At The Orange County Fairgrounds, Costa Mesa, CA
(Telefutura) Luis Ramos (17-0) vs. Jose Hernandez (10-4-1)
(Telefutura) James Kirkland (26-0) vs. Jhon Berrio (15-8)
Jhon Berrio – 25-year-old power-punching (aren’t they all?) Colombian has fought outside of his homeland four times and lost on every occasion. Presented problems for top-flight prospect Sherzod Husanov and veteran Peter Manfredo, taking rounds from both men with a volume-based offense. Has only defeated two opponents with winning records but watching Berrio’s losses to quality opponents, I was impressed with his willingness to trade and determination in the early rounds. Berrio’s resolve wanes as the rounds ratchet up and in recent losses, his punch output decreased when the scores went against him and he loaded up on punches. This is Berrio’s third bout in America, so acclimatization and the crowd should be of no concern. Moved up in weight to fight Manfredo and should be stronger and more resilient at his customary 154 pounds for this bout. There was a report of a rib injury suffered by Berrio in the Manfredo fight, four months ago, which could be a concern against a body puncher like Kirkland. Berrio carries most of his weight in the upper body, sporting nicely-rounded shoulders that produce much of his strength. Like other imported Colombians, fans can look forward to seeing a predictable and free-swinging sort whose last concern is his defensive posture. Berrio has decent technique but as he gets tired, Berrio only throws the jab-right-hand combination. That lack of diversity and no attempt at lateral movement to set up other punches make Berrio as predictable as Don King’s wardrobe. In Berrio’s one nationally televised appearance, on ESPN2 against Uzbekistan’s Sherzod Husanov, he displayed that predictability causing him to only land 20% of his punches. In that fight, Berrio faded in the last four rounds to boot. Berrio is a roughhouse fighter, who has no plan B when his strength and forward momentum do not get the job done.
James Kirkland – Three years ago, this exciting banger was everywhere, jumping channels from ESPN to Showtime and even HBO. Then the troubled Kirkland had another scrape with the law (a gun violation of his parole for armed robbery) and the ensuing jail stint put him out of action for two years halting all momentum. Inside the ring, the more I watch Kirkland, the more I look forward to seeing him again. The Texas native is an aggressive banger with power in either hand, stopping 23 of 26 opponents with the majority falling before the fourth round. The level of opposition has been good, with Joel Julio and Brian Vera both succumbing to Kirkland’s relentless attacks. Some of what Kirkland possesses cannot be taught, entering the ring with a menacing aura reminiscent of boxers like Roberto Duran, Mike Tyson, or Stanley Ketchel. Kirkland is strong, smart, and continually moves forward but can fall back on an excellent amateur background that saw him finish with a 134-12 record and second place in the National Golden Gloves. If that were not enough, Kirkland is a southpaw as well. What set Kirkland apart in 2008, aside from his ultra-destructive stalking style, were the unorthodox training methods he endured at the behest of former trainer Ann Wolfe, such as backpedaling and punching a heavy-bag jerry-rigged to the front of her pickup truck, which she drove in the process. Kirkland has knocked out his last seven opponents, five in two rounds or less, and I liken his style to former world champion and Hall-of-Famer Aaron “The Hawk” Pryor. Kirkland has a long way to go before validating that comparison but at 25, a title run seems perfectly timed. Is keeping a busy pace to accomplish that, three fights in two months, and his fan-friendly style will keep “The Mandingo Warrior” on television. Because of his overwhelming offensive traits, has not been tested on defense but Kirkland did ride out some big shots from powerful Joel Julio. Some fighters have intangibles that elevate them beyond the facts and numbers; Kirkland is such a fighter.
Verdict – Kirkland is simply too strong for a Berrio who has never had success when backing up and Berrio will be forced into reverse gear early in this fight. Berrio does not have particularly fast hands coming forward, so I expect them to be more evident off his back foot. This is not even a test of Kirkland’s accuracy. This is the boxing version of an egg thrown against a brick wall and I don’t expect Berrio to get out of the third round despite his solid chin.
