Josesito Lopez - Marcos Maidana
If every fighter needs a lucky break in their career to move them up a level, then look no further than Josesito Lopez. Brought in as a last minute replacement for Andre Berto in a planned and much anticipated rematch with Victor Ortiz, Lopez was beyond written off. Ortiz was too big and Lopez [30-5 18 KO] lacked the resume to provide any sort of credible challenge. Instead Lopez turned up, boxed, scrapped and emerged victorious.
Ortiz? He left with a broken jaw that needed to be wired shut and as yet has not made a return to the ring.
That plucky victory secured Lopez a shot at Saul Alvarez at junior middleweight and a career high day pay. Sure, Lopez was blown away with ease but it wasn’t his weight class unlike Saturday’s welterweight matchup against the wild Argentinean dervish Marcos Maidana [33-3 30 KO] at the Home Depot Center in Carson, California.
Maidana, a terror at light-welterweight, is now looking to secure a firm footing in the 147-pound class where the biggest prize is longtime pound-for-pound king Floyd Mayweather.
But for Lopez, the Ortiz fight may yet prove to be a mixed blessing. He’s now expected to slug rather than box, and he lacks power to duke it with the biggest punch bomb merchants in his division — something that Maidana unquestionably is. Expect Maidana to come strong and deliver a powerful performance that could see him finally face fellow countryman and equally powerful Lucas Matthysse. As for Lopez, Maidana may prove to be the fighter that shifts the limelight away from Lopez and his odds defying antics.
Alfredo Angulo - Erislandy Lara
Most fight fans have two abiding images of Alfredo Angulo.
The first is of the Mexican junior middleweight repeatedly sprinkling the equivalent of boxing catnip for fight fans with incessant brutal knockouts, mostly in the first few stanzas of a fight for the majority of his career. The second is memories of his barbarous and epic bout with James Kirkland in 2011 that ended up as a Fight of the Year candidate but with Angulo on the end of a technical knockout.
After that fight, Angulo [22-2 18 KO] who had been even been tipped as a potential opponent for “Canelo” Alvarez, slipped slightly off the boxing map. Immigration problems for the Mexicali native meant he spent seven months in an immigration center and finally returned late last year with some low level warm up fights. So on Saturday night as part of the co-feature, Angulo is stepping in the ring with his first legitimately dangerous opponent in years — Erislandy Lara. But alas, if the old adage that “styles make fights” holds any truth, the choice of the former amateur star Lara could not have been a worse one, “El Perro.”
While a potential defeat against a slick boxer of Lara’s [17-1-2 11 KO] caliber is usually not career threatening (given Angulo’s crowd pleasing style, and ability to stalk and scythe down opponents), it’s fair to say that “El Perro” is very much the underdog in this fight. In fact most fighters are when confronted with the former standout Cuban amateur who’s awkward but incredibly effective and slick style is paired with a relatively plodding and predictable method synonymous with Angulo. Sure, if Angulo is lucky enough to land enough sweetly, we might hear cries of “timber!” But the likelihood of doing so against one of the more elusive fighters in the sport is slim. Fans can expect a Lara victory — but the return of Angulo to the upper echelons of the sport will always be welcomed even if on Saturday it might prove to be a further setback.
Chad Dawson - Adonis Stevenson
While the action might sizzle in California, over in Canada at Montreal’s Bell Centre, Chad Dawson [31-2 17 KO], the WBC light-heavyweight title holder takes on Adonis Stevenson in a fight that could either revive Dawson’s career or see it slide into a further mediocrity and frank indifference.
The reason is that despite all the promise in the world, including some consistently stellar performances earlier in his career, there has always been something amiss about Chad Dawson. The man who could provide wins like the two victories apiece over Glen Johnson and Antonio Tarver as well as a dramatic and impressive showing over former division stalwart Tomasz Adamek, could just as quickly turn up with lackluster frankly lazy showings against bruisers such as Jean Pascal and two visual abominations against Bernard Hopkins.
For every fight in which Dawson appeared to be the future of the light-heavyweight division, he was able to tarnish that promise with performances reeking of indifference. So on Saturday Dawson, who fights the durable athletic but not as good Stevenson, needs to win and ideally in impressive fashion. A motivated and prime Dawson is the best in the division and defeats the athletic, durable but relatively untested Stevenson [20-1 17 KO]. An unfocused and lethargic Dawson, even if victorious, could see his borderline toxic television stock drop further. The talent is undeniable, but the motivation? That’s a different matter.
The man whose nickname is “Bad” needs to be real bad against Stevenson to make good on his promise and soar to the place where his talent warrants.
Yuriorkis Gamboa - Darley Perez
If this fight goes beyond the opening rounds, then it will be an indictment of how much Gamboa’s career has slid since his defection of Bob Arum’s Top Rank. It’s not that Gamboa is not in his prime or has shown signs of wear and tear. Far from it. It’s just that someone who is aiming to claim a title in a third weight division and resides in the “elite” category of the sport should not be fighting relative unknowns of Darley Perez’s caliber. One perhaps can’t blame if a little indifference creeps in. Gamboa, a former gold medallist for the celebrated Cuban Olympic team is an interstellar mile ahead of anyone else on Perez’s resume, who has a solid but frankly incomparable record. Gamboa should not even break a sweat and should move onto fights matching his quality and stature. Perhaps his promoter 50 Cent can secure something soon.
UFC on Fuel TV 10
Fabricio Werdum - Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira
While the weekend’s fights are dominated by boxing, there is a sprinkling of some UFC to satiate fans that need a sprinkling of a few heel kicks with their heavy diet of punches. On this occasion it’s a relatively unremarkable UFC card from Brazil headlined by at least one notable fight in the shape of heavyweights Werdum and Noguiera.
For Nogueira [34-7-1], the fight is likely to be one of a last hurrahs or curtain calls in a career that is clearly winding down and becoming peppered as much with victories as losses. His victory at UFC 153 over Dave Herman proved that he should never be counted out but is very much the underdog in a tussle with Werdum. The reason is that Werdum [16-5-1], is one of the top contenders in the heavyweight division and continues to improve. Where once he looked limited against the likes of Alistair Overeem, he came back and patched the holes with an impressive win over Roy Nelson. Expect Werdum to triumph on Saturday, and in doing so, add a very credible if somewhat faded name in the form of Noguiera.
Igor Guryashkin is a freelance journalist whose extensive work on combat sports has been featured in ESPN The Magazine and ESPN.com. He splits his time between New York and Louisville. Follow him on Twitter @IGuryashkinESPN.