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Weekend TV Cheat Sheet: Part One

Photo © Chee
Photo © Chee

It’s finally here. Boxing fans’ big fight weekend is topped by the Floyd Mayweather-Shane Mosley clash, with anticipation building nicely on the heels of HBO’s “24/7” series, which focused on the duo’s opposing personas. However, the PPV is not the only show on TV. Three other fight cards will be televised to warm up fans for the main event on Saturday, or, if Floyd Mayweather has his way, as a palate cleanser before experiencing the distaste of flushing $50.00 down the PPV toilet. This is the second consecutive week without an ESPN2 show, but all boxing fans are happy that Telefutura returns with a weekly Friday night boxing series starting tonight. My fear is that the Telefutura cards turn into another version of Golden Boy Promotions dreadful Club Nokia “Fight Night” series, aired by FOX Sports, which are full of uninteresting mismatches.

April 30th, Friday
At The Miccosukee Casino, Miami, FL

(Telemundo) William Gonzalez (24-3) vs. Jose Araiza (27-1)

Jose Araiza – 31-year-old Mexican enters with a better looking record than his rival, but has not faced the type of opposition to merit a loss. I have not been able to locate any footage of the mystery man from Tecate (good beer…does it produce good boxers?), but fight reviews of him note an accurate jab from a distance. A couple pictures of Araiza show a man with little muscle definition in the chest, but good size and well-rounded shoulders. His record includes a five-year layoff, from 2004 to 2009, reportedly to take care of his ailing mother, which did not give him time to properly prepare for tough opponents being offered to him. That shows Araiza takes his career seriously, not entering the ring for a paycheck alone. However, I fail to see how two victories over fighters with records of 14-12-3 and 11-22-2 make him worthy of this television appearance. Never defeated a foe of consequence, and Araiza’s first 16 opponents did not have a win to their resume before fighting him. Lone loss came to a good Roberto Leyva, in their pro debuts, and the only solid win Araiza has was against Gabriel Munoz via split decision. Weighed in at 130 pounds in his first fight back, two months ago, but worked off 12 pounds to enter at 118 pounds in a fight this February. That was the first time Araiza traveled outside of Mexico, meeting a .500 opponent in San Diego. Has been ten rounds a couple times, but stamina might be a concern since that was six years ago. Mexican with great record still has a lot of questions marks, which will turn into exclamation points or a period tonight.

Williams Gonzalez – Power-punching Nicaraguan is a world traveler (fought in Panama, Costa Rica, America, and Japan), who impressed a lot of fans in a split decision loss to Joseph Agbeko, which was televised on the Versus network in 2008. That was a rough-and-tumble affair, featuring a lot of looping punches and almost no jabs with Agbeko using his head and Gonzalez throwing low blows. Since that setback, Gonzalez has scored two wins in Japan, and widely outpointed capable power-puncher Jesus Vazquez in his last fight. Did get knocked out by quality bangers Jhonny Gonzalez and Ricardo Cordoba, but Gonzalez was thrown in against Cordoba too early in his career (only his seventh bout) and there is no shame in a losing to former champion Jhonny Gonzalez. Obviously learned from both defeats, and kept his focus by never losing to an inferior opponent. Southpaw has stopped 20 of 23 victims, and is particularly accurate with a straight right hand. Swarmed and out-threw Agbeko, even hurt the iron-chinned African, but his offense didn’t have a framework to it, despite Gonzalez outworking the champ. If that lack of ring generalship gets corrected, as it seems to be, and is combined with his power, Gonzalez is a handful for any champion. I was even impressed by Gonzalez in losses; he knocked Jhonny Gonzalez down, and when he sees an advantage like a swollen eye, he targets it intensely. Defeated talented former champ Mauricio Martinez in Martinez’ home country and I have not seen this kid in a bad fight. Has only averaged two fights a year since 2007, but this is his second fight of 2010 and Gonzalez looked rejuvenated the last time out on Telemundo. At 29, Gonzalez is primed for one more run at a world title, which previous performances and newfound maturity merit.

Result – I don’t know enough about Araiza and I have been impressed with Gonzalez and his continuous improvement. As well as his ability to bounce back from losses to superior opponents, Gonzalez is tough on offense and has gotten more composed on defense. The competition of Araiza in no way prepares him for what Gonzalez brings, and I like Gonzalez by unanimous decision, with an outside chance at a late stoppage.