Jose Hernandez – On paper, looks like an easy touch, failing to register a win in his last four ring appearances. However, to his credit, Hernandez only fought top prospects (combined 58-4-1 records) in that time span. Hernandez drew in his last fight, with 16-0 Mickey Bey, and outside of a stoppage loss to Sharif Bogere, has gone the distance every time. The Texan was on the shady end of a split decision loss to East Coast prospect Michael Perez, a clash voted “Fight of the Year” by the Puerto Rican Professional Boxing Commission. He came up the hard way, turning pro at age 17 and going ten rounds before his tenth pro fight. Has been battling top-notch contenders from his seventh bout forth, when Hernandez lost his first fight to current prospect Matt Remillard. At first glance, Hernandez falls into the straight-ahead-banger category but he does have good feet and cuts off the ring to allow for his combination punching. Consistency is where Hernandez is lacking, often letting his opponent punch in bunches while his guard is up and staying within punching range instead of backing away. Nickname of “Loco” is fitting, especially when he totally forgets defense and head movement to do some headhunting of his own. Is smart enough to invest in body attack but reaches and lunges with other shots that are preceded with a pawing jab. Has been hurt by lack of action; after three fights in 2008 took off 17 months and hasn’t won since his return to the ring. Reportedly suffered a knee injury in 2009, which could be limiting his lateral movement but since I have not seen pre-2009 footage, it is hard to tell. Despite lack of power, four stoppages in 15 bouts, sits down and torques well on his punches that land with a decent thud. Punches are looping and disperse upon impact because Hernandez often stands straight up when throwing instead of leaning into his punches. Many punches are telegraphed, as well, and combined with average hand speed, does not intimidate. On defense, does keep both hands up but drops them to punch and has no head movement. On final analysis is simply a tough SOB.
Luis Ramos Jr. – Like most young blue-chip prospects, Ramos began boxing early in life, slipping on the gloves at age seven, and accumulated a 120-16 amateur résumé, mostly in talent-rich California. The ultimate goal of an Olympic berth fell short, so instead of waiting another four years, turned pro in 2007, racking up 17 consecutive wins to start his campaign. Beside a lot of amateur bouts (a couple of national titles included), also gets great sparring at the Espinoza Gym, where those with a lack of ambition or seriousness are soon weeded out. Fights out of a southpaw stance, which makes Ramos’ intelligent movement and accurate punching all the more dangerous and hard to pick up. Hit equally hard with either hand but favors a straight right hand when he wants to drive home a punch. Has looked good in Club Nokia’s “Fight Night Club” appearances and is now taking that act to Telefutura to broaden his reach with Latino boxing fans. Speed is the key with Ramos and is most evident on the defensive side, which also creates offensive openings with off-balance foes. Notwithstanding, his smarts and defense-first approach can be entertaining to watch when he puts combinations together. Ramos does this after feeling out an opponent to gauge incoming speed and power and is most comfortable after the first three rounds. Only stopped one of his last five opponents, lacking the one-punch power to stun opponents enough to let his combinations punching finish a staggered foe. Is being fed a steady diet of capable trial horses to improve his skills but I would like to see him in with a fighter who has a win in his prior fight (this is his 12th in a row). Ramos does everything by the book and with great balance, seldom straying away from the basics. A good and focused kid as well, the 22-year-old defeated hardnosed Walter Estrada, despite interrupting his preparations when his mother had a minor stroke. That situation is settled now but it bodes well for his future if Ramos can compartmentalize outside distractions like that. A solid prospect with a winning past and gym rat reputation, Golden Boy Promotions is now elevating Ramos to a main event fighter.
Verdict – Where Kirkland was too strong for Berrio, Ramos is to smooth, accurate, and slick on defense for Hernandez to track down. But Hernandez will test his defense and I expect Ramos to eat some punches and perhaps even suffer a flash knockdown. Actually, Hernandez’s looping punches could find the target more than usual since Ramos has a tendency to take large steps back instead of pivoting out of exchanges. Still, Ramos will win the day on movement and accuracy, though the crowd might boo the decision in the end. I like Ramos by three points on all cards.
Prediction record for 2011: 90% (44-5)
Prediction record for 2010: 85% (218-40)
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