There's a big slate of "other" fights coming this weekend that I wanted to take a look at, in part because we're going big on coverage again this weekend, and in part because there's some interesting, slightly under the radar stuff going on with some of these fights.
So without further ado, let's get to it.
European Welterweight Title
Matthew Hatton (c) v. Yuriy Nuzhnenko
Friday, Sky Sports, 5pm EDT
Hatton (39-4-2, 15 KO) and Nuzhnenko (30-1-1, 14 KO) are fairly evenly matched. Their resumes are about the same, as they've both beaten middle-tier Euro fighters or other assorted journeymen, and not much else. Nuzhnenko's loss was a decision to Vyacheslav Senchenko in April 2009. Hatton has been trying to "re-invent" himself a bit for the past couple years, and his handlers have done a good job pumping up his confidence with relatively easy wins over the likes of a very faded Ben Tackie, Ted Bami and Ernesto Zepeda. In his last fight, Hatton Promotions worked their magic and got the European welterweight belt on the line for a fight between "Magic" Matthew and Gianluca Branco, an undersized, 39-year-old Italian.
I mean this in the nicest way: Hatton has almost no natural ability when it comes to boxing. He's slow, he's not powerful, he's never been a quick study, and he isn't much athletically. What has made him a legitimate fighter, if not a great or even particularly good one, is determination. He very badly wants to be a fighter, probably wants to be a fighter a lot more than most guys who are much more talented than he is, and that has carried him. He's also very genuinely never wanted to be in Ricky's shadow, which was and still is impossible. Every time out, it seems like he's fighting in part to not just be Ricky's Brother anymore.
Nuzhnenko is nothing special at all. But he's very competent, matches up well with Matthew in size, and is the type of fighter Matthew Hatton is simply not good enough to beat if he's not having one of his best nights. The fight being in England will help Hatton if it goes to the cards, and it will almost certainly go to the cards. If Matthew can keep this close, he'll leave with his belt. Even at 34 and being what he is, Nuzhnenko would easily be Hatton's best win, and the way Matthew struggled with Lovemore N'dou last November gives me pause, because N'dou was clearly not in peak shape and hadn't trained very hard.
I suspect Hatton will leave with his belt. Whether he deserves it or not is another story. Hatton MD-12 is my pick, but Nuzhenko UD-12 is what I would pick.
Welterweights - 10 Rounds
Zab Judah v. Jose Armando Santa Cruz
Friday, ESPN2, 9pm EDT
It amuses me that there are still people who act like Zab Judah is a big name and a relevant player. I guess I can't argue with his name -- Zab has his fans, and there's nothing bad about that. Judah could probably make a fight with anyone he wanted to at 140 or 147. And heaven knows he talks about doing this, that, the other thing, the other other thing, and that one thing no one wants to mention.
But instead he mostly just crows, tries to interject himself into situations, makes grandstand challenges in the media, and then takes crappy fights. He should be genuinely ashamed and embarrassed about that farce of an event he put on last November in Vegas, when he not only sought out a cheap, nobody, weak opponent, but dragged a guy out of a two-year inactive spell with his 22-19-2 record and put on a "fight" with him. If there were justice in the world, Ubaldo Hernandez would have knocked Judah out, but there's not, plus Ubaldo Hernandez is pretty bad and Judah, no matter what criticisms of him I have (and there are plenty, and he's earned them all), is a good fighter.
Judah keeps saying he's going back to 140 but he never does. I'm also fairly certain this will be his only fight in 2010. He'll lay waste to Santa Cruz (28-4, 17 KO), who was once robbed of the legit lightweight championship, and since then has gone 3-1, beating three scrubs and getting knocked out by Antonio Pitalua. Santa Cruz, despite that one night where he dominated a disinterested Joel Casamayor, has never done a whole lot.
He is taller than Zab by about three inches and has about two inches of reach on him, but it won't matter. Assuming Judah's handspeed hasn't left him, this shouldn't be too much trouble for him. I honestly shouldn't be so critical of this fight, probably, but it comes naturally anymore. Zab could have taken a far worse opponent than this, and considering he hasn't fought a live body since losing to Josh Clottey two years ago, I guess I can't blame him for wanting what amounts to an OK tune-up fight. Shading my perception of this fight is that I know what happens after he wins. He's going to challenge Andre Berto, Tim Bradley, Devon Alexander, Manny Pacquiao, Marcos Maidana, Amir Khan, Paul Malignaggi, Juan Manuel Marquez, Shane Mosley, Oscar de la Hoya, and Erik Morales to fights, and then he'll sit out the rest of the year. Judah UD-10
Middleweights - 10 Rounds
Fernando Guerrero v. Ishe Smith
Friday, Showtime, 11pm EDT
This is a fight I really like. Guerrero (18-0, 15 KO) has been a favorite prospect here at BLH for a couple years now, and watching him develop has been fun. He's had his struggles -- both Ossie Duran and Gabe Rosado gave him pretty tough tests, and judging by his assault of tough veteran Michael "Night Stalker" Walker last time out, he's learned from that.
Guerrero, 23, still makes some mistakes, and that's to be expected. In a lot of ways, he's still raw. He's a terrific athlete, has good power, and even though he's short (5'9") for a middleweight and doesn't have blazing speed or anything, he makes up for his shortcomings with a lot of fire and grit. Eventually, when he gets to the world class level, his height will probably be an issue against someone, but so far he's managed to keep it from being a big deal.
Smith (21-4, 9 KO) is not an easy mark. He's tricky, he's crafty, he's very intelligent, and he put Danny Jacobs through the wringer a bit when they fought last August. Outgunned physically by Jacobs, Smith managed to get into Jacobs' head and rattle him some mentally. It worked about as well as it could have.
I would not be stunned if Guerrero loses this fight. It'd be an upset, because as tricky as Ishe is, Guerrero should be able to out-gun him if things get a bit thick for the youngster. But I wouldn't be entirely shocked or anything. Guerrero has some mental lapses from time to time and Smith is a very cerebral fighter. I expect Ishe's gameplan to be a lot like it was against Jacobs. I'm picking Fernando to take this one, and it's a key fight for him. How he does here really influences how quickly his career advances from this point. If he struggles, expect a few more sideways steps. If he can dominate, expect a bigger step forward. Guerrero UD-10
On the same card, give me Shawn Porter over Ray Robinson in Porter's awaited welterweight debut, and Mike Dallas Jr. over Lanard Lane. I really like Shawn Porter's style and his demeanor, and hope the move to 147 benefits him.
Heavyweights - "10 Rounds"
David Tua v. Monte Barrett
Saturday, PPV, 8pm EDT
All I can say one more time is that if you pay for this, first of all, you're crazy, and second of all, don't come on this site and bitch that it was an obvious farce. I am a fan of both guys, but at this point in their careers, this fight is a joke. Barrett hasn't taken a punch well in years and all Tua has is power. Guess what happens you guys? Tua TKO-1
Quick takes: Fernando Montiel should be too good for the tough Rafael Concepcion. Only good thing about that fight is Eric Morel not getting the payday or the title shot he doesn't deserve. Juergen Braehmer should easily defend his paper title. The Denis Lebedev-Alexander Alexeev fight on that card is pretty evenly matched and I can't pick a winner.