I’ve kind of pooh-poohed the “Lightweight Lightning” pay-per-view card Saturday for a few reasons: 1. It’s not really a lightweight “tournament,” no matter how it’s been marketed, because there’s no guarantee anyone will fight anyone else from the card next; 2. The Jorge Barrios injury pullout took some of the promotional steam out of it since his verbal feud with Edwin Valero was so funny; and 3. The Joel Casamayor injury pullout robbed the card of its most meaningful match-up, ranking-wise, that being his fight with Julio Diaz. (My last jab at the thing was at your right, after I saw an “ad [that] calls the ppv ‘one of the most exciting and action-packed nights of fights — ever!’ A little overselling, innit?”)
But looking at the card from top to bottom, I notice a few things. First, it has two potential Fight of the Year candidates in the headliner, Edwin Valero-Antonio Pitalua, and the chief supporting bout, Michael Katsidis-Jesus Chavez. One of the other two fights would be a decent undercard fight on a Boxing After Dark-level broadcast — Carlos Hernandez against Barrios replacement Vicente Escobedo — and the other — Diaz against Casamayor replacement Rolando Reyes — could headline an ESPN2 card. That’s a good event from top to bottom, if not the really good one presented by the original lineup, for a relatively affordable $39.95. Furthermore, I want to vote with my pocketbook to encourage the sport’s powers that be to have good overall cards as opposed to one good fight and a bunch of filler. That, unfortunately, is exactly what we’re getting on May 2, the biggest pay-per-view card of the year, pitting pound-for-pound king Manny Pacquiao against junior welterweight champion Ricky Hatton along with a bunch of non-competitive undercard bouts.
So I’m buying “Lightweight Lightning,” and I’ll catch a replay of a bout I’d been looking forward to on Showtime, the junior welterweight fight between Kendall Holt and Timothy Bradley. It’ll be a long night, but good times.
I’ll just give my thoughts on the main two bouts, with no on-the-record prediction for the headliner.
Chavez doesn’t back up, and Katsidis doesn’t, either. Last time we saw Katsidis, he was trying to box a little more cleverly against Juan Diaz, and it didn’t work for him. Chavez is a volume pressure fighter who will be all over Katsidis enough that he probably won’t be able to box. That’s good for him, and for the fans, because Katsidis is at his best qualitatively and gladiatorily when he swings for the fences. I think we get a brawl in this one, and it’s Katsidis who hits harder and therefore brings the bigger knife to the showdown. Chavez, 36, hasn’t fought anyone of consequence in his latest comeback, and his body has shown a habit of betraying him. He’s is a guy I root for because of the tragedy with Leavander Johnson and his back story, but I think his comeback will soon prove ill-advised. Katsidis’ wars will catch up to him one day — every year, he’s in Fight of the Year candidates — but I don’t think Chavez hits hard enough to be the one to catch him, and Katsidis is still pretty young at 28. I’m picking Katsidis by knockout, 8th round.
Pitalua is just too much of an unknown to me for me to confidently make a prediction for the Valero fight. I’ve seen a few highlight clips and that’s it. I know he’s on a 14-fight knockout streak, but one of his opponents was 0-0-0, and there’s only one quality name on his resume — his destruction of Jose Armando Santa Cruz. It’s a good name, better than any Valero has, and nobody quite did to Santa Cruz what Pitalua did to him, so he can definitely punch. And he’s evidently got a good chin, with only one (reportedly fluky) knockout loss on his resume 14 years ago. He is not thought of as particularly fast, and at 39, he’s definitely at an age disadvantage, although he’s said to take care of himself.
Valero is on a 24-fight knockout streak, i.e., his entire career. Despite the glossy record and hype in some boxing circles, he’s really only fought one borderline top-notch opponent, Vicente Mosquera, and Mosquera gave him all kinds of trouble. Valero very obviously hits hard — you can see it in how people react when he connects cleanly — and his aggression and speed have made it hard for people to get out of the way. But he is beyond wild, and somebody some day is going to make him pay for that. I read reports all the time about how he’s working on fixing this, but every single fight of his I’ve seen, he’s slinging punches like he’s a sidearm pitcher, so I don’t have any evidence it’s working. In sparring videos, to be fair, he’s more disciplined. But something happens to the guy in the ring where his technique breaks down and he becomes extremely hittable. He had yet another trainer switch recently, and all reports are again good, and I’m again skeptical. Another point of skepticism is that he’s not been in against big punchers. Mosquera only had a 50 percent knockout ratio and he decked Valero. And yet another point of skepticism is that this is Valero’s first fight at lightweight.
With so many unknowns on both sides, I wouldn’t at all be surprised to see either man win. Valero’s being groomed by Top Rank as a potential Pacquiao foe, but he’s going to have to pass this test extremely convincingly for me to even think Valero has a tiny chance in that fight, or against any world-class fighter with a modicum of power and boxing skill. The only thing I know is that, like Katsidis and Chavez, neither Valero nor Pitalua moves backwards. Valero may turn out to be a mirage, but in fights like this, he won’t fail to make a good show.