Fight Previews: Top Rank's Thoroughly Mediocre PPV Offering

Every time Top Rank runs a Latin Fury/Pinoy Power/Kelly Pavlik small-budget pay-per-view, they inevitably meet the criticism of boxing fans who don't understand why these shows are on pay-per-view. Those boxing fans generally aren't aware of the fact that nobody is going to put these shows on HBO or Showtime (fights aren't good enough), or ESPN2/FSN/Versus (those networks can't afford these fighters). Thus, the small PPV is the only way you're going to see it.

What's bothersome, even as I defend the practice, is the pricetag. $40? A premium PPV in standard definition never goes over $54.99, and I'm sorry, but all four of Saturday night's fights combined don't add up to being worth $15 less than Cotto-Pacquiao or something like that.

Times is tough, y'know? Have you heard? The economy and all that jazz. So on Saturday night, instead of spending more money on mediocre boxing, I think I'll go ahead and socialize for free. Interacting with humans on a Saturday night. And I call myself a blogger?

Still, I do have some (very limited) thoughts on these fights, and I figure someone might want to discuss 'em, so let's make some picks!

Co-Main Event: Nonito Donaire v. Manuel Vargas

Vargas (26-4-1, 11 KO) is a very late substitute for Gerson Guerrero, a non-contender who failed his eye exam this week. Vargas lost his last fight in September to Donnie Nietes ... at strawweight. He has come close to challenging for a flyweight title in the past, and lost an eliminator bout to Rayonta Whitfield in 2008. Vargas is about as unqualified to face Donaire as Guerrero was, so nothing is lost or gained in the switch, really.

Donaire (22-1, 14 KO) is a good fighter. I'm a bit more impressed by his post-Darchinyan resume than Brick is, as Moruti Mthalane is no joke and Raul Martinez was undefeated when Donaire wiped him out. But his last fight with Rafael Concepcion was pretty forgettable, and this matchup is no better, either with Vargas or Guerrero. Concepcion is still living off of a 2008 upset of AJ Banal, and might be the world's only overrated fighter with a record of 13-4-1.

The only possible catch: Donaire is said to be having some real problems getting his weight down for tomorrow's weigh-in, and even "offered" to bump the fight up to 118 pounds if that would help Vargas and his short notice. If Donaire can make weight, he'll bash Vargas out without a lot of trouble. Donaire TKO-5

Co-Main Event: Fernando Montiel v. Ciso Morales

Montiel (39-2-2, 29 KO) and Morales (14-0, 8 KO) will be fighting for the WBO bantamweight title this Saturday. The fight looks like a mismatch on paper, but Montiel, 30, escaped a September fight against Alejandro Valdez with a controversial technical draw. Morales, 22, is another top Filipino prospect who might be getting rushed into a fight he's not quite ready for. "Kid Terrible" has no credible wins on his record, and says he's going to use defense to beat Montiel. I'll readily admit I know little of Ciso Morales other than what those who have seen him fight have said, and what he and trainer Nonito Donaire Sr. have said in the build-up to this fight. I'm going with the favorite. Montiel TKO-9

Gerry Penalosa v. Eric Morel

Internationally, Gerry Penalosa is maybe the unsung hero of the rise of the Filipino boxer we've experienced in recent years, as it seems his name almost never comes up in the discussion, despite being featured several times on American TV, generally putting on good fights, and being a top contender for years now.

Eric Morel, on the other hand, went to prison a few years back for sexual assault of a 15-year-old girl, and at 35, has really fought nobody since returning to the ring in 2008 after a three-year layoff. Penalosa, 37, is near the end of his line, too. This is easily the least intriguing fight of the card for me. No matter who wins, it just creates an old bantamweight contender. I'll go with the good guy. Penalosa UD-12

Mario Santiago v. Bernabe Concepcion

The winner of this could be in line to face Juan Manuel Lopez or Yuriorkis Gamboa this summer, so that's some incentive. Both are best known for fights against Steven Luevano. Santiago fought Luevano to a surprisingly exciting draw in '08, and last year Concepcion and Luevano put on one of the worst TV fights of '09. Santiago (21-1-1, 14 KO) has fought just twice since the Luevano draw, a couple of eight-round decision wins last year. Concepcion (27-3-1, 15 KO) seems like one of those guys who is going to rack up about 8-10 losses and then have a breakthrough. Just my gut feeling. I think this'll be loss number four, but I also believe this is the most evenly-matched fight on the card. Santiago SD-10

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