Showtime has a triple-header of world title fights starting tonight at 9:30 pm EDT from Washington, DC, and we'll have live coverage of the event (starting at 7:00 pm EDT with the prelim fights, actually) as always. This morning, let's take a look at the trio of matchups and make some bold and daring predictions.
Bernard Hopkins vs Beibut Shumenov
Key For Hopkins: Bernard took advantage of two aggressive, flawed fighters last year in wins over Tavoris Cloud and Karo Murat, and it's debatable whether or not Shumenov is actually better than either of them. Sure, he holds a title, but he got it via robbery and hasn't defended even once against a legitimate contender in the four years since he "beat" Gabriel Campillo. Shumenov will have a little size on Bernard, but it won't be the first time that Hopkins has been relatively small at light heavyweight. Bernard is the favorite because he should be. Forget the fact that he's 49 years old (which is really old for a pro athlete). Throw it out the window. Everyone believes he's a better fighter than Shumenov, and he's earned that by proving it repeatedly. Shumenov doesn't have a win as good as Cloud or Murat. He doesn't have a win close to as good.
Key For Shumenov: Shumenov might have an opening if Bernard fights aggressively the way he did against Murat, because that's where Shumenov is at his best. He's bigger and stronger than Murat, and a better puncher. If Hopkins gets into some silly exchanges, he could get clipped. That and the expired hope of Hopkins "getting old" in this fight are about the only things I can see as a way for Beibut to win.
Prediction: This is not a mismatch (Hopkins is listed at -200, Shumenov at +160), but I'm completely confident that Hopkins can and will win this fight. I'm about as sure that Bernard will win this fight as I am that Floyd Mayweather will beat Marcos Maidana. Maidana's better than Shumenov, and Hopkins isn't as good as Mayweather, so that should tell you what I think of Mayweather-Maidana. B-Hop won't get that stoppage win he supposedly wants, though. Bernard Hopkins by decision.
Shawn Porter vs Paulie Malignaggi
Key For Porter: Power and youth. Porter has both over Paulie. In some ways, Devon Alexander was a pretty good learning experience for Malignaggi, even though the two don't fight the same style, and Alexander's a southpaw. Devon and Malignaggi both like to work off the jab, though Paulie's is better than Alexander's, and their perceived advantages over Porter are about the same. It wasn't too long ago that "Showtime" Shawn was looking quite ordinary against Julio Diaz, but he clearly learned from that fight and has become a much better, more well-rounded fighter. Porter may look to Malignaggi's 2008 loss to Ricky Hatton and 2006 loss to Miguel Cotto to find some success here. If he can bulldoze Malignaggi, there's just not enough firepower coming back from Paulie to stop him from doing as he pleases, as Cotto and Hatton were willing to find out.
Key For Malignaggi: Experience, savvy, ring IQ, and potentially, the mental game. Paulie is one of the most clever fighters of his generation, so much so that it's almost a shame to think about how good he might have been if his hands weren't so fragile and some of his power had remained. Over his career, Paulie has lost clearly only to Hatton and Cotto, who as mentioned before just overpowered him, and Amir Khan, who was similar but superior to Malignaggi, using his hand speed to batter Paulie en route to an 11th round stoppage. His other two losses to Juan Diaz and Adrien Broner were questionable, and he fared well in both bouts. Is Porter closer to Hatton/Cotto/Khan level, or the Diaz/Broner level? If it's the latter, Shawn could be in some major trouble, and it's hardly unthinkable that he's closer to those guys than the other three.
Prediction: Porter will probably look to come out fast and try to physically bully Malignaggi into a more defensive mode of operation, because while Malignaggi is a good defensive fighter, his offense suffers greatly if he has to constantly think defense first, and Paulie doesn't have a varied enough attack to suffer any offensive setbacks. Porter has the larger skill set physically, but I can't shake the feeling that Malignaggi is going to get into Porter's head early, frustrate the younger man, and box his way to a second world title at 147 pounds. Zab Judah still had physical advantages over Malignaggi, too, but he couldn't beat him mentally, and thus couldn't beat him. This should be the most competitive and interesting fight of the night. Paulie Malignaggi by decision.
Peter Quillin vs Lukas Konecny
Key For Quillin: Don't break a leg or ankle or something that prevents him from standing upright effectively. There's no reason Quillin, a 25-to-1 favorite, should lose this fight. None whatsoever. He's got a lot of size, he's got youth and speed, power -- there's nothing he doesn't have on Konecny, other than experience, and in this case, the skill levels aren't close enough to make that a major issue.
Key For Konecny: Hope that Quillin breaks a leg or ankle or something that prevents him from standing upright effectively. Konecny is a gutsy, game fighter, and I think he'll make some new fans with this fight, but he's not a qualified world title contender at 160 pounds. At his best, he's an aggressive pressure fighter, but Quillin's punching power and speed figures to get Konecny rocked frequently if not knocked out. Konecny's not a puncher.
Prediction: Quillin in a near-walkover, with all due respect to Konecny. I hate sort of insulting fighters in fights like this one, because Konecny is going to come and give his best effort, 100 percent. I have no doubt about that. And he's not a bad fighter by any means. He's a quality, solid veteran who can still handle himself in the ring, even though he is past his prime. He's not shot, he's not a "bum," but he's overmatched physically in this fight and I don't think he's going to have much if any success. It's another soft touch for Quillin, whose title reign is thus far not matching the exciting win that got him the belt. Quillin by mid-rounds TKO.