Weekend Preview – Abner Mares, Jermain Taylor, and More
By: José A. Maldonado, MFA
Saturday’s “Showtime Extreme” from El Paso, Texas will be headlined by Abner Mares as he makes his debut in the super bantamweight division. After cleaning out bantamweight, Mares (23-0-1-13 KOs) will look to make a splash at 122 to get the attention of the division’s top dogs; problem is, he’ll be facing Puerto Rico’s Eric Morel (46-2-23 KOs), a fighter who is known for making boring fights and whose strongest weapon is lulling his opponents to sleep. It’s a tough assignment for Mares, and it won’t be easy for him to make a statement, but if he can pull out a victory, not only will he win the WBC super bantamweight title, he’ll also emerge as a force to be reckoned with. Fight fans, of course, are clamoring for a Mares-Donaire fight or even Mares-Guillermo Rigondeaux, but let us not forget that Mares is signed to Golden Boy Promotions, the arch enemies of Top Rank who, you guessed it, have Donaire and Rigondeaux under contract. Sigh.
To get fans warmed up for the Mares-Morel bout, Showtime has elected one of boxing’s more underrated talents in Anselmo Moreno. Hailing from Panama and holding the WBA bantamweight title, Moreno (32-1-1-11 KOs) has shown he’s willing to take on anyone anywhere, including top fighters Vic Darchinyan, Nohomar Cermeño (twice), Tomás Rojas, Vlodymyr Sydorenko (twice in Germany), and Mahyar Monshipour (in France). He’s not the most exciting guy to watch, but fans of the sweet science should no doubt appreciate his skill in the ring (though, admittedly, it can be rather awkward at times). He’ll be fighting David De La Mora (24-1-17 KOs) and, should he be successful, can possibly move up to 122 to fight one of the few guys he never faced at 118: Abner Mares.
Prospect Luís Ramos Jr. will also be on hand in El Paso; he’ll be in the ring with a fighter who also knows what it is to begin a career with a bright future in Daniel Attah. Attah (26-9-1-9 KOs), of Nigeria, started off going undefeated his first 22 fights, but since a decision loss to Acelino Freitas in 2002, he’s gone only 6-9 since. Still, this should be a good learning experience for Ramos (21-0-9 KOs) who, in his last fight, displayed great poise in the face of duress when he was given a stiffer challenge than expected from former Manny Pacquiao sparring partner Raymundo Beltrán.
This Friday, in a fight card that was originally supposed to include middleweight Fernando Guerrero, Showtime’s “Showbox” will continue as planned with Jermain Taylor continuing his comeback, this time against Caleb Truax (18-1-10 KOs). With Guerrero (23-1-18 KOs) pulling out because of an injured bicep, the card has lost a little of its punch (in every sense of the word), but it will still be interesting to see how Taylor (29-4-1-18 KOs) looks in this slight step up in competition. Though Minnesota’s Truax is by no means a top contender, he has faced some decent fighters in Antwun Echols and most recently Andy Kolle. Taylor, meanwhile, has been in the ring with the world’s best, his resumé consisting of guys like Kelly Pavlik, Bernard Hopkins, Winky Wright, Carl Froch, and Arthur Abraham. These bouts took a heavy toll on Taylor, however, and after suffering his fourth brutal knockout loss, which included brain bleeding, the bronze medalist left the sport for over two years while contemplating retirement. Now reunited with former trainer Pat Burns (whom Taylor left to work with Emanuel Steward) and with a win over Jesse Nicklow in December under his belt, Taylor hopes to get a string of victories this year so as to face the top 160 pounders either in late 2012 or early 2013.
The Showbox undercard will also feature Cuba’s Erislandy Lara in his bid to distance himself from his controversial loss to Paul Williams last July. It seemed Lara was well on his way to victory and stardom, not to mention a WBC junior middleweight title shot, before the judges gave Williams the head scratching majority decision. Afterward Lara (15-1-1-10 KOs) expressed gratitude to his fans and the boxing community in general, pointing out that he was able to forge ahead because of their support and encouragement. His handlers made an interesting pick for his comeback (so to speak) fight, choosing a tall, rangy fighter in former title challenger Ronald Hearns (26-2-20 KOs). Hearns’ last fight was a loss to Felix Sturm in a bout many felt came too soon since he hadn’t fought anyone of note. Though he’s been unable to defeat any top competition, Hearns does present a size problem for Lara. Though the 5’9 Lara was able to handle Williams’ height and length well, Hearns stands at 6’3, making this a rather surprising matchup. I would have expected Lara’s team to choose a softer touch to get his confidence back after such a tough experience against Williams. Not to say that Hearns is exactly a resident of murders’ row, but his size advantage could make things interesting for Lara. Keep an eye on this one.
