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The Friday TV Cheat Sheet

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I was disappointed to miss last week’s debut of ESPN2’s “Friday Night Fights,” since the main event was an intriguing matchup of a big banger against a volume puncher. Predictably, the fight was a close affair with plenty of shifts in momentum and added drama raised by the specter of hideous swelling to both men’s faces. This week’s pairings are not as competitive at first glance but deliver in terms of star power and boxers who can break through on the world stage. Only ESPN2 and Telefutura air events, on Friday night, both being stalwart providers of mid-level fights that are the backbone of televised boxing. ESPN stands alone for its excellent studio segments, highlighting the weekend’s action regardless of what television network it emanates from. If only ESPN would provide a separate 30-minute studio boxing show, like it does for MMA fans now.

As most regular readers of Maxboxing know, this series is formulated to provide a quick synopsis of the fighters featured on the televised shows. Along with that, I give a prediction on the outcome of the match-ups, mostly in hopes of diagnosing an upset before it happens, not unlike last week with Ruslan Provodnikov. My final prediction record for 2010 stands at a respectable 218-40 (85%), which I hope to improve on this year by not picking against Wilfredo Vasquez Jr. anymore. With those thoughts in mind, here is the year’s first TV Cheat Sheet.


January 14th (Friday), 2011
At Mallory Square, Key West, FL

(ESPN2) Peter Manfredo (36-6) vs. Daniel Edouard (23-3-2)
(ESPN2) Edwin Rodriguez (17-0) vs. Aaron Pryor Jr. (15-2)

Aaron Pryor Jr. – Son of Hall of Fame pressure boxer Aaron Pryor but hardly possessed of his dad’s skill and definitely lacks that legendary tenacity. Because his father is not as famous as Tommy “The Hitman” Hearns or Julio Cesar Chavez- though equally talented and Pryor beat Tommy in the amateurs- Pryor is not getting as much play out of his last name as Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. and Ronald Hearns. At 6’ 4½”, Pryor has excellent size, which led him to concentrate on basketball but refrained from boxing until age 21 when he began fighting in the amateurs. Showed toughness, enduring his first three years as a pro at Detroit’s infamous Kronk Gym, sparring with the likes of Jermain Taylor, Kermit Cintron, Andy Lee and even Wladimir Klitschko. Displays good physical reaction times to punches but lacks inherent ring sense when countering the punches he avoids. Fought at middleweight and 168 pounds and should not be overwhelmed physically or strength-wise by the hard punching Rodriguez. Pryor’s 72% kayo ratio is built on bad opposition (combined 51-63-12 record), though he stopped former Olympian Dante Craig, in general, Pryor buzzes opponents more than he hurts them. Not overly entertaining, Pryor puts defense before offense and uses a long left jab to fend off attacks instead of setting up his own shots. Launches big right hands only when there is a wide opening; because of that, lost fights due to lack of volume punching as much as anything else. Best win came in last fight against Dyah Davis but is just past his peak, physically at age of 32.

