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The ESPN2 Friday Night Fights TV Cheat Sheet (with Showtime Bonus Pick)

If it is not one thing, it’s another. Last week’s “ESPN2 Friday Night Fights” debut excelled right up until the bitter end when the judges’ questionable cards ruined an otherwise fine show, sending Teddy Atlas into an apoplectic fit of righteous indignation. Everyone watching felt bad for Arash Usmanee (and Twitter nearly exploded), especially after the fine bio ESPN did on Usmanee, introducing the Afghan-Canadian to the American public. This week’s ESPN2 show has another well-balanced headliner featuring two power-punchers with recent losses that should make them desperate to score knockouts to get back on the right track. The opener features a solid former amateur champion trying to punch his way to the same level in the paid ranks against an aging brawler who came up the hard way. It should be an enjoyable show as long as the referee or judges do not get in the way.
As always with ESPN2, if not watching live, set your DVR to record an extra hour after the show’s close since whatever programming that’s on before boxing events usually runs over its air time by at least 30 minutes.

At the Indian School, Santa Fe, NM
(ESPN2) John Molina (24-2) vs. Dannie Williams (22-2)
(ESPN2) Brandon Gonzales (16-0) vs. Don Mouton (12-4-1)
Don Mouton  Houston-based heavy hitter is comfortable in role of underdog and emerged with wins despite traveling to the other man’s hometown on a couple of occasions. Even in losses, Mouton has gained the respect of the crowd and opponents, delivering pride, excitement, aggression and sustained action. Mouton has not given up mentally despite being fed to the wolves early (opponents combined record of 144-23-5), only fighting one foe with a losing record, improving by losing to superior boxers and establishing a résumé that’s better than his win/loss record indicates. Mouton is not afraid to throw simultaneously with opponents, not waiting to counter or punch when there are only obvious openings. Had a decent amateur career, topping out as a Texas Golden Gloves champion but never reached national finals, improving as a pro sparring Brian Vera and others in the underrated Houston gym system. Appeared on TV before, Showtime and defunct Versus, because of an attacking style based on forward momentum and deploying power as his only defensive shield. Will get more opportunities against prospects, win or lose, even at age 34. Seems to have recharged his batteries after a three-year hiatus because of legal issues involving theft and fraud, fighting three times in 2012, winning convincingly each time. Sports near perfectly proportioned body for division, 5’8” tall plus thickly muscled torso and chest with a 72-inch reach. A physically strong mauler, Mouton uses that body to shove and bull his way inside. Likes to get in a low crouch and punch like his favorite boxer, Joe Frazier, but after fast starts, has faded late in some fights. Not much flash with Mouton; he works the fundamentals but is always in search of the big punch, letting small openings pass him by. Employs a solid jab when on his game and marching forward, stepping into it nicely but lacks feet and lateral movement to keep opponents in front of him. In losses, was susceptible to speed, looking like a plodder giving little thought to where punches land. Tries to move upper body and head on defense but with little consistency and late in fights, soaks up punches instead of rolling with them. A granite chin’s never been dented by quality opposition, often more discouraged by thoughtful punches that irritate and get Mouton off his game plan.
