Robert "The Ghost" Guerrero is climbing the ladder at 135. (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)
Just in case you missed them, we had in-depth previews for Juan Manuel Lopez-Rafael Marquez and Glen Johnson-Allan Green earlier this week. Also, I highly recommend The Boxing Bulletin's preview of Gavin Rees-John Watson, as Andrew Harrison has done a fine job going deeper into that fight than I will.
Zab Judah v. Lucas Matthysse (HBO, Saturday)
Well, it's put up or shut up time for Super Judah again. Zab's career has been nothing if not eventful. For a long time, he was just a tremendous fighter, and really, he still can be. Though he's 33 now, he hasn't really lost a ton of his natural abilities over the years, and since he seems easily able to do it (proving skeptics, unlike yours truly (...), just awfully wrong on that count), the return to 140 pounds should be very good for him. Judah was always pushing himself at welterweight, though he did win the lineal championship there before losing it to Carlos Baldomir in the Upset of the 2000s, which sent Judah's career spiraling all over the damned place until earlier this year. That's when Zab Judah finally showed up for a fight looking in shape and serious about what was going to happen. Jose Armando Santa Cruz is no major scalp for Judah, but he didn't dilly-dally as he had done in previous wins over the likes of Ernest Johnson, Ryan Davis and Edwin Vazquez.
Matthysse can bang, and since we all know Zab can be hurt by a good punch, that's not something the Brooklyn native ought to take lightly. Oh, hell, for old time's sake:
Of course, I don't mean to compare Matthysse to Kostya Tszyu, as Tszyu is going to go to the Hall of Fame and let's just say I have my doubts about Matthysse.
Frankly, I think this is a mismatch. Unless Matthysse can find Judah with a big shot, Zab is going to embarrass him. Judah's speed and overall skill is far beyond anything that Matthysse has ever seen, and let's not forget that although he has the impressive KO record (27-0, 25 KO), Matthysse wasn't exactly torching Vivian Harris earlier this year, and Harris went down every time Victor Ortiz landed a good shot on him in September. I think this is just an enormous mountain for Matthysse to climb, and it seems kind of like a sacrifice from Golden Boy Promotions. I think they know what they have in Matthysse, which is a powerful, limited brawler. Judah, though he's promoted by Main Events, could be a great future opponent for Golden Boy fighters at 140, such as Amir Khan, Marcos Maidana, Victor Ortiz, and maybe next year if rumors hold up, Timothy Bradley. An energized Zab is a tough out for anyone in the division, and I just don't think Matthysse is good enough. The puncher's chance is there, but I don't think he'll be able to find Judah with GPS. Judah TKO-9
Robert Guerrero v. Vicente Escobedo (HBO, Saturday)
I know two things for sure about each man.
- Robert Guerrero is good, and really inconsistent.
- Vicente Escobedo is good, and doesn't fight enough.
So this could go any which way. Both of them are fine boxers, have enough power, and despite the fact that Guerrero has held two belts and Escobedo for some reason was once in a video game, I really am not confident in picking how this fight is going to go. I'll say that if Guerrero is on his game, I think he's just got a few too many dimensions for Escobedo, who is solid, but a predictable sort. What you see is what you get for 12 rounds with Escobedo. Trouble is, it's hard to assume Guerrero will be there mentally. He didn't seem as though he was in July against a horrifically faded Joel Casamayor who was fighting for nothing but money, and his lackadaisical lollygagging got him decked by a jab in the 10th round, something that just should not have happened. That fight came at 140 because Casamayor can't make 135 anymore, so maybe moving back down to a weight that better suits him will help. He better hope so, because I can't help but think Escobedo is a lot better than the Casamayor that Guerrero fought in July. I have a sneaking suspicion that "The Ghost" is in for a bad night with Escobedo, and I couldn't really break down why that is. He's just one of those guys who is always going to be in contention, but I think is going to be prone to off nights his entire career. Escobedo badly needs this win to make his mark at 135, and I expect he's going to be in great shape and ready to go. I think it'll be close, but I'm going with the mild upset. Escobedo SD-10