Edwin Rodriguez – In his last outing, beat up Buddy McGirt’s kid and I hope Rodriguez shreds his way through sons of former world champs including Julio Cesar Chavez’s progeny. It’s been a while since New England created a world champion but “La Bomba” looks legit and is on the right track to a title. Worcester native got to know what it takes to be a champion by traveling to England to act as lead sparring partner for Carl Froch and completed a stint in top ten-rated Daniel Geale’s training camp in Australia. That’s invaluable experience for a maturing fighter and both men complimented Rodriguez on his performance. Dominican-born puncher came to America at age 13 and began boxing somewhat late at age 16. Made a name for himself by winning the 2005 USA Boxing Nationals and followed it up with a 2006 National Golden Gloves tourney title. The first fighter from Massachusetts to win the USA Nationals since Marvin Hagler in 1973 and lists other local legend Rocky Marciano as his favorite fighter. Even in the amateurs, his big punch featured prominently, ending with an 84-9 record and earning the nickname of “La Bomba” (“The Bomb”). 25-year-old has a puncher’s reputation and developed into a better all-around boxer under the guidance of Peter Manfredo Sr. Soon after turning pro, had surgery to repair a persistent elbow problem (16 spurs removed) and is 100% now. Signed with Lou DiBella in 2010, who has gotten Rodriguez the right amount of work - five fights a year – in televised outings that have upped his recognition factor. Rodriguez sports all the tools, physically (solid upper body and long arms), and is a big chess player (like Lennox Lewis), which is not seen in his sometimes overly aggressive ring demeanor. Works everything off a solid jab and his punches have a good thudding sound to them. Rodriguez’s hands are quick and educated but I would not categorize them as blazing. His team insisted Rodriguez can make middleweight but he has not fought below super middle since turning pro. Rodriguez has yet to face a similarly big puncher, which could be a troubling trend if it continues.

Verdict - Rodriguez’s impressive TV showings should continue here; this kid ups his game and performs better under the bright lights of television. Pryor will reflexively avoid Rodriguez’s onslaughts, using his feet early as well, but fall behind on the scorecards by playing defense. This fight will test Rodriguez’s lateral and head movement as much as his fists, avoiding the long jab while cutting off the ring. By the fourth and fifth rounds, Rodriguez’s body work will slow Pryor down enough to stun him with some head shots. I love Pryor’s size but he only uses it on defense and unless he hits Rodriguez with a couple of snappy jabs early, the fight will end before the eighth round I am officially predicting.

Daniel Edouard – The “Haitian Sensation” was a tantalizing prospect in the mid-2000s, who did not build on amateur successes that saw him medaling in national tourneys and beating the likes of Steve Cunningham and Chris Henry. Went undefeated in his first 18 bouts but had that streak, and perhaps career, ruined on a three-round destruction at the hands of Jermain Taylor. That was almost six years ago and since then, Edouard has only fought nine times. Enters his fights in good shape but was still unable to win two of those fights and looks used-up despite only being 30 years old. Fought twice in 2010, both times in Panama, and a stoppage to Eromosele Albert notwithstanding (by his corner because of swelling), is a tough man to halt inside the distance. Lost to Alfonso Mosquera last July but the footage I saw showed Edouard advancing and landing his right hand consistently. A lack of combination punching is what hurt Edouard, since he often leads but there was no consistency and the Haitian took off the late rounds. Because he lacks one-punch power, Edouard needs to keep his hands active. Whenever Edouard slows down, his lack of head movement makes him a stationary target. Edourard still has the instincts, combined with boxing intellect, to test prospects but a lack of speed prevents him from employing those thoughts and actions. Does not enter a fight for the sole purpose of picking up a check either. He will never reach the heights his amateur pedigree suggested but is not beyond the point of pulling off an upset or two on an unprepared foe.

Peter Manfredo – Rhode Island native is still best known for his performances on the debut year of NBC’s “The Contender” series, despite losing to Alfonso Gomez and Sergio Mora in that competition. Those bouts took place in 2004 and 2005 and Manfredo is a versatile 30-year-old veteran now with 230+ rounds under his belt. Manfredo is an all-around good fighter, who lacks one great asset to push him over the top against world-caliber opposition. That inability to reverse momentum or establish advantages cost him against top-ten guys and champions like Joe Calzaghe, Sakio Bika, and Jeff Lacy. Manfredo has won his last five fights and looked particularly sharp in his last three outings when Manfredo returned to middleweight, where his accurate punching is enhanced. Manfredo’s game plan revolves around a straight and snappy jab, which he can either circle behind or follow down the middle with a sneaky right hand. His father is an underrated trainer and the pair has gotten the most out of Manfredo Jr.’s skill set. Was only dominated by Sakio Bika (Calzaghe bout ended prematurely by the referee) but Manfredo is vulnerable on defense, which he ignores in favor of pressing the action and walking into Sunday punches on occasion. Has shown the chin to ride out mistakes against boxers like tonight’s opponent and is willing to eat a couple extra punches to get up the pace of a fight. Though his defense is lacking, Manfredo’s punches are still delivered with good velocity and sound process behind them. Manfredo only fought an average of three times a year but this early appearance in 2011 hints at activity to put him into title consideration in a middleweight division devoid of name title challengers.

