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The ESPN2 Friday Night Fights TV Cheat Sheet- Mar. 16, 2012

It is comforting to have “Friday Night Fights” back on the television after a week off, returning with an excellent card featuring a crossroads battle and clash of young prospects. Kendall Holt and Tim Coleman are desperate, coming off competitive setbacks, with the loser’s career floating further down the proverbial creek. The winner still has a hill to climb but will have moved into fringe title consideration with the four major sanctioning bodies. Abraham Lopez and Gabriel Tolmajyan are solid prospects, sporting a total of 30 bouts, at their first crossroads battle. The pair lives and trains in California and are sure to bring out solid fan bases (Mexican-Americans and Armenians) that will provide a great atmosphere for the show.

At the Morongo Casino, Cabazon, CA
(ESPN2) Kendall Holt (27-5) vs. Tim Coleman (19-2-1)
(ESPN2) Abraham Lopez (16-0) vs. Gabriel Tolmajyan (12-1-1)
Gabriel Tolmajyan – There must be something in the water Armenians are raised on since Tolmajyan sports the same hyper-confidence of compatriot Vic Darchinyan with a defensive twist. Where Darchinyan punches with venom, Tolmajyan will evade a punch and tap-dance a couple punches off an opponent’s head before moving on. Took up boxing at age eight, in an underrated and desperately poor Armenian system, excelling nationally while winning seven consecutive titles. Finished with a reported 260-20 amateur record and participated in all major European and world tourneys, taking home a bronze at the 2004 World Amateur championships. Despite lack of power, works the body well and the best comparison I can come up with for Tolmajyan’s offensive style is Nonito Donaire without the power. Tolmajyan’s defense against limited foes to date is impressive, his nimble feet allowing him to dart in and out of exchanges in an instant. Has the advantage of a southpaw as well and Tolmajyan’s lone loss was to fellow southpaw prospect Efrain Esquivias (2006 National Golden Gloves champion, who is still undefeated) over four close rounds in his third pro fight. Probably fights too much in the amateur style, reacting instead of leading and waiting for openings, then creating them with a solid jab. Bounces and retreats too much for my liking but when Tolmajyan plants his feet, a solid pop is delivered with his fists. A rhythm boxer, Tolmajyan drops his hands often to entice foes, using his feet to start and finish exchanges. Tolmajyan is finding his physical strength at age 25 and boxing acumen is solid if untested against a boxer of Lopez’s versatility. Scored career-best win in his last fight, outpointing undefeated power-punching prospect Daulis Prescott, dropping Prescott with a straight left and winning the final two rounds to earn a decision. After an inactive 2009, fights an average of four times a year. Recently got in some valuable training, sparring with Vic Darchinyan when both returned to Armenia for a big show. Is always in Glendale’s HyeFighter Gym which features a solid cast of Armenian expatriates that push each other to excel.
Abraham Lopez – The charismatic Lopez is a good local draw for respected Thompson Boxing Promotions and suggestions are that Lopez has crossover appeal with his good looks, stylish boxing and bi-lingual charm. Lopez comes from a boxing family (his father and brother boxed professionally), starting at age six and estimates an amateur record of 115-15. Day-to-day training is overseen by his father but his team intelligently brings in experienced trainer Joel Diaz a couple weeks before a fight, allowing him to take over on fight night to remove fatherly emotions. Speed and Lopez’s jab, combining nicely as a speedy jab, are what make him a legitimate prospect. The 24-year-old mixes these with good movement and timing to maneuver opponents where he wants before unleashing quick combinations. Has no problem working body to head, recently stopping Gerardo Espinoza with a hook to the liver, and at 5’7” tall with good reach, Lopez throws straight punches that accentuate those positives. Is a mature boxer in thought, aspiring to emulate heroes Oscar De La Hoya, Julio Cesar Chavez and Ricardo “Finito” Lopez. “I always watched them as a kid; they’re my favorites for their beautiful styles.” “Finito” better not be his nickname outside the ring since Lopez takes college courses to become a state-certified respiratory therapist. Lopez says of his style of boxing, “It’s about being the smarter fighter, not the aggressive fighter. I’m a smart fighter. I can go inside or be outside. Picking shots, speed, counterpunching and then boxing is what I do.” I thought Lopez looked rattled seeing his own blood, via headbutt against Felipe Almanza, and went into a shell instead of using his jab as a defensive weapon. Best win came against hardnosed Aaron Garcia, via a majority decision probably best judged a draw, in which Lopez got away with brawling instead of using angles. Is said to be dedicated to getting better, always in the gym and never more than four pounds away from his pro debut weight, three years ago. Gets great sparring at the famed Espinoza Boxing Club (mentioned by Israel Vazquez as a quality sparring partner) and has been in the ring with World Champion Abner Mares among others. Lopez has the ingredients to become a champion but can he find the right mix of skills to negate a tough opponent tonight?