By the way, here's how much the EA developers knew of
Escobedo Escobed. Keep in mind this is an official image from their site:
Gavin Rees v. John Watson (Sky Sports, Saturday)
Jason Cook v. Barrie Jones (Sky Sports, Saturday)
Saturday's Sky show is a decent pair of domestic-level fights. Rees is one of the most limited major titlists in recent memory, but despite that downgrading of him, I really do like the tenacious little bastard, and I mean "bastard" in the best way. He fights his ass off and has gone 6-0 since losing the WBA junior welterweight belt to a superior Andriy Kotelnik, with three of those wins giving him a Prizefighter crown last December. At 5'7", Rees will be giving up three inches of height to Watson, but I don't think Watson is quite skilled enough to keep the determined Rees off of him for the whole fight, and I expect that Rees is going to dig, dig, and dig some more en route to a late stoppage. Rees TKO-11
In the other bout, I like Cook to be too much for Jones. Both are veterans and have been around at this point, and Cook has simply shown a lot more in recent bouts, despite being 10 years older. Jones has lost five of six, and I think that's about to be six of seven. Cook TKO-8
Edwin Rodriguez v. James McGirt Jr. (SHO, Friday)
As much as I like "La Bomba," and I really like him, I think he's in for a good test with this fight. McGirt's long reach (76") could give him fits if Buddy Jr. is able to use it effectively. That said, Rodriguez is an aggressive, confident young fighter who hasn't yet been backed down by defeat the way that McGirt has. Lil' Buddy is not a bad fighter, but he lacks special qualities that could make him more than the decent pro that he is. He doesn't have that "it" factor, though he has skills and I think he makes for a great next step for Rodriguez. In fact, I wouldn't have argued with Rodriguez taking a half-step less with this one, but obviously there are plans for the Worcester resident. I do think he'll have some trouble, but all good fighters do along the way. I like him to overcome his first real taste of adversity and close the show with his power. Rodriguez TKO-8
Rico Ramos v. Heriberto Ruiz (ESPN2, Monday)
Ramos (17-0, 9 KO) gets the headline spot on the annual Camp Lejuene show against Ruiz (44-9-2, 26 KO). As Brick said the other day, it wasn't that long ago that the 33-year-old Mexican was beating good fighters and hanging in with guys like Steve Molitor. Since getting shellacked by Jackson Asiku last year, Ruiz has beaten a couple of cab drivers, and now he's being positioned as a stepping stone for the 23-year-old Ramos. I have to go with Ramos' youth in this one, but we're going to find out a bit more about how he really rates as a prospect with this fight. Good matchup. Ramos UD-10
Isaac Chilemba v. Tommy Oosthuizen (Saturday)
Malcolm Klassen v. Vinvin Rufino (Saturday)
This is a really good card in South Africa. We've talked up the Chilemba-Oosthuizen fight a little bit, and I like Oosthuizen in that one. My exposure to both is limited, admittedly, but we're talking about a 6'4", southpaw super middleweight. Both of these guys are going to be making waves no matter what happens with the result of this fight. Klassen is fighting for the first time since his 2009 loss to Robert Guerrero, where I was seemingly in the overall minority and felt he gave a very good accounting of himself, and while he did lose, I definitely felt he pushed Guerrero to the limit in the second half of that fight after being dominated early. Rufino is a veteran Filipino who has lost to the better fighters he's faced. Oosthuizen and Klassen to win
Marcus Johnson over Kevin Engel is a no-brainer. Hopefully "Too Much" steps up a bit more in 2011. Besides just that televised co-feature and the main event, the ShoBox card in Fargo has a lot of talent spread out. Antwone Smith is fighting knockaround guy Martinus Clay, Andy Kolle looks to continue his win streak, Ishe Smith is back in action between verbal battles with Omar Henry, Aaron Pryor Jr. faces Dyah Davis.
Friday on Telefutura, Jose Miguel Cotto is looking to pick up a win against Christopher Henry in Puerto Rico, and he almost surely will. On Saturday, Japanese veterans Naoki Matsuda and Motoki Sasaki are taking should-win fights at Korakuen Hall. The Sky card has Bradley Pryce facing Michael Lomax off-TV (I'll take Pryce, unless he's finally and truly finished).