JOHN HANSEN: It’s tough being the new guy at a site that celebrates its 15th anniversary this month. The readers already know and love the established team. And those guys not only have their own inside jokes, they also have dibs on all the good parking spaces.
Luckily for Jonathan Henschel and me, neither of us has to navigate the situation alone. We both came on board the same day. We may be stuck at the kids table in the employee lunchroom, but at least we have each other for company.
Most of the time, staff picks come and go without us. But, this week, the embarrassment of scheduling riches means more fights than Scott and company can reasonably cover. For once, we’re not the sad puppies at the animal shelter, hoping to get noticed. We’re not the unathletic kids stuck at the end of the team bench. The big guys can have the headliners and main events. We’re grabbing hold of some of the undercard fights, and making our own predictions.
JONATHON HENSCHEL: I’m looking forward to absolutely nailing my picks like I did with my prediction of a Moruti Mthalane victory recently. It’s that kind of astute boxing insight that leads me to say that Adam Lopez vs Isaac Dogboe is the fight to watch this weekend.
HANSEN: Well, I was sure that Jarrett Hurd was going to handle Luis Arias with no trouble. So, both of us are starting this off with solid examples of why we’re writing about boxing and not making a living gambling on it. Whatever it’s worth, I am 100% in agreement with you on the fight of the week. I would say we ought to call it Dogboe vs Lopez, though. Dogboe is Ghanian royalty, and I’m inclined to give him top billing for that alone.
HENSCHEL: Lopez has a legacy, too. Gene Aguilera’s two-book series, Mexican-American Boxing in Los Angeles, and Latino Boxing in Southern California chronicles the extraordinary history of boxing on the west coast in the 20th Century, particularly in the lower weight classes. Ever since reading his first-person and archival account of fighters like Art Aragon, Danny “Little Red” Lopez, Frankie Duarte and on on, I’ve kept an eye out for boxers who I think would have been at home in this era, and would have been embraced by the zealous fans packing the stands at the Olympic Auditorium and the Forum in Inglewood.
As much or more than anyone fighting today, Adam “Blunose” Lopez fits that bill in terms of his style and ability, but also through blood. His father, Hector Lopez, fought in the Forum and Olympic Auditorium a total of 13 times between 1985-1997. You will not see Adam in a bad fight, regardless of outcome, as was evident in his short-notice step up against Oscar Valdez. Were it not for Russel Mora’s questionable decision to end the fight and rob Lopez of his well-deserved chance at glory, that one may well have ended up an instant classic deserving of its own page in a Gene Aguilera book.
In Lopez’ last fight against Jason Sanchez, Timothy Bradley pointed out the fact that he tends to get caught in between styles, which makes the fight harder for him than it needs to be. This is what Dogboe will try to capitalize on. If Lopez chooses to box and control distance early, I think he’ll win going away. But inevitably he’s going to move to the inside and work his excellent combination punching, because that’s what he likes to do. He doesn’t have the punching power of Navarrete, so I think Dogboe will have opportunities where he can be successful when they stand and trade. But by rounds 8 or 9, I think Lopez will have found the right balance of in-fighting and using his jab and movement when he wants a breather, and close out a strong UD win.
HANSEN: I love watching Isaac Dogboe fight, because he brings everything that makes fights fun to watch. He’s aggressive, as any fighter measuring just 64” high and wide needs to be to find success. He’s resilient, as we saw three years ago when he picked himself up from a first round knockdown at the hands of Jessie Magdaleno, then went on to pummel Magdaleno through an upset 11th round TKO that earned Dogboe the WBO title. And he’s tenacious to an extent that’s dangerous to his long-term health, as he showed by enduring 23 and 2/3rds rounds of unrelenting punishment from Emanuel Navarrete.
There’s a chance that Dogboe’s style and size mean we’ve already seen the best he’ll ever show us. It’s depressing to think that way about a 26 year old, but it’s very possible. The second Navarrete fight was the sort of abuse that shortens a career. And Dogboe, never particularly large for a 122 pounder, is now at an even greater size disadvantage fighting as a featherweight.
He’ll give up 4” of height and almost 6” of reach to Lopez. And you already laid out the worst case scenario for Dogboe: Lopez fights smart and disciplined, peppering Dogboe from distance and rolling up rounds to a clear points victory. But even if Lopez plants his feet and gives the sort of fight Dogboe needs, it might not work out in Dogboe’s favor. Dogboe’s introductory fight at 126 pounds was a TKO win against Chris Avalos, an opponent that’s been stopped 4 times in his last 6 fights. Dogboe didn’t get the finish until 35 seconds before the closing bell, which could be a red flag that his power isn’t carrying over at featherweight.
