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The ESPN2 Friday Night Fights TV Cheat Sheet – Aug. 10, 2012

Tonight’s “Friday Night Fights” could be the most evenly matched and exciting show of the year, featuring three undefeated boxers and a prospect whose two losses were hotly contested. I expect both fights to be decided in the final two rounds and none of the fighters will enjoy long stretches of dominance or control over the other. Rarely have I been this unsure picking winners in an ESPN2 aired card, a compliment to the chances the promoters, matchmakers and boxers are taking on this show. It is an event in the Olympic vein as well, featuring an American, Uzbekistani, Colombian and Dominican fighting in front of the always-appreciative California boxing crowd. The matchmaking is every bit as good as the excellent “ShoBox” series and I have nothing but positive comments and thoughts heading into this quality evening at the fights.

At the Morongo Casino Resort and Spa, Cabazon, CA
(ESPN2) Darley Perez (25-0) vs. Bahodir Mamadjonov (11-0)
(ESPN2) Yenifel Vicente (23-0-2) vs. Chris Avalos (19-2)
Chris Avalos – Many insiders held high opinions of Avalos in 2010; some amended them after two losses while admiration remains for the high-quality foes Avalos challenges. Began boxing at age 11, establishing a 96-14 amateur record, but learned the most in California gyms, sparring champions Abner Mares, Yonnhy Perez, Daniel Ponce de Leon and Steven Luevano. The 22-year-old decisioned unbeaten prospect Khabir Suleymanov last year, knocking down the Russian down, but in his last outing, lost a decision to former Colombian Olympian Jhonatan Romero (where Avalos scored a knockdown as well). In that fight and his other loss, Avalos cut off the ring and forced the pace, trying to impose strength advantages. I observed Avalos six times and on each occasion, noted something new and in light of his losses, have been impressed with his resolve. Avalos tried to please the crowd losing to Christopher Martin, loading up for a highlight reel kayo putting himself behind on the scorecards as Martin’s lateral movement and volume won the day. Having Eddie Mustafa Muhammad in his corner along with his father speaks volumes of Avalos’ work ethic and Muhammad’s emphasis on creating offense out of defense will help Avalos against an aggressive Vicente. Is still too wild on offense and a Vicente who likes to punch with an opponent can find holes if Avalos leaves himself open or off-balance by overcommitting. Showed solid chin in setbacks while revealing serious flaws on defense. Avalos can still be a stalwart on TV, an aggressive slugger who takes chances and comes to life in the spotlight of a national audience. If I were to make comparisons to fighters of the recent past, Danny Romero and Acelino Freitas come to mind. Avalos only fights in fifth gear (befitting someone listing Arturo Gatti as his boxing hero) and must adjust his RPMs to prevent burnout. Losses were disputable and Avalos has not given in mentally or surrendered without a fight. “In my only two losses, I felt I won those fight. They were split decision losses and I’m not going to leave it in the judges’ hands in this fight with Vicente. I know he comes to fight but I’m hungrier than ever.” My hope is Avalos reins in his emotions somewhat and consistently works that snappy jab to ensure his career lasts longer than a run-of-the-mill brawler.
Yenifel Vicente – A talented transplant from the Dominican Republic who lives in Miami; many are excited to see this 26-year-old prospect makes his American debut. I was not able to find amateur information on Vicente (the Dominican Republic has a good amateur program) but he possesses a pro style that is not conducive to amateur success. Vicente is not a big junior featherweight, standing 5’5” with average reach, and crouches on offense coming forward like a small version of Joe Frazier with cornrow braids. Sports a broad back and upper body musculature like Frazier as well, walking down opponents, not wasting punches and waiting until in range to unleash hooks. Early in fights, steps hard into jabs but Vicente has to be reminded of it because that tendency wanes as fight progresses. If allowed, Vicente would stay inside and throw short punches and uppercuts all night, employing excellent balance and leverage on hooks. Defensively keeps guard high, both gloves at nose level with chin down, again, boxing in a classical style that suggests solid amateur background. One flaw is that Vicente sometimes puts all his weight on the back foot in a defensive posture, limiting mobility and staying within reach of long, straight punches. Vicente is good about getting low and under punches on defense, if only because he bent low to throw a body punch and stays that way following through. Other than three good opponents, no one has been good enough to test Vicente’s defense. Two draws came in Vicente’s first three bouts and given short distances are not scandalous blemishes for a young boxer learning his craft. Despite boxing primarily in the Dominican Republic, has beaten two solid opponents, winning a decision over tough gatekeeper Francisco Lorenzo and knocked out hard-punching former Olympian Hector Avila. Showed good stamina throwing punches for the duration of 10 hard rounds against Lorenzo, though Vicente does not see his fight with Avalos lasting that long. “I want to show the United States fans that I’m one of the best fighters in the world. This is a great opportunity and I’m not going to let it slip away. I’m coming to knock Avalos out!” A six-year pro, registering 99 rounds, Vicente’s management feels he is in his physical prime and ready to make their world title ambitions a reality.
Verdict – Avalos is the quicker boxer while Vicente is the physically stronger fighter. I like Vicente’s relentless aggression and short punches but appreciate Avalos’ superior dexterity and boxing acumen. In the end, I picked the fighter who boxes most to his strengths and that is Vicente. Avalos is the better boxer but will throw away that advantage once Vicente lands a big hook, causing Avalos to battle a mauler when he does not need to. In that type of fight, Vicente is stronger than Avalos, backing him up with a committed body attack, causing Avalos to throw less and less as rounds progress. The close early rounds become wider with every stanza and Vicente wins a hard-fought decision by two points on every card.