Brandon Gonzales  West Coast speedster is living up to “flawless” nickname on paper, posting 16 victories (10 stoppages) but struggling somewhat in biggest fight to date. Gonzales was America’s number one light heavyweight at time of turning pro, a U.S. national team member (record of 56-7) favored for a Beijing Olympic spot but chose to support his new wife and child. Quickly became a lead sparring partner for current stablemate Andre Ward, also holding his own sparring Mikkel Kessler, probably learning more from them than any Olympic tourney could. Is comfortable in the ring despite coming to the sport a bit late, at age 19, utilizing natural athleticism and reflexes early before supplementing it with 69 pro rounds currently. Career has been snakebite (only three fights in last two years), overcoming injuries and promotional hurdles which prevented fights with David Lemieux and other televised dates. In terms of skill set, Gonzales has and uses every punch in the book, relying on speed and accuracy over pure power to intimidate foes into inaction or hesitancy. A counterpuncher at heart, Gonzales shows boxing I.Q., switching to Plan B when spotting unforeseen openings. Speed is biggest asset where Gonzales attempts to emulate heroes Sugar Ray Robinson, Ray Leonard and Muhammad Ali’s flashy combinations. Has gotten into trouble defensively that way, staying in the pocket too long (knocked down by inexperienced Isiah McFadden) or not protecting retreats. In that sense, and overall, stylistically, Gonzales reminds me of former Olympic and world champion David Reid. Took on tough Ossie Duran, after a 10-month layoff, gutting out a close decision, coming on strong in the last three rounds (ignoring a cut eye) to close the show. At 28, is in his physical prime and after an early stint with Jeff Mayweather, is now under the tutelage of Virgil Hunter. Gonzales described himself and his style to Ryan Maquiñana, “I’m half-Mexican and half-African-American and I’d like to think I bring the best of both worlds. While I bring the athleticism, speed and coordination associated with African-American fighters, I’ve knocked out a few guys with a left hook to the body.” Active in the community, Gonzales recently formed a nonprofit organization to educate children about nutrition and fitness. Gonzales has the physical tools to excel but whether Gonzales is just an athlete or a fighter still remains uncertain since he came to the sport late.
Verdict  Mouton is a beatable fighter but beating him is not easy because of his physicality and still-positive mental attitude. Gonzales has the one aspect to his game to make the fight a bit easier and that is his combination of hand and foot speed. I like that Gonzales has handled pressure well in previous bouts, not only physically boxing off his back foot but mentally as well dealing with cuts. Gonzales will create room with his feet and fill the space with jabs and combinations when he sees Mouton fall forward or off-balance. By the fourth round, things become repetitive with Mouton chasing and his punch output lowering with each stanza as he loads up, looking to land a big punch to change the momentum. Gonzales maintains distance and coasts home for a 98-92 win but will wake up sore in the morning.
Dannie Williams  With Kelly Pavlik working on the West Coast, Youngstown’s boxing pride rests in the gloves of this St. Louis transplant. Williams was a first-rate amateur, winning the 2004 National Golden Gloves, excelling in an ultra-competitive St. Louis boxing scene. As important as winning 127 of 154 amateur fights, Williams matured by sparring Cory Spinks and Devon Alexander under the watchful eyes of Kevin Cunningham. Started boxing age 13, mimicking idols Floyd Mayweather Jr. and Roy Jones, registering wins over current champion Brandon Rios and hot prospect Diego Magdaleno. Is now under the guidance of Jack Loew (best known for his work with Pavlik), who is infusing the same big right hand into Williams that his former middleweight king mastered. Williams lost two prime years, shot in the leg and jailed on firearm charges from 2006 to 2008, but has, by every account, turned his life around through a positive mindset and hard work. Possesses a tantalizing mix of speed and power but does not combine both consistently, seeming to choose one over the other at the expense of both. A fast starter, half of Williams’ stoppages have come in the first round and he has stopped two foes past the second round. That stat suggests a lack of offensive diversity or Williams is content to win on points and does not force stoppages. Williams, with dreadlocks, a solid body and heavy hands, reminds me of entertaining boxer/brawler Livingstone Bramble. Williams says he is a boxer/puncher but his power catches the eye first and he is either in complete offensive or full defensive mode. I was impressed by Williams’ toughness in setback to undefeated fringe contender Eloy Perez, where Williams let Perez off the hook after scoring two early knockdowns. Made the same mistake in a loss to Henry Lundy, scoring an early knockdown and losing his focus by chasing the same punch all night and losing a decision. Williams described his style to writer Scott Levinson, “You’re gonna get a little bit of speed and you’re definitely gonna get the power. I’m naturally strong but I don’t depend on my power. I’ll box, box, box but once I see that you don’t have heart or can’t stand the pain—I wanna take you out.” At age 28, needs to put everything together quickly if he wants to make a concerted run at a world title.
