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Official picks thread for this weekend's fights

Week three begins! We've got two major cards, one on Friday and one on Saturday. You don't have to pick every fight...but it's recommended. Let's see if I can avoid a genuine boner of a pick this time around.

Friday, February 27 -- Showtime

Adamek_vs_banks_medium Tomasz Adamek v. Johnathon Banks (Cruiserweights - Adamek's Ring Magazine world championship and IBF/IBO titles on the line)

Manny Steward has said nice things about Banks, and I love the fact that he's trained and sparred with Wladimir Klitschko, who by all accounts is one of the hardest-working fighters in the sport. For all the talk of the flabby heavyweights of recent years, neither Klitschko brother has ever fit that mold. They are rocks.

Though Banks is the American and Adamek was born in Poland, Newark is Adamek's town. They overwhelmingly supported him when he beat Steve Cunningham (a Philly fighter) in December. Adamek has lived in Jersey for years and is very, very popular there. He'll have home field advantage in a big way.

This is also Banks' first huge test. The best fighter he's beaten is probably Eliseo Castillo, a small Cuban heavyweight that once lost to Wladimir himself and thought coming down to cruiser might do the trick in 2006. Banks knocked him out in the fourth round, after picking himself up off the canvas twice in the first.

The good news for Banks is he's shown resilience, has great training and preparation, and has sound folks that believe in his chances in this fight. The bad news is that Adamek is a well-rounded fighter that has the ability to box circles around him if he chooses to (Banks is no Cunningham in hand speed or movement), and will be more than happy to bang with him if it comes to that, too.

I just don't see this one ending well for Banks at all. Adamek KO-6

Giovanni Lorenzo v. Dionisio Miranda (Middleweights - IBF Eliminator)

The winner of this one gets the chance to fight Arthur Abraham if (snickersnicker) Abraham can, uh, "get by" the dangerous challenge of Lajuan Simon. Lucky winner of this fight...

Lorenzo was last seen in June getting outfoxed by veteran Raul Marquez in what was also an IBF eliminator, which Lorenzo lost handily even though the scores were 114-113 Marquez across the board, and Marquez technically only won because Lorenzo was docked a point in the 10th for a headbutt. Thank goodness that referee Jorge Alonso made that call or poor Marquez -- who retired after a whomping against Abraham -- would've been robbed of a win.

Lorenzo better be improved as far as movement goes, because Marquez hit him plenty and Marquez doesn't hit like Dionisio Miranda does. Miranda has 17 knockouts among his 19 wins, and out-fought Sebastien Demers to earn a road win split decision in Montreal last August.

Neither of these guys are top-flight dudes, really, and it'll probably be a slugfest. Miranda has been knocked out twice, and that alone is making me lean toward Lorenzo even though I don't think Lorenzo is all that great. Both have heavy hands -- we know Miranda can be torched on the chin. Lorenzo TKO-7

Saturday, February 28 - HBO

Zivmlf_medium Juan Manuel Marquez v. Juan Diaz (Lightweights - Marquez's Ring Magazine world championship, Diaz's IBO title, and the vacant WBA and WBO titles on the line)

This one is for all the marbles at 135 pounds as far as anyone that matters is concerned. When two sanctioning bodies agree to put up vacant titles in a single fight, you've got something that can't be argued with. Marquez is the lineal champion, and Diaz was reigning as the people's champ before losing to Nate Campbell a year ago. With Campbell gone to 140, these are the two top dogs at lightweight. You don't get championship fights any more legit than Marquez-Diaz.

Add to that that this one promises to be a hell of a scrap and you've got something that is must-see for a fight fan. Marquez is a counter-puncher, but he's one of the most fiery, ready-to-throw counter-punchers you're ever going to see. Diaz is a workrate machine. Put those two together. The keg's gonna blow, y'all.

Marquez has been hurt by Manny Pacquiao in two of the best fights of the decade, but Diaz is not a puncher like Manny is. Marquez may be getting older, but he picked himself up off the mat last year against Pacquiao and fought him tooth-and-nail for 12 grueling rounds. When you look at what Pacquiao did to David Diaz (KO-9) and Oscar de la Hoya (Oscar quit after eight) later in the year, it's even MORE impressive now.

Diaz has good wins. He does not have a great win. Popo Freitas was past it and didn't have the heart anymore by the time they fought, and while Julio Diaz is a heck of a good fighter, he's not someone that's going to be remembered for all times. Marquez is. If Diaz beats Marquez, he instantly leaps into the top 10 pound-for-pound. That's how big of a win it is for him.

And that's all well and good, but I have some questions, and they center on Diaz's heart. Look, the cut man sucked against Campbell, but Diaz crumbled in that fight. Campbell went hard at him from the opening bell, got in his face, talked trash, showed him he wasn't afraid of a go-go-go fight, and when the cut opened up and Diaz's terrible corner didn't take care of it, Diaz lost control of the fight entirely. Nate took him apart in the latter half of that bout. Diaz was totally in it before then.

It's not a question of talent. But what's Juan gonna do when it's not easy? Yeah, he beat Freitas, and Freitas made it kind of easy after the first few rounds. Julio Diaz for whatever reason gave him no resistance. And Michael Katsidis came out and tried to box, which is like Evander Holyfield not bulling with his head.

I think Marquez forces Diaz to work harder than Juan might be prepared for. I'm not big on the "spoiled" B.S., or the "kid" B.S. either. Juan's a grown man and a tough guy. But he's yet to prove a lot of things. I don't think he can beat Marquez. I don't think he has the resolve. Marquez UD-12

Chris John v. Rocky Juarez (Featherweights - John's WBA title on the line)

And making his first trip ever to the U.S. as a fighter, Chris John everybody!

John's taken his shot from hardcore American fans in the past, including me, because he's refused to travel to the States. There are good fighters in his class over here. Now he shuts us all up by taking not just a fight in America against a legit challenger, but he's facing Juarez in Juarez's backyard to boot. Good on John and Golden Boy for making it happen. As one of those that maybe bashed John a couple times for the home field fights, I'm appreciative, because one of the reasons I did it was that I want to see him fight. He's a world-class fighter.

And that leads right into my pick. Juarez is a great guy who gives it his all. He's got trigger problems, and against a guy who has faster hands, that might not be so hot for him. As much as I like Rocky and do openly hope he wins so he can say he was a world titlist at one point, I have the feeling he peaked with the first Barrera fight. He's been jumping back and forth between 126 and 130, and the last time he fought a top opponent (Marquez at 130 in '07) he was torn to pieces.

There is the chance that John kind of wilts finally fighting out of his comfort zone. It's a real possibility. I think Rocky might hang for a bit, but by the middle rounds the cream will rise to the top, and Juarez will be hitting reset yet again. John UD-12

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