Bahodir Mamadjonov – This Uzbekistani junior welterweight is not messing around; fighting an average of once every six weeks, Mamadjonov has scored two notable victories and takes this fight on three weeks’ notice. Mamadjonov has been a professional boxer for 15 months on a seriously elevated pace, suggesting the unrelenting Eastern European fighting mentality I’ve grown to love in boxers like Vic Darchinyan and Selcuk Aydin. Relocated to Houston two years ago but I could not find amateur records on him aside from participating in an Asian Games. I assume Mamadjonov’s résumé is solid and voluminous, since the Uzbeki amateur program is packed with talent and it is difficult to make its international squad. In limited footage, I saw a compact bulldozer-type of fighter reminiscent of 1930s-era sluggers Tony Canzoneri and Lou Ambers. The southpaw is a come-forward slugger with short arms who makes up for the deficiency with accuracy and aggression. Mamadjonov keeps his hands up in Kostya Tszyu style, high and in front of face, jabbing to the head and body to set up bigger punches. The blows are straight and hard; sometimes his jab loops sideways to adjust to moving target as Mamadjonov bounces in and out of confrontations. Quick on his feet, a bit like early Johnny Tapia showing unnecessary bouncing, Mamadjonov flashes forward or moves laterally in fast and aggressive swaths. Overall, I categorize him as more quick than fast, not showing combination punching but surefire precision in one-punch salvos instead. Has no problem or hesitation throwing simultaneously with an opponent instead of waiting to retaliate or initiate. Has good wins over divergent styles, defeating solid veteran Michael Clark and young hotshot Archie Ray Marquez. Narrowly defeated Clark thanks to a straight left hook knockdown combined with consistent pressure and infighting. Comprehensively dominated Marquez though, pushing him backward and having his way. Mamadjonov says he is ready despite short notice. “I’m fully prepared to knock [Darley Perez] off and end his dreams of becoming a champion. I’m the future of the division and I’m going to prove it when we step in the ring.” A colleague in Germany who saw Mamadjonov in the amateurs said he viewed him as legitimate talent with star potential. All the question marks about Mamadjonov should be resolved tonight, perhaps unearthing a diamond-in-the-rough suggested by some.
Darley Perez – A more mature prospect than most, at 28 years of age with a lengthy and distinguished amateur career, Perez began boxing at 14 because he was bullied on the streets. Perez became the Colombian amateur champion two years later and turned pro three years ago after losing in the quarterfinals of the Olympics to two-time gold medalist Aleksei Tishchenko of Russia. That was the pinnacle of his unpaid career, even though Perez won a gold medal at the South American Games and other regional and national tourneys. Is trained in the professional ranks by well-qualified Orlando Pineda, who has mentored 10 Colombian boxers to world titles. Perez has excellent size and length, standing 5’7” with long arms (68½ -inch reach) and wide shoulders, but has a flat chest with little muscle definition, suggesting Perez can be pushed on the inside. Resembles former champion Genaro “Chicanito” Hernandez in that sense and fights somewhat like Hernandez but lacks the patience of the former great at this point. That lean frame generates power, mostly through great balance and keeping opponents at the end of his punches with intelligent footwork. Gets full extension on punches and rarely throws less than three punches in combination. Manages to punch a lot without staying in the pocket too long, employing fine timing and reflexes to keep out of trouble. Both hands remain up on defense while leaning forward to peek over his gloves for a quick strike opportunity. Sports quick hands and is technically sound, thinking combinations through instead of just punching at the initial opening. Does not ignore the body and will dip to the side to compensate for his height on the inside. Importantly, especially for a reputed slugger, Perez was able to navigate the 10-round distance with no problem, showing plenty of stamina. I like Perez’s activity with six fights last year, six in 2010 and 12 in 2009. On paper, best win came in a one-round blowout over Argentinean Patricio Pedrero, who entered with a built-up 20-1-1 record. Perez’s stoppage of Mexican Oscar Meza is probably better, scoring with both hands and setting the pace against a hard puncher. Perez stuns foes with a right hand initially, using fast-fisted flurries to force stoppages instead of using one-big-punch follow-ups. Not your typical Colombian prospect; yes, he has power (76% kayo ratio) but unlike others, Perez’s punches have brains behind them.
Verdict – Who would have thought that a newly minted pro like Mamadjonov would be a tougher foe then rugged former world titleholder Michael Katsidis? That seems the case after researching the late replacement. This is going to be anything but an easy or one-sided fight and I had a hard time coming up with an outcome, especially given the lack of video, fight reviews or word of mouth about Mamadjonov because of his recent arrival on the American boxing scene. A concern for Perez must be that Mamadjonov is the naturally larger man and that he is the type of fighter who tries to impose that advantage at every turn. However, Mamadjonov’s one-punch aggression plays into Perez’s brand of counterpunching and I am very hesitantly picking Perez because of familiarity and his own impressive amateur pedigree. The scenario and scores are hard to predict but a booed decision where Mamadjonov is the aggressor landing the harder punches is what I expect. The crisp counterpunching and clean manner in which Perez lands, thrown from the outside and easily visible, is the difference with the judges. Perez should be able to pick up Mamadjonov right hand and evade with his head and feet and has shown the chin to ride out the punches that get through. Gaining the judges’ favor with a more varied offense, Perez wins by split decision by one or two points max on each card. In fact, I am hoping for a draw which is not out of the realm of reason and probability.
Prediction record for 2012: 84% (76-15)
Prediction record in 2011: 88% (138-19)
Prediction record in 2010: 85% (218-40)
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