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The ESPN2 Friday Night Fights TV Cheat Sheet- Aug. 17, 2012

A surefire brawl and fine season-ending main event between Adonis Stevenson and Don George was scuttled by injury when Stevenson suffered a hand injury sparring last Friday. The promoter has brought in an opponent with a puncher’s chance but with little hope of employing anything beyond that strategy. Therefore, unfortunately, “Friday Night Fights” goes out with a whimper instead of a bang after strong, consecutive broadcasts. This is the last “Friday Night Fights” telecast of the season (replaced by college football), making it a good time to thank Teddy Atlas, Joe Tessitore and Bernardo Osuna for another enjoyable season. In particular, Osuna should be commended for the work he did as the newest team member. Osuna had the unenviable job of replacing popular studio host Brian Kenny, doing it with a panache and quality that is admirable given the “favorite son” status of Kenny among boxing’s hardcore devotees. Until next year’s “Friday Night Fights”…
At the Buffalo Run Casino, Miami, OK
(ESPN2) Carlos Molina (19-5-2) vs. Damian Frias (19-4-1)
(The Ring magazine #6 junior middleweight vs. unranked)
(ESPN2) Don George (22-2-1) vs. Dionisio Miranda (21-7-2)

Dionisio Miranda – Stop me if you heard this one before: “He is a power-punching Colombian who magically loses punching prowess outside of his native country’s borders.” That is not an inaccurate description of Miranda since he has yet to stop anyone outside of Colombia and has an unintimidating 2-6-1 road record. Having said that, Miranda is a veteran with notable wins over former world title challengers Lajuan Simon and Sebastian Demers. In those victories, Miranda displayed an ability to track down and punish superior boxers, showing what he can do against a top-level boxer who did not train properly or overlooked him. Nearly added top 10-rated Peter Quillin to that list, buckling Quillin’s knees with an uppercut but could not follow-up on the moment, losing a contentious decision. Miranda is a patient plodder who stalks and follows foes around the ring looking for an opportunity to land a lead right or big left hook. Is not all brawn; Miranda competently works the body to slow opponents and in victory over Demers, switched from a power to a volume game plan. Early in career, was obviously draining himself to make 147 pounds, knocked out by 4-5-1 Oney Valdez and at 6’1” with a 76-inch reach, remains a good-sized middleweight. Miranda has stopped 18 of 21 victims but only two of them had winning records and 13 of those kayo victims entered the ring without a win. Miranda’s own chin is not made of granite, stopped in six of seven losses including a first round kayo in his last fight, and Miranda’s defense is getting poorer as his reflexes slow at age 30. Miranda has slowed in ring appearances as well, averaging two fights a year since 2007, but he does get a lot of sparring work in South Florida from his home base of Miami. This has helped Miranda stay in shape, fought from 155 to 160 pounds last two years, but I doubt he is fighting fit since Miranda was only given six days’ notice. Miranda will not stray from his aggressive style; in the past, showed good stamina as well and the hope for Miranda is that a ring absence of a year and two months has recharged his batteries.
Donovan George – Chicago fighter has the right package to succeed on television, a crowd-pleasing banger with limited defense and no hesitation to display either. An aggressive offensive force, George won amateur accolades (three-time Chicago Golden Gloves champ and two-time runner-up in national tourneys) despite taking part in less than 40 amateur bouts. His father, Mike, was an amateur boxer, so George grew up with an appreciation for the sport, putting on gloves before his teens but did not start engaging in competitive amateur bouts until age 16. I read multiple reports of brushes with the law that surprised me given his father was a policeman. Turned pro at 19 after failing to qualify for Olympics and has not looked back, registering 19 KOs in 22 victories. George says of his style, “I’m a boxer-puncher but I like to get in there; I like to mix it up. Pretty much all action, all the time. I go for the win, of course, but I want the knockout badly and I’ll be willing to do just about whatever it takes to get that knockout.” George has two losses; hammered mercilessly by Francisco Sierra, his face looking like it was worked over with a meat tenderizer, and respectable points setback to contender Edwin Rodriguez. A case for George’s father/trainer’s arrest on child neglect for allowing that Sierra beating to continue could have been proffered. George showed good stamina going 10 rounds and best victory was outlasting former Olympian and world title challenger Osumanu Adama in a back-and-forth brawl. Knocked out unbeaten prospect Cornelius White in one round as well. George has “Banger’s Disease” on defense, a lack of head movement and perceived invulnerability leading to a consumption of unnecessary punches. Claims to be ambidextrous and throw punches with equal power in either hand. Level of competition was middling before Adama, Sierra, White and Rodriguez but George showed himself capable and dangerous in every fight. Straight right hand is finishing blow of choice and kayo ratio of 76% is indicative of his killer instinct. At age 27, is a mature super middleweight, fighting an average of three times a year, which is good given the amount of punishment George usually absorbs. George definitely has a fighter’s mentality, refusing easy tune-ups after losses and brings that attitude with him into every bout.
Verdict – Late substitutes do not have a good track record in boxing but this fight could devolve into a war if George thinks he can just steamroll Miranda. An edge goes to George in the chin department, which is key when bangers who think offense first meet. My sense is George is the stronger, physically, and he fought at 168 most of his career while Miranda’s best results were at middleweight. Miranda is ineffective backing up, which George will take advantage of more as the fight unfolds. There is also a lack of offensive imagination with Miranda to exploit George’s average feet but look for Miranda to land some shots since he is awkward and George has no head movement. I doubt Miranda is in good enough shape to take advantage of George’s weaknesses and is reeled in by the third round by a strong George and stopped in the fifth.
