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The HBO Boxing After Dark TV Cheat Sheet- July 21, 2012

(Photo © Pat Lovell, / Golden Boy Promotions)
(Photo © Pat Lovell, / Golden Boy Promotions)

Whenever HBO televises a ho-hum show, I assume manager/TV network executive puppeteer Al Haymon is somewhere in the building. This is such a night, as talented and exciting Adrien Broner takes on a good but beatable foe that should make Broner look great. Nothing against Broner but the matchmaking creates as much electricity as his dad brushing Broner’s hair after a fight. The opener is another Al Haymon special with Haymon-managed Keith Thurman cutting to the front of the line for his HBO debut. I think Thurman has HBO-level potential and might have earned his way to an appearance eventually but Thurman’s current résumé does not merit this big stage. Certainly not against Orlando Lora (at least on “ShoBox,” Thurman would be tested by another young gun), who is an ESPN2-level opponent at this point of his career. It is enough to make you root for the recent string of upsets to continue but then Haymon would sign the upset winners and get them an HBO date in September.

At the U.S. Bank Arena, Cincinnati, OH
(HBO) Adrien Broner (23-0) vs. Vicente Escobedo (26-3)
(The Ring magazine #3 junior lightweight vs. unranked)
[Editor’s note: The WBO junior lightweight belt is only on the line for Escobedo. Adrien Broner failed to make the 130-pound weight limit (coming at 3.5 pounds over) thus forfeiting his title belt. Broner will be allowed to weigh no more than 140 pounds this morning and will likely also forfeit a percentage of his purse to Escobedo.]
(HBO) Keith Thurman (17-0) vs. Orlando Lora (29-2-2)

Orlando Lora – I first heard about Lora in a Gary Shaw press release stating he was a Mexican Olympian but could not find Lora’s name in any official 2000 Sydney Olympic results (Mexico had six participants and Lora was not one of them). I don’t dispute Lora was an elite amateur but was surprised he was not moved faster given those credentials. Lora continued to box as an amateur until age 23, turning pro nine years ago. Now 31-years-old, Lora uses an aggressively taxing style suited for a mature frame (5’10” with a big upper body) like his. A prototypical wear-you-down banger, much like a Marco Antonio Rubio, he slowly makes up ground landing more significant punches as the rounds progress. By the fifth and sixth rounds, Lora’s accuracy comes to the forefront and if given the opportunity, he will maul and brawl on the inside. Takes small steps forward, filling holes left by backtracking opponents, with Lora’s hands either traveling toward the target or up on defense. A 58% kayo ratio flatters to deceive, coming largely against low-level opposition. Lora lacks elite hand speed, relying on thudding punches to wear opponents down to his speed level and reel them in. Consistently targets the body and is not overly neglectful on defense with occasional shoulder rolls or leaning away from punches. Does his best work with the right hand and Lora can be accurate with singular punches from the outside against foes lacking foot speed. Trainer Abel Sanchez says Lora is a good student and did well sparring Antonio Margarito and Fernando Angulo, never worrying about the mature boxer’s (has a wife and children) work ethic or his partying the night away. Lora was badly outclassed by gatekeeper David Estrada but his team claims it was the result of a liver infection and Lora took off 11 months after the setback. In last significant fight, against Paulie Malignaggi in October, Lora did not throw enough punches, looking sluggish launching wide, unimaginative punches losing all but one round. In his last three fights, Lora has gone 1-1-1, drawing in his last outing with a 7-2-2 unknown in Mexico. Given Lora’s failures against quality foes, he probably understands this to be his last chance to make an impression and secure future TV dates.

Keith Thurman – Rangy puncher with frightening power has star potential, knocking out his first 10 opponents, but has yet to find someone to test him as a professional. Thurman began boxing at age seven, training for power to accentuate his natural strength (emulating idols Mike Tyson and Roberto Duran), knowing it hindered his amateur progress. Despite that, had a distinguished amateur career, packing a PAL and U.S. National title, silver medal in the 2008 Olympic trial (losing to Demetrius Andrade) and 76 stoppages into 101 wins. Amateur coach Ben Getty described Thurman as a combination of Duran and Miguel Cotto before passing away. Trainer Dan Birmingham (of Winky Wright and Jeff Lacy fame) has plenty to work with in a 23-year-old slugger, standing 5’11” with an intimidating reach. Honed his skills sparring champions Andre Berto, Winky Wright, Chad Dawson, Antonio Tarver and Jeff Lacy and is probably where Thurman became a better counterpuncher than given credit for. Employs a relaxed fluid style despite standing a bit straight and lacking a consistent jab (using it as a range finder). Thurman’s amateur power traveled up to the pros, stopping 16 of 17 foes and has only gone eight rounds once. Two names on Thurman’s résumé stand out as proficient, Favio Medina and former Cuban amateur Stalinn Lopez, with 10 others sporting sub-.500 records. Missed all of 2011 with a fractured hand and knuckle injury but scored two decent wins this year. A dedicated body puncher, scoring three stoppages with his attack and setting up plenty more, Thurman dips and torques into shots when a foe is on the ropes. Hurts opponents with either hand but starts and finishes majority of victims with a striking left hook. Impressive timing lends an awe factor and doubles impact of punches, leading people to underestimate the manner in which Thurman uses his feet to set up shots. If he develops an intelligent jab to hide or set up his power punches, Thurman can become a beast in the mold of James Kirkland. Defense needs development (knocked down in the first round by Quandray Robertson while rushing for a kayo), relying on reflexes rather than head movement. Self-confident without being brash, Thurman knows the importance of looking good on HBO. Thurman explained to writer Jake Donovan, “It’s highly important to make a statement. I want them to know that I belong in that elite class of fighters.”