At The Tropicana Casino, Las Vegas, NV
(Telefutura) Robert Guerrero (25-1-1) vs. Roberto Arrieta (35-15-4)
(The Ring magazine #1 junior lightweight vs. unranked)

Roberto Arrieta – Long-armed Argentine boxer has been fighting tough opponents since 2003, invariably giving hard rounds to various contenders without getting a title shot. Has faltered at the title eliminator stage, against Cassius Baloyi and Mzonke Fana, but not lost to someone whom he was obviously inferior to. Consistently improved but, at age 34, is relying on guile rather than speed or power. Never won a fight outside of Argentina, but only faced elite boxers in those fights where foes played on Arrieta’s weakness on defense, in the face of superior speed.  Fought as high as 137 pounds, when he took on Victor Ortiz and lost by knockout, but junior lightweight is where Arrieta is at his best, registering the best results. A volume puncher whose length gives him an octopus-type style, wrapping up from a distance but lacking a snappy jab that would make fights easier. Has 54 fights and nearly 380 rounds to his credit, but seems to have peaked as a national-level contender. Even in Argentina, Arrieta has lost to more capable opponents like Aldo Rios, Julio Chacon, and Diego Alzugaray, who are all good, but not exceptional boxers. Did rebuke some young Argentine upstarts, using a sneaky short right hand thrown on the inside to score knockdowns and stoppages. For a lanky guy, goes to the body well. A good, but not potent puncher, his accuracy is key to maintaining an edge over the young guys. Has no head movement and stands too upright, but does hold hands high for most of the fight. Arrieta is a capable fighter who enters with experience and good physical tools, but lacks the focus to force either consistently on opponents.

Robert Guerrero – The last time the former champion was on HBO, he had a relatively impressive performance, outpointing speedy and awkward South African Malcolm Klassen. Previously drew criticism by forcing the ringside doctor to stop his fight against Daud Yordan (because of a cut) with some well-chosen words. Some have interpreted those actions as Guerrero quitting, which is erroneous, since Guerrero showed a lot of courage in previous fights and does not lack mental toughness. In the past, I have consistently and unfairly underrated Robert Guerrero. For some reason, I chose to remember his loss to Gamaliel Diaz more than impressive stoppage victories over the likes of Jason Litzau, Spend Abazi, and Efren Hinojosa. Why? I am not sure. I just have, and he has made me regret my evaluations in the past. Guerrero is a hard-hitting southpaw whose abilities are diverse enough to let him box patiently before switching into seek-and-destroy mode when an opponent is hurt. A former IBF featherweight and junior lightweight titlist, the jury is still out on whether his power will travel up with him to lightweight. I tend to think it will, since that power is predicated on speed as much as pure punching. Really turns punches over well from a distance, and finds space by taking judicious backward steps when needed. On defense, he seems a bit stiff, not rolling with punches and standing too tall during exchanges. At 27, Guerrero is in his physical prime, and looks best when moving forward behind a forceful jab and accurate hooks. I am a bit concerned that all of Guerrero’s pre-fight focus has been on answering questions about his wife, with nearly zero focus on the opponent. But perhaps that is more the press’ fault than Guerrero’s lack of preparation. Guerrero is the complete package, seemingly eliminating minor flaws while adding new tools to his offensive arsenal every time out.

Result – The rest of this fight card features four and six round bouts, making this the only one worth delving into. Though this is Guerrero’s first fight at 135 pounds, I think he still retains the advantage because of his natural strength and punching power. Speed is what will win the day though, with Guerrero beating Arrieta to the punch and selecting where to engage his slow-footed rival. Arrieta does not have the punch to get Guerrero’s respect and will find himself on the retreat and against the ropes much of the time, but will last into the middle rounds with his ability to clinch and a good set of eyes that have picked up speedy punches in the past. Good body work will set up an eighth or ninth-round stoppage in one of the corners. A flurry of punches, rather than a singularly impressive punch that snaps back the head, will force the referee to intervene.

At The UIC Pavilion, Chicago, IL
(Showtime) Derek Edwards (25-0) vs. Marcus Johnson (18-0)    
(Showtime) Don George (19-0-1) vs. Osumanu Adama (17-1)
(Showtime) Edwin Rodriguez (14-0) vs. Kevin Engel (17-2)

Kevin Engel – A crossover fighter who also participates in kickboxing and MMA events, but decided to concentrate on boxing for the time being. That lack of single-mindedness (not a knock on him) translates to a basic rough-around-the-edges-fighter, who makes up for a lack of versatility with physicality and pressure. Engel did show unexpected adaptability when he fought through a cut above his eye against a good Darryl Cunningham, winning that fight by an eight-round decision. Best punch is overhand right, and his reliance on it is masked well with a solid jab. The jab is slow though, and comes at eye level since Engel does a good job of keeping his hands up on defense. Enters the bout as the naturally bigger man, never fought below light-heavyweight or 173 pounds, and comes in great shape to every fight. Is physically strong, with a well-proportioned frame with no center of bulky mass, but lacks footwork to deliver on strength or stay within range of more nimble opponents. A hard worker, Engel averages nearly five fights a year, which shows in stamina that has accounted for some late stoppages. The minus side is that Engel was stopped in both losses, one being a 4-11-3 foe, and only fought one bout outside of Missouri. The Cunningham victory shows Engel has an upside, but two bad stoppage losses indicate the 30-year-old is not at Rodriguez’s level.

