Weekend Preview: Ward-Abraham on center stage
SHARIF BOGERE vs. RAY BELTRAN
Rounds / weight class: 10 rounds, lightweights
Location: Primm, Nev.
The backdrop: Bogere (19-0, 12 KOs) is perhaps best known for the lion’s head he wears when he enters the ring. The former Ugandan amateur star also is a legitimate prospect, having dominated his opponents with impressive all-around ability. The most-pressing question about him is how will he do when he steps up his opposition? This might be his stiffest test. Beltran (24-4, 16 KOs) is tough, well-schooled and seems to be committed more than ever to succeeding after returning from a 16-month layoff. Bogere, the better athlete, might outbox Beltran but the Mexican won’t go down willingly. Beltran also can claim to have the best sparring partner in the world: Manny Pacquiao. He has worked with the No. 1 fighter in the world for years. Mitchell, a former college football player who got a late start in boxing, seems to have all the tools to become a successful heavyweight except experience. Quinn, a Nicaraguan, has some ability and quite a bit of power.
Also fighting: Seth Mitchell vs. Evans Quinn, 10 rounds, heavyweights
Rating the card: B-.
Prediction: Bogere will probably win a unanimous decision but will have to work extremely hard. Don’t be shocked if a determined Beltran outworks the African and scores an upset.
KENDALL HOLT vs. JULIO DIAZ
Rounds / weight class: 10 rounds, junior welterweights
Location: Santa Ynez, Calif.
The backdrop: This is a matchup of two fighters hoping for one more shot. Holt (26-4, 14 KOs) appears to be all but finished. The former junior welterweight titleholder has fought only three times in two years, losing a unanimous decision to Tim Bradley in 2009, retiring after six rounds against Kaiser Mabuza early last year and then stopping journeyman Lenin Arroyo in one round in January. Arroyo had lost his previous seven fights. This could be his last big-name opponent if he loses. Diaz (38-6, 27 KOs) was 2-3 between 2007 and 2009 – losing only to good fighters – but beat former contender Herman Ngoudjo and journeyman Pavel Miranda in his last two fights. The brother of Antonio Diaz is a former two-time lightweight title. Diaz is 31, Holt 29.
Also fighting: Rudy Cisneros vs. Jonathon Gonzalez, 8 rounds, junior middleweights
Rating the card: C. The main event actually is interesting in that we wonder which fighter has less left.
Prediction: The feeling here is that Holt has slipped much more than Diaz. Holt’s last hurrah was a solid performance against Bradley, who went down in the first and 12th rounds but won a unanimous decision. And he looked shot against Mabuza. Diaz acquitted himself well in his three losses and looked solid in his consecutive victories. Diaz will win by late KO.
MIKE PEREZ vs. IRA TERRY
Rounds / weight class: 8 rounds, lightweights
Location: Ponce, Puerto Rico
The backdrop: Perez (12-0-1, 6) is a versatile former U.S. amateur star from New Jersey who has good boxing skills and decent power. He also has heart, which he demonstrated when Jose Hernandez took him to the brink in a memorable brawl that Perez won by split decision in December. He’s coming off an eighth-round knockout of Marcos Herrera in February. Perez’s family comes from Puerto Rico, which means he’ll be fighting in front of a friendly crowd. This looks like a step up in opposition on paper but probably isn’t. Terry (24-4, 14 KOs) is a reasonably capable Tennesseian who started his career 19-0 (against fellow Southerners) but is only 5-4 since. He was stopped in his last two fights, in four rounds against unbeaten Carlos Velasquez and one round against prospect Joksan Hernandez.
Also fighting: Jonathan Vidal vs. Cecilio Santos, 8 rounds, flyweights
Rating the card: C. Perez can be an exceptionally exciting fighter, as he proved against Hernandez. Terry probably can’t hang with him long, though.
Prediction: Terry isn’t in Perez’s class. Perez will win by mid-rounds knockout – maybe earlier.
Also Friday: Sam Webb defends his British junior middleweight title against Prince Arron in Gillingham, England.
ANDRE WARD vs. ARTHUR ABRAHAM
Rounds / weight class: 12 rounds, super middleweights
Location: Carson, Calif.
The backdrop: The main-event fighters seem to be going in opposite directions. Ward (23-0, 13 KOs) became the favorite to win the Super Six World Boxing Classic by winning his two first-round fights, including a break-through victory over Mikkel Kessler. The U.S. Olympic gold medalist seems to have a formidable combination of skills, guile and toughness. He is poised to become a superstar. Abraham (32-2, 26 KOs) entered the competition as one of the favorites but went 1-2 in the first round, exposing his limited boxing skills. However, the beauty of the tournament is that he can erase his back-to-back setbacks with a victory over Ward in the tournament semifinals. The winner faces the winner of the June 4 Carl Froch-Glen Johnson fight for the championship. Chris Arreola (30-2, 26 KOs) is slimmed down and seems to have re-dedicated himself to the sport. He faces Nagy Aguilera (15-5, 11 KOs) on the undercard.
Also fighting: Chris Arreola vs. Nagy Aguilera, 10 rounds, heavyweights; Shawn Estrada vs. Joe Gardner, 6 rounds, super middleweights; Javier Molina vs. Danny Figueroa, 4 rounds, junior middleweights.
Rating the card: A-. The Super Six tournament has been exciting even with its flaws. And we’re in the semifinals. The main event doesn’t look good in light of recent performances but Abraham still has power. Anything can happen. And Arreola, chubby or not, is fun to watch.
Prediction: This is Ward’s tournament and division. He is much to good …
Also Saturday: Cristian Mijares defends his IBF junior bantamweight title against Carlos Rueda in Durango, Mexico.