Fight Previews: Maidana-Cayo and Funeka-Guzman II

Victor Cayo gets his first crack at a title and his first HBO fight this Saturday night. Cayo faces Marcos Maidana for the interim WBA junior welterweight belt.

HBO's Boxing After Dark tomorrow night has been overshadowed by the return of Showtime's Super Six World Boxing Classic, though of course that wasn't supposed to be the case. The Abraham-Dirrell fight was set for March 6, but Dirrell pulled out claiming a back injury, postponing the fight for exactly three weeks. The HBO card was going to run unopposed outside of the Erik Morales PPV no one will order, and yada yada, here we are with a head-to-head.

Interim WBA Junior Welterweight Title: Marcos Maidana v. Victor Manuel Cayo

There are some real wrinkles in this fight, and I think there are a lot of ways to go about looking at this one, two of which I think are pretty important.

Are we overrating Marcos Maidana?

I've noticed that Andriy Kotelnik comes up at two points:

  • When Amir Khan is mentioned. "Khan routed Kotelnik." "Kotelnik? Big deal."
  • When Marcos Maidana is mentioned. "He deserved the win over Kotelnik!"

I can never tell if the hive mind of boxing fans thinks Kotelnik is any good or not, but since Khan has had hype and Maidana sort of burst onto the scene from Argentina with no hype, I think you can guess why Kotelnik is seen in such a different light when associated with one or the other.

I think we may, indeed, be overrating Marcos Maidana to some degree -- he's pretty crude still, and he more mentally defeated Victor Ortiz than physically defeated him last year. Kotelnik didn't get knocked around the ring and quit like Ortiz did, and Kotelnik and Ortiz are the only guys on Maidana's sheet above the gatekeeper level.

But Lord, can he punch. You can never count out a guy who has the sheer punching power of Maidana. I think he's up there at the absolute top of the sport pound-for-pound in that category. There's no questioning the fact that he can bang. So maybe he's a bit overrated when you look at his overall game, but the one area where he excels is a big swing factor in any fight.

How good is Victor Cayo, really?

Cayo (24-0, 16 KO) started his pro career in 2006 as a featherweight, but that didn't last long. By his sixth fight he was up around 140, where he's stayed. His best win is over Julio Diaz last year, and Diaz was coming off of a bad TKO loss to Rolando Reyes. In short, Diaz is past his best days.

Cayo is 25 and fairly unpolished as a pro, but he's here on the big stage, ready or not, and he's facing a vicious puncher, the likes of which he has not seen yet, or even much close to someone like Maidana, really. Sometimes we get to see prospects work through the gatekeepers, sometimes they go right for the jugular, and sometimes you get a situation like this, where Cayo goes from fighting Julio Reyes in the Dominican Republic to fighting Marcos Maidana on HBO.

I don't know if Cayo is ready or not at this point, and a bad loss to a guy like Maidana -- as in, a guy who can end a fight the way Maidana can -- can be damaging to a fighter. But that's just sort of the game, too. If a guy can't handle the bad loss at 25, he probably isn't going to handle it better at 28 having run through some more guys everyone knows he's going to beat. My feeling purely as an observer is guys either have it in them to take a loss and bounce back or they just don't. It's part of the makeup of a top pro boxer.

Which is not to say for a fact that Cayo will lose badly, or even lose. Maidana is favored and should be, and I'm going with the favorite to keep his belt and stay in line for a crack at the Khan-Malignaggi winner. But I'm hardly 100% confident. It's this fight where we'll find out a lot about Cayo. Maidana TKO-7

Vacant IBF Lightweight Title: Ali Funeka v. Joan Guzman II

These two first met on the Bute-Andrade II undercard, with Guzman being gifted a draw in the minds of basically everyone on the planet. Funeka beat up a Guzman who appeared out of shape and maybe even a bit shot. It's hard to say a guy who is 29-0-1 can be "shot," really, but if Guzman looks bad in this one, that might really be the deal.

Remember, Guzman is 33 years old and has kept a weird schedule over the years. His bouts of inactivity (for whatever reason he was inactive) have done him no favors. We're talking about a guy whose optimal weight was probably 122.

What this fight hinges on is whether or not Guzman is in better shape this time. He says he is, but they all say they are before the fight. I like Ali Funeka, feel bad for him that he's even in this rematch (because he should just be the IBF titlist right now), and don't think Guzman deserves this fight, but if Guzman is in shape, I think he can box circles around Funeka.

Then again, I have that awkward tall guy bias. Funeka, like Celestino Caballero, is ugly to watch ply his trade, and I probably let that affect how I see their skills. But Funeka seems even more awkward than Caballero does to me, which is hard to do. There are times where Funeka really looks like he's having issues controlling his body, like a dog that's still growing trying to run around the house and losing his footing.

I am not picking Guzman because I'm not confident he'll actually be in better shape, or that he's going to really have much left at all. Smart money is on Funeka here, and frankly even if Guzman is in phenomenal shape and boxing well, if Funeka can impose his size, he can bust Guzman up. He's just a lot bigger than him. Won't be shocked if Joanie pulls this out, but I'm taking Funeka. Funeka SD-12

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