These are two mighty fine bouts HBO has put together Saturday night featuring two rising stars, welterweight Andre Berto (right) and junior middleweight Alfredo Angulo (below). But these are not, in my view, showcase fights. Juan Urango, Berto’s opponent, and Kermit Cintron, Angulo’s opponent, ain’t seatwarmers for bigger names. Although Berto and Angulo could theoretically blow through their competition because of qualities they possess that have given fits to their Saturday foes in the past — Berto can box, Angulo is a pressure fighter with guts — it is also true that Urango and Cintron share a quality that make them specifically dangerous to their Saturday night foes: power, of the highlight reel variety. Theoretically, then, Urango and Cintron could blow through Berto and Angulo, even if that’s the more unlikely theorem with bettors.
My view is that the strengths and weaknesses of all four fighters are complimentary enough that everybody’s going to have their moments. Making things better, all four are action-oriented sumbitches who want to unload more than they want to avoid getting unloaded on. If the betting favorites win, Berto takes another step toward becoming the next American boxing superstar — although he might not get a whole lot of credit for beating a junior welterweight moving up a division, a step is a step — and Angulo takes a particularly big step toward becoming the next Mexican boxing superstar, what with Angulo fighting in that gritty style they adore south of the border. If Urango wins, I’m not sure how much it helps him — it would be more a potential “exposure” (hate that word) of Berto than anything — but if Cintron wins, he gets his career back on the right path after accumulating detractors with the passage of nearly every fight.
ALFREDO ANGULO – KERMIT CINTRON
Here’s what Cintron likes least: pressure, and opponents that don’t wilt when he hits them. Here’s what Angulo does best: pressure. The missing variable in the equation for this fight boils down to whether Angulo will wilt with Cintron hits him, and hit him Cintron will, because Angulo is highly hittable. And Richard Gutierrez, a welterweight with unexceptional power who moved up to fight Angulo last year, shook Angulo in his boots. Cintron’s power is a minor mystery at junior middleweight, since he, like Gutierrez, is most comfortable at welterweight, but it’s reasonable to assume he punches harder at the weight than Gutierrez did.
Angulo very closely resembles the only man to officially beat Cintron, Antonio Margarito. He has that plodding, come forward style and is very slow of hand, but deploys thudding power that saps the will of his victims. Only he’s bigger. And his punches are straighter. When I say that Angulo is big, by the way, I mean that he’s very strong at his weight, but he’s shorter and doesn’t have the reach of Margarito, while Cintron is actually the taller man (5’11” to 5’10”) and has a reach advantage, (74″ to 69″) over Angulo. The main way in which Angulo and Margarito are different is that Angulo’s chin hasn’t proven to be made of an indestructible alien substance that landed on Earth via meteorite. It may very well be good, mind you; Angulo took the powerful shots of Andrey Tsurkan two fights ago without much difficulty, so maybe the Gutierrez shakes were a fluke.
Cintron has all the athletic you’d want to give a boxer, but his head is only right for boxing every other fight at best. Cintron is one of the hardest punchers in the sport, he’s faster than he looks and he can even box a little. But time and time again, he comes up short in crucial moments. In his last fight, a questionable draw against junior middleweight Sergio Martinez, he lost his composure and nearly lost the fight when he took too long to stand up from a punch he thought was a head butt. Granted, he fought with more spirit when he got up and the fight was allowed to continue the full 12-round distance, but all too often, Cintron has those lapses where you have to wonder if he’s mentally strong enough to be the elite boxer his natural ability might suggest he is capable of. It’s why, more and more, you see him described — with only two losses on his record, both to Margarito — as a “gatekeeper” or “journeyman.” That status is why Angulo is fighting him, actually, as Angulo’s still making the transition from prospect to contender.
My thinking is that if Cintron can keep this fight on the outside, he wins, and if Angulo forces the fight on the inside, he wins. Cintron would need to work his jab, which he is prone to neglecting, to set up his big right hand and connect with something that demonstrates he can, indeed, knock out a junior middleweight, and that demonstrates Angulo’s chin, indeed, is a weakness. A Cintron win isn’t, to me, the remote possibility some seem to think it is; I think it’s a very real one, especially considering Cintron knows and has said so that this is very nearly his last chance to be taken seriously. Angulo has been working on defense — head movement, mainly — in this training camp, and there have been mixed reports from boxing scribes about how successful that has proven. My thinking is that it helps Angulo a little, enough to weather whatever early storm Cintron brings, even though he maybe will have to get up off the mat once. Then he’ll proceed to get in Cintron’s space and consequently his head. Cintron hasn’t proven very adept at handling such invasions, and I’m picking Angulo to knock Cintron out late, probably between the 8th and 10th.
ANDRE BERTO – JUAN URANGO
When last we saw Berto, he was going life and death with Luis Collazo, alternating between wobbling Collazo and getting wobbled by him, in one of the best fights of 2009. Collazo isn’t a puncher. Urango is. At junior welterweight, anyway. If he’s a heavy hitter at welterweight, watch out, Berto.
I guess I didn’t need to issue that warning. Berto seems very aware of the need to watch out. He’s talked about how he needs to use his speed against Urango, and it very much will be in his favor here. Berto’s speed is pretty special, allowing him to put together accurate knockout combinations. But what he really showed against Collazo is that if he has to dig deep, he’ll do it. He needed to win the 12th round of the Collazo fight to pull out the win, and that’s exactly what he did. He’s also shown the ability to adapt, adjusting against Collazo and in other fights when something wasn’t working. He’s a good if not great all around fighter, with his defense, while improved, still the area that most needs work. He gets a little carried away sometimes when he’s focusing on offense, bless his heart, and it lands him in trouble. The same heart that willed him to a win over Collazo also compels him to answer any clean connects with some of his own, and he tends to get sloppy when that happens.
Urango pretty much stays sloppy. He’s not vain about it, either. He readily acknowledges that he’s no boxer. He’s a one-direction slugger, plain and simple. And you know what? It’s worked out OK for him so far. Sure, he got outboxed by Ricky Hatton, but Hatton had to resort to a hit and hold strategy after Urango dug in some body shots that really hurt the then-junior welterweight champion. Urango recently used his power to keep Herman Ngoudjo on the defensive and pick up an alphabet title belt. Urango has another asset, one that’s essential for a straightforward slugger: a very nice chin. I’ve never seen Urango in any trouble, and his ability to take a punch means he can charge in willy-nilly, as he likes to do. He doesn’t work his way in with a jab or anything like that. It’s just the charging, really. Still, at welterweight Urango’s two big assets, his punch and his punch resistance, are total unknowns.
I suspect Urango, who’s a pretty sturdy looking junior welter, carries at least a good deal of both up with him as a full-blown welter. Since Berto is a smallish welterweight, the size issue won’t come into play too much. Urango will therefore be able to hurt Berto, if he gets a chance to cold cock him with something big. It will be essential for Berto to stay smart here, and he might have to resort to Hatton’s ugly holding tactics to avoid the aforementioned cold cock. I don’t think a Urango decision win or a Berto knockout are the likeliest results, but I give Berto a better chance of knocking out Berto than I do Urango winning a decision, since Urango is probably not going to be able to win except via KO. What strikes me as the likeliest outcome is Berto getting shook up early, maybe even going down, which will make it very vivid to him that he needs to box and be clever. My pick is Berto by decision, about nine rounds to three, with maybe a knockdown thrown in there for Urango to make things closer on the scorecards.