We'll be getting into the in-depth previews shortly, starting this morning with Juan Manuel Marquez-Michael Katsidis, so I thought before we got to that one, we'd take a look at the two co-feature bouts on the HBO broadcast this Saturday from the MGM Grand in Las Vegas.
Welterweights, 12 Rounds
Andre Berto v. Freddy Hernandez
I have been over numerous times the fact that Andre Berto hasn't faced good competition since winning that joke of a welterweight title the WBC gifted him when Floyd Mayweather Jr. "retired" in 2008. Berto, then a rising star, was allowed to win that belt and call himself world champion fighting Miguel Angel "Miki" Rodriguez on HBO. The fight was a mismatch from the second it was signed, and everyone knew it, but belts are passed out in boxing like candy on Halloween, so it was not really a surprise, and the hope was that Berto would then move up and start facing the best fighters in the division.
That has not happened. Several things are at play here. For one thing, Berto and his promoter Lou DiBella seem to believe that Andre is a major star. He's not. He is a pure HBO creation who can't sell tickets even in his home state and as talented as he is, he just has not become more than a TV fighter. He has zero star power. None. Nada. Zilch. But as I've said before (again), HBO created that monster by overpaying for bad Berto fights to lock him up as a star of the future. Ah, who can forget such Andre Berto HBO classic opponents as Michel Trabant, Steve Forbes, and Norberto Bravo?
Berto has faced one really good challenger since winning the belt, and that was Luis Collazo in January 2009. He was set to face Shane Mosley this year, but when the earthquake ravaged Haiti, where Berto has family, that fight was canceled. It's a shame that that happened, and Berto lost that fight for a tragic and totally understandable reason, but the fact is that it's now November 2010 and he's still only faced one good challenger since winning his belt. He's 4-0 defending it against undersized Forbes, Collazo, limited 140-pounder Juan Urango and Carlos Quintana, who has admitted to having problems making 147 pounds several times, only to get drawn back for attractive money fights that he can't find at 154.
This Saturday's fight is not the answer to the demands that Berto start fighting tougher foes. Freddy Hernandez is a tall, lanky welterweight with a couple of decent wins (DeMarcus Corley being his best, and Corley's no welterweight) and nothing more. Has he "earned" this shot? Absolutely not. At 31, Hernandez has been featured on ShoBox despite the fact that he's not a prospect, and his upside is...well, he reached his upside the minute he signed to fight Berto.
I think Hernandez will come to win, or at least I hope so, and if Berto is looking past him, there's a remote chance we see a shocking upset, and let me assure you, Hernandez beating Berto would be a SHOCKING upset. Hernandez is not top ten even in a weak welterweight class, something that has also contributed to Berto's stagnation. But I wouldn't expect Andre Berto to be looking past Hernandez. Not now. Not with the word out there that he's got a legitimate shot to be Manny Pacquiao's next opponent. Look for Berto to be impressive and make the call out on HBO. Berto TKO-5
Super Featherweights, 10 Rounds
Celestino Caballero v. Jason Litzau
I like the idea that Litzau, at 5'10", will not be a comparative midget against Caballero, the freaky 5'11" super bantamweight who is chasing potential rivals all over the place trying to land a major fight, to no avail. This is likely a one-off for Caballero at 130, or at least that's probably the intention. They want JuanMa Lopez, Gamboa, Chris John, or someone else at 126. Lou DiBella also mentioned current 122-pounders Guillermo Rigondeaux and Ricardo Cordoba (who beat Caballero in 2004) as possible opponents.
But even though Caballero will be fighting heavier than he has since one fight at 130 pounds in 1999, this is a mismatch in talent. Litzau has been tentative ever since he took a bad beating from Robert Guerrero in 2008, and his last two fighters have been pretty stinkified, a couple of dull wins over Rocky Juarez and Johnnie Edwards.
The height, though...see, the last time Caballero faced a guy who was as tall as him, it was unheralded Jeffrey Mathebula in April 2009. Caballero escaped by the skin of his teeth with a split decision win in his home country of Panama, and that was the fight after he tore Steve Molitor to pieces in Canada. This will be a fight to find out something about Caballero. If he struggles with Litzau, it would raise the argument of whether he really has much skill, or is simply a really tall guy. Unlike that argument against the Klitschkos at heavyweight, I think this one would have some real substance. I don't think he'll have trouble, because I don't think Litzau is good enough, but that Mathebula fight is sticking in my craw when sizing this one up. Caballero UD-10