Verdict – This is going to end in an ugly fashion with not much to analyze since Thurman holds every advantage except physical size, judging from press-conference pictures. The only time Lora was stopped is when the ringside doctor called a halt because of accumulated punishment. I see a similar stoppage tonight with Lora taking too much punishment and not showing the capability of rescuing himself with a big or lucky punch. Thurman cruises and looks good since he sees every slow and looping punch from Lora coming with the fight stopped between the fifth and sixth round.

Vicente Escobedo – Californian has the abilities to stare down champions and keep pace with them in stretches but lacked a key ingredient to overcome a quality champion so far. In three losses, to Robert Guerrero, Michael Katsidis and Daniel Jimenez, Escobedo was pushed to the limit by physical brutes, losing distance decisions. Escobedo faded late against Jimenez, suffering a last-round knockdown in a split decision loss and Katsidis got the judges’ nod through superior volume. The Guerrero loss is the only fight where Escobedo was outclassed but he showed heart battling through two knockdowns and a cut to win the last round (a bloodied Escobedo proposed to his wife after the fight). Escobedo has plugged away on smaller cards televised by Telefutura, ESPN and minor pay-per-views, getting back into the title picture, besting veterans Rocky Juarez and Juan Ruiz. Gained the ring awareness to beat quality pros through a superb amateur career (beat Anthony Peterson twice in the Olympic trials), winning two National PAL titles and a USA National championship, besting Paulie Malignaggi. Finished as a 2004 Olympian but disappointed with a second round exit. Escobedo did not meet the high expectations in the pros initially that his pedigree fashioned. It seemed every time Escobedo ran up a string of victories to get to the precipice of a title shot, he lost or looked bad in a pivotal fight. Overcame that reputation, beating former champions Kevin Kelley and Carlos Hernandez. Until last 2010, was studiously learning his trade under the hyper-observant eye of Mexican training icon Ignacio “Nacho” Beristain (Freddie Roach before that) but has now settled in with the respected Joel Diaz. Escobedo says the past is still with him, especially in the form of outstanding sparring with Juan Manuel Marquez. Inside the ropes, Escobedo’s hands are more quick than fast and he still has the reflexes to choose and launch a punch when an unexpected opening presents itself. Escobedo is back at his natural weight, never losing at 130 pounds, after recovering from a torn ligament in his right hand for which he underwent surgery. Two of Escobedo’s setbacks were via split decision and some of the ring generalship that set up accurate punches was not appreciated by judges. Now, the mature 30-year-old feels he has solved the puzzle, finally putting all the parts into place to win a world title.

Adrien Broner – Cincinnati produced great fighters like Aaron Pryor, Freddie Miller, Ezzard Charles and Tim Austin. Adrien Broner wants his name added to that roster of greats. Started boxing at age six, winning a national Silver Gloves tourney and, more importantly, sparred against three-time Olympian Rau’shee Warren every day. Success eluded Broner at senior tourneys but he was always a difficult out with nearly 300 amateur bouts to his credit. A speed-burner with excellent defensive reflexes, Broner has shown an ability to use that speed on offense, knocking out 19 of 23 opponents. Improves continuously in every facet because of a gym rat work ethic as his father coaches from the corner. Another animal comparative is a peacock with Broner’s prancing assuredness paying off for fans when he takes daring chances to make himself look great. This cockiness (claiming his ring I.Q. is an equivalent of Albert Einstein’s) rubs some the wrong way but ensures Broner isn’t lost in Golden Boy’s large stable. I emphasize that speed is a lynchpin of Broner’s game; however, it is not his sole attribute since Broner sports a ring presence well beyond his 22 years. That shows on defense, rarely squaring up to an opponent while employing a Mayweather-style shoulder roll to protect himself. Broner wants to incorporate angles and jab more, aiding himself as he matures and inevitably meets someone equally fast. An aggressive nature, the Daniel Ponce de Leon bout aside, reminds of Andre Berto, sprinkled with a little bit of Pernell Whitaker. Well-timed rapid combinations are Broner’s hallmark; his hooks looping at times, lessening the impact, but still arrive with astonishing swiftness. Possesses a killer instinct and his legs’ wide stance could be a problem when Broner faces a slick champion or veteran mover. Nicknamed “The Problem”, like other precocious and immature young men, Broner has overcome problems with the law. At 5’7”, is an average size lightweight with a lot of bulk in the upper body that translates into solid punching power. Broner stopped 13 of his last 14 opponents with only a disputed decision over the rejuvenated Ponce de Leon breaking up his streak. That points victory lacked refinement and aggression; subsequently, Broner reassured many taking out Jason Litzau (TKO 1) and undefeated Eloy Perez in less than five rounds. Broner needs more of that tonight given a lack of fan approval to date and their tendency to look at Broner’s post-fight antics more than what he accomplishes in the ring.

Verdict – Broner’s speed is a key issue but he also has the legs and upper body strength to push Escobedo backward, exposing defensive flaws. Look for Broner to start quickly, weaving under Escobedo’s straight right hand and jabs, scoring quick counters and lead rights. Escobedo is rocked and dropped in the middle rounds but strikes back against an onrushing Broner to show he still has his senses. Broner’s fast hands take over from that point, keeping Escobedo off balance and in a hesitant inactive state. There may be a championship round knockdown but Escobedo shows his toughness again lasting the distance. The lopsided final scores because of knockdowns will not be indicative of an overall entertaining fight.

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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