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The ESPN2 Friday Night Fights TV Cheat Sheet- July 20, 2012

After the recent rash of upsets- two alone on “Friday Night Fights” last week- we can be sure the favorites are on edge not wanting to give up their hard-fought gains. At least none of the fighters tonight have to worry about overcoming a hometown opponent with the boxers arriving in Las Vegas from Mexico, California and Ohio. I am disappointed ESPN2 chose to replace originally announced prospect Juan Garcia with Prenice Brewer. The last time audiences saw Brewer, he was in constant retreat from bullish Ronald Cruz, then made a verbal stand in the post-fight interview accusing Freddie Roach and Manny Pacquiao of using steroids. His opponent, East L.A’s aggressive Aaron Martinez, has filled in and won on short notice before, so both are aware of the complications that entails. The main event could be explosive if unknown Cesar Vazquez is as good as his undefeated record suggests since we already know Juan Burgos can mix it up with the elite at junior lightweight.

At the Edgewater Casino, Laughlin, NV
(ESPN2) Juan Burgos (29-1) vs. Cesar Vazquez (25-0)
(The Ring magazine #8 junior lightweight vs. unranked)
(ESPN2) Aaron Martinez (17-1-1) vs. Prenice Brewer (16-2-1)

Prenice Brewer – Talented Cleveland native is attempting to reverse a trend of coming up short in televised appearances. As an amateur, Brewer was a National Golden Gloves champion at the junior level, won PAL and U.S. National gold medals and earned a Pan Am Games gold for America as well, culminating in a 156-20 record. Upon turning pro, Brewer got a rude awakening, drawing in his debut, letting him know things would not be as easy as in the amateurs. After that rocky start, won 15 bouts in a row, impressing audiences with his size and quick reflexes before a shock kayo loss to one-time prospect Patrick Lopez. That was two years ago and Brewer has not really recovered from it. After a good bounce-back win over undefeated prospect Emmanuel Taylor, Brewer suffered a lopsided decision loss to a strong but unpolished Ronald Cruz in his last fight. That was another road fight for Brewer, who has fought in 14 states as a pro. Brewer is a pure boxer (not stopping anyone since 2008 as his level of opposition has increased), controlling the distance and pace of fights with a jab to take advantage of his timing and accuracy. Speed is Brewer’s game, despite fighting off his back foot, and key to unlocking opponents since his boxing acumen still lags behind his hands and eyes. Not surprising that his favorite boxers are Pernell Whitaker, Roy Jones and Floyd Mayweather, possessing a defensive mindset while trying to stuff an extra punch in a combination when a one-two would suffice. Stylistically, is a taller version of Devon Alexander, with the same smooth lateral movement and lapses in defense, forcing Brewer to fight off the ropes. Like other athletic types, Brewer puts his game into cruise control in spots with the annoying tendency of fighting up or down to the level of competition. The 24-year-old increased the level of competition over his last six assignments but lost two of those bouts. This is his second fight at welterweight and Brewer does not lack for confidence mentally; the weight is not a problem for Brewer’s lithe 5’10” body. He went 12 backpedaling rounds in his last fight and if he does not put up a fight this time, Brewer might have run out of television opportunities.

Aaron Martinez – Thirty-year-old was born in Mexico, moving to East L.A. as a young child, a good-natured fighter with a misleading nickname of “El Asesino” that does not fit his ring personality either. Part of a boxing family, his brother is an aspiring featherweight, Martinez grew up idolizing Julio Cesar Chavez and still watches Salvador Sanchez videos. Fights out of talent-filled Maywood Boxing Gym, sparring with current and former champions Tim Bradley and Sergio Mora and contenders Fernando Angulo and Jessie Vargas. An eight-year pro, never fighting more than three times a year, Martinez did not take boxing seriously enough until signing with undervalued Thompson Promotions last year. Currently on a four-year, nine-fight winning streak and despite lack of power, is a pleasing TV fighter who forces action with consistent forward movement and active hands. Is aware of criticism about a low kayo percentage, telling writer Michele Chong, “I’m doing more strength training; I wanna prove I can punch. I’m working hard on conditioning to add kayos to the résumé and I’m working 100% at bettering my punch.” Martinez has shown the power to stun but lacks the finishing touch to make early nights for himself. Usually, the uppercut surprises foes, coming at sharp inside angles that Martinez disguises well, which he follows up with hooks instinctively and impressively. Has a tendency of leaning forward into wide punches sometimes, causing headbutts that have cut Martinez in the past. Looks more crude and awkward than he actually is; Martinez times punches well and his accuracy is underestimated. Level of opposition increased with new promoter and Martinez bested undefeated prospect Joseph Elegele with a fast start (the right hand/uppercut combo that put down Elegele was beautiful), battling through a bad cut, ultimately winning a technical decision. A great result considering Martinez took the fight against the lanky southpaw on seven days’ notice. On defense, lacks head movement but his chin seems sound despite being rocked and wobbly on two occasions. Like others, Martinez credits boxing with putting his life on a positive course. “I haven’t had an easy upbringing and I wanted to change my direction in life so I put everything I have into my training. As a result, I have been able to build my professional boxing career. I have been around for a while and it is a good feeling.”

