While Oscar De La Hoya's assertions that this weekend's quadruple-header is really the main course to last week's appetizer only ring true if you're fond of following up your hors d'oeuvre with a Big Mac and fries, Saturday's four world title fights do, nonetheless, comprise a stacked Showtime menu that's very much worth looking forward to.
What's more - as was the case on the HBO card last week - it's the supposed main event that's the least intriguing of the lot. The cause of Danny Garcia-Erik Morales II hasn't been helped by Morales' positive ‘A' test for clenbuterol on Thursday, and it's a distraction - at the very least - that the 36-year-old, who's lost two of his last three, could have done without.
It is, in truth, a rematch that feels entirely unnecessary; a Golden Boy-friendly reprise of a contest that, by consensus, appeared to be settled fairly decisively the last time out. The bookmakers agree. Going into the first fight, back in March, Garcia (24-0, 15 KOs), eventually went off at around -315, having been backed in from the -200 originally available. On the back of a couple of momentum-gathering wins, either against guys with a modicum of name value and credibility that he expected to be beaten handily (see: 2011's Nate Campbell - Garcia was a -1100 lock), to fights that put him firmly on the radar (Kendall Holt, for which he was a marginal -130 shot), Garcia was a deserved favourite, but not a prohibitive one. Morales (52-8, 36 KOs), meanwhile, was fresh - or at least as fresh as a near-60 fight veteran could have been - from an unexpectedly spirited showing against Maidana (Morales was a +475 outsider) and a -1100 win over Cano. Though eventually settled as a +250 losing bet, many gave him a chance to pull the upset.
Not so this time around. The evidence of that March loss, combined with both Garcia's improved standing following the Khan win and yet more mileage on the old Morales clock, means that El Terrible goes into the rematch as a +600 underdog, with even the legions of loyal Morales fan predicting the shock appearing to be dwindling. At a best-priced -800 (as short as -1200 in places), the layers agree that Garcia is nailed on to make it 25 on the spin. But is the price justified? The answer, probably, is yes: physically he's the stronger, quicker man, as shown in the first fight, and it's hard to see Morales having formulated any kind of gameplan to negate the multitude of advantages Garcia holds over him. What's highly likely is that Morales get drawn into another fire fight - as he so often does - and it feels like this is Garcia's to lose.
There are two things we can be sure of, though: if he goes down, he'll go down brawling, and second, his chin will likely hold up a hell of a lot better than Khan's did. For a guy who's only lost by stoppage twice (in eight defeats), with the most recent case of those being nearly six years ago, it's a surprise to see his opponent being quoted as odds-on to hand him his third. There is, however, some discrepancy: at the time of writing, was odds-on (-137 and -125) to get the KO with two UK books, with each going +137 that he gets another decision nod. Elsewhere though, it's the points win that's as short as -150, with +125 that Garcia ends things early. It's +1200 either way that Morales wins by decision or KO, but it seems a tough ask to imagine him winning this full-stop, let alone envisaging many people rushing to back anything more specific. The draw can be backed at +3300, and though it's difficult to make a case for it here, if it's unwanted trilogies you're desperate to see, it's possibly the route you'll head down.
Paulie Malignaggi (31-4, 7 KOs) holds the highest profile of the two New Yorkers looking to make hometown advantage count, and he makes the first defence of his WBA strap, fresh from what was frankly an eye-opening performance on the road in Ukraine to stop Senchenko in nine, making a mockery of his 2/1 outsider tag. That's not to say that Senchenko is anything special, or indeed anything better than solid, because he's not, but the way in which Malignaggi went about his business that night was very impressive. Perhaps conscious of the fact that he was unlikely to walk away with any kind of positive result on the cards while watched by one man and his dog inside an empty arena in Donetsk, Paulie instead went about dismantling his man with combination punching and an accumulation of hurtful shots, slashing his way around the utterly bemused then-titleholder before the end came via cuts. Malignaggi was terrific in that fight, but will he fight with the same aggression, the same urgency, when he's very much the crowd favourite on Saturday, knowing that a robbery is altogether less likely?
Despite bouncing back with three straight wins since, Pablo Cesar Cano (25-1-1, 19 KOs), is still best known for putting on more of a show than he was expected to against Morales while a 5/1 underdog. Since then, he's beaten Johan Perez, and before that, Fidel Monterossa, a guy who, in turn, is best-known for dropping a pair of decisions to Humberto Soto. At just 23, Cano fights in a youthful, almost naïve come-forward style that's great fun to watch and, win or lose here, will see him involved in his fair share of good scraps - the Morales fight being just one of them. Malignaggi, at best a -450 favourite (as short as -600 is offered), doesn't figure to be a good match-up for him though, and there are a few major problems he's up against, the first being experience, or rather lack of it. Cano (+400) will have learned much from the Morales fight but, aside from that, his record is paper-thin. Malignaggi's resumé has more depth than most, and though he's generally lost on the occasions that he's stepped up a level, Cotto, Khan, Hatton and Diaz is fine company to have mixed with, and even the likes of N'Dou, Ngoudjo and Senchenko compare favourably with those Cano has met.
Add this knowhow to the hometown advantage and you begin to understand why the odds on Malignaggi are slim. But there's more, and, from this standpoint, it feels like the prices on Paulie, and those on Garcia, are too disparate.
Cano also makes his welterweight debut on Saturday - a strange choice, then, for a title challenger, you might think. Malignaggi, of course, hasn't been a long-term campaigner at 147 himself, but it's fair to say he's enjoying somewhat of a renaissance now that he's there. Rather than deplete further the much-ridiculed shred of power he had in the divisions below, the early signs are that the new weight may have helped him to develop it, that perhaps it was the cutting in the first place that was the problem. Before we get carried away, let's just note that he's only scored stoppages against the brittle Michael Lozada (who now has 8 KO defeats from 10 overall to his name), and Senchenko, however it would also be fair to say that, at least, Malignaggi hasn't looked feather-fisted since moving up. Indeed, two stoppage wins from a possible four isn't bad by anyone's standards, and it could be worth bearing this in mind against an opponent, in Cano, who stylistically will play right into his hands. The Mexican will be open and there to hit, and, dependent on strategy, not only is Malignaggi capable of outboxing and counterpunching him all night, but he can hurt Cano too. As ever when favouring a Malignaggi win, it's the decision that looks the obvious bet, but when it's as short as -187 (-162 market-best), can it ever be a play? A 50% KO rate at 147 and the fact that Cano has lost once - but once by stoppage, to Morales, an older, much slower man than his opponent here - means the 2/1 about another big night for the Brooklyn man may be worthy of consideration. Cano is available between +700 and +1000 to get the job done inside twelve himelf, and quoted at the latter of those two to take an unlikely points win, with the draw again at 33s.
Should Randall Bailey ever be better than a 7/1 shot to knock out anyone at welterweight who isn't named Mayweather or Pacquiao? 37 stoppages from 43 wins (the majority coming within six rounds) suggests probably not, but Bailey (+500) knows he's up against it in Devon Alexander (-650 and shortening), who's a tricky, awkward boxer and one who'll surely be happy to simply while away the minutes here behind an excellent southpaw jab.
The second home fighter in world title contention is Peter Quillin (-250), who's favoured to win Hassan N'Dam N'Jikam's (+250) WBO strap. The hunch is that he'll rise to the occasion well, but those looking for an upset from any one of the four featured contests would be forgiven for looking here first.