On Sunday night on FOX, Premier Boxing Champions is back with Jermell Charlo in a short notice replacement main event, while former 122-pound champ Guillermo Rigondeaux takes on Julio Ceja in a WBC eliminator.
Guillermo Rigondeaux vs Julio Ceja
It’s been a long time since Rigondeaux has faced serious competition at 122, and whether or not you count Ceja as serious competition is its own matter entirely. Ceja is a decent fighter, entertaining, has power, but his loss to Franklin Manzanilla in 2018 was a big setback for his status in the sport. He’s fought for titles at 118, won an interim belt, is fun to watch. But Rigondeaux is still almost certainly a terrific technician. Rigo has often been a real pain to watch fight, but he’s also pretty frequently just straight washed totally overmatched opponents — Willie Casey, Teon Kennedy, Rico Ramos, Sod Kokietgym, Jazza Dickens. Ceja could be dangerous here, but if Rigondeaux starts boxing him, it’s over. And it’s also probably over if Rigondeaux comes out looking to make a point. This is either going to be a thrashing in short order or a drawn-out bore. I’m picking on optimism. Rigondeaux TKO-3
Now I may give Rigo shit from time to time for his unappealing performances (I still have nightmares about that Drian Francisco fiasco) and his quit job against Vasiliy Lomachenko, but there’s not much doubt the man is still one of the best technicians out there. Rigo may not give the fans what they want in terms of excitement, but he’s certainly effective at what he does, and that has proven to be plenty enough to beat just about everyone who’s not an otherworldly talent themselves. Ceja is definitely not an otherworldly talent, and is just coming off a stoppage loss to Franklin Manzanilla in May. This is a fight Rigondeaux should dominate one way or another.
I’d like to pick Rigo by stoppage, but he’s proven time and again that he just won’t step outside of his comfort zone to push for a knockout, even if his opponent is completely overmatched. And therein lies the problem with Rigo, commercially, anyway. He’s a patient fighter who loves to wait for his opponents to make mistakes so he can discipline them with counter shots. But the problem with that tends to be the ‘once bitten, twice shy’ rule. Once Rigo’s opponents quickly realize their being punished for throwing punches at him, they become reluctant. You might think that’s when Rigo would take over and go on offense, but you’d be wrong. He’ll continue to play the same game for the duration, even if that leads to 2:30 of inactivity every round. Anyway, I’ll take the safe play here and pick Rigo to win wide on the cards. Rigondeaux UD-12
Patrick L. Stumberg
I actually got Julio Ceja mixed up with Jorge Lara in my head and was going to make a comment about Rigondeaux fighting a man who just got KO’d by a southpaw’s counter left. Oops.
Ceja’s still a solid super bantamweight despite the cut stoppage loss to Franklin Manzanilla last year, boasting a remarkable punch for a 122-pounder. Unfortunately, he faces a paradox: fight in the aggressive manner he’s most comfortable with and put himself in Rigondeaux’s wheelhouse, or make himself a boxer to avoid the knockout and try to somehow win a decision.
In the end, I’m not sure Ceja knows or cares to fight in anything other than guns-blazing fashion, making him the perfect foe to drag an entertaining fight of Rigondeaux. He might get a knockdown before Rigo gets going, but once “El Chacal” gets dialed in, there’s a counter left with Ceja’s name on it just waiting for the Mexican puncher to step into the pocket. Rigondeaux KO-2
It’s great to see Rigo back. I was at the Garden to see Loma break the heart of El Chacal in late-2017; a disappearing act followed before a first-round knockout of Mexican journeyman in January. Now there’s a chance for a springboard back into the heart of the super bantamweight conversation against the heavy-hitting Julio Ceja.
I like this matchup. Ceja will pressure Rigo from the opening bell, forcing the Cuban to display his counterpunching and elusive defensive abilities to the max. Whether – at the age of 38 – they are as effective as we remember is the biggest question hanging over this fight. It’s a huge test for Rigondeaux in what is in reality 18 months away from competitive boxing. I hope we see the Rigondeaux of old, with a reminder of the power he holds at 122-pounds. Rigondeaux UD-12
And the staff winner is...
Guillermo Rigondeaux (4-0)!
Jermell Charlo vs Jorge Cota
Jorge Cota isn’t the worst very short-notice replacement they could have found, but he’s a short-notice replacement, and it is what it is. If this had been Harrison-Charlo II, I was actually going to pick Harrison to scrape a decision again, this time perhaps more deserving of one. But this is what we have instead. Cota will give it an honest effort, but he’s not on Charlo’s level. I just don’t think he can do much with Jermell, assuming Jermell isn’t completely overlooking this fight out of some sincere and substantial disappointment that it’s not the Harrison rematch. Charlo TKO-6
Jermell Charlo comes into this fight looking to bounce back from much disputed decision loss to Tony Harrison last December. The two were supposed to fight in an immediate rematch, but an injury to Harrison delayed those plans for the time being. So in an effort to stay busy Charlo will now take on Jorge Cota, a fighter Charlo should handle pretty easily. Cota is most recently coming off a split decision loss to Jeison Rosario in April and was knocked out by Erickson Lubin in early 2017 (a fighter Charlo would go on to knock out just a few months later). Now that’s not to triangulate or anything, but Charlo is pretty clearly on a level above Cota, who has most of his wins against lackluster opposition. This is a fight I really expect Charlo to dominate, and I think he forces a stoppage in the second half of the fight. Charlo TKO-8
Patrick L. Stumberg
The only thing remotely interesting about his matchup is that Cota can punch, and even that’s tempered by the fact that his only feats of strength against above-average competition were a pair of knockdowns against Yudel Jhonson. He’s fallen short every time he’s stepped up, including a split decision loss to Jeison Rosario two months ago.
For me, the real point of intrigue is whether Charlo finishes him; he rode a four-fight knockout streak into his fight with Austin Trout and floored the veteran twice. I feel like he’s going to come out with something to prove after the Harrison loss, and seeing as Cota got stopped by Marco Antonio Rubio and Erickson Lubin, I don’t anticipate “Demonio” seeing the final bell. Charlo flattens him within the first six rounds. Charlo TKO-4
Blame Tony Harrison’s injured ankle for this fight. With the rematch on hold, Jorge Cota steps in against another JC at short notice – a Mexican stepping in at short notice to upset the odds? What could possibly go wrong? At 31, Cota brings a wealth of experience to the party having dipped his toes in deep enough waters to make this an acceptable replacement bout.
25 KOs in 28 wins shows enough ammo for Jermell to avoid sleeping on this challenge, but despite this, it’s hard to envisage Charlo taking his eye off the ball so much to be caught with one of Cota’s gung-ho attacks. The challenger has natural power, but Charlo has the boxing brain to negate this threat. This should be fun, enough, while it lasts. Cota has been stopped twice in his three losses. Charlo TKO-6