Wladimir Klitschko, Keith Thurman, Lucas Matthysse, and Omar Figueroa are expected to roll against a group of stay-busy level opponents, at least on paper. Is anyone ripe for an upset? No, probably not! But maybe! You never know!!
Well, not the start I'd have hoped for, but you win some and you lose some. I'm going to keep a tally of the weekly picks record, mostly to prove just how stupid I really am when it comes to picking fight winners. Also note, I don't, like, care? At all?
Anyway, I went 2-1 on winners, but I figured Quillin would stop Konecny, and he did not. I did pick Paulie Malignaggi to beat Shawn Porter, because I thought his craftiness and veteranness and savviness and skillsiness would prove out over the raw physicality of Porter. Uh, no. Not quite.
Hopkins-Shumenov I nailed. Let's focus on that. King of the world!
And now, to this week's picks!
Wladimir Klitschko vs Alex Leapai
Key For Klitschko: Show up. Be Klitschko.
Key For Leapai: Act of God? That or lucky knockout shot. He does have power, but so have a lot of guys. Using it on Wladimir is another story.
Prediction: Won't be competitive. When the build-up to the fight has been largely stolen by a 42-year-old Shannon Briggs taking off his shirt and yelling, you've got some idea as to what kind of fight this is. Klitschko by whatever he feels like.
Keith Thurman vs Julio Diaz
Key For Thurman: Thurman has a rare gift of true confidence combined with an ability to adjust within a fight. He's got enormous power, but his boxing is underrated. He showed against Diego Chaves that he won't fight stupid just to do it -- against adversity, he made some in-fight changes and got the job done.
Key For Diaz: Diaz is 0-2-1 in his last three, which makes his status as a main event fighter on Showtime very weak on paper, and he's the underdog because he should be. But Diaz nearly upset both Shawn Porter and Amir Khan, and he wasn't a total walkover for Porter in their rematch, either. Diaz has been around the block a few times and still handles himself pretty well in the ring. That said, he can be hurt. He needs to avoid Thurman's big power.
Prediction: Thurman should win this fight handily, but he can't overlook it, either. And it's unlikely that he will. Det. Sweet Keith seems to have a real handle on where he's at and where he wants to be. This is a fighter with clear goals and he's serious about them. Thurman by late stoppage.
Lucas Matthysse vs John Molina
Key For Matthysse: The best idea for Matthysse might be to come out and look to hurt Molina early and often. Antonio DeMarco caught Molina cold, and while you definitely can't "scout" a 44-second fight and take much from it, we know Molina can be hurt, and Matthysse is a very big puncher who thrashed Lamont Peterson last year before falling short against Danny Garcia. Lucas will probably look to impress, so if he comes out gunning, don't be surprised. And don't be surprised if it's a short night.
Key For Molina: Molina's a gritty fighter, a true Solid Guy, with big ol' grapefruit balls and some good power. And he is right that physically, he'll have some advantages in height and reach, but it's not like Molina is known for boxing on the outside and employing a jab. And I'm not saying he can't, either, I'm just saying his instinct is to flat-out throw down and fight, and a firefight with Matthysse probably isn't the best strategy. I will say that I think many of us (myself included) allowed ourselves to be a bit blinded by Matthysse's destructive run against the likes of Soto, Ajose, and Mike Dallas, even when we include Peterson in that group. But we know he takes a good shot, and we know his power is legit.
Prediction: Matthysse might get tagged back some, but he'll get Molina out fairly early in an all action battle that should steal the show. Both of these guys fight for knockouts, and we'll get one. Matthysse by mid-rounds stoppage.
Omar Figueroa vs Jerry Belmontes
Key For Figueroa: Figueroa is one of the most exciting action fighters out there, and Belmontes is on paper the level of fighter he's faced thus far, pretty decent but not a top guy. Does Belmontes deserve a world title shot? Not really, but then Figueroa doesn't deserve to be called "world champion" yet, either. There may come a day when the all-action pressure style of Figueroa is "exposed" by a top boxer, but will it be this day? Can I ask another question and answer it myself? Is that really lazy and annoying? Am I bothering you right now? Are you wondering why you're still reading?
Key For Belmontes: Belmontes needs to box, box, and box some more. If he's going to win this fight, he'll have to do it on points, and if he's going to do it on points, he'll have to thoroughly frustrate and clearly beat Figueroa. Maybe there's something to be taken from the way Rod Salka has handled Ricardo Alvarez and Alexei Collado in recent months. Salka is no puncher and wouldn't be called a master technician, but he's got good fundamentals, didn't make mistakes, and worked over Alvarez with a jab before getting robbed, then beat Collado every which way but loose. Probably loose, too.
Prediction: I think this might wind up being a much trickier fight than most are anticipating. That depends on whether or not Belmontes turned a corner last time out and started putting it together, which would be no great shock given he's only 25 and a fighter can learn from the sort of losses he's had earlier in his career. Gabe Rosado is a recent example of a guy who learned on the job, took lessons from his defeats, and emerged a more complete fighter. Of course, Rosado also fell short at the top level once he got there. Belmontes could be similar. It would be very bold to pick the upset here, but if Figueroa is really rusty and/or has hand issues again, this could become intriguing. Still, going with the favorite. Figueroa by stoppage, mid-rounds.