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The PPV TV Cheat Sheet


I am surprised at the unexpectedly positive buzz surrounding tonight’s Manny Pacquiao-Shane Mosley pay-per-view. The momentum for it has slowly built to a crescendo, which should produce a considerable amount of last-minute impulse purchases, although many potential buyers will be put off by the $65 cost (for high-definition) as I was when I pre-ordered the event. Considering this is not a marquee bout, no matter the hyperbole, I was taken aback by the price. All credit to Top Rank, Showtime’s “Fight Camp 360” series and CBS; the trio has managed to create doubt about the outcome and manufactured an “event” out of something boxing fans viewed with ambivalence when it was first announced.

At the MGM Grand, Las Vegas, NV
(PPV) Manny Pacquiao (52-3-2) vs. Shane Mosley (46-6-1)
(The Ring magazine #1 pound-for-pound/welterweight vs. #3 welterweight)
(WBO welterweight belt)
(PPV) Wilfredo Vazquez Jr. (20-0-1) vs. Jorge Arce (56-6-2)
(The Ring magazine #9 junior featherweight vs. unranked)
(WBO junior featherweight belt)
(PPV) Kelly Pavlik (36-2) vs. Alfonso Lopez (21-0)
(PPV) Mike Alvarado (29-0) vs. Ray Narh (25-1)

Ray Narh - 32-year-old Ghanaian has made noise regionally, first in Ghana and then headlining Pittsburgh cards, impressing audiences with silky-smooth boxing moves. Narh last fought on ESPN2, two months ago, dominating a shot Freddie Norwood over ten rounds. A member of Ghana’s 2000 Olympic team, Narh lost in the second round to future pro champion Andriy Kotelnik. Grew up in a boxing environment and achieved national fame as the first Ghanaian boxer to win a gold medal at the Commonwealth Games since Azumah Nelson 20 years earlier. As a pro, Narh was fast-tracked because of amateur successes; his fourth bout was scheduled for 12 rounds, which he won in ten. Seven of his first nine fights were in Ghana; the other two took place in England, after which Narh moved and only fought in America. Narh is now an American citizen but remains proud of his heritage and is involved in Ghanaian charities as part of his religious convictions. In the ring, Narh bedevils foes with picture book boxing, his form and balance always correct and rarely showing a flaw in motion. Has very good speed and a solid jab (though the velocity has waned with age) that pave the way for precise punches. Reminds me of Paul Spadafora, as both stay in the pocket to give them the option to lead or counterpunch. When too confident, Narh gets right hand-happy, sometimes leading with it and falling inward behind the punch. Narh was on ESPN back in 2006, scoring his most impressive victory, outfoxing Steve Quinonez and often landing a sly uppercut. A short time later, sat out two years to let his contract run out in a promotional squabble. Has lost one fight, on short notice in his 11th pro bout, when Narh was caught cold and annihilated in one round by one-time prospect Almazbek “Kid Diamond” Raiymkulov. Narh’s defense is solid, with both hands held high and backed by side-to-side movement of the head behind the gloves. Maintains good distance and will throw a hard jab as a stopping defensive punch instead of retreating. Enters on a hot streak, 12 kayos in 15 wins, and full of confidence. However, Narh has delusions of grandeur that would make Charlie Sheen blush. “If I ever had a chance to fight [Manny] Pacquiao, I would stop him. I’m telling you; I know how to beat him. I’m ready to showcase myself.”

