Zab Judah vs Paulie Malignaggi
In a battle between two quick handed technicians I favor the guy with the heavier hands and sneakier shots, even though the fight is guaranteed to go the distance. Malignaggi doesn't hit hard enough to stop Judah and Judah doesn't throw enough to stop Malignaggi. Judah by decision.
I'm hoping this gets some dramatic heat somewhere in the fight, because while I like the matchup OK enough and understand its value in Brooklyn, a fight between two veterans with styles like these doesn't exactly guarantee excitement. Malignaggi can be in entertaining fights where there's a chance of him losing, and this is one of those, but it will depend on how good Zab is. Judah is still a bit of a mystery even after a gritty performance against Danny Garcia, because you never know when something might not go his way and he'll flake out or get weird, because that's just the way he is. I think Paulie's the better, smarter fighter, but Zab has more to his game, including power that can make some difference. Paulie's got a terrific chin, though, and Judah tends to get very tentative for whatever reason. I don't know. I think this is about as 50-50 a main event as we see on premium cable anymore. The only thing I'm relatively certain of is that if it goes to the card, the losing fighter is going to complain. Judah by majority (real specific!) decision.
Judah-Malignaggi is a fight that feels at least a few years past its expiry date but, at the back end of 2013, my feelings toward it are much like those I have on the MLS Final - I've got a passing interest in the outcome, I guess, but try as I might it's not something I'm going to be getting excited about. I'd be harder pressed, though, to argue that it's not a legitimate main event when hosted at the Barclays Center.
To its credit, it's a decent clash of styles between two wildly inconsistent fighters, and both put up valiant efforts against two of the elite new breed, in Garcia and Broner. Their combined age may be pushing 70 years old, but there's some life in these legs yet, struggling for momentum though they may be. Judah's won four of his last five by stoppage, which bodes well for him against a Paulie that we know can be hurt, but catching up with him might be a tougher ask. Rather, this feels like a fight destined to go the distance, cagey at first, but simmering nicely, nip and tuck, in the closing stretch. I think a split or majority decision, or even the draw, are big runners here.
The old theory goes that Zab Judah loses his big fights. Let's say that this is just about big enough to count. Malignaggi SD.
Maybe, if it was Dec. 7, 2007, this fight would interest me more than it does, but the current matchup between the 36-year-old Judah and the weak-punching Malingaggi is little more than a corner scrap in Brooklyn meant to give the winner some bragging rights in the home borough.
But whatever, I can respect that, and if this was 2007, I'd give Judah the upper hand because he's naturally a much more talented fighter. Being as it's not, however, this bout could go either way - Judah, the slick southpaw with good power, could hurt Malinaggi early, and Malinaggi doesn't have the heavy hands he needs to return the favor.
Unfortunately for Zab he's never been much of a finisher, and at his rapidly advancing age, that's only likely to worsen. Paulie has proven in recent years that he's the better technical boxer, and I expect that as Judah inevitably fades in the later rounds, the combination of Malinaggi's movement and boxing acumen will allow him to pile up points on his way to a close (but relatively unexciting) decision. Malignaggi UD-12.
This fight is a toss-up, Judah and Malignaggi have similar skill sets and both are at the same stage of their careers. Judah hits the harder whilst Malignaggi looks to have an advantage in stamina and maybe even desire.
Work rate will be vital here, the busier fighter will probably be the one who takes the close rounds, and that could well prove decisive come the final bell. It will undoubtedly be a close fight but I feel Malignaggi will edge it. Judah can be lazy at times and I believe that will cost him the fight, with Malignaggi's slightly higher work rate being enough for him to scrape a split decision. Malignaggi SD.
Devon Alexander vs Shawn Porter
Porter has been learning on the job lately but I think this is too much, too soon. Alexander has a really good chin, is immensely conditioned, and Porter just can't crack very hard. Porter might look faster and flashier early on but I expect him to fade. The experience and consistency gap will be too much. Alexander by decision.
Shawn Porter's only chance, in my estimation, is to stop Alexander with a big shot at some point. Otherwise, I just don't see it happening for him. Alexander is too quick, too skilled, too talented. Porter may have rescued his career this year, but it's going to be a short-lived save when Devon outclasses him and affirms that Porter's upside is about what we've already seen. Hopefully, Devon is fighting to impress, because otherwise this could be 12 rounds of snooze control. Alexander by decision.