John Molina  Last seen shockingly kayoed in 44 seconds against Antonio DeMarco but impressed me in his determination in television debut and in subsequent fights where his physical power shone through. Brute force was not enough against former title challenger Martin Honorio either with Molina not able to maintain contact or impose his brawn on the cagey veteran. Molina was well behind on points to Henry Lundy as well but displayed discipline, scoring an eighth round knockdown that changed the fight. Surged from that point forth, using his momentum and accuracy to stop a mobile Lundy in the 11th round. Molina is a solidly built lightweight with broad shoulders who likes to mix it up and is at his best coming straight down the middle at retreating foes. In the Joshua Allotey win, Molina alternated his attack from the head to the body, scoring a stoppage with wicked liver shots. 19 of 24 wins are by stoppage, using leverage and balance learned as a high school wrestler (began boxing at 10, not taking it seriously until age 16, winning two California Golden Gloves titles). Molina is possessed of natural strength with an evenly proportioned musculature that wears on opponents as the rounds ratchet up. Over the last two years, his team (trained by the Goossens) elevated the opposition after building Molina’s confidence against naturally smaller opponents. Molina has learned well, sensing when he has a clear advantage in one area, attacking that weakness with fervor, hitting equally hard with both hands. His aggression is nonstop, using angles at times but mainly overwhelming foes with combinations. Has a solid inside attack but looked confused by angles from Honorio and Lundy, unable to cut off the ring. At 5’10½” with a 72” reach, Molina is a tall lightweight but lacks the experience (and maybe ring instincts) to maximize those physical assets. Was not able to stay out of range on defense in losses, backing up in straight lines or dipping away with his hands down. In setback to Honorio, showed heart, losing mid-ring exchanges where it was advisable he retreat and set up a new attack. Returned to trainer Joe Goossen after a short separation in 2011. Has the work ethic to get past current limitations and with Molina’s punch and fan-friendly style, he will be forgiven a lack of style before stopping opponents.
Verdict  Molina’s promoter (Goossen Tutor) is putting on this event and, as we learned last week, that can be a difference maker in close fights. Especially since this is an even match-up and it should be a close affair where intangibles win the fight. I am going with Williams because of the intangibles growing up in the sport imparts on boxers which Molina lacks (showed itself dramatically in the DeMarco fight where he looked shell shocked) because he came to the sport a bit late. Williams’ speed advantage will also tell early, as well as an overall superior boxing I.Q. and muscle memory. If Molina bosses the action through volume and pressure tactics to get inside, there will be problems for Williams on the judging front. Williams has turned off mentally in fights before, like allowing Hank Lundy to outwork him after Williams scored an early knockdown and chased that same punch the rest of the fight. Molina is not as steady or patient as Lundy, allowing Williams to win by stepping into his shorter and straighter punches and perhaps scoring a late knockdown to seal the fight by a point or two.
Showtime Bonus Prediction:  I intended on doing a Cheat Sheet on tonight’s “ShoBox” event but the opening fight featuring Randy Caballero was not finalized until late. So, instead I will give a prediction for the Rico Ramos - Ronny Rios bout.
At the Fantasy Springs Casino, Indio, CA
(Showtime) Rico Ramos (21-1) vs. Ronny Rios (19-0)
(The Ring magazine #4 junior featherweight vs. unranked)
Verdict – In every career or profession, there is a level of progression that should be followed; I think Ronny Rios is skipping several steps in that progression and gunning for Ramos too early in his career. Despite Rios’ undoubted talent, he should go from toughmen to trial horses to journeymen, then sluggers, a mover, followed by faded champion, then gatekeeper, a former champion, to arrive at a titleholder. Rios is skipping straight from mover to former champion in my opinion. Ramos will see everything a nanosecond faster because of his experiences, allowing Ramos to get his punches to the point of engagement quicker, beating Rios to the punch and spot. That championship level Ramos has experienced enables him to react faster mentally, formulating combinations as Rios tries to get his shots to land via speed and reflexes instead of thinking ahead. I am concerned that the fight takes place at featherweight; Ramos has been a junior featherweight all his career but I believe speed and not power is the key to this fight. Rios is game and might even make the fight close in the later rounds - when he begins to adapt to what has been presented him - but by then, it will be too late with the scorecards tallied in favor of Ramos by three rounds on all the cards.
Prediction record for 2013: 100% (2-0)
Prediction record in 2012: 84% (128-25)
Prediction record in 2011: 88% (138-19)
Prediction record in 2010: 85% (218-40)
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