Verdict – Size is as big an advantage for Manfredo as are the hard miles on Edouard’s odometer, since Manfredo is coming down in weight while Edouard is climbing up the scales. This should be an exciting fight since neither will get out of the way of punches, Manfredo by choice while Edouard is simply unable to anymore. The harder and crisper punching Manfredo will land first and more consistently but I doubt Manfredo has the snap to daze Edouard enough to lead to a stoppage. This should be a one-sided affair, with the judges looking for a close round to give Edouard to prevent a shutout.

At The Fantasy Springs Casino, Indio, CA
(Telefutura) Erislandy Lara (14-0) vs. Delray Raines (18-8-1)
(Telefutura) Frankie Gomez (7-0) vs. Hensley Strachan (5-8-1)

Hensley Strachan – Bahamian enters the fight with one of the more unique names I have heard in recent years and that is pretty much where my positivity ends for the feather-fisted Strachan. 7% kayo is not his only negative, as Strachan has only won one of his last nine fights. It’s no coincidence that he has not won outside the Bahamas but I will say Strachan goes at least four rounds before wilting in the face of superior boxers. Is not a fast starter either, going down in the first round in his last two fights, getting behind on the scorecards and losing hope early. Is in physically good shape for fights and sports decent hand speed despite bulky upper body that does not seem conducive to speed. Strachan has been in with good prospects on FOX Sports’ Club Nokia “Fight Club” series, so I do not expect him to be blinded by the bright lights or opposition. Still, he does not have the boxing I.Q. to compete with faster or more talented foes, which is all Strachan has been put in with since arriving in America. He tries and sometimes that is the best compliment you can give an athlete who knows he’s brought to an event to make his opponent look good.

Frankie Gomez – The 18-year-old is rapidly building a buzz about him on the West Coast and is considered one of Golden Boy Promotions’ future stars they developed from scratch. Defeated a more hyped (Top Rank still does better PR work than Golden Boy) Jose Benavidez a couple times in the amateurs, including a 11-9 win in the U.S National finals. Finished the unpaid ranks with a 120-9 record (including a silver medal at the World Championships) and was considered a virtual lock for the 2012 Olympic team before turning pro. East L.A. product has the right mix of speed and power, finally extended to the final bell in his last fight, along with great ring instincts combined with years of muscle memory developed by boxing from age eight. Oscar De La Hoya is effusive in his praise, "This kid was in control. This kid just has it. You can feel it in the air. He has that explosiveness, that ring generalship. I haven’t seen it in a long time.” The original plan was for Gomez to fight at lightweight but his 5’8” frame forced him to move to junior welter and I am not sure his body can cut much more weight. Is not heavily muscled but has good proportions, with his weight evenly distributed from torso to shoulders. In that way, he looks and punches like Julio Cesar Chavez, which allow his accuracy and thudding power to grind foes down. Does need to set up and hide his punches more with a jab, which he will realize against better opposition. Gomez’s most experienced opponent, 17-7-2 Ramon Montano, lasted the distance and Montano had never been stopped despite facing many top-notch opponents. Gomez was able to rock Montano but did not find the right combination to score a knockdown. Gomez did taste some right hands from Montano but it could have been a case of frustration, making him concentrate too much on offense. Will continue to improve through sparring with others in Golden Boy’s growing stable of fighters and is said to remain humble (perhaps even a bit too verbally understated) despite his press clippings. If Gomez cultivates his Hispanic L.A. fan base, the stars are the limit for this kid and he can become all that Victor Ortiz was supposed to be for Golden Boy Promotions.

