Tomorrow night on FOX, Premier Boxing Champions has a tripleheader set from the StubHub Center in Carson, California, a venue gaining increasing notoriety for producing action-packed bouts in front of hot crowds, and on paper, this show looks like it fits that bill nicely.
Here's a rundown of the matchups.
Note: All fights receive the StubHub Bump on my grading scale here, up a bit from where they might be at some normal venue.
Victor Ortiz vs Andre Berto
Record: 31-5-2 (24 KO) ... Streak: W2 ... Last 5: 2-3 ... Last 10: 6-3-1 ... Stance: Southpaw ...Height/Reach: 5'9" / 70" ... Age: 29
Thoughts: Ortiz is a true wild card at this point. At 29, he should still have good years left in boxing. But is he really focused? Is he really a fighter anymore, or is he just trying to convince himself that he is?
The last time Ortiz fought a good opponent, he didn't look like a fighter anymore. He was sharp on offense and aggressive against Luis Collazo, but late in the second round, when he got caught with a counter that rocked him, Ortiz essentially short circuited. He turned his back to Collazo, stumbled toward the ropes, and went down to his knees when Collazo pursued. He stayed there for the referee's 10 count. He gave up. He didn't want to get hit.
That was Ortiz's first fight in a year and a half, and it followed surgery that fixed a broken jaw suffered at the hands of Josesito Lopez. It's old hat, but look, Victor Ortiz did say way back when against Marcos Maidana that he wasn't sure he "deserved" to be getting beaten up the way he did in that fight. But Ortiz is not a defense-first fighter, and if he's going to win fights against good fighters, the reality is he's going to get hit. Can he still get hit and get through it? Is he mentally capable of doing that anymore?
He's won two straight, against Manny Perez and Gilberto Sanchez Leon, missing a year between those fights with another surgery on his left hand/wrist. He was hit against Sanchez Leon in December, but Sanchez Leon is a journeyman who started in the sport as a featherweight, and fought Ortiz at 150 pounds. Andre Berto is a full fledged welterweight who packs a punch, which Ortiz very well knows.
There is, in short, no way to truly know what we're going to get out of Victor Ortiz tomorrow night. There are signs that it may not be good, but that's why they fight the fights.
Record: 30-4 (23 KO) ... Streak: L1 ... Last 5: 2-3 ... Last 10: 6-4 ... Stance: Orthodox ...Height/Reach: 5'6½" / 68½" ... Age: 32
Thoughts: Andre Berto is, if nothing else, a tough man. He took a pounding against Ortiz in 2011 and got through 12 rounds. He took a pounding against Robert Guerrero in 2012 and got through 12 rounds. He took a pounding against Jesus Soto Karass in 2013 and was stopped in the 12th round, but he also fought almost that entire fight with one functional arm.
Of course, the other side of that coin is that Berto has lost all of those fights. Like Ortiz, he's lost 3 of his last five. Right now, neither of them are serious welterweight contenders. They're fighting to remain relevant in a division that five years ago had them both up near the top.
Berto is coming off of a loss to Floyd Mayweather last September, but if anything that fight seems to have helped him psychologically. He lost to Mayweather, but everyone does. He seemed pretty pleased with his performance, and he got through a full 12 rounds without his surgically repaired shoulder bothering him.
And in all reality, even if you had that fight 12-0 Mayweather, Berto looked about as good as could have been expected. He has never been on Mayweather's level, and even though he's not the ferocious young fighter he was before the levels went up and things got tougher, he still looked OK for the most part. He was outboxed by a better boxer, but that was no surprise. That said, he didn't look great in his first comeback fight in 2014, and his March 2015 win over Josesito Lopez was a little rocky, too, with Lopez winning the fight before Berto dropped and stopped him in the sixth. There is wear and tear here, and the time for Berto to do whatever he's going to do for the rest of his time in boxing is now.
Matchup Grade: B-. I like the fight on one hand -- good action potential, nice crossroads matchup, and the stakes are as high as they can be all things considered. But this is also a matchup of a second-tier veteran welterweight (Berto) and a guy who's barely been a boxer in the last four years (Ortiz). They gave us a war in 2011, but it's not hard to imagine a scenario where Ortiz is tagged early and doesn't continue, like the Collazo fight. I'm cautiously optimistic that this will be a good one, and hope that it is, but the odds of this being a total dud are high.
Edwin Rodriguez vs Thomas Williams Jr
Record: 28-1 (19 KO) ... Streak: W4 ... Last 5: 4-1 ... Last 10: 9-1 ... Stance: Orthodox ...Height/Reach: 6'0" / 76" ... Age: 30
Thoughts: "La Bomba" Rodriguez is a fighter who has operated well at a certain level and has just sort of stayed around that level for the last five years or so. Given where he was at in his career at the time, his 2010-11 fights with James McGirt, Aaron Pryor Jr, and Will Rosinsky aren't much different than his 2015 fights with Craig Baker and Michael Seals. And look at the names in between: Don George, Jason Escalera, Ezequiel Maderna, Denis Grachev. All right around the same quality.
