Second Note: We will have live, round-by-round coverage of both cards on Saturday night, plus tomorrow night's special ShoBox, which I'm also going to throw into the picks mix.
Third Note: We're not going to pick the undercard bouts this time around, because none of them are...I dunno, big enough or competitive enough. Feel free to throw your picks out, but we're not gonna count them. Too many people won't know one guy or another guy.
Friday, Showtime: Cory Spinks v. Deandre Latimore (12 Rounds - Vacant IBF Junior Middleweight Title)
Spinks (36-5, 11 KO) has been out of the ring following back-to-back losses to Jermain Taylor and Verno Phillips, and that layoff has now reached just about 13 months to the day when he climbs into the ring on Friday in St. Louis. Both are natives of the city so there won't be any real homecourt advantage. You all know Spinks: He'll do what he does, and I doubt the layoff will make him any less effective. I also feel compelled to again argue that Verno Phillips had no business getting the decision against him last March. That was some pretty bad ringside judging from my view, but then again my view was a Don King webcast. Col. Bob had it for Spinks, too, but then again Spinks was the house fighter. (I didn't have it quite so wide as Col. Bob.)
Spinks turned 31 in February. Across the ring from him will be 23-year old Latimore (19-1, 16 KO). Deandre has been sitting on his ranking since upsetting a baked Sechew Powell on Friday Night Fights last June. That fight was a massive step up in competition for Latimore and for whatever reason (munchies? paranoia?), Powell seemed totally disinterested and unprepared. It's hard to really learn a lot from that fight. Powell just was not mentally there. Latimore has a good KO rate, but Spinks has been stopped just once, by Zab Judah in 2005 at 147 pounds. He's slick, hard to hit, and will be without question the best fighter the young Latimore has ever faced.
I hate to do it. I wanna say the young blood gets the nod. Don't think it's gonna happen, and I suspect if it does it'll be some more questionable scoring that does the real deed. Spinks UD-12
Featured on the undercard: Devon Alexander should wipe the mat with Chuy Rodriguez.
Saturday, Showtime: Carl Froch v. Jermain Taylor (12 Rounds - Froch's WBC Super Middleweight Title on the line)
Speaking of guys facing their best opposition ever, that's what Froch (24-0, 19 KO) has on his hands as he makes his first business trip to the States to meet Jermain Taylor on the semi-neutral ground that is Mashantucket, Conn.
Taylor (28-2-1, 17 KO) bounced back from consecutive defeats to Kelly Pavlik to wail on Jeff Lacy last November, but one thing about that sort of bothers me with regard to Froch: Lacy is a pretty slow-moving, durable guy with some power. He hurt Jermain in that fight. Froch is a fairly slow-moving, durable guy with better hand speed and more initiative than Lacy. Froch can dish out some good blows, too. The fact that Jean Pascal made it to the distance against Froch in their December war spoke highly of both guys, I thought. Each of them turned in what was probably their career-best performance.
Froch has a lot to prove. Beating Taylor could mean a payday back home with Mikkel Kessler if promotional issues get sorted out there, or a fight back on the road with Lucian Bute in Montreal down the line, and Bute fights are money at the Bell Centre. If Taylor wins I'm not sure what he'd want to do. I can't imagine him going over to Europe to fight Kessler or anyone, nor do I think he'd venture to Montreal to fight Bute. Taylor is The Star of these guys, at least in America, at least relatively speaking. He'll want them to come to him. He could take a "stay-busy" sort of defense against Allan Green should Green win on the undercard, since Taylor-Green was the idea for this show before Showtime ponied up for Froch. Eventually I figure he's going to 175 anyway, for better or worse.
Buuuut, back to the matter at hand: I really like JT. He's one of my favorite fighters, and by that I mean he's one of my favorite guys in boxing. Humble, funny, easygoing, doesn't talk a ton of trash, never seems to want to get all "personal." I think he's going to lose this fight. I think at some point, Froch is going to press him, hurt him, and move in for the kill when he sees an opportunity. Taylor fought Lacy with a mild arrogance that wasn't befitting a guy that needed the W to get his career back on track. Froch is hungry enough, strong enough, and good enough to really take him down if that happens again. Maybe a mild upset to some, but I'm going with the titleholder. Froch TKO-10
Featured on the undercard: If Allan Green's colon is good and he stops looking at his feet, he should be able to handle Carlos de Leon, Jr. -- but an upset would not surprise me in the least.
Saturday, HBO: Juan Manuel Lopez v. Gerry Penalosa (12 Rounds - Lopez's WBO Junior Featherweight title on the line)
Juanma (24-0, 22 KO) has become one of the sport's most exciting young phenoms, and with James Kirkland likely done for the time being, he might just be the most exciting young, already established fighter in the sport. Hell, he might've been anyway. Your mileage may vary.
Lopez really hasn't fought much at all in about a year, when Jonathan Oquendo took him into the third round. Since then he's brutally waxed Daniel Ponce de Leon in a fight where many thought he might finally meet some real resistance, then he got rid of Cesar Figueroa in 47 seconds, and then Sergio Medina disgraced himself and the sport with the debacle in December in which he clearly did not come to fight, defend himself, or do anything but collect his paycheck, go home, and make up stories.
36-year old Penalosa (54-6-2, 36 KO) has been boxing professionally since 1989 -- yup, 1989. Ken Griffey Jr.'s rookie season. Brett Favre wasn't even in the NFL. The now-retired Oscar de la Hoya was three years away from Olympic gold. Look Who's Talking was the fourth-biggest movie in America.
What a world.
He has a wealth of experience, he's a cagey veteran, and he's a good boxer. He took Ponce de Leon to the limit the last time he came up to 122 pounds, only to have the judges score it obscenely wide for Ponce. Returning to bantamweight, he ripped Jhonny Gonzalez and sent him packing from the division, then stopped Ratanachai Sor Vorapin in April of last year. He took a tune-up fight in February, beating undistinguished Mexican German Meraz over 10 rounds.
It would be foolish of the Lopez camp to think they'll run through Penalosa as they've done the last three guys they've fought, and as they've done most of the guys Lopez has faced in his career. But I think that's more or less exactly what's going to happen. Penalosa is three inches shorter (5'4") than Lopez and has the exact same disadvantage in reach (68" - 65"). Lopez is a good boxer as well as being a powerhouse. He's bigger, younger, faster, stronger. Lopez TKO-4
Featured on the undercard: Lamont Peterson takes on Frenchman Willy Blain, who has no power (20-0, 3 KO) but a legit amateur background. I get the feeling Lamont has a tougher time with Blain than he expects, but pulls out a decision win.