I’d love to see Dogboe plow forward to a win here, because I want to keep seeing him in significant, televised fights. But, I think his only realistic path to victory is one that’s as likely to see him take a KO as to put one on Lopez.
No complaints if Dogboe makes us look like fools, though. If that’s how it shakes out, he and Lopez will surely give us a good show along the way.
ISAAC DOGBOE vs ADAM LOPEZ PREDICTIONS
HENSCHEL: Lopez, 7-3 UD
HANSEN: Lopez, 8th round TKO
HANSEN: Isaac Dogboe is a great lead-in to our next fight, and arguably #2 on the list of best matchups this weekend: Isaac Cruz vs Francisco Vargas.
HENSCHEL: Cruz-Vargas is an enticing matchup, and I think the outcome will largely depend on what Vargas has left after a long and punishing career.
HANSEN: Long and punishing are great adjectives for the sort of fights that earned Francisco Vargas his reputation. He’s one of those rare treasures, like Ruslan Provodnikov, that made themselves appointment viewing despite not being hall of fame level talents.
Vargas won an absolute war against Takashi Miura in 2015’s Fight of the Year, then followed it up with another punishing performance in a draw against Orlando Salido in 2016’s Fight of the Year. He spent most of the latter fight connected at the forehead with Salido, trading hooks and uppercuts for 12 thrilling rounds.
Anyone that could survive those two fights would have my respect forever, even if they spent the rest of their lives gently sleeping on silk pillows. Vargas, apparently driven by a pathological need for misery, went straight on to another 11 rounds of brutality that left his face looking like an overstuffed naugahyde chair, this time losing by TKO to Miguel Berchelt.
Vargas has fought four times since then. He punched Stephen Smith’s ear half off in 2017, knocked out Rod Salka in 2018, then ruined his face again in a 2019 rematch against Berchelt where his corner stopped the fight after the 6th round. Vargas did win a fight against lesser opposition later in 2019, but the consensus is that the mileage has caught up with him, and his days as a contender are years behind us.
HENSCHEL: If Cruz’ one round demolition of Diego Magdeleno tells us anything, it’s that Vargas should reconsider his usual approach of pressing forward behind a high guard. It leaves his body wide open, and Isaac Cruz, if nothing else, is a dedicated body puncher.
However, Cruz is also a bit one-dimensional as a fighter, and can be made to look really ordinary as was the case in his last fight. Previously undefeated Argentinian Jose Romero showed the blueprint to beat Cruz, stick out the jab and don’t ever stay in one place long enough for “Pitbull” to sink his teeth into you.
Cruz’ major weakness is his relatively poor footwork and inability to cut off the ring. If Vargas makes a point to keep Cruz moving and using his feet, I think he could outpoint the young power puncher without many problems. But it is Francisco Vargas we’re talking about after all, and the opportunity to stand and trade will likely be too enticing for him to pass up. Even so, Cruz throws every punch with power, and doesn’t vary the speed and tempo enough to catch Vargas with big punishing shots when he’s not expecting them, the way Miguel Berchelt did. In other words, Cruz will land and have success, I just don’t think he’ll overwhelm Vargas with his power.
So with the full recognition that Vargas is well past his prime and that Isaac Cruz is a hell of a lot of fun to watch, I just don’t think Cruz has anything for Vargas that he hasn’t seen before. I think Vargas will make the decision to stand and trade at the right times, without presenting a stationary target for Cruz to tee off on. Or he might get stung with the first hard shot Cruz lands, and get stopped in depressing fashion.
HANSEN: The hourglass is, at best, nearly empty on the career of Francisco Vargas. He’s 36 years old. His eye sockets are 90% scar tissue, and it doesn’t take much more than a shower with decent water pressure to open them up bleeding these days.
But, for as long as he’s willing to lace up and fight, I’ll be watching. Whatever he has left, you can be sure he’s going to give every bit of it to whoever he’s facing. Cruz looks like the sort of opponent that’s brought out the best in Vargas before. Hopefully there’s a little bit of magic left for this weekend.
ISAAC CRUZ vs FRANCISCO VARGAS PREDICTIONS
HANSEN: Vargas, 7-3 UD
HENSCHEL: Vargas, 7-3 UD
HANSEN: Originally, we were going to close out this piece with a prediction from the Lopez-Kambosos Triller card. That’s obviously off the table, but the alternative you suggested is a brilliant one.
