Tomorrow night's HBO-produced, Golden Boy-booked $49.99 pay-per-view is not going to be one for the ages. I would lie and tell you it will be, but how could I do that and still seem like less than a shill?
In reality, this is a card filled with curiosities and sadness, plus one significant fight, which is serving as the main co-feature. It's the only fight on this card with serious ramifications at the top of the sport, so let's start off with that one.
Lightweights, 12 Rounds
Robert Guerrero v. Michael Katsidis
Both top ten (arguably top five, I guess) fighters at 135 pounds, but two guys with vastly different reputations among hardcore fans.
Katsidis (27-3, 22 KO) is beloved because...well, because have you seen him fight? He's constantly moving forward, bleeds every time his opponent feints him, and has never had excuses for losses. Plus, his losses come in quite a "manly" fashion, and he never loses face. He's gone down blazing against Juan Manuel Marquez and Joel Casamayor, both of whom were reigning as legitimate lightweight champion of the world at the time. The only real oddity on his record is a listless performance against Juan Diaz in 2008, his other career loss.
Guerrero, on the other hand...
Robert Guerrero seems like a nice guy. Sadly, much of his career press has been attached to his wife's brave battle with leukemia, which she looks to have won. But while he has been successful in the ring, he's also been inconsistent in his performances. Some have at times speculated -- and it is just speculation -- that when Guerrero's wife is sick, he's a different fighter, but in an odd way. He seems more ferocious and determined, perhaps to get off work early and go spend time with his wife. Just that was said about his 2007 TKO-1 win over the credible Martin Honorio.
But don't confuse inconsistency with being a subpar fighter. It's just that some nights, Guerrero looks like a hell of a fighter, and other nights, just a pretty good fighter. His best win was probably against Malcolm Klassen, which was a good, competitive battle that Guerrero dominated early before giving some leeway later in the fight. But he's also blown out the likes of Jason Litzau, Spend Abazi and Vicente Escobedo. And he once had a horrible night with Orlando Salido, which was erased as Salido failed a drug test. He also was accused by many of giving up early in a no-contest against Daud Yordan. And just last year, Guerrero seemed on autopilot against the remains of Casamayor.
The biggest question of this fight to me is not which Guerrero shows up, however. I expect he'll be on his game for someone like Katsidis. Rather the question is how much Katsidis has left in the tank. At 30, Katsidis has put a lot of wear and tear on his body, and fighters with his style often peak early and hit the wall hard before you might expect a fighter to start declining.
Katsidis is most often compared to the late, great Arturo Gatti, and while it's true that Gatti entered the Ward trilogy in his 30th year, which is what really took the most out of him, it's no question that Arturo had been through far more wars than Katsidis by this point in their careers. And without meaning any disrespect to Katsidis, I think it's fair to say that Katsidis is not Gatti.
But I don't think it's fair to just assume he's too worn down to compete on Saturday. The biggest problem I think he's going to run into is that Guerrero is too skilled for him, and has enough pop to keep Katsidis as far at bay as Katsidis gets. While he's tough, the Aussie brawler is far from undentable. I think we'll see a slightly slowed Katsidis give his usual terrific effort, but just not have enough. Guerrero UD-12
Previews for Marcos Maidana-Erik Morales, Paul Malignaggi-Jose Miguel Cotto, James Kirkland-Nobuhiro Ishida and Danny Garcia-Nate Campbell after the jump.
Junior Welterweights, 12 Rounds
Marcos Maidana v. Erik Morales
Erik Morales is my favorite fighter, ever. I'm buying this show largely because I hope a few of my pennies make their way to his pocket.
