(Photo via www.hbo.com)
This three-fight card televised by HBO will begin at 9:45 ET on Saturday night, and Bad Left Hook will be here for live, round-by-round coverage and scoring of the bouts.
I'm not going to sugar-coat it like this is a great card. It's not -- but it's a solid bunch of legitimate fights and deserves the boxing fan's attention for sure.
Main Event: Juan Diaz v. Paulie Malignaggi (12 Rounds, 138.5-pound catchweight)
This (ridiculous) catchweight bout features junior welterweight fringe contender Malignaggi and former lightweight titlist Juan Diaz meeting in the middle in a bit of a crossroads bout for Diaz and a make-or-break fight for Paulie. Brooklyn's Malignaggi (26-2, 5 KO) hasn't fared well against his best opponents, getting routed and stopped late last year by Ricky Hatton and taking a vicious beating from Miguel Cotto back in 2006. Since losing to Hatton, he has fought just once, beating unheralded Christopher Fernandez over eight rounds in April of this year.
Diaz (34-2, 17 KO) has lost two of his last three, getting upset in 2008 by Nate Campbell and knocked out by Juan Manuel Marquez in February of this year, a Fight of the Year contender that we'll be remember for a long time. In between losses, he dominated Michael Katsidis in a fight that was mind-bogglingly scored for Katsidis by judge Glen Hamada, something I still can't get over. How anyone saw that fight for Katsidis is beyond me.
What we have here is a matchup between a fighter that lives and dies on speed and technique (Malignaggi) and one that lives and dies on pressure and keeping his guts unchecked. Katsidis, a warrior by trade, made the awful decision to try and box Diaz last September, and in turn, Diaz had a pretty easy night. Campbell and Marquez put him to the test, and he came up short both times. He, too, is a warrior; I do not doubt his spirit. What I doubt is his ability to persevere when challenged by a top opponent.
Because of this, I see Malignaggi having almost no chance to win this fight. Diaz has home field advantage in Houston and Paulie has even complained massively about Golden Boy allegedly stacking the deck with biased officials. But the real problem Malignaggi is going to have is the problem he usually has: He can't punch for beans. Diaz is not heavy-handed by any means, but he keeps the pressure on and that should overwhelm Malignaggi, whose speed seems to be in an early decline. Hatton and Cotto showed Malignaggi no respect and put the hurt on him. I'm not saying Diaz is Hatton or Cotto, but Malignaggi hasn't really looked good in his last four fights.
Pick: Juan Diaz by dominant unanimous decision
Malcolm Klassen v. Robert Guerrero (12 Rounds, Junior Lightweights, Klassen's IBF title on the line)
Klassen is a mystery to most. The South African is universally among the top two or three at 130 pounds, which isn't a strong division but does have some talent, and has been compared to Timothy Bradley by those that have seen him work. He'll be defending his title against Golden Boy's Guerrero in just his second fight outside of his home country (he fought in London in 2002).
Klassen (24-4-2, 15 KO) doesn't have the prettiest record, but keep in mind he started his career 7-3-1, and since then has gone 17-1-1, with a six-round draw against Jeffey Mathebula at 122 pounds and a split decision loss to Mzonke Fana his only blemishes since the early struggles. Since losing to Fana in 2007, he's gone 4-0 and stopped everyone inside the distance, including Cassius Baloyi in his last fight in April.
The last time we saw Guerrero on TV, he was part of the disappointing Kirkland-Julio Boxing After Dark, facing Daud Yordan. Guerrero was cut and decided to quit in the second round rather than seeing if his corner could do anything to fix the gash, ending the bout in a no-contest. He took a lot of flak for that, and then came back in June to beat journeyman Efren Hinojosa.
Guerrero (24-1-1, 17 KO) is an interesting fighter to me. There are times when he looks like an absolute wrecking ball, with back-to-back destructive wins over Martin Honorio (TKO-1) and Jason Litzau (KO-8 in a fight in which Guerrero won every minute). Other times, he seems somewhat unmotivated and vulnerable.
I'm picking this fight mostly on gut instinct, because I know Klassen only by reputation really. Klassen is on a roll, has never been stopped, and Guerrero can run hot and cold.
Pick: Malcolm Klassen SD-12
Daniel Jacobs v. Ishe Smith (10 Rounds, Super Middleweights)
Jacobs (17-0, 15 KO, 22 years old) is one of boxing's hottest prospects, and in my view Golden Boy's best hope for the near future. Ishe Smith (21-3, 9 KO) is a tough 31-year old fighter who has argued all of his losses. His first came to Sergio Mora (SD-5) on "The Contender," his second to Sechew Powell (UD-10 in a fight much closer than it was scored), and his third to Joel Julio (UD-10 in a rather close fight).
In short, Jacobs and Golden Boy have some real guts matching the explosive young Jacobs with Smith, who is very hard to look good against and can be a tough nut to crack. He also has a great chin. Jacobs went the full eight rounds with Michael Walker in May, and then took eight to end George Walton in a one-sided fight in June. So far in 2009, Jacobs is 4-0 with three stoppages. I think he wins this fight on pure physical talent, but we're going to see him struggle, and he's not going to be the first guy to stop Smith.
Pick: Daniel Jacobs UD-10