Junior middleweight prospect Erislandy Lara (right) poses with former title challenger Danny Perez after the weigh-in for their ShoBox main event at the Hard Rock Hotel in Las Vegas on Friday. Photo / Tom Casino-Showtime
If you don’t care to watch two 40-something fighters duke it out in a 17-year-in-the-making pay-per-view grudge match, there is plenty of action involving young fighters on basic and subscription cable this weekend.
DELVIN RODRIGUEZ vs. MIKE ARNAOUTIS
Rounds / weight class: 12 rounds / welterweights
Location: Mohegan Sun Casino, Uncasville, Conn.
Television: ESPN2 (9 p.m. ET / 6 p.m. PT)
The backdrop: Friday’s intriguing welterweight matchup is a must-win situation for Rodriguez (24-4-2, 14 KOs) and Arnaoutis (22-4-2, 10 KOs). Rodriguez is coming off two consecutive losses — a close and disputed nod in a title-elimination bout to Rafal Jackiewicz in Poland last November and a controversial split decision to Isaac Hlashwayo in a 12-round bout for a vacant title belt last August. The jury is still out as to whether Rodriguez has mentally recovered from the fate of Oscar Diaz, who almost died after suffering an 11th-round KO loss to the 29-year-old Dominican boxer-puncher in July of 2008. Rodriguez has gone 1-2-1 since that near-fatal bout. Arnaoutis, a former contender and title challenger at junior welterweight, is coming off a controversial split decision to Tim Coleman. The 30-year-old southpaw from Greece is 1-2 in his last three fights. The other loss is his second-round TKO to Victor Ortiz last March.
Also fighting: Demetrius Andrade vs. Geoffery Spruiell, six rounds, junior middleweights.
Rating the card: B. The main event is a competitive matchup between tall, rangy boxers who carry considerable pop on then end of their punches. Both welterweights are experienced but still in their athletic primes, and given the stakes of the bout it should be an intense contest. However, the co-feature is another “gimme” showcase for 2008 Olympian and 154-pound prospect Andrade (9-0, 7 KOs). The talented 6-foot-1 southpaw should have little trouble dispatching Spruiell, a 36-year-old journeyman who is 1-3 in his last four bouts.
ERISLANDY LARA vs. DANNY PEREZ
Rounds / weight class: 12 rounds / junior middleweights
Location: Hard Rock Hotel, Las Vegas
Television: Showtime (11 p.m. ET/PT – delayed on the West Coast)
The backdrop: Lara (10-0, 6 KOs), the former Cuban amateur star now trying to quickly establish himself as 154-pound contender, continues his ambitious development against Perez (34-6, 17 KOs), a hard-nosed veteran with three times as many pro bouts, in Golden Boy Promotions’ first ShoBox card. Lara is coming off an impressive 10th-round TKO of fringe contender Grady Brewer in January. Perez’s last fight was a 12-round decision loss to Carlos Molina last June. Prior to the Molina bout, Perez had ended a three-year layoff win three consecutive bouts, including a decision over prospect Julio Cesar Garcia.
Also fighting: Carlos Velasquez vs. Ira Terry, eight rounds, junior lightweights.
Rating the card: B. Lara might have his work cut out for him if Perez is motivated and in shape (which he appears to be). Perez lacks the Cuban southpaw’s speed and athleticism but he’s a tough-as-nails former titleholder with good technique and a consistent offense once he gets warmed up. The co-featured bout between 130-pound prospects Velasquez (11-0, 9 KOs) and Terry (24-2, 14 KOs) figures to be a good one. Puerto Rico’s Velasquez is a talented and skilled boxer but he only fought twice last year. Terry, a Tennessee native with twice as many fights as Velasquez, is the Puerto Rican’s toughest opponent on paper.
BERNARD HOPKINS vs. ROY JONES JR.
Rounds / weight class: 12 rounds / light heavyweights
Location: Mandalay Bay, Las Vegas
Television: Golden Boy/Square Ring Pay-Per-View
The backdrop: Depending on who you talk to this fight is either a waste of time between two old guys or it’s the historic final chapter in a two-decade long rivalry between first-ballot hall of famers. The bottom line is that Hopkins (50-5-1, 32 KOs) insisted on taking this fight after Jones (54-6, 40 KOs) was stopped in one round by Danny Green in December. ‘B-Hop’ doesn’t care what anyone thinks of the fight. It’s important to him, and obviously it means something to Jones, otherwise he wouldn’t have accepted his rival’s challenge. The hunch is that more fans that care to admit it will purchase this pay-per-view show because of their connection to either or both legends, and it’s not inconceivable that the two put on a better fight than their first go around back in 1993.
Also fighting: Rocky Juarez vs. Jason Litzau, 12 rounds, junior lightweights; Ismayl Sillakh vs. Daniel Judah, 10 rounds, light heavyweights; Sergio Mora vs. Calvin Green, 10 rounds, middleweights.
Rating the card: C+. Juarez-Litzau is a solid crossroads match between a perennial contender and a former prospect that is better suited as the co-feature to a Showtime Championship Boxing broadcast or an HBO Boxing After Dark than a PPV co-feature. Sillakh is a very promising prospect but his bout with the more-experienced Judah has Friday Night Fights or ShoBox main event written all over it. Mora’s return to the ring against Green, a Texas club fighter, belongs at Club Nokia as a Fight Night Club headliner. This undercard is not going to remind anyone of Don King’s stacked PPV events such as “Revenge: The Rematches” or “Star Spangled Glory” from the 1990s. The main event has nostalgic appeal but it’s anybody’s guess if it actually delivers in terms of entertainment value.
MIGUEL GARCIA vs. TOMAS VILLA
Rounds / weight class: 12 rounds / featherweights
Location: American Bank Center, Corpus Christi, Texas
Television: Fox Sports en Espanol (10 p.m. ET/PT)
The backdrop: Garcia (20-0, 17 KOs), one of the top U.S. prospects, makes a move towards contender status with this 12-round bout against Villa (22-6-4, 16 KOs), a 26-year-old veteran who is the Oxnard native’s toughest opponent as a pro.
Also fighting: Mike Alvarado vs. Lenin Arroyo, 10 rounds, welterweights.
Rating the card: B. The main event promises to be exciting while it lasts. Garcia is a deadly accurate boxer-puncher. Villa is a relentless boxer-brawler who is 13-1-1 in his last 15 bouts. However, his one loss in that run is a 10th-round KO to Rogers Mtagwa in a fight-of-the-year candidate in late 2008. Does Villa have anything left from that classic brawl? The co-featured bout is merely a rust-shaking exercise for Alvarado (26-0, 18 KOs), who hasn’t fought since last May. Arroyo (20-11-1, 4 KOs), who has never been stopped, will give the tough Coloradan rounds but he won’t be very competitive.
DAVID HAYE vs. JOHN RUIZ
Rounds / weight class: 12 rounds / heavyweights
Location: M.E.N. Arena, Manchester, Lancashire, UK
Television: Sky Box Office HD (in the UK)
The backdrop: Former cruiserweight champ Haye (23-1, 21 KOs) attempts to make the first defense of the heavyweight title he won from Nikolai Valuev last November against experienced mandatory challenger Ruiz (44-8-1, 30 KOs) in front of a sell-out crowd of 19,000 in Manchester.
Rating the card: B. For skeptical fans and boxing writers who weren’t impressed by Haye’s majority decision over the 100-pounds heavier but painfully lumbering Russian giant, Saturday’s showdown with the rugged and awkward former titleholder is the British bomber’s true litmus test at heavyweight.