Some questions before Saturday’s fight fest
When I run boxing, and word is I start my term next Neveruary, I will work like the devil to have HBO and Showtime stagger their dates so fight fans don’t have to do the DVR dance, watch one live and tape the other one.
The dance will be in effect tomorrow, when Showtime screens a high-profile event, topped by a rematch of the pretty stellar Carl Frampton versus Leo Santa Cruz scrap, and throwing in what should play out to be a rock-solid B-side, with Mikey Garcia in tough against bulldog Dejan Zlaticanin. Their effort kicks off at 10 p.m. ET. HBO has a “Boxing After Dark” kicking off at 10 p.m. ET also (Takashi Miura vs. Miguel Roman starts things off from Cali), with perennial Fight of the Year entrant Franscisco Vargas in against Miguel Berchelt, who has a glossy record, looks good on paper and video, but hasn’t been in with A-listers to this point.
Here are a few points of interest which are intriguing me especially the day before the fight fest:
1) IS LEO APT TO ADAPT? Everyone’s been saying it: What does Santa Cruz do differently this time get the “W” against a guy whose confidence has to be high as an elephant’s eye, Frampton? Word dropped Friday that “The Jackal” won the Boxing Writers Association of America Fighter of the Year award for 2016, this coming the week after being named THE RING Magazine’s FOTY, and he looks and sounds in a zone of complete self-control, mastery of his craft. We saw trading in the first tango, with Frampton getting the judge love and taking Leo’s WBA featherweight crown. Is someone going to showcase more power in this one, so they can deliver more punishing blows, which would give them some distance from the other guy on scorecards? Yeah, scorecards seem imminent, and most seem to like Frampton backing up his confidence level leading into this re-do. “He’s not a big one punch guy,” said Paul Malignaggi of LSC. But his workrate is sick, the Showtime analyst noted. Paulie before the first mashup wasn’t sure that the Irishman could have the lungs to hang. He does and he did. Barclays Center saw that classic; this time Vegas gets the pleasure. Frampton has A-grade footwork, a similar level beard, stays ultra composed at all times and, in fact, we think he might be able to nudge his power up a tick and win by a bit more of a measure this time. But no, we’d not be surprised to see LSC’s connectivity up a notch, giving him the “W” and setting the table for a third faceoff. Bottom line, this fight won’t not deliver the goods.
2) BELT FOR BERCHELT? Miguel Berchelt, the guy facing Francisco Vargas, is 30-1, but that record was built against non A-listers. On video, we see a solid boxer, but what about against an A-lister, as certainly Francisco Vargas is now for certain that. I don’t think anyone knows if we see a person who deserves that record or something less than that, and so we enter into the BAD main event with a question mark cloud hanging over the tussle. On video, Berchelt (27 KOs), a Mexican, keeps a high guard, isn’t reckless, moves pretty good, looks to slide to get a good angle, works off the back foot a lot, but then looks to exploit an opening or a weakness, and explodes. Vargas will need to be aware of a sharp left hook, which can detonate from near or far. Berchelt can work outside or in close if need be. I think, off a video check, his record isn’t built on popsicle sticks. But we will only know when he steps up a big ole step against Vargas. Vargas will without a doubt push him harder than anyone has, see just how good he does work off that back foot. Vargas (23-0-2, 17 KOs) has the hand-speed edge and the big-fight experience, which should keep him undefeated. “You’ve been called the Mexican Arturo Gatti. Have you heard that?” asked HBO’s Kieran Mulvaney. “No, I haven’t heard that but it really motivates me,” Vargas answered. Yeah, if by chance you haven’t seen him, that should whet the appetite. But he might not have the power edge and might that spring the upset win for Berchelt? Crazier things have happened … I’m guessing it’s a fun to watch tiff; two Mexicans are going at it, and that bodes well for us.
3) WHAT’S Z BIG DEAL IN DEJAN? Showtime boxing boss Stephen Espinoza has, since the Mikey Garcia vs. Dejan Zlaticanin match was made, been raving about it. He has lauded Garcia and company for agreeing to go in so tough after being off from 1-26-14 to 7-30-16, when he TKO’d Elio Rojas. So, the cable honcho thinks a lot of a fighter with a 22-0 (15 KOs) mark who hails from the nation of Montenegro. Yeah, I am not sure where on the globe it is, either. Zlatty opened eyeballs when, in a ShoBox tango, he dropped the maybe slight favorite, Ivan Redkach. Z, who won the vacant WBC lightweight crown over Franklin Mamani last June, hopped on Redkach like the dude owed him money and called his mum a filthy expletive, to boot. Z also fought Ricky Burns where he was not favored and got an SD 12. He’s a lefty who presses forward, edges forward, stays pretty flat-footed, has decent head movement, but could get picked apart if he stays too stationary. Staying static too long could also give Garcia (35-0 with 29 KOs) too much time to have his way in Vegas with the Montenegro man. I tend to think Mikey makes this one look easier than some of the hopeful are predicting.