Mike Alvarado - Coloradoan is one of the few legitimate prospects to come out of the Midwest in recent years, registering a 72% kayo ratio and stopping 11 of his last 13 opponents. Despite that statistic, Alvarado is a boxer first, using superior balance and infighting techniques he complements with skills learned competing in national high school wrestling tournaments. Started boxing at age 20 and fashioned a 36-5 amateur record, splitting two fights with Andre Dirrell, but never won a major national competition. Despite the initial impression I had of Alvarado, he falls outside the category of boxer who does everything well without excelling in a particular area. He is an excellent stalker, closing distances and filling space with a punch or his forward momentum. Looked great dismantling former champion Cesar Bazan in 2008, displaying a formidable jab before dropping Bazan with a right hook. Alvarado’s kayo of Emmanuel Clottey was worthy of “Knockout of the Year” consideration (Clottey dropped as if falling through a trapdoor) and he puts in solid bodywork to set up attrition stoppages, if the brilliant one does not arrive. Alvarado has slowly won me over, as I did not see him as world-class or even a top ten boxer at first. Perhaps because his hand speed and power are not in an elite class and he generally scores tactical stoppages instead of highlight reel hooks. Held his own in sparring sessions against a smaller Yuriorkis Gamboa, so his timing, if not speed, is excellent. Alvarado is a Fernando Vargas-type, making up for a lack of physical skills with intelligent movement and accuracy. Can hurt opponents with either hand and does not show stamina problems, going ten rounds with relative ease. Alvarado had a bicep injury last year, which hampered him and limited Alvarado to two bouts in all of 2010. Leaves no room for excuses, telling reporter Bill Green, “I trained for six full weeks. My health is 100%. The timing is perfect. I’m mentally and physically prepared.” By all accounts, Alvarado has turned his personal life around, which caused him to miss out on high-profile bouts and serve a six-month prison sentence. Will get a title push this year and would already have had the biggest test of his career if he were not injured (an elbow injury that is said to be 100% healed) in preparations for a Paul Malignaggi fight. At age 30, with seven years of pro work behind him, the stage is set for Alvarado to rise or fall.

Verdict - A good match-up of divergent styles, where a credible case can be made for either man winning. This is why I am picking the man with more intangibles and that is the younger and harder hitting Alvarado. In a close fight, a knockdown can be the difference and I think Alvarado will score a late knockdown to seal a close victory. Narh has the feet to evade Alvarado early but the physicality of Alvarado builds up and slows Narh down to where Alvarado can take advantage after the fifth round. Alvarado said he wants to work body early and establish his superior physical strength. I take him at his word and if this were a ten-rounder, I might lean toward Narh. Alvarado sweeps the last six rounds, on aggression and forward momentum, to win by three points.

Alfonso Lopez - The least recognizable boxer on this card but the quietly confident Texan is an all-around athlete with a tricky style. Lopez counts two Texas Golden Gloves and a runner-up medal at the US Nationals among his amateur achievements and did that in less than 40 amateur bouts. Did not start boxing until age 20, winning the Houston Golden Gloves after only three amateur bouts. As a pro, Lopez sports an undefeated record with the self-assurance it brings and won five of his last seven bouts by knockout. Boasts an impressive 76% kayo percentage but relies on an accumulation of punches to stop foes. Lopez is a well-rounded athlete, graduating from and playing linebacker at Sam Houston State, and his style is predicated on that nimbleness. It looks like Lopez tries to emulate Sergio Martinez, utilizing quick spurts and sharp angles to land punches. At six-feet tall with a 75-inch reach, Lopez is a good physical specimen. This is a 168-pound bout but Lopez is a natural light heavyweight who only fought at super middle three times. The Texan almost always throws in two and three-punch combinations, moving well behind his punches to set up the next blow. A negative is that Lopez throws combinations while standing too erect and his hands are at chest level. Does keep his chin down and Lopez has good feet and balance allowing him to throw a good punch while backing up. Looks as comfortable on the outside as inside but all the footage I viewed was against inferior competition that allowed Lopez to shine. Lopez can be a slow starter but in his last fight, he showed grit overcoming an injured right hand. Spars against the likes of former title challenger Chris Henry, prospect Marcus Johnson and upset specialist Bryan Vera. In 2009, Lopez upped his level of competition significantly but has still not defeated anyone of top 25 quality. This fight represents the shot at the big time Lopez has clamored for but is it too big a leap in competition?