He cannot win this fight. This is a brutal, dangerous mismatch. Maidana (29-2, 27 KO) is one of the nastiest punchers in the sport, and he says he's coming to throw bombs on Saturday night. Morales (51-6, 35 KO) was once a great fighter. He's arguably the best super bantamweight ever, in my opinion, and was tremendous at featherweight and very good at super featherweight, too. But we're talking two divisions over the last weight at which he was a serious threat. And though he's won three straight since a comeback last year after retiring in 2007, those wins against Jose Alfaro, Willie Limond and Francisco Lorenzo don't carry a lot of weight. All are fringe contenders at best.
It has been six years since Morales beat Manny Pacquiao, his last good win. He followed that with four straight losses -- two to Pacquiao, one to Zahir Raheem, one to David Diaz -- and there's no reason to expect he's really got a chance at beating Maidana, who is a legitimate and solid junior welterweight with power and aggression to burn.
Morales may go out on his shield, but I'm not sure that's to be celebrated. Not in this fight. He's walking into a buzzsaw with this matchup. He has no hope. Maidana TKO-5
Welterweights, 10 Rounds
Paul Malignaggi v. Jose Miguel Cotto
Fun Fact: The entertaining and charismatic "Magic Man" will become the third fighter to face both Cotto brothers. The first two were journeymen Martin Ramirez and Ubaldo Hernandez.
Neither of these guys are really welterweights, but Malignaggi is looking for one last run at 147 pounds, coming up from 140. Cotto took a while to get broken down last year by Saul Alvarez, and given Malignaggi's lack of power, only a cut or injury is likely to stop this fight before the 10-round limit. Malignaggi (28-4, 6 KO) could actually make some waves in the top-heavy welterweight division, while Cotto (32-2-1, 24 KO) is really more a moderately credible opponent at the weight. At 5'5", he's very short for the division. I actually expect this to be a decent fight, though. Malignaggi's skills have deteriorated a bit, and he isn't as slick as he used to be. Despite a lack of power, he's forced now to do more standing and trading, which isn't his best bet on paper against anyone. Cotto has talent, but at 33 he's also past the days when he might have been a top fighter, and really he seemed to lack the mental fortitude to ever be one anyway -- not that he's mentally weak, he just doesn't come off as particularly driven. I like Paulie to win a convincing decision. Malignaggi UD-10
Middleweights, 8 Rounds
James Kirkland v. Nobuhiro Ishida
There is a slight chance that Kirkland (27-0, 24 KO) could have some trouble here. He was wobbled a bit by Jhon Berrio in his last fight, and really he has just 4 minutes and 36 seconds of mediocre ring time since 2009. Ishida (22-6-2, 7 KO) will be fighting on American soil for the first time, and the 35-year-old Japanese veteran is coming off of a debated loss to Rigoberto Alvarez, brother of "Canelo," and is the best fighter Kirkland has faced so far, and his third opponent in a month.
But that's all just "what-if." On paper, Kirkland should be favored to do the usual Kirkland job. It likely won't be as quick and painless as his last two, and Kirkland's defensive indifference always makes him vulnerable, but Ishida is no banger. I expect Kirkland's pressure to be too much, but I will say I worry about his stamina if this goes even past four rounds or so. Kirkland TKO-4
Junior Welterweights, 10 Rounds
Danny Garcia v. Nate Campbell
This one apparently won't be on the PPV broadcast, but it's happening all the same. In my view, Garcia (20-0, 14 KO) is a bit of an oversold product, while Campbell (33-7-1, 25 KO) is coming back to fight after announcing his retirement last year. That decision to hang up the gloves came after a loss to professional opponent Walter Estrada. While I don't think Garcia is all that great, I expect him to have little trouble with Campbell, who is 39 years old and hasn't looked good in over two years now, winning just one fight in that time span. It's sad that Campbell is fighting, and always sad when a fighter fights on just because he needs the money. I'll really be rooting for Nate to turn back the clock and score the upset; not because I have anything against Garcia or am jonesing to see him lose, but because Nate Campbell is a genuine, likeable characterand if he needs to keep fighting, I'm hoping he can win a few along the way. But I can't see it happening. Garcia TKO-8