Verdict – I think Brewer is the more talented boxer, also possessing better athletic gifts and a superior body to Martinez. However, Brewer has frozen when the TV lights came on, boxing to survive instead of winning thus making uninteresting fights. The judges will acknowledge Martinez marching forward employing his style better than a backpedaling Brewer, who has his moments but fails to make an impression consistently on offense. Martinez’s volume is steady but not enough to overwhelm and he has shown a lack of killer instinct (despite his nickname of “Killer”) to put away someone as defensive-minded as Brewer. I like Martinez by decision with Brewer complaining again that his blocking of punches and counterpunching was not appreciated by the judges.

Cesar Vazquez – The 26-year-old mystery man enters with an impressive record (and 64% kayo ratio) but this will be Vazquez’s first appearance outside of his native Mexico since turning pro four years ago. I have not been able to track down amateur or personal information such as how or what age Vazquez began boxing or if other family members boxed. Thankfully, there is YouTube and other footage of the Baja-based battler which show a skinny-framed but capable boxer. Though many of Vazquez’s fights have ended early, last two fights were third round stoppages, he has no problem going rounds and has been the 12-round limit on three occasions. Vazquez’s opponents have been poor-to-middling quality, except for a two-round destruction of the usually solid Antonio Meza. Ring appearances have waned, only fighting twice last year (down from 10 fights in 2009 and five in 2010) since Vazquez signed with Antonio Lozada’s Baja Boxing promotion and began fighting on Mexican television. Appears to be a well-rounded boxer who was taught the fundamentals in the amateurs, perhaps a bit too stand-up in his form but does dip nicely to deliver body blows. Despite what seems like above-average pop in Vazquez’s fists, likes to give himself space by backing up and not smothering his punches. Straight right hand is most effective and damaging punch, thrown down the pipe and would be much more dangerous if he would step into a jab more often. Not a volume puncher, Vazquez takes his time lining up long punches. Despite that, wears on opponents because he keeps within striking distance with a good sense of space and his long arms present a constant threat. On defense, does not tuck his chin, leaving it up in the air a bit and sometimes reaches out to slap down an incoming punch, leaving himself open to hooks. Regularly uses aggravating stiff arm to keep opponents off balance or when backing out of skirmishes. Overall, Vazquez reminds of Rafael Ruelas in terms of body type and style but so far, lacks the refinement and intangibles that made Ruelas a champion. Tonight will reveal exactly how good Vazquez is and if that record built on a foundation of soft opposition is more impressive and sturdy than it seems.

Juan Carlos Burgos – Like NBA teams, some boxers need their version of a losing finals appearance to become championship-caliber themselves. Burgos could be that type of fighter, rebounding with four wins, to include a back-and-forth brawl with undefeated prospect Luis Cruz, after suffering a respectable 12-round loss to underrated champion Hozumi Hasegawa in Japan. The power-puncher (19 stoppages in 29 wins) was raised in the sport, turning pro at 16 after watching his uncle, Victor Burgos, win an IBF world title. Juan’s parents wanted him to retire when Victor lapsed into a coma after a stoppage loss to Vic Darchinyan but eventually relented. Grew up in a gym and trained by his father, which lends to the development of instincts that have to be experienced instead of taught. Like most Mexican boxers, Burgos is pleasing to the eyes as well as adrenal glands, pushing advantages and refusing to retreat. Reminiscent of a young Erik Morales, using long arms and legs to stride into his target, intuitively throwing hooks to the head and liver. Loves to attack the body and finely curls punches around elbows. The 24-year-old has been moved at the right pace with his team throwing different styles at him, defeating slick Russian youngster Vyacheslav Gusev early in his career and beating hardnosed former champion Cristobal Cruz in his last fight. Averages three fights a year and been 10 and 12 rounds multiple times, registering 180 rounds against divergent styles. Burgos has good size for a featherweight or junior lightweight, at 5’8½”, but could make better use of his length and not let his Mexican roots show by drifting inside and banging when certain of a strength advantage. Can and does deploy every weapon on offense but Burgos needs to improve his defense and alter combinations as not to overuse the left hand. Says he has learned from his lone loss, in which fight Burgos entered overconfident. “It was the best experience of my life. I was devastated with the loss because I knew I made mistakes. I started too late and it caused me the loss. I was able to hurt Hasegawa in the middle rounds but I would have been more effective if I put more pressure on him early on.” Burgos is a title threat, showing continued improvement and dedication in training since ensuing bouts after the Hasegawa setback have shown there are no lasting mental scars from that title fight loss.

Verdict – I rate Vazquez a live underdog from footage I have seen but stress that it was against run-of-the-mill opposition. Small things win this fight such as Burgos possessing superior boxing instincts and facing a better caliber of opposition. I can’t see Vazquez preventing Burgos from taking long steps and cutting off the ring to force engagements when Vazquez likes to fight at a distance. Vazquez needs to come forward more to win but Burgos’ upper body strength and strong legs enable him to keep Vazquez off balance and reacting instead of leading. The faster Burgos should land first with the aid of a sharp jab, and will evade those dangerous right hands, using his nice duck-and-pivot move. The judges reward Burgos’ style and power, probably in the seven rounds-to-three range.

Prediction record for 2012: 84% (68-13)
Prediction record in 2011: 88% (138-19)
Prediction record in 2010: 85% (218-40)
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