Verdict – A blowout and I am disappointed that Gomez’s handlers are taking a step back in competition from their last outing. Of course, that is to make sure Gomez looks good on his Telefutura debut but it is hardly conducive to Gomez’s development as a boxer. A kayo win in three to four brutally one-sided rounds for Gomez.

Delray Raines – Was stopped in one and two rounds by Ronald Hearns and David Lemieux, respectively, and the Southern circuit fighter has a habit of collapsing whenever he steps up in competition. Nothing Raines has done, as a pro or amateur, suggests he can pull off a win against an elite amateur and pro like Lara. Raines did go the distance with Tarvis Simms and Aaron Mitchell but did not win a round against them either. Has been knocked out by James McGirt Jr. and Kofi Jantuah as well, despite trying to concentrate on defense in those fights. Raines has never won in a state with a strong boxing commission and in his last fight (in Arkansas), defeated 0-13 David Molton. One positive for Raines is that he is a physically big middleweight, while Lara has been fighting mostly at 154 pounds. At 24, Raines’ reflexes have allowed him to defend himself adequately and fighting six times a year is good as well. 43% kayo ratio is absurd since those came against exceedingly weak opponents, so the term “puncher’s chance” better not be used in his introduction. Raines’ form and balance does not give him the snap to hurt a skilled opponent, while leaving him exposed on defense at the same time. Facing good opposition has improved his skills but, at the same time, made Raines sure, mentally, that he does not belong in the ring with the elite either.

Erislandy Lara – The busy Lara is on cable TV as often as beer commercials, fighting seven times in 2009 and five times in 2010 (an ESPN favorite). This Cuban has avoided the dreaded “lackadaisical” tag from trainers and garnered a lot of praise for wins over Grady Brewer and Danny Perez. To avoid the pitfalls of other Cuban boxers based in Miami, Lara leaves the city to train under the tutelage of Ronnie Shields in Houston. The impressive junior middleweight (promoted by Germany’s Arena-Box) is a three-time Cuban and one-time world amateur champion that was favored to make an Olympic appearance before his defection. Showed some one-punch kayo power since turning pro and earned a good reputation in sparring sessions against Ricky Hatton. A mature 27 years old, Lara’s power and amateur pedigree suggest he will have little problem when the level of opposition is advanced further. A well-rounded southpaw, I would not classify him a great puncher since he does not look for power from the opening bell. He is not a speed merchant either; I would call Lara cunningly fast and exceedingly accurate. Stands 5’9” and body looks like it could make the jump to middleweight if a title opening presents itself there. Because of intelligent fists, has been able to avoid physically depleting wars. Lacks the flash, brilliant hand speed, and power of fellow Cuban Yuriorkis Gamboa or the cocky persona, for that matter. Is a controlling boxer in the vein of Joel Casamayor or- dare I say- Jose Napoles. Shows a lot of variety in punches, despite being right on top of opponents with pressure. Faced the solid opposition (certainly better than American Olympians like Demetrius Andrade or Shawn Estrada) that his pedigree demands but Raines is a step backward, in this regard. Looks as comfortable countering as leading, with only his finishing skills still in doubt. The question now is whether Lara progresses from rock solid to sensational.

Verdict – Lara will have thrown a four-punch combination and reset to duplicate that feat by the time Raines has unlocked his legs trying to comprehend his opponent’s first volley of punches. In terms of boxing I.Q., this is a world chess grandmaster taking on a local checker tourney runner-up. At best, loyal boxing fans get a couple of “oohs” and “aahs” out of Lara combinations, then quickly tire of the one-sidedness and lack of drama the fight delivers. Lara by third-round stoppage.

Prediction record for 2010: 85% (218-40)

 

You can contact Marty at mmulcahey@elpasotel.net or visit him at www.facebook.com/fivedogs



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