Top Rank presents a four-fight pay-per-view card on Saturday night from Madison Square Garden, headlined by two exciting, young stars that fight for knockouts and have natural talent in spades. I personally feel that one of them (Juan Manuel Lopez) is already a legit pound-for-pound contender, a 122-pound titlist who has mowed down his opposition so far, but many are even higher on Yuriorkis Gamboa, a featherweight titleholder whose speed can be astounding to watch, and with that speed comes some shocking power.
The show is priced at $39.99, which most are going to feel is pretty expensive for fights that, frankly, don't look competitive on paper. But the fact is this: Top Rank wanted to get these guys on TV, and this was really the only outlet. It's no test of whether or not you're a "big enough boxing fan" when it comes to ordering this. It depends on whether or not you have the disposable cash, or if you don't and you're just a nut, like me. I shouldn't spend $40 on this card, but I will.
Let's take a look at the card.
Main Event: Juan Manuel Lopez v. Rogers Mtagwa
Lopez (26-0, 24 KO) dumped on this fight himself when it was first announced. The 122-pound titlist wanted something bigger, yet at the same time he wasn't showing a lot of interest in unifying with Celestino Caballero at the time, and Caballero didn't really turn up the heat on calling out Lopez until this fight was all but signed on the dotted line.
Mtagwa (26-12-2, 18 KO) is a rugged, good-punching veteran, but the level of talent that separates these two is enormous. Lopez is a fast, exceptionally strong young fighter. Mtagwa, 30, is probably best-known for his November 2008 war with Tomas Villa, which he dramatically won via final round knockout, storming back into a fight that was all but lost for him. He's really a tough guy, but if he makes it into the double digit rounds with Lopez, be surprised. Lopez is about ten times the fighter Villa is, which makes him about ten times the fighter Mtagwa is. He's just a lot better, period, and this is a mismatch. Everyone knows it. If Mtagwa wins, it's the Upset of the Year.
Co-Feature: Yuriorkis Gamboa v. Whyber Garcia
There's no delicate way to put this matchup either: It sucks. We've seen Gamboa dispose of guys on Garcia's level with relative ease plenty of times already. Gamboa (15-0, 13 KO) is far more advanced than the number of pro fights would lead you to believe, same with most of the top Cuban standouts that have defected and gone pro. Garcia (22-6, 15 KO) has been knocked out four times, and this should be the fifth.
List of Gamboa opponents on Garcia's level, and you've probably seen most of these fights, so expect the same: Al Seeger, Roger Gonzalez, Macos Ramirez, Johnnie Edwards, Jose Rojas, Walter Estrada. Garcia has won his last two since being destroyed by Jorge Linares in 2008, and he was also part of Edwin Valero's long first round knockout streak. Roinet Caballero stopped him in two in between the losses to Valero and Linares. Garcia has no chance on Saturday. If he wins, it's the Upset of the Year.
Heavyweights: Odlanier Solis v. Monte Barrett
This was once the most interesting fight on the show, when it was Solis against fellow undefeated prospect/contender Kevin Johnson, but then Johnson bailed, and they replaced him with boring old Fres Oquendo, but now Oquendo has some legal issues and can't leave Illinois, so shot trial horse Monte Barrett is in.
I've said this every time he's fought that we've talked about it since BLH started in '06, so I'll say it again: I really like Monte Barrett for no real reason, although his embarrassment of Tye Fields helped give me more solid reasons. Solis (14-0, 10 KO) won't blitz Monte the way David Haye did last year, but Barrett (34-7, 20 KO) just hasn't ever panned out as the top fighter a few people thought he was going to be in his earlier days. On pure skill, Solis should take this to the bank with little trouble, and given Monte's age (38) and wear and tear, he has a good chance at stopping him. I like this fight better than I liked Solis-Oquendo, but that's just because I'd rather watch Monte than I would Fast Fres. Oquendo was a better challenge than Barrett will be.
Junior Middleweights: Pawel Wolak v. Carlos Nascimento
The likely pay-per-view opener is probably the best fight on the card now. Wolak (24-1, 16 KO) and Nascimento (24-1, 20 KO) are both fringe contenders, and that's a nice way of putting it for Nascimento, who has an exceptionally light resume. His one step up in competition saw him get knocked out in 11 by Sergiy Dzinziruk. This might be a pick'em on paper, but really if Wolak doesn't win, you can probably forget about him maturing into a real contender.
Off-TV: John Duddy will battle Michi Munoz. It should be an easy win for Duddy, but Duddy's wins are rarely easy. Omar Chavez, Carlos Negron, and Jorge Diaz are also in action in showcase fights.