Damian Frias – Cuban-born Miami resident is a technically sound and stylistically competent boxer, entering on a hot streak, knocking out his last three opponents. Frias’ most impressive victory came in his last outing, battering prospect Henry Crawford over nine rounds, displaying a killer instinct missing in previous performances. Frias is not comparable to other excellent Cuban expatriates, never boxing in the Cuban amateur system and leaving the island at age three. In fact, Frias had a late start in boxing, starting at age 24, only competing in three amateur bouts. Considering those relevant negatives, Frias should be complimented for the exceedingly hard work it took to get to this point. At age 35, Frias is past his physical prime but developed a good boxing brain, earning his stripes by sparring champions Zab Judah, Joshua Clottey and Andre Berto, recently traveling to California as lead sparring partner for Turkish madman Selcuk Aydin. Despite age, has a marvelous physique and is a physically strong boxer who could have more stoppages if he was more persistent on offense, not relying on counterpunching. A 5’10” southpaw, Frias has some pop in his hands but nothing demonical like his first name suggests. Orlando Cuellar, who teaches defense first, put a cautious imprint on Frias’ style early in his career. Frias is coming out of that shell now, trained by underappreciated former champion John David Jackson, who was a lefty as well. Frias told writer Chris Robinson what he wants to accomplish inside the ring. “I try to bring a little bit of everything to the table. I am trying to master all of my qualities. This sport is an art and maybe that’s why I’ve gotten so far in my career because I know that skill and intelligence beats pure strength.” This is despite my belief that Frias lacks the elite speed to take advantage of what he sees. Frias’ career is also marked by ring absences because of fights falling out and injuries (torn ACL and damaged left hand). Frias lost three consecutive fights in 2009 and 2010 to fringe contenders Brad Solomon, Freddy Hernandez and Favio Medina, showing mental resiliency rebounding with the Crawford victory but otherwise only defeated poor opposition. The humble and intelligent Frias understands besting Molina could lead to more ESPN-level bouts while a loss puts an end to title ambitions.
Carlos Molina – Blue-collar Chicago volume puncher is 11-1-1 since 2008 (loss was a controversial disqualification where Molina was winning), fashioned against strong opponents like Kermit Cintron, Erislandy Lara and James Kirkland. Earned a top 10 ranking, number six in The Ring‘s junior middleweight rankings, the old-fashioned way fighting anyone anywhere. Unexpected run came after a 21-month layoff because of contractual disputes with the inactivity coming at a bad time since Molina had entered two sanctioning bodies’ top 10 rankings. Before stellar performances against Cintron, Lara and Kirkland, Molina registered a dominant 12-round victory over 34-5 Danny Perez that showed potential and turned heads. Molina was born in Mexico but raised in the tough Chicago gym system, matriculating through it despite having only seven amateur bouts. Started boxing at age 17, surviving on raw talent, instincts and a work ethic that kept him in the gym constantly. “Usually, I don’t have the privilege of knowing when I’m gonna fight. I just got to be ready all the time. There’s no off season for us.” In only his 10th fight, Molina took on 23-0 Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. in Mexico, holding Chavez to a disputed draw neutral observers thought Molina won. Molina has lost five fights (none by stoppage), though I thought Molina beat Chavez Jr. in a second fight that was scored a majority win for Chavez. Lost another debatable battle to contender Mike Alvarado via majority decision. Molina fought at welterweight before his layoff, saying he feels comfortable at junior middle and scored his best wins at 152 pounds. Faded in the late rounds against physically stronger Alvarado and Chavez Jr., which he says was a result of problems making weight. Molina is a good infighter but was shouldered and pushed around by Alvarado and, at times, against Lara. A good combination puncher and tricky to pin down on defense with Molina’s sense of distance. Lacks power, 23% kayo ratio, ensuring Molina has to work and push opponents backward to create an advantage. The 29-year-old is a gym junkie, enabling him to come out of tough fights and get right back into the deep end of the talent pool. It also keeps Molina in optimal physical shape, required of a frenetic volume puncher like him. Even if Molina were to never become a champion, he will never bore an audience the way some champions do.
Verdict – Both fighters enter the fight on high notes and unlike many of their other bouts, both men have had the time to prepare properly for this match-up. Molina has the smothering style to counteract the southpaw advantage of Frias and, mentally, will be ready to defend his place in the top 10 to make a case for a title fight next year. Molina is also better on defense than given credit for, in his judgment of distance, making Frias reach on offense. This is a case of a B+-level fighter against a C-level boxer, with the aggression and forward momentum of Molina netting many close rounds. Frias is strong enough to stand his ground in spots but that is not in his game plan and anytime Frias’ feet are not moving, the advantage is ceded to Molina. At the end of 10 rounds, Molina will have bossed seven of them, letting off the gas pedal late and allowing Frias to make it somewhat respectable on the scorecards.
Prediction record for 2012: 83% (79-16)
Prediction record in 2011: 88% (138-19)
Prediction record in 2010: 85% (218-40)
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