Edwin Rodriguez – In his last TV appearance, Rodriguez only needed 47 seconds to knock out a durable George Armenta, who had never been stopped before. Dominican-born puncher came to America at age 13, and began boxing 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”). 24-year-old has a puncher’s reputation, but has developed into a better all-around boxer under the guidance of Peter Manfredo Sr. Signed with Lou DiBella last year, who has gotten Rodriguez the right amount of work - 13 fights in two years - but the level of progression has been a bit too measured in my opinion. Has 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 over-aggressive ring demeanor. Works everything off a solid jab, and his punches have a good sound to them when connecting. Rodriguez’s hands are quick and educated, but I would not categorize them as blazing. His team insists Rodriguez can make middleweight, but he has not fought below super middle since turning pro. It will be a much tougher road to a title if he stays above 160 pounds. Competition to date should be better, given his pedigree and results in the pros. He has yet to face a similarly big puncher or someone with more than six kayos to his name until tonight. Had surgery to repair a persistent elbow problem- 16 spurs removed- and is said to be 100% now. Could be compared with his trainer’s son, Peter Manfredo Jr., but with more natural athleticism and speed.

Result – Engel’s size could be a problem for Rodriguez. However, in the amateurs, Rodriguez boxed at light heavyweight some, and his overall strength should even out the one factor in which Engel had any chance to compete. Lack of speed will show up on Engel, both on offensive and defense, and by the fourth round, confusion will set in and he makes a big mistake that leads to a kayo.

Osumanu Adama – Well-built Ghanaian, listed variously between 6’3” to 5’11”, but certainly with long arms, was an accomplished amateur who represented Ghana at the 2000 Olympics. Won silver at the All-Africa games, and was selected as a Ghana’s “Amateur Boxer of the Year” as well. Only 19, at those Olympics, and it shone through when he was stopped in the first fight by Tunisian Marmouri Salah. Looked lackadaisical about career after turning pro, only six fights in first three years and two fights from 2005 to 2008. Did get back to regular activity with four fights in 2009, and one already this year. Relocated to London for better sparring a couple years ago, but returned to Ghana and has had all but three of his fights there. Had two fights in the Czech Republic, and suffered his only loss in American debut to Dyah Davis. Lone fight I saw of Adama, against 9-26 Patrik Hruska, displayed a free-swinging style with legs spread too wide to make proper use of his power. Most of Adama’s bulk is centered on upper body and broad chest, with average legs and skinny thighs that do not generate a snap to his punches. Jab was sporadically powerful, but lacking accuracy. Targets the body with sweeping punches, but like other punches, their effectiveness is lessened by visibility of punches and lack of jab to set them up. Does not hide intent of what punch is coming or feint, and fell into a predictable pattern. Stamina seemed fine, and he was swinging hard in later rounds. Defense is basic, aside from throwing uppercuts from way too far out, but chin seems sturdy enough for class fought to date. The fight I saw was against a lefty, so perhaps that played into his awkwardness.

Donovan George – Doubly good-looking, as in modeling and boxing ability, Chicago-based prospect has the right package to succeed. A crowd-pleasing banger, George enters on a 12-fight kayo streak. An aggressive offensive force, he won a lot of amateur accolades (three-time Chicago Golden Gloves champ, and two-time runner-up in national tourneys), despite competing in less than 40 amateur bouts. Father was an amateur boxer, so George grew up with a love for the sport. Put on gloves as early as three years old, but did not start engaging in amateur bouts until age 16. Decided to turn pro at 19, after failing to qualify for Olympic slot, and has not looked back, registering 17 KOs in 19 victories. The publicity train is getting a head of steam with George, throwing out the first pitch at Monday’s Chicago Cub’s game (is that really a good omen?). George says of his style, “I’m a boxer-puncher, but I like to get in there; I like to mix it up. Pretty much all action, all the time. I go for the win, of course, but I want the knockout badly, and I’ll be willing to do just about whatever it takes to get that knockout.” Only one fight went six rounds, with every other opponent dispatched before the fifth stanza. Has banger’s disease on defense, where a lack of head movement and perceived invulnerability leads to his eating unnecessary punches. Is ambidextrous, and claims to throw with equal power in both hands. Level of competition has been middling for a prospect with 20 fights, with Midwest journeyman Shay Mobley and erratic Marcus Upshaw topping that list, but all were stopped in style. Calls Diego Corrales and Sugar Ray Robinson his boxing inspirations. Straight right hand is finishing blow of choice, and kayo ratio of 85% is indicative of his killer instinct. Weight has fluctuated from middleweight to super middle, but George would be wise to get down to middleweight if his body can make that without suffering. Was inactive for a year-and-a-half between 2007 and 2009, and I read reports of brushes with the law that surprised me since his father was a policeman. Seems intent to fight at 168 pounds, where there are plenty of fellow young guns (on this card alone) to make a reputation against.

