Mayweather/Hatton: The Undercard

Dec. 8’s Floyd Mayweather/Ricky Hatton card has three kinds of insurance. It’s called the undercard, and in three different ways, all three fights could thrill if the main event fails to do so.
First up is a lightweight (135 lbs.) rematch between Edner Cherry and Wes Ferguson. Cherry is a can’t-miss great “TV fighter.” He loves to stand and trade power punches, but despite his early promise, at just 24, he’s already got five losses and two draws. But there are worse things one can do with a boxing career than be a great TV fighter — just ask Arturo Gatti. People love to watch them, win, lose or draw. Cherry’s appearance on the undercard ensures a good slugfest, and although I didn’t see it, I understand he was in a close, exciting battle with Ferguson in June. Cherry came out on top, but Ferguson, 21, is said to be a good boxer with promise, and one suspects he got this rematch on a big stage because he’s a protege of Mayweather’s. That matters less than that it should be another action-packed fight.
Second, one of the hardest hitters in all of boxing, 122-pound Daniel Ponce De Leon, will bring his punches that look (and, apparently, feel) like swings of a baseball bat. De Leon just clubs down nearly everyone he meets in the ring in destructive, crowd-pleasing fashion. His presence on the undercard would virtually guarantee a nasty knockout, but he’s in against Eduardo Escobedo. I must confess, I’ve never seen Escobedo fight. What I know, though, is that he’s trained by Nacho Beristain, one of the most underrated trainers in all of boxing. His fighters are usually incredibly even-keeled yet entertaining, and Escobedo has been stepping up his competition precipitously and winning. If we get a competition, not just a one-sided obliteration by De Leon, I won’t complain.
The most intriguing and meaningful of the three undercard fights pits Jeff Lacy against Peter Manfredo in a super middleweight (168 lbs). Both have star potential, but both are at career crossroads.
Lacy, another big KO artist who has drawn comparisons with his physique and power to Mike Tyson, was on his way to superstardom before he ran into Joe Calzaghe in 2006. We found out that night that Calzaghe was very likely an all-time great, subsequently proven without a doubt this year when Calzaghe beat Mikkel Kessler. Lacy might very well have been roadkill after that with the way Calzaghe steamrolled him, but he bounced back at the end of 2006 with a tough win over Vitali Tsypko — tough mostly because Lacy tore a rotator cuff in his shoulder that has forced him into his current long layoff.
Manfredo, a beloved alum of “The Contender” TV show, took his most challenging fight in April against Calzaghe, and Calzaghe made Manfredo, too, look the fool. Manfredo’s a decent enough talent, with OK speed, OK power and plenty of heart. But he got knocked out early. The referee’s stoppage was controversial because Manfredo didn’t appear badly hurt; he was just covering up from Calzaghe’s fast but not very damaging flurries. But Manfredo clearly was not in Calzaghe’s league. The question is, will he be in Lacy’s? Manfredo’s two wins since the Calzaghe fight prove little except that he has the mental fortitude to bounce back against limited competition, but I’m guessing nobody doubted Manfredo had it in him.
Because I only know two of the fighters in the first two undercard fights well, I’ll defer a prediction. But I’ve seen Lacy and Manfredo enough.
MY PREDICTION: Lacy by mid-round KO. I’m convinced Lacy’s pounding by Calzaghe was a result of Calzaghe’s greatness and not Lacy being overrated. By contrast, I thought Calzaghe exposed Manfredo as an overrated TV show contestant. Manfredo’s plenty hittable, and I think Lacy hits harder than Calzaghe, just not as accurately. Thus, it’ll take a little while longer for Lacy to take out Manfredo, especially because Manfredo’s got a big heart.
CONFIDENCE: 90%. If Lacy, coming off a long layoff and an injury, isn’t sharp, Manfredo’s got enough to outbox him. Still, even a diminished Lacy is too good for Manfredo, in my opinion.
MY ALLEGIANCE: I’m a Lacy fan, so I want him to win and get back on track. It’s nothing against Manfredo. I once lacked respect for some of the early “Contender” guys because they didn’t seem like authentically good boxers. I think I’m right, but Manfredo, to his credit, is taking on really big challenges, and I respect him for it. Lacy, I think, is just a full notch better.

About Tim Starks

Tim is the founder of The Queensberry Rules and co-founder of The Transnational Boxing Rankings Board ( He lives in Washington, D.C. He has written for the Guardian, Economist, New Republic, Chicago Tribune and more.