So apparently there is a fighter out of the Czech Republic named Tomas Adamek (17-6-1-7 KOs) who fights at light heavyweight. On Friday in his home town of Prague he’ll step into the ring against Josef Obeslo (1-4-1-0 KOs) and try to improve his recent streak of 3-5 in his last 8 fights. Of course, the only reason I mention Adamek is because he is the exact namesake of heavyweight contender Tomasz Adamek of Poland. Could you imagine how awesome – not to mention confusing – the promotion and commentating would be if the two actually fought each other? If it ever does happen, my money is with Adamek all the way.
The hard hitting Adonis “Superman” Stevenson will headline a card at the Bell Centre against Noe González Alcoba of Argentina on ESPN‘s Friday Night Fights. The 34 year old Stevenson is trying to maintain a busy schedule to make up the time he lost while in serving a prison sentence for assaulting minors and forcing them into prostitution. Though this happened over a decade ago, Stevenson continues to face ridicule for his crime, most recently at a press conference for his fight against Jesús González, the former amateur standout whom Adonis destroyed in one of the most vicious knockouts in recent years. At the prefight presser, Jesús González brought up the prison stint, reading the charges to those present. There was further controversy leading up to that fight when Stevenson accused Arizona’s González of referring to him using a racial epithet. The buildup to this week’s fight has been nowhere near as heated and, with Yvon Michel promoting him, I’m a bit disappointed that Stevenson is taking this fight after starching Jesús González. Not to take anything away from Alcoba, but he hasn’t really fought anybody other than Felix Sturm, to whom he lost, and this isn’t really saying much when considering that Sturm is notorious for defending his title against mostly undeserving opponents. Stevenson, though, has proven to be vulnerable to heavy punches as evidenced by his KO loss to journeyman Darnell Boone in 2010, so Alcoba could use his decent power to derail Stevenson’s plans for the future. Should Stevenson win, I’d like to see him take on a super middleweight with a bigger name, like Arthur Abraham perhaps?
The last time we saw Argentina’s Omar Narvaez he was doing a fantastic job of imitating an oyster in his big fight against pound for pounder Nonito Donaire. Narvaez’ performance was so bad that night it prompted Madison Square Garden’s fans to chant “This is bull—-” throughout the fight. Now probably banned for life from American television, Narvaez (35-1-2-19 KOs) is returning to super flyweight to defend his full WBO title against José Cabrera (20-2-2-8 KOs). How Mexico’s Cabrera qualifies as a world title challenger is beyond me. Aside from having faced no one of note, in his last bout, which was for the WBO interim title, he earned a draw against Daniel Rosas. He will now face Narvaez in the biggest bout of his career in the champ’s backyard. I would recommend taking a crowbar to pry open Narvaez’ arms and to get him to engage.
In a stay busy fight on Saturday Mexico’s Cristian Mijares faces the feather fisted Eddy Julio (13-3-1-1 KO). Mijares (44-6-2-20 KOs) hopes to stay sharp against Julio (whose losses have all come by knockout) and keep his big July 7th bout alive against Donaire for the WBO super bantamweight title. Mijares is on an 8-0-5 KO streak and was once considered one of the sport’s top fighters, but after suffering three consecutive defeats to Vic Darchinyan and Nehomar Cermeño (twice) in 2008 and 2009, he fell a bit off the radar. His current streak only includes one world champ (Juan Alberto Rosas) and, after a career that has been mostly spent at 115 and 118 pounds, it’s hard to get excited for his bout against the Filipino Flash at 122. Either way, in the wake of what happened to Jorge Linares a few weeks ago in Cancún (Linares was stopped by Sergio Thompson in by 2nd round TKO, thus eliminating the possibility of his rematch against Antonio DeMarco), Mijares should be on his Ps and Qs.
Chronically inactive WBA super middleweight champ Karoly Balzsay of Hungary will defend his title for the first time on Saturday against Dimitry Sartison in Germany. Balzsay (24-2-17 KOs), the former amateur standout, no doubt has great skills, as demonstrated in his grueling loss to Robert Steiglitz and his strong performance in beating Denis Inkin. But a persistent back injury has slowed down Balzsay’s career, causing him to fight only once in 2011 and twice in 2010. Sartison (29-1-18 KOs), his stable mate, is also no stranger to injuries, having suffered severe knee injuries that have required multiple surgeries. Let’s just hope the two stay healthy enough in the days leading up to the fight so that the bout can actually be made.
Olympic Gold Medalist James DeGale will put his European super middleweight title on the line against Italy’s Cristian Sanavia (45-5-1-13 KOs) in Denmark on Saturday. DeGale, who goes by the nickname “Chunky,” will defend the title he won against Piotr Wilczewski in a tight decision last October. It’d be great to see the winner of this fight take on the winner of the aforementioned bout between Balzsay and Sartison, but don’t hold your breath. DeGale’s only loss came against fellow UK fighter George Groves, a fight that took me by surprise since the two were still coming up and had just began their professional careers. It was an excellent fight and ever since DeGale has pleaded for a rematch. If DeGale can keep winning he should get to face Groves again especially since, to me at least, it is a loss that DeGale has not quite gotten over and would like to avenge.
José A. Maldonado is senior staff writer at punchrate.com and contributor to realcombatmedia.com
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