The prodigal son returns. Kind of.
Rivalries are everywhere in sports. Some start with religion, like Rangers and Celtic. Some are regional, like Georgia and Florida (or insert NCAA football rivalry of your choosing). Some simply boil down to good versus evil as in the case of Carolina and Duke (Go Heels!).
Few rivalries though, are as intense as when a Mexican and Puerto Rican face off in the boxing ring. We’re talking about classics. Miguel Cotto-Antonio Margarito. Edwin Rosario-Julio Cesar Chavez, Sr.. Wilfredo Benitez-Carlos Palomino. Wilfredo Gómez-Carlos Zárate. Kid Azteca vs The Cocoa Kid. Danny Garcia-Maurcio Herrera. Wait. Garcia vs. Herrera? That doesn’t make any sense. Garcia was born and raised North Philadelphia, and Herrera is an American of Mexican decent. Why on Earth would they put two fighters from the U.S. on a card in Bayamon, Puerto Rico?
Your guess is as good as mine. But that’s where the Showtime Championship Boxing card this Saturday is being held. Despite rosy reports on ticket sales from Golden Boy Promotions, Boxingscene.com’s David Greisman reported on Monday that there were actually a great many seats still available at Coliseo Ruben Rodriguez.
Danny Garcia Vs. Mauricio Herrera, 12 Rounds, Junior Welterweight
While the location may not be ideal, especially considering Garcia (27-0, 16 KOs) is the legitimate 140-pound champ and has not fought in PHILLY BABY! (That’s how they say it, who am I to judge) for four years, it’s the opponent has left many feeling significantly less than enthusiastic. Herrera (20-3, 7 KOs) has done absolutely nothing to earn a shot at the champion, and is at least a full tier (or two) below Garcia in terms experience, skill, and talent. The Riverside, Calif. fighter has a win over Ruslan Provodnikov to give him some legitimacy, but that fight was in January 2011, and I think it’s safe to say that Provodnikov has improved since then. Herrera’s two recent fights of note are decision losses to Mike Alvarado and Karim Mayfield.
I was skeptical of Garcia until his last fight when he effectively neutralized the brick-fisted Lucas Matthysse, outworking and outpunching him down the stretch. Garcia has deceptive hand speed and his left hook, when thrown in combination or as a lead is a beauty. We should also not forget that he has an ace up his sleeve in father/trainer Angel. For all of Angel Garcia’s bombastic frothing at the mouth, he has shown himself to be a solid tactician who knows how to get his son ready for big fights. The question in my mind is will Danny fight down to the level of his competition? If so, we’ll have an ugly bout. However, if Garcia has eliminated this habit, expect a blow out. Herrera is nowhere near Garcia in terms of talent, skill, and experience.
Pick: Garcia by dominant UD, maybe late stoppage.
Deontay Wilder Vs. Malik Scott, 12 Rounds, Heavyweight
In another step up fight for the “Bronze Bomber,” Wilder (30-0, 30 KOs) will take on perennial PHILLY BABY! prospect Malik Scott. Scott (36-1-1, 13 KOs) is one fight removed from his (ahem) early stoppage loss to Derek Chisora. At 33, and 14 years into his career (minus a break from 2008-2012 to recovery from a bicep injury), Scott needs a good showing to avoid being relegated to opponent status, which is pretty odd when you think about it.
This will actually be an important test for Wilder. Scott is a well-rounded fighter with underrated technique and decent foot speed. Wilder has never been past four rounds, and Scott is skilled enough to make it into the later rounds. If the 11-foot tall Wilder (he’s actually 6’7″ with an albatross like 84″ reach) is unable to poleax Scott early, as he has done to a series of tomato cans and has-beens, any shakiness in his endurance will show up. Wilder is not a fundamentally sound boxer. His technique is rudimentary, his balance is awful, and he throws one punch at a time. In short, he does damn near everything wrong. But sweet Christ on a cracker can that guy punch.
Pick: Wilder by mid rounds KO. If Chisora could drop Scott for nine, Wilder can drop him for a full 10.
Juan Manuel Lopez Vs. Daniel Ponce De Leon, 10 rounds, Junior Lightweight
Now we get to an actual Mexico-Puerto Rico fight. It’s just a fight that I wish wasn’t happening. In the nearly six years since JuanMa Lopez brutally stopped Daniel Ponce De Leon in the first round, Ponce De Leon (45-5, 35 KOs) and his utterly biblical rat tail have gone 11-3 and though having slowed, he’s not terribly faded. In the exact same time frame, Lopez (33-3, 30 KOs) has gone 12-3, but in his last six fights he is 3-3, and all three losses have been brutal beatings. Lopez, of Caguas, Puerto Rico looked so shot against Mikey Garcia that I was not alone in hoping he would retire. Expect a war. Despite his advantages, Ponce De Leon is there to be hit and JuanMa can punch. The only problem is that will only keep Ponce De Leon off of him long enough to extend his beating.
Pick: Ponce De Leon by mid rounds stoppage.