Toshiaki Nishioka defends his 122-pound belt this weekend against Rendall Munroe. (Photo by Koichi Kamoshida/Getty Images)
Tim Starks at The Queensbury Rules tweeted me other day that this weekend might be the worst of 2010 for boxing. He just might be right, too. There is not a single marquee fight besides Nishioka-Munroe, which pits two of the world's best at 122 pounds. Other than that, it's pretty much all bunk fights.
But we'll be here live at 5am EDT on Sunday morning for the Nishioka-Munroe card on Sky Sports 2. I'm a sucker for a 5am fight, what can I say?
Super Bantamweights - 12 Rounds
Toshiaki Nishioka v. Rendall Munroe
Nishioka (36-4-3, 23 KO) has almost every single advantage in this fight. He's faster than Munroe, stronger than Munroe, he's fighting at home in Tokyo. Munroe (21-1, 9 KO) will have to fight not just the best he's ever fought in his life, but dramatically so. We've seen upsets this year, such as Ricky Burns over Roman Martinez and Jean Pascal over Chad Dawson, so you never say never. But it would have been near-lunacy to bet on Burns beating Martinez, and eyebrow-raising at the least to bet on Pascal over Dawson.
I can't say I think Munroe will win this fight, though he's become one of my favorite fighters. He wears opponents down with mediocre power and volume punching. He works as hard as anyone. At 30, he's been English super bantamweight titlist as well as European champion, reigning with that title since beating Kiko Martinez in 2008. He's faced and defeated solid Euro-level competition since then, including a rematch with Martinez, Simone Maludrottu, Victor Terrazas and Arsen Martirosyan. Munroe is not a bad fighter, and there's really no way he could lose this fight that would make me drop him from the top ten at 122 pounds.
But Nishioka is just better than him. The one worry with Nishioka is age, as he's 34. He's been just plain obliterating guys for a while now, though. His best win is probably over Jhonny Gonzalez, a TKO-3 last year in an action-packed little fight in Mexico. The last time Nishioka was defeated was in 2004 against Veraphol Sahaprom, against whom Nishioka went 0-2-2, taking the Thai enigma all 12 rounds each time. Since then, he's gone 12-0 with nine of those wins inside the scheduled distance. He's been quietly dominant in a time when the 122-pound ranks have had plenty of attention thanks to the first three Marquez-Vazquez fights, Dunne-Cordoba, and other great bouts. With others going by the wayside, he's ascended to what I feel should be at this point an unquestioned status as the world's best super bantamweight.
I just don't see a way for Munroe to win this fight unless Nishioka is suddenly really old. Nishioka is far from invincible, but the scales are too far in his favor, I think. He was on top of his game last we saw him and unless Munroe really, really shows something we've yet to see from him, he's in a lot of trouble in this fight. But he's earned it, and I'm glad he's getting the title shot. Fighters as "real" as Rendall Munroe seem to be a dying breed, and I'm guessing if he goes out, it'll be on his shield. Nishioka TKO-7
Lightweights - 10 Rounds
Jorge Linares v. Jesus Chavez
I really do think Linares is a tremendously talented fighter, and I stand by what I've said on that topic before. But this is a semi-disgraceful fight. Since he's co-promoted by Teiken in Japan along with Golden Boy, he has to fight over there this time out, so he's being given what's left of Chavez's good name. Linares (29-1, 18 KO) had no trouble in his last bout with Rocky Juarez, and while Rocky surely has his faults, he's got a lot more left in the tank than does Chavez (44-7, 30 KO). Chavez has never really recovered from the Leavander Johnson tragedy, or the knee injury that came after. He's lost his last three fights to Michael Katsidis, David Diaz and Humberto Soto, in that order, which tells you even more about Soto's tough schedule the last few years. At 37, Chavez is well past finished. If Linares is there to go for the kill, he'll dominate and beat up Chavez. If Linares is there to play it safe and bang out a win over a former name, it'll take too long and just be sad to watch. I'm hoping for the former, to be honest, with nothing against Chavez. Linares TKO-5
Junior Flyweights - 12 Rounds
Roman Gonzalez v. Francisco Rosas
Gonzalez (26-0, 22 KO) has been very successful at 105 pounds, and now he's headed up to 108. I already think he's probably one of the four best fighters in that division now, but this could be a sneaky fight. The two met last year in Mexico at 105 pounds, with Gonzalez winning a majority decision (116-112, 115-113, 114-114). They'll be fighting for the interim WBA belt at 108. Rosas won his last fight over Juan Jose Landaeta in an eliminator. I'll go with "El Chocolatito" to keep his undefeated record, but this has upset potential. Gonzalez UD-12