Kelly Pavlik -Former champion enters this fight on the heels of the biggest battle of his life, sober and free of alcohol since November of last year. Pavlik’s emerging reputation as the next great middleweight was ruined when he was outpointed by the last great middleweight in Bernard Hopkins. Before that loss, Pavlik built himself up the hard way, twice besting Jermain Taylor and eliminating a solid lineup of prospects and contenders, en route to a title shot. Pavlik’s most recent bloody loss, a gutsy setback to Sergio Martinez, is forgivable, given Martinez’s rise to pound-for-pound elite. At 6’2½ ”, he remains a tall super-middleweight but I would not characterize Pavlik as big since he lacks bulk and his legs are skinnier than most kitchen tables. The 29-year-old is a product build on the basics learned in the amateurs, where Pavlik had an 89-9 record, winning three national competitions between 1998 and 1999. Uses a long and lean frame to jab and pick holes in opponents with precise punches before moving in to finish off confused foes with powerful hooks and straight right hands. Is a smarter fighter than given credit for, especially in the wake of the Hopkins loss. Pavlik takes his time to break down the opposition, getting a feel for the tendencies and range needed to score, while continuing to lead instead of countering. Is not a bad counterpuncher either, doing well against speedier Taylor and Martinez, but his footwork is more suited to coming at an opponent. Does need some forward momentum to get the most out of his lean frame. Looked frustrated and lethargic against Bernard Hopkins but his performance was overly maligned against Martinez where he battled a bad cut as well. Pavlik has been hurt in a couple fights but always from punches he did not see and seems to have an otherwise sound chin. Sometimes carries his hands too high on defense, leaving room for shots under the elbow and blocking his sight of looping blows. If allowed to maintain space, Pavlik dictates and overwhelms opponents. Has offensive mindset of a finisher and when one of his punches breaks through, Pavlik rushes to finish. This fight will tell us whether the high-profile losses were because of the talented opposition or if Pavlik is rapidly fading.

Verdict - This is a tougher fight than many think, even though Lopez is not as good as his 21-0 record indicates. Lopez has a bit of Sergio Martinez about him, throwing a lot of punches from sharp angles, but without the menace or swiftness. The problem is that Lopez is skipping a level of progression, going up against the world-class experience of Pavlik without having faced a more flawed or aged former champion first. Pavlik will use his length and experience to time and catch Lopez after a couple rounds and force Lopez to slow down by using a halting jab. Pavlik’s stiff right hand will stop Lopez’s forward momentum and I am not sure he can fight going backwards. I can even see a well-timed knockdown for Pavlik and a quick follow-up to stop an opponent who has never faced such problems. Much of this depends on Pavlik’s frame of mind. This is why if there is an upset to be had on this card, this is the fight to play.

Jorge Arce - One of my favorite fighters of the past decade, Arce brings an enthusiasm and joy to the game that cannot be faked. One of the few boxers I first witnessed in a loss, via kayo to Michael Carbajal back in 1999, whom I was so impressed and attracted to that I made a note to myself not to miss his next fight. As tough and gritty a fighter as you want to witness, his passionate offensive style has made Arce a fan favorite on both sides of the border. With age, the little Mexican is becoming more reliant on one punch as he realizes his speed and work rate are declining. Now, Arce uses guile to pick spots in a round to impress the judges. Received a lot of punishment in bouts against Vic Darchinyan and Simphiwe Nongqayi but seemingly found new life beating Angky Angkota, Martin Castillo, and Lorenzo Parra last year. Were setbacks to Darchinyan and Cristian Mijares a case of losing to great fighters or has Arce has lost his edge and a step at age 31? Remember, Arce turned pro at age 16 (after a 37-3 amateur career) and has been in many tough fights. To his credit, Arce looked in great shape physically against Parra and claims to be fitter not having to make the bantamweight limit. A 67% kayo ratio is for real; stoppages have come against good opposition and are built upon a foundation of quality body work and constant pressure. Remains an offensive force with every punch still available to him, only Arce’s speed has slipped a notch. Still capable of throwing combinations in spurts but seems to be lucidly keeping reserves of stamina. Arce averages three to four fights a year; he fought five months ago and logged 357 quality rounds. A consistent pressure fighter, aside from the recent loss to hot-and-cold Nongqayi, Arce has not been defeated in a fight he was favored to win. Is only an inch taller than Vazquez and has gradually gotten used to fighting naturally larger men. To win, Arce must use his ring intellect to set traps against a still inexperienced champion.