The one time Rodriguez went outside of that bubble was in 2013, when he was drafted in by a desperate HBO, who broke their unofficial "NO HAYMON!" stance and signed Rodriguez up to fight Andre Ward, because they needed someone for Ward to fight. Rodriguez first missed weight for the super middleweight title bout, then lost an ugly 12-round decision.
This fight is about Rodriguez's normal speed. The good news for fans is that after starting his career as a puncher and then hitting something of a lull between 2011-13, Rodriguez seems to have gone back to his aggressive ways in his recent fights. He stopped Grachev in one before the Ward fight, and in his last three fights, he's gotten Derrick Findley out in one, Craig Baker in three, and Michael Seals in three. He's someone better off playing to his strengths and living with his flaws, rather than trying to spend too much effort being something he's not.
Thomas Williams Jr
Record: 19-1 (13 KO) ... Streak: W2 ... Last 5: 4-1 ... Last 10: 9-1 ... Stance: Southpaw ...Height/Reach: 6'1" / 72" ... Age: 28
Thoughts: Williams was regarded as a top prospect going into his August 2014 fight on ESPN2 against Gabriel Campillo. And he sort of crashed and burned that night, stopped after five rounds by the veteran in a fight where he got busted up and taken to school.
But Williams had an interesting reaction. He went over ringside to commentator Teddy Atlas, who encouraged him to come back from the defeat. Atlas had been a big supporter of Williams', and right at a low moment, was there to tell him to keep going. And Williams came back four months later to beat Michael Gbenga over 10 rounds.
Last year, he fought just once, stopping Umberto Savigne in two rounds. Like the Rodriguez-Seals fight that followed on the same card, it was a knock-down, drag-out affair, both fighters hitting the canvas in the first round. Williams has shown that he can handle adversity and setbacks, and if nothing else is a fighter with a style worth tuning in to see. He's got skills, but he loves a good fight, too.
Matchup Grade: B. There is some added relevance to this fight now that it appears the winner will be facing Adonis Stevenson for the WBC title later this year. It's also simply a great action matchup on paper. Both guys can be easily convinced to brawl, both have great early power, and both go for the finish when they have an opponent hurt. It's a pick'em on paper, and should be fun, however long it lasts.
Fernando Montiel vs Jorge Lara
Record: 54-5-2 (39 KO) ... Streak: L1 ... Last 5: 4-1 ... Last 10: 8-2 ... Stance: Orthodox ...Height/Reach: 5'4" / 66½" ... Age: 37
Thoughts: Fernando Montiel is ancient and shouldn't be a credible featherweight. But, well, here we are. He's 37 and he is. The former three-division titleholder (flyweight, super flyweight, and bantamweight) gave IBF titleholder Lee Selby a decent fight last October, losing a 12-round decision.
Montiel really does not have the frame for featherweight any more than Vic Darchinyan or Nonito Donaire, who is bigger than both of them -- Donaire used that size advantage in part to help him smash the two of them, Darchinyan at flyweight and Montiel at bantamweight. Montiel seemed to be pushing it at bantamweight. Now he's fighting capably two divisions higher. Go figure.
The real drawback for Montiel as a featherweight, though, is he does not have the power he did at lower weights, which is obvious and might have even been the biggest thing that held him back against Selby. If he'd been able to really hurt Selby, that fight might have looked a lot different.
Record: 27-0-2 (19 KO) ... Streak: D1 ... Last 5: 4-0-1 ... Last 10: 9-0-1 ... Stance: Southpaw ...Height/Reach: 5'6" / 66" ... Age: 25
Thoughts: There's not much to Lara's undefeated record, really. His best opponent has been Jesus Rojas, and the two of them fought to a technical draw in six rounds last September, which was Lara's last fight. Other than that, his better wins are over guys like Oscar Ibarra and Jovanny Soto, veteran knockaround guys. (He did face Cesar Juarez and win back in 2012, but Juarez is certainly a better fighter now than he was then.)
The main thing to note here is power. Where Montiel lacks power at 126, Lara is a natural featherweight who has displayed plenty of punch over his career. He dropped Juarez three times when they fought; it went the distance, but still. He put Ibarra down twice. He put Soto down three times. Montiel is a different level of fighter, but if it comes down to a firefight, Lara is probably bringing heavier ammunition.
Matchup Grade: B-. Really nothing not to like about the fight. I mean, it's not a marquee attraction or super main event, but it's solid matchmaking, a veteran who still can fight against a young guy trying to score his biggest win and establish himself as a threat in the division.