HENSCHEL: I think I speak for everyone when I say we’ve been holding our breath for Julio Cesar Chavez Jr’s next appearance, and now it is upon us: Julio Cesar Chavez Jr vs Anderson “The Spider” Silva, a grand entry into the now well-worn tradition of “faded MMA star vs overrated/famous part-time boxer.”
HANSEN: It’s by far the most popular thing we cover here at Bad Left Hook. So, we conclude by using our fortune telling powers on yet another fight that’s arguably [NOTE: Literally true; stupid people can argue, too.] the most thrilling matchup of the weekend, and a crossover combat sports event that anyone who fell into a coma 9 years ago and only woke up this week is surely salivating to see: Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. vs. Anderson Silva.
June of 2012 was a simpler time. The Mayan Calendar Apocalypse was still six months away. Kids were lined up around the block to be first in line to buy Nintendo’s Wii U. Apple’s new iOS 6 Maps was taking people on thrilling journeys to anywhere but their intended destination. And the world was preparing to fall in love with a Grumpy Cat.
Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. was at his peak. The son of a boxing legend, well on the way to a legendary career of his own. Undefeated in 48 fights. WBC middleweight champion. A multi-millionaire, setting viewership records with each event. Rumors swirling that Salma Hayek might be his future stepmother.
HENSCHEL: But as the heir to boxing’s throne emerged, a parallel dynasty was set to conclude. The final season of Breaking Bad premiered in the summer of 2012, offering a cautionary tale about what happens when you hold onto glory just a little too long. Anderson Silva was dominating the world of MMA unlike anyone before him, quickly establishing himself as the greatest athlete in the brief history of the sport. His striking ability was so far ahead of his peers that it really didn’t look like anyone would be able to test him. It was so uneven, in fact, that he toyed with the idea of facing Roy Jones Jr in a boxing match.
While that never materialized, 2012 saw Silva continue his iron grip over the MMA fiefdom, destroying arch-rival Chael Sonnen and UFC stalwart Stephen Bonnar in short order. But like countless kingpins before him, Silva would finally come up against an opponent who would be too much for him to overcome. People may disagree about who or what that was. Maybe bad luck? It was 2013, after all. Maybe it was age. Maybe it was his unheralded opponent, Chris Weidman. But few would disagree that deep down it was complacency, and boredom from years without a worthy challenge. He put his hands down, stuck his chin out, and the unthinkable happened. In the rematch five months later, he snapped his leg while throwing a kick, and his time atop the sport had reached its end.
HANSEN: Since the glory days of mid-2012, it’s been almost all downhill for Chavez Jr., too. 5 losses out of 11 fights, problems making weight, problems passing drug tests. These days, Junior is widely seen as the biggest stain on his father’s boxing legacy. And that’s saying a lot, given that Chavez Sr.’s other son, Omar, fought 42 times as a professional but was last seen in the ring at a Holiday Inn in Mexico, and literally killed one of his opponents back in 2009. When that’s your brother’s resume, you have to go very wrong to be seen as the disappointing son in the family.
So, what happens now that it’s 2021 and the ineffective force meets the incapable object? Frankly, I have little faith in Chavez Jr. But I have even less confidence in MMA fighters making the switch to boxing. Even against borderline amateur boxers, the results for MMA crossovers haven’t been great. And none of those martial artists were closer to 50 than 40.
Give me Junior by knockout, if for no other reason than because he’ll want to avoid standing for a full eight rounds.
HENSCHEL: Silva was a marvel in his time, with unparalleled punch accuracy and timing in the sport of MMA. But this is now a decade removed from that peak, and the speed and ability to pull the trigger just doesn’t appear to be there for him anymore. Never mind the fact that he will be facing a real boxer, albeit one who is decidedly on the downswing himself.
With that said, Chavez Jr is more than a decade younger, and he’s been in with high level opponents as recently as 2019. 2017, if you don’t want to count the Danny Jacobs debacle, which honestly I would prefer not to.
Like John, I see this ending in a stoppage win for Jr, and for Silva’s sake let’s hope early rather than late. He’s no Ben Askren, or even Tyrone Woodley, whose movements while shadowboxing just don’t look like what we’d expect from even club level fighters. But there’s still no reasonable pathway to victory for “The Spider.”
JULIO CESAR CHAVEZ JR vs ANDERSON SILVA PREDICTIONS
HENSCHEL: Chavez, 2nd round TKO
HANSEN: Chavez, 3rd round KO
HANSEN: The senior staff will be along tomorrow with their usual picks for the weekend’s headline events. Thanks for indulging us. And, be sure to let us know in the comments how horribly wrong we are on anything and everything above.