager and quality promoter in Thompson Boxing. Known as a bruising puncher, sporting a 56% kayo ratio, but Esquivias’ last three fights against solid opponents went the distance, including two 10-rounders. Employs classical, “by the book” stance and style, both hands high and tight, but throws straight rights without aid of jab too often, early on. Quality footwork and instincts keeps Esquivias close to opponents to work accurate punches but he could do with a bit more bodywork early. It is the early part of fights where people find fault with Esquivias, a slow starter with little urgency to create his own openings. Esquivias will play around early switching from orthodox to southpaw to see what works before getting comfortable. Is comfortable forgoing a good jab, when he throws it, in favor of leading with hooks once he finds his range. On defense, has good reflexes and is in his physical prime, getting away with Floyd Mayweather’s crablike shoulder defense at mid-ring and has a big upper body that absorbs punches. His bulk comes in handy during infighting where Esquivias uses his shoulders to move or push off smaller foes. Has not been pampered, beating tough Armenian Gabriel Tolmajyan (who scored an upset of undefeated Daulis Prescott) in his third fight and faced four southpaws. A bloody and thrilling 10-round decision over Fernando Beltran is perhaps Esquivias’ best win but Esquivias faded late in the fight, unable to stop Beltran despite knocking him down. Esquivias believes he is ready for this challenge. “I am going to come in tremendous shape and bring a lot of pressure. [Ramos] has some speed and power but I will rise to the occasion.”

Rico Ramos – An elite amateur who hooked off the jab before his 10th birthday, Ramos rose to the level of PAL champ, silver medalist at the Golden Gloves and USA Nationals and was selected for international competitions. Considered a favorite for the 2008 Olympic team but there was a lot of depth and Ramos lost in the finals to Raynell Williams. Ramos made the transition to the pros easily, employing a combination of speed and timely aggressiveness. The Angelino displayed crisp and zipping punches against competent foes, showing accuracy and a willingness to stay in the pocket to trade. Seemingly never throws less than three punches at a time, which got him in trouble against elite foes when he remained stationary too long. In only his 13th bout, Ramos won a decision over former two-division champ Kermin Guardia but could not stop the lefty. Had trouble with other southpaws as well like Guillermo Rigondeaux, who stopped Ramos in his last fight. Displayed maturity in other fights, not letting headbutts or low blows get to him and rescued himself with a fantastic kayo against Akifumi Shimoda. Might have lost some momentum only fighting twice in 2011; it seemed the 25-year-old lost focus and needs the activity to stay sharp with his combinations. Maintains a 52% kayo ratio and delivered “Knockout of the Year” candidates against Heriberto Ruiz and his title-winning effort against Shimoda. Was behind against Shimoda but that one punch erased many of those memories, which resurfaced when Rigondeaux dominated Ramos. It will be intriguing to see how Ramos rebounds from his first professional loss. A hard worker in the gym, which is why his weight has never fluctuated above four pounds from his pro debut, Ramos will labor on defensive skills that troubled many observers. Has the managerial backing of Al Haymon and is promoted by Goossen Tutor, a connected team that will accentuate Ramos’ positives, getting him back to an alphabet title shot. Ramos gives a succinct description of 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.”

Verdict – These two fought in the amateurs with Ramos getting the better of the action in two of the three fights and the pair has sparred in the past as well. This could lead to a faster start than usual, which would favor Esquivias since he has problems starting his engine early in fights. Not much separates them in terms of boxing skills but Ramos is slightly faster of hand and foot while Esquivias looks the sturdier of the duo. The deciding factors for me are Ramos’ big fight experience and level of opposition, which should get him through some tough middle rounds on the way to a close victory. Ramos’ edge in speed will show in the early rounds, landing cleanly and clearly, which should impress the judges, earning him their favor in the later rounds when things get closer regarding connect ratio. The cleaner punches win out with Ramos taking a decision by scores around 96-94 based on the somewhat nebulous “ring generalship” judging category.