Wilfredo Vazquez Jr. - Enters this fight off a career-best win over experienced battler Ivan Hernandez, which elevated Vazquez’s image and marketability considerably in Puerto Rico. Now, the son of borderline Hall-of-Famer Wilfredo Vazquez is using that momentum for a fight which could entice Showtime and HBO to feature him regularly, especially given his bloodline, and the compelling nature of why he chose to box. The 26-year-old did not start boxing until age 21 and is remarkably composed in the ring considering he never had an amateur bout. Obviously a quick study, he’s stopped 17 of 20 victims in a five-year career. Appeared a lot on Telemundo fight cards, displaying considerable hand speed and a puncher/boxer attitude under his father’s invaluable guidance. “WV2” (a catchy and unique acronym) is an attraction as well, drawing sellout crowds in southern Florida with his fast fists and charisma. Despite having just over 100 rounds of pro experience, has a good feel for the ring, not smothering punches or throwing combinations for the sake of throwing a punch. Goes to the body well and tried out different styles on lesser boxers. Vazquez moves from slugger to counterpuncher as he sees fit, or according to an opponent’s skills, but not as fluently in the course of a fight. May lack muscle-memory reflexes but his eyes and quick reaction time have served Vazquez well on defense. I’ve seen him hurt twice but Vazquez displayed mental maturity staring down veteran Adolfo Landeros after getting rocked. Has good stamina and late power, stopping hard-hitting Mexican Victor Martinez, smooth-boxing Zsolt Bedak, and veteran Ivan Martinez late. Also stopped three-time title challenger Genaro Garcia, jabbing and countering his way to an easy stoppage victory in the seventh round. There again, Vazquez worked the body for a greater cause and showed good finishing instincts. Leading up to this fight, has played the “lack of respect” card to the media and opponent. In fairness to Vazquez, and looking at my previous writings on Vazquez Jr., he might be right. Perhaps, the press has been quick to lump him in the “only there because of his father’s name” category. This fight, against a well-respected fighter with world championship credentials, will go a long way in evaluating this generation of Vazquez.

Verdict - Watching tapes of Vazquez Jr. again, he is a more lissome and instinctual than I gave him credit for. Arce is an experienced former champ but has been made to look better than he is by avoiding fast opposition. The little Mexican has the muscle memory to hang with Vazquez Jr. but slowing reflexes will not allow Arce to hurt Vazquez or escape his combinations. Vazquez Jr. will use his faster feet and hands, finding success as a counterpuncher using superior footwork to follow Arce out of exchanges. Those long punches will snap back the head of Arce, giving Vazquez Jr. a comfortable lead going into the final third of the fight. A desperate and bloody Arce will rally but looping punches in the championship rounds allow “WV2” to tag Arce with a short left hooks. A two-punch combination puts Arce down in the tenth round and a merciful referee waves it off without a count with Arce on all fours.

