Things are picking up in the world of boxing. Ricky Hatton solidified himself as a legitimate fighter, Wladimir Klitschko showed that he didn’t need his brother to avenge his losses and a host of good fights lay on the horizon. That being said, this weekend features eight interesting fights, including what promises to be a great HBO show. Without further ado, here is my preview of this Saturday’s action, with analysis and predictions.
Paul Williams vs. Antonio Margarito WBO Welterweight Title The Fight: When you have two guys nobody wants to fight, it makes sense to put them in the ring with one another. This fight will serve as a tool in two ways. The winner will have to be recognized as an elite welterweight that is duck-proof. No getting aroun d fighting the winner. The loser will give fuel to the naysayers, a group comprised mainly of fidgeting beltholders, anxious about stepping into the ring with either of these men. Analysis: Margarito has not fought in nearly eight months, decisioning the gritty Joshua Clottey in his last bout. The last time he had an eight month layoff, he was defeated in a lukewarm technical decision to Daniel Santos. While his win over Clottey is an important one, he didn’t have to go very far to hit the guy. Williams should be a bit harder to hit. This is a big step up for Margarito, who has been forced to boxing’s fringe as of late. Williams on the other hand is chomping at the bit for a chance to escalate his career. He hits hard, he knocks people out and looks good doing it. This is by far his toughest fight to date, but if he gets through it big money awaits. Prediction: Williams stops a battered and bloody Margarito in the tenth.
Arturo Gatti vs. Alfonso Gomez Welterweight
The Fight: After getting knocked around a bit by fighters out of his class at this stage in the game, Gatti needs one thing. A fight he can win. The Contender‘s Gomez is a tough guy, the first man to beat Pete Manfredo Jr., but he does not have the experience or skill that Gatti possesses. If he wins however, he not only legitimizes himself but makes a big stride for reality TV boxing.
Analysis: Gatti is too strong and polished for Gomez, who has yet to step up and take on tough competition outside the five rounders of The Contender. Look for Gomez to stand toe-to-toe with Gatti, fighting hard but taking to much punishment. Gatti’s left hook to the body should be a major factor. Interesting side note: if Gatti wins and Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. wins his next fight as well, the two will meet later this year. Prediction: Gatti and his management would not have taken this fight if they didn’t think they could win. Gatti by TKO in round 5.
Kermit Cintron vs. Walter Dario Mattyhsse IBF Welterweight Title
The Fight: Have any friends who don’t like boxing? Sit them down and make them watch this fight, they are sure to see fireworks. The two fighters have a combined 53 wins and 50 knockouts. No Chris Byrd pitty-pat in this one.
Analysis: These guys are going to try and hurt each other, that’s about all there is to it. Matthysse is a rough guy, once involved in a rarely seen double-disqualification fight where he and his opponent were stopped for brawling after the second round has ended. His only loss comes to Paul Williams, a fight he was probably not ready for. Cintron on the other hand has a better pedigree and has dealt with rough stuff in the past a la Teddy Reid. He has strung together three impressive wins, including a stoppage over David Estrada, since being stopped in the fifth by Margarito. Bombs away! Prediction: At least three knockdowns, with the finale coming in the seventh. Leaning a little towards Cintron, but would call this one a coin flip.
Henry Crawford vs. Josh Hammock Light Middleweight
The Fight: I’ve liked Crawford ever since I saw him work a four-rounder awhile back. He is 15-0-1 now, fighting more comfortable in the light middleweight division.
Analysis: Crawford uses his speed and size advantage to consistently beat Hammock to the punch. Crawford possesses a fantastic jab, we’ll see it often. Prediction: Crawford by unanimous decision.
Andre Ward vs. Francisco Diaz Super Middleweight
The Fight: It’s a pleasure watching Ward work and Saturday should be no different. As the Beastie Boys would say, he’s got “skills to pay the bills.” This is his third fight at super middleweight, but I’d like to see him move up or down one class. By the time he is ready for the big fights, Calzaghe and Kessler may have moved up or be out of boxing all together.
Analysis: Diaz is by no means a pushover, he just has not had the exposure and pedigree that Ward has. Look for a very technical fight, a bit too cautious but with enough action to keep it interesting. Prediction: Ward by unanimous decision.
Roy Jones Jr. vs. Anthony Hanshaw Light Heavyweight
The Fight: What can you say about Roy Jones Jr. at this point in his career? Not too much if you judge him on what he’s done for us lately. If Jones still wants to be a legit fighter, than decisioning Prince Badi Ajamu in Idaho on pay-per-view doesn’t cut it. This is a step in the right direction. For Hanshaw, its merely a chance to say “I beat Roy Jones.”
Analysis: What Jones has left in the tank is really a mystery. If he’s as great as he was five years ago, he takes this fight in a walk. Hanshaw has steadily beaten whats before him, but coming of the draw with Jean Paul Mendy, he doesn’t instill me with confidence. Hanshaw does hold wins over the explosive Kingsley Ikeke and the experienced Etienne Whitaker, but is it enough? Prediction: I’m going to go out on a limb and say that this is the end of Jones. Hanshaw by split decision.
Derrick Gainer vs. Carlos Navarro Super Featherweight The Fight: A fighter who couldn’t win the big one versus a guy the world watched quit in the ring. It’s not a great fight, but these guys are names. Analysis: Gainer is getting up in years, but he still knows how to work in the ring. Navarro is lost as a fighter, merely going through the motions at this point.| Prediction: Gainer by an uneventufl unanimous decision.
Vassily Jirov vs. Kenny Craven Cruiserweight
The Fight: Jirov has a fantastic amateur pedigree and a pretty successful pro career until his ill-advised move to heavyweight. Now back down where he belongs, Jirov can get back to business and this is the start.
Analysis: Jirov is just to skilled for a professional opponent like Craven, whose biggest wins came over Butterbean (twice). Complete boxing lesson. Prediction: Jirov in three.