I am, it would seem, one of those rare things: somebody who steadfastly rates Devon Alexander very, very highly indeed. He's not a popular fighter, by and large, and I understand why that is, but he's a terrific boxer. Lucas Matthysse ended up leaving Missouri empty-handed, in an all-too-predictable episode of 'Hey, That's Boxing', but look past that and the fact that Tim Bradley remains Alexander's only official loss says much for the Saint Louis man's ability, particularly in light of what Bradley has gone on to accomplish since.
While Shawn Porter is probably more on a level with Lee Purdy than Tim Bradley, this is nonetheless an interesting enough pairing, and there are enough question marks here to ensure that's the case. I think Porter bringing the fight to Alexander, as he's promised to, would be a bold move but ultimately the wrong one. Alexander's adept enough at keeping someone on the end of a jab all night, but for me he's the more effective fighter when he takes a few more risks, as we saw against Maidana in particular. That said, the Alexander decision is the more conservative choice, and I think Porter's got enough about him to see the final bell. Alexander UD.
Erislandy Lara vs Austin Trout
In a bout between two southpaw boxers I favor the Cuban. He's not as busy but he's sharper and he hits harder. Plus Trout keeps leaning in over his front foot and is going to get countered. At some point(s) I expect Lara to drop him. Lara by decision.
I don't like the matchup stylistically for either guy, but this is a relevant and meaningful fight at 154, as I live in fantasy land where talent means something and this is still a sport somewhere beneath the grime, so the guys who are the best may not make it to the wide audiences all the time, but in the end are rewarded by being, you know, the best at what they're doing. Tim Duncan wins titles. Carmelo Anthony gets Slam magazine covers. Anyway, I like Lara to get the win, but I wouldn't be surprised by a dull draw and neither guy looking good no matter how this fight goes, because the style clash, again, is just not great. Lara by decision.
Of all the fights this weekend, this is probably the one that I'm most intrigued about, simply because on paper it looks the most balanced. It's unlikely to be particularly dramatic or action-packed, but what it should provide is a welcome contrast from whatever the brawling James Kirkland sideshow serves up this time around.
Both Lara and Trout are fine technicians, but I've long insisted that Lara is as good as anyone not named Floyd Mayweather at 154 (or thereabouts), and I think he edges it in the areas that matter here. Lara is rangier, and his power, particularly when he finds a rhythm with that left hand, is slightly underrated. It'll be interesting to see whether he can find the range against somebody as awkward as Trout. Also worthy of note is that, although both southpaws, neither man has fought another lefty in quite some time: for Lara, not since Paul Williams; for Trout, not since David Lopez, with both fights taking place within a month of each other back in the summer of 2011.
Neither man is going to run away with this on the cards, and it could well be a disputed decision, but I expect Lara to control the pace of the fight and - crucially - land the more eye-catching shots on the outside, en route to no wider than a 116-112-type set of verdicts. Lara UD.
This is another great match-up in a weekend that's full of close looking bouts. Both are well schooled southpaws that are sharp punchers rather than big punchers. It'll be interesting to see how their styles mesh, I wouldn't be surprised if the fight was a little messy at times.
I'm leaning towards Lara, I believe his speed will be key for him in this fight. There's not a great deal between the two but if Lara can establish his jab like I'm expecting him to do, then he should be able to control the fight on the outside and do just enough to take the slimmest of points victories. Lara points - around 115-113.
Sakio Bika vs Anthony Dirrell
Dirrell is the better classical boxer but he lacks the experience and toughness that Bika has. Plus Dirrell likes to neglect defense and mix it up. This is Anthony, not Andre. Bika by knockout.
I like Sakio Bika, but I also like Anthony Dirrell. Of the Dirrell boys, give me the crazy-eyed swinger over Dr. Shaw-Hi's most high-profile patient any day. And I think this is a good matchup. It could get pretty wild if Dirrell's attacking nature is able to drag the Hulk back out of Bika, something that Kevin Cunningham has worked to eliminate, it would seem. The Hulk always comes out of Bruce Banner. I think the Hulk comes out of Bika here. Anthony Dirrell may not like him when he's angry. I'm seeing a really good slugfest here, and I do give Dirrell a good shot. Bika TKO-9.
Photos by Tom Casino/SHOWTIME