Shane Mosley - These are two main event fighters that need little introduction, so I will not bother with an extensive bio on the Hall of Fame-bound Mosley and Pacquiao. Just know Mosley has chased many an excellent foe out of the ring with his combination of hard work, speed, power, and reflexes. Mosley has an intuitive ring style that seemingly comes up with answers before questions were asked and is reliant on aggression at its core. Excelled back to his amateur days, where future pro nemesis Vernon Forrest edged him for a spot on the 1992 Olympic team. A three-time National Amateur champion, he finished with a dazzling 250-16 record. Similarly unstoppable as a professional until he ran into Forrest (a fighter who just had Mosley’s number) in his 39th fight. Mosley has blown through a “Who’s who” of champions since 1998 and despite less impressive results of late, always enters a fight in peak condition and with winning mentality. His 5’9” frame, with a 74-inch reach, sports a near-perfect musculature that delivers a powerful punch, thanks to fantastic balance and torque generated from the waist down. Great chin absorbs blows that do manage to penetrate his strong blocking technique but Mosley is leaving his chin up in the air more and not bobbing as much. Still picks off many punches with his gloves and rolls with punches as well as anyone since James Toney. Became the only man to visibly hurt Floyd Mayweather but was otherwise dominated and displayed a heretofore unseen hesitancy with his punches. The opposition must be taken into account but Mosley looked similarly impotent against Sergio Mora in his last fight. At age 39, and with over 375 rounds of professional and countless amateur rounds wearing on his body, Mosley could be a shell containing nothing of his former self. Yes, Mosley is not what he used to be but 70% of Mosley still beats 90% of fighters today. The former champ is still dangerous, as a 72% kayo ratio suggests, and certainly enters with a punchers’ chance. Mosley is a fighter who commits to every punch fully and is rightfully considered one of the three great “Sugars.”

Manny Pacquiao - I have been looking for but not able to find signs of hubris in Pacquiao, a surefire Hall-of-Famer and legend of his own time in the Philippines. I won’t waste too much of our educated readers’ time with a lengthy introduction of Pacquiao. His rise is well-chronicled in print from The Ring to Time magazine and from “The Jimmy Kimmel Show” to “60 Minutes” on the television side. It is one of boxing’s most glorious and unexpected ascendancies, in historical terms akin to that of a great general like Alexander the Great. I will add that not only is he one of the greatest boxers ever in the ring but his virtue spills over outside the ring where a compassion and eagerness to help others is obvious. Dominating the likes of Oscar De La Hoya, Erik Morales, Ricky Hatton, Miguel Cotto, and Juan Manuel Marquez has rightly pushed Pacquiao into the mainstream. He is the only fighter who shares time equally with the NFL, NBA, and MLB when he fights. It is a long way from the teenage boy who lived on the streets of Manila, leaving home against his mother’s wishes, rescued by amateur boxing (60-4 record) before turning pro at 16. While his power gets a lot of ink, his eyes and speed present Pacquiao with the key to unlock opponents. The way “Pac-Man” flirts with disaster by flashing in at opponents’ defense and offense is breathtaking in its daring, guile, and truculence. A lightning bolt packed into boxing trunks, with punches that strike out in an instant with paralyzing velocity. Unlike lighting, Pacquiao will strike in the same place twice and go back to a punch until his opponents reacts to it. Then Pacquiao speeds to the next target area to bomb, leaving opponents flinching in anticipation of an impact at an unknown location. A southpaw stance is another weapon in Pacquiao’s arsenal, and an abnormal 67-inch reach for his size (obviously not a product of steroids) is often overlooked as part of his success. An unrelenting work ethic has seen Pacquiao morph into a two-fisted fighter, no longer dependent on a powerful left hand alone. Few men have ever entered the fray with a smile and as much joy as Pacquiao. A strong person of body and mind, the Filipino has mentally accepted and dealt with an entire nation’s zeitgeist dependent on the outcome of his fights.

Verdict - Team Pacquiao is not about under or overselling its man and has have been very pleased with preparations and expressed confidence about victory. Pacquiao’s angles and speed will make Mosley look as if he were punching underwater. Let’s face it; a Mosley who struggled with the awkward fighting styles of Ricardo Mayorga and Sergio Mora will be baffled by Pacquiao’s attacking angles…and Mayorga and Mora are slow! Pacquiao will dart in and out of range, leaving Mosley to swing at air. Yes, Mosley can still stun Pacquiao with a punch but he does not have the follow-up vigor to stop high-level foes when he gets them hurt. I still believe in Mosley’s toughness, so I will pick him to last the distance unless the classy Naazim Richardson calls a halt to the fight.

Prediction record for 2011: 85% (70-12)
Prediction record for 2010: 85% (218-40)

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