Verdict – Lopez has faced three southpaws before but none as tricky as Tolmajyan or with his vast amateur experience. For a defensive specialist, Tolmajyan has more self-belief than Charlie Sheen. A tough call but Lopez’s slight physical advantages could make the difference in what I think will be a close fight. That and Lopez being the more stylish and offensive boxer mean the judges will pay more attention to Lopez, awarding him the close round. The fact that the bout is only eight rounds vice ten, where Tolmajyan’s overall experience edge can aid him, favors a more active Lopez as well. In a nip-and-tuck affair, the cleaner and harder blows win out, so go with Lopez with trepidation.
Tim Coleman – I first saw the Baltimore native fight on Showtime against unbeaten prospect James De La Rosa (going against his strengths standing toe-to-toe to impress the TV audience) and liked what I saw despite Coleman’s eventual loss on points. Subsequently, Coleman took the scalp of Mike Arnaoutis in a close scrap, where he would not relent in a back-and-forth volume-punching war. Showed an underdog attitude and great work ethic, never relenting in the face of constant pressure and outthinking a good opponent who had challenged for a world title. Subsequently destroyed capable Patrick Lopez over three scintillating rounds and looked on his way to bigger things given consistent improvement in televised bouts. Unfortunately, Coleman lost momentum squabbling with his promoter and was then kayoed by Vernon Paris’ body shots in a fight Coleman had been dominating. Coleman was a top-notch amateur, starting at age 12 and competing in over 200 fights, but made his reputation in boxing circles as a top sparring partner to stars like Oscar De La Hoya, Floyd Mayweather Jr., Paul Williams, Zab Judah and Alfredo Angulo. Coleman is not intimidated by anyone and at age 27, has exited the training rings to try and emerge as a force of his own. A smart boxer, Coleman does not get caught out of position or on the wrong foot despite coming forward much of the time. Is a compact figure but packs almost no power, having only stopped five of 22 opponents. When Coleman plants and lands, they are zipping punches that sting but do not force foes into a retreat or into a defensive posture for long periods. Defense is average but because Coleman is constantly moving, he is hard to target or beat to the punch because of shifty feet. If forced to make a comparison, he is a B-level Kevin “Flushing Flash” Kelley type. Describes himself as, “Fast, flashy. I’m nice-looking and I know I’m the type of fighter that people like to watch.” His persona is equally brash. “A lot of people say I have a big mouth and they’re right. I’m not quiet-spoken. I’m not humble and I don’t want to be my opponent’s friend. I feel like I’m a marketable fighter. I am what boxing needs.” In that sense, Coleman has picked the right fighter to model himself after in the frenzied Aaron Pryor, attempting to use his speed, angles and constant pressure in a similar fashion.
Kendall Holt – Former WBO titleholder had a couple of chances to get his career back on track (against Danny Garcia and Kaizer Mabuza) after a disappointing loss to Tim Bradley three years ago but suffered debilitating setbacks instead. This fight could be Holt’s last chance since he has not garnered big money offers from Showtime or titleholders despite engaging in exciting fights. As a child, Holt was raised in foster homes after his mother’s conviction on murder charges and his father’s removal for child abuse. Luckily, the young Holt was introduced to boxing at age seven, winning three New Jersey Golden Gloves titles, saving him from further abuse on the streets. Stopped boxing for four years in his early teens but still accumulated an 80-5 amateur record. The physical tools are in place for the Jersey-based counterpuncher; Holt stands 5’9” with a 74-inch reach to aid a wealth of boxing ability and ring intuition. Holt can lose focus in the ring (now has Roy Jones Jr. as trainer to stop that) and has previously unraveled mentally when a referee’s calls have gone against him. Had a memorable and controversial two-bout series with Colombian slugger Ricardo Torres and got up from a Tim Bradley punch that would have stopped 99% of boxers. Like most slick boxers, Holt can be outhustled and in general, fights up or down to the level of his opposition by waiting for the perfect punch instead of staying busy. Though slender, Holt is a more impressive puncher than a 47% kayo ratio suggests. Because Holt fought good opponents, that whip-like power does not shine through as with others. Speed and straight punches are Holt’s best tools, plus a strong wiry physique that lends Holt reach advantages against most junior welterweights. Holt knows he needs a win, “I feel like my back is against the wall and I need to leave everything in the ring. Come fight night, I’m going for broke. I’m coming out to California to make a statement, get the knockout, and make another run for a world title.” At age 30, Holt’s timing-based style of countering becomes more dangerous as his reflexes and body slow down. Holt has the ability to forestall creeping age with experience and Coleman is a perfect opponent to gauge exactly where Holt is at this stage of his career.
Verdict – At this stage of their respective careers, Coleman is a little bit faster, a little more reflexive and the more physical fighter. In boxing, a little means a lot. Still, I view this as a 50/50 contest, mostly because Holt is undervalued and has an edge in reach which Coleman will need to intelligently navigate. If Coleman is not mentally recovered from his loss against Paris, then Holt wins by decision. I think Coleman evades incoming jabs, landing quick, short blows on the inside and catching Holt when he moves backward in that upright stance. Coleman has decent upper body movement, which is key to keeping Holt’s punch count low and creating hesitancy. Volume and combination punching wins it for Coleman, which West Coast judges seem to prefer over Holt’s style of singular clean blows at center ring.
Prediction record for 2012: 85% (22-4)
Prediction record in 2011: 88% (138-19)
Prediction record in 2010: 85% (218-40)
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