Happy Thanksgiving, jive turkeys! Is the image at right racist? I honestly don’t know. Unless there’s a movement to boycott this blog, I probably won’t care. Mainly I wanted to wish you a Happy Thanksgiving, but without appearing overly sentimental. Thus, possibly racist cartoon images of turkeys.
You would think that it would be enough for one Thanksgiving weekend to have two Fight of the Year candidates and two bouts related to Showtime’s Super Six tournament, but you would be wrong. There are some other pound-for-poundish fighters in action over the next few days, and at least one of them is in a competitiveish bout:
- Celestino Caballero-Jason Litzau, Saturday, HBO, Las Vegas. Caballero, unable to lure hide-y featherweights Juan Manuel Lopez and Yuriorkis Gamboa into the ring, moves up to junior lightweight for this bout. Apparently, HBO has decided it likes Caballero, because otherwise this is a weird fight to broadcast. And there’s a lot to like about Caballero: He’s in the TQBR pound-for-pound top 20, he’s got a weird, tall, lanky frame and he throws tons of punches. But Litzau really only brings size, for the most part — Caballero’s not used to fighting guys as tall as him, and last time he did, against unheralded Jeffrey Mathebula, he struggled. Litzau is an inch shorter (5’10”) and has an inch reach advantage (73″) on Caballero. Litzau has not been the same dynamic kill-or-be-killed fighter in recent years that he was earlier in his career — he’s added some boxing to go with his brawling — and is coming off a controversial win over Rocky Juarez in April. But he looked a bit shaky, despite the win. Those brawls may have caught up to him, even though he’s only 27. I hope he’s competitive, but this could get ugly.
- Giovanni Segura-Manuel Vargas/Miguel Vazquez-Ricardo Dominguez, Saturday, Fox Deportes, Tijuana. Neither “A-side” should lose these bouts, but as showcase fights go, they sure do come easier, and less potentially enjoyable. Segura is the lineal, Ring junior flyweight champion and one of the most exciting fighters in the whole damn sport. Vargas is a fringe junior flyweight contender who lost a close, disputed but fun bout with Ramon Garcia Hirales in September. They’ll meet at flyweight because Segura’s been having trouble making 108, but I honestly expect a slugfest for as long as it lasts. The crafty Vazquez, who’s become a minor TQBR favorite, makes his first defense of his lightweight strap against Dominguez, who wobbled Humberto Soto two fights ago and lost a split decision to Brandon Rios early in his career. This is one of the best Top Rank Live cards of the year and wouldn’t you know it, it comes on a night like Saturday with tons of competition for your eyes.
- Juan Carlos Burgos-Hozumi Hasegawa/Vitali Tajbert-Takahiro Ao, Friday, Nagoya Japan. Hasegawa is a skilled boxer, but maybe just as importantly, he’s got gumption. After spending years rattling off a series of wins against fringe contenders at bantamweight, he fought a much more difficult opponent in Fernando Montiel in his last bout in April and lost by knockout, suffering a broken jaw. But there are to be no easy confidence-building rebound fights. He’s jumping two whole weight classes against Burgos in pursuit of a vacant title. Burgos himself is making a big leap in class — the 22-year-old has beaten tough trial horses like Ricardo Castillo, but Hasegawa was in some folks’ top-10 pound-for-pound before his loss. This one could get interesting. The supporting bout features Ring’s #8 junior lightweight Tajbert defending his newly-won belt against a former beltholder in Ao who split a couple bouts with Oscar Larios before losing to Elio Rojas; Ao recently knocked out journeyman Whyber Garcia, for whom that is an increasingly common occurrence.
- Andre Berto-Freddy Hernandez, Saturday, HBO, Las Vegas. Berto, the #3-ranked welterweight who personifies All That Is Evil About Boxing, didn’t want to fight Mike Jones, priced himself out of a Shane Mosley fight and ended up with very few options for the fall, yet still will end up getting a nice cut of the inexplicable $1.25 million HBO is paying for this fight. Hernandez was as good an option as any after Jones and Mosley. He’s on a nice run against quality but undersized journeymen and has shown improvement in each bout. All in all, I think this will be a good scrap, even if HBO could have used its money more wisely. Hernandez is going to come forward, and Berto can be in some good fights or at least draw the occasional “ooo” and “ahhh.” The stinker against Juan Urango was an anomaly.
- Duangpetch Kokietgym-Drian Francisco, Monday, Nong Khai Thailand. Francisco is the latest young Pinoy to come along and try to burst on the world stage. I wasn’t too impressed by what I saw of his talents in April, but he at least brings the action. Kokietgym has 52 wins but, like many Thai fighters, it’s a padded record, and he only has 21 knockouts against competition mostly in his homeland, which is notorious for throwing guys who never have fought before in against veterans. This is for an interim junior bantamweight belt, with the winner in line to meet Hugo Cazares. Cazares-Francisco sounds fun, by the way.
- Carlos Tamara-Milan Melindo, Sunday, Cebu City Philippines. Friends of the site willfrank and nazarioz will tell you that they fully expected Tamara to upset Brian Viloria earlier this year in what amounted to a shock to the rest of us, but I don’t recall them being so smart when he turned around and lost to Luis Lazarte. All teasing aside, Tamara apparently does have some talent, and the loss was a split decision. He’s ranked #6 by Ring at junior flyweight still, and Melindo is at #10. Another friend of the site, IrvinRyan, says Melindo fights like “[A.J.] Banal without the pop.”
- Matthew Hatton-Roberto Belge, Friday, Bolton England. Hatton has become a legitimate welterweight fringe contender. Belge is undefeated, but he fights out of Switzerland where he’s never faced anyone whose name rings a bell with me. Hatton might just be keeping busy while he awaits a shot at an alphabet belt, or possibly Saul Alvarez, or both.
- World Series Of Boxing. I honestly don’t know what of this is airing where, but check out the latest here.