At the Soboba Casino, San Jacinto, CA
(ESPN) Mike Dallas (18-2-1) vs. Javier Castro (27-4)

Javier Castro – Mexican knockout artist enters on a hot streak but like many power-punchers, is vulnerable and has a couple of inexplicable losses. Boxed since age nine with 70 amateur bouts but no national level wins or international experience. Three years ago, moved to El Paso with his American wife to escape Juarez’s drug gangs and crime that shut down the local boxing scene. Castro has some flare, entering the ring in a cape and Zorro mask (loved the movies as a kid). Turned pro at age 20 and by his fifth fight, was already competing in 10-round bouts, defeating badly faded former champion Cesar Soto (54-15-3) via split decision. An impressive win by any measure and Castro steamrolled foes until he was undone by perennially tough Antonio Diaz in a fight he could have won if not for point deductions for low blows. Returned to good form until two inexplicable losses in a row to pedestrian, .500 boxers Ammeth Diaz and Dunis Linan in 2010, which remain baffling. Since then, has rebounded, knocking out three quality foes, especially impressive since Castro defeated two of them in their hometowns. Dispatched of once beaten Javier Monserrate in Puerto Rico and looked his best destroying former title challenger Efren Hinojosa. Opponents rarely know what Castro will lead with since a left hook without a set-up jab or a straight right hand to the belly are equally likely. It is what makes him difficult to fight and figure out. The jab is not a big part of Castro’s résumé, a shame since at 5-foot-10 with 71-inch reach, he could make fights easier on himself with a strong jab. Does not have much technique, looping punches and leaning in, never seeming to get optimum balance on punches. Castro can dirty things up with low blows or elbows and was disqualified for hitting Jorge Reyna clearly on both knees early in his career. Has the stamina to go the distance, as shown against Soto, and Castro went 12 tough rounds against Edgar Barcenas. Holds hands relatively high but spread wide, allowing for straight counters up the middle, and inches toward opponents with plodding feet filled with determination. Castro is a favorite on Mexican TV with his “go for broke” style and a win over Dallas could do the same for Castro with American fans.

Mike Dallas Jr. - Nicknamed “The Silent Assassin,” Dallas needs some televised wins to reestablish himself as a contender after a stoppage loss to Josesito Lopez last year. If you do not know Dallas’ favorite boxers are Pernell Whitaker and Floyd Mayweather Jr., you will get the association within seconds of Dallas dodging the first punch. Born into a boxing family - his father and grandfather were pro fighters - Dallas began boxing while in diapers. Graduated the amateur system with a 115-12 record, winning two national titles (PAL champ twice and silver in Golden Gloves) but had the annoying habit of finishing top four- and rarely first. Like many others, claimed to be a victim of politics, losing the Olympic trial quarterfinals and turned pro. Dallas’ best performance to date was the befuddling of fellow prospect Lanard Lane with movement and intelligent counterpunching. Dallas was surprisingly dominated by mauling Josesito Lopez in his worst performance, unable to escape the incessant pressure of an inferior boxer. Showed mental toughness rebounding from it, losing a controversial majority decision to Mauricio Herrera most thought Dallas won with superior counter punching and accuracy. Employs a solid team with new trainer Virgil Hunter, best known for training Andre Ward, who came in after the Lopez loss at the behest of manager Jackie Kallen. Showed instincts and fortitude overcoming a bad cut over his left eye in his last fight, throwing one-two combos against hard-hitting Miguel Gonzalez in a lopsided win. In defeating Lane, Dallas was not all about speed and reflexes, aggressively countering a naturally stronger foe up the middle. Gets that kind of confidence sparring Manny Pacquiao and other champions visiting gyms along the California coast. Must return to the positive offensive traits; Dallas only has a 33% kayo ratio, forcing opponents into mistakes by staying in the pocket and within punching range. Still lets small openings go by searching for a flashy punch, not filling holes with his speedy jab or lead right hand. Is a smart kid, currently attending college, soaking up education of every sort. With continued improvement, Dallas could develop into a boxer in the mold of a Devon Alexander. Dallas has the right attitude about his road back, “I just want to come back strong and I don’t want to take any easy fights. I want to beat a really good opponent to get back in the mix.” 

Verdict – When in doubt go with superior fundamentals and Dallas is the fighter who has mastered more of the rudiments between these two. The matchmaker for this fight did a great job pitting the strengths and weaknesses of the fighters against another. Dallas has come apart against pressuring maulers like Castro while Castro has looked confused against counterpunchers like Dallas. Which boxer wins out? I tend to think Dallas since there is a chance Castro never gets on track, allowing Dallas to find a rhythm and box comfortably. Dallas’ shorter and more direct punches will impact first and even when Castro lands punches, they lack the volume and consistent accuracy to force Dallas into a shell. Given Castro’s power (which carries into the late rounds), this fight has the potential to get interesting at any time but I feel when it does, Dallas has learned from his setbacks how to keep Castro’s raw aggression at bay. I like Dallas by wide decision, somewhere along the lines of 97-93.

Prediction record for 2012: 83% (57-12)
Prediction record in 2011: 88% (138-19)
Prediction record in 2010: 85% (218-40)
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