Result – I think Adama is a better test than George’s team know but, in the end, their man’s shorter and more polished punches win the day. The Ghanaian’s punches are strong, but too wide and visible for George not to see and prepare for. George has better versatility, but he also has a fighter’s mentality and may be drawn into an unnecessary firefight. Ghanaian’s have an uncanny ability to soak up punches, so I am picking the fight to go the distance. If either of these men has a weak chin, it will be revealed tonight. The more compact and varied offense of George prevails for a unanimous decision win.

Derek Edwards – A 30-year-old is rarely the main attraction in a “ShoBox” event, which specializes in breaking young talent. Yes, Edwards is the opponent, but also an undefeated boxer with an awkward style. Started boxing at age eight, and does seem to have some innate moves and reflexive skills that come with comfort in the ring. A burly super middle with muscular shoulders, his proportions suggests that he should have more than a 52% ratio. One reason for this could be that Edwards often squares up in order to lead with either hand, falling forward with punches more than creating torque by pivoting into a punch. Lack of hand speed hampers Edwards, mostly because his punches are launched from too far away and are picked up for a lack of persistent jab. When Edwards gets too comfortable, his lead hand drops on defense, but he does duck low to avoid punches or roll blows. Before last three bouts, had only faced one opponent with a winning record, and never faced a foe who seemed to be a real threat. Turned pro in 2002, but from 2006 on, never fought more than twice a year, and outside of one fight in Pennsylvania, never fought outside of the weakly governed Southern circuits. Two split decision wins, in Edwards’ hometown, against sub-.500 boxers does not engender confidence either. Did stop totally shot former title challenger Carl Daniels last August, and won a split decision over challenging young Anthony Greenidge last year. Does not look like a threat to break out of the Southern circuit, but that unwieldy style could cause confusion or headbutts early.

Marcus Johnson - Born in Muhammad Ali’s hometown, Louisville, KY, Johnson is a top-notch prospect who signed with Don King after a decorated amateur career. Relocated to Houston, which sports an intense boxing scene and good training atmosphere. A talented amateur, Johnson was an U.S. National Amateur champion (also two Junior National Under-19 titles) defeating Andre Dirrell, but lost out on an Olympic spot when Andre Ward defeated him in the finals of the 2004 Olympic Trials. Reportedly had gloves on since age four, and finished with a 117-11 amateur record. 70 stoppages in the unpaid ranks certainly suggest he was trained in a pro style. Turned pro at age 18, and is trained by his father, who was an amateur boxer in the Army. Johnson is a pressure fighter who stays close to opponents without smothering his punches, or getting pulled into the trenches. Sports excellent hand speed, but sometimes seems confused as whether to focus on combinations or power punching. It’s almost as if the wealth of offensive options tempts Johnson to try too much instead of focusing on the one aspect which is winning the fight. Fluid style leads from one combination to the other, except when he takes the time to admire his work. Johnson’s reflexive skills allow him to get away with- for now- defensive flaws like pulling straight back. Not been pressed in any fight, but amateur background should have him prepared for a strong force in the other corner. Did not look impressive in Showtime debut, against Victor Villereal, but claims to have entered with a right hand injury. Managed by James Prince, Johnson signed with Lou DiBella two fights ago. Look for them to up his fight schedule, since he only fought an average of twice a year over the last three years. Fought an equally weak list of opponents to Edwards, but did stop five of his last six opponents. In interviews, Johnson expressed a frustration with the slow pace of his career, and is eager to find the spotlight. Is working harder as his career progresses, training down from the 175 pounds he fought at for the first three years.

Result – Johnson’s nickname is “Too Much” and that will be the case against Edwards. Johnson simply has every advantage. Edwards’ one unique move of a half stance, that allows him to switch up and lead with either hand, is actually a drawback since Johnson’s speed and straight punches will get to Edwards in mid-switch. I don’t see this one going past four rounds.

Tomorrow Maxboxing previews the entire Mayweather – Mosley PPV card.


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