Larios Moves Towards Date With Chi

larios02.04.07 - By John Way, photo by Sumio Yamada: Last Friday, former world champion Oscar Larios moved one step closer to another world boxing title by beating low level journeyman, Luis Cid by unanimous decision. Don't be fooled, the victory over the mediocre Cid did nothing to enhance Larios' world rating; instead, this fight was signed with the intention of keeping him sharp for a far more imposing challenge: In Jin Chi. After beating Cid in convincing fashion, Larios will fight Chi for the WBC featherweight championship on May 26. A hard working but inconsistent performer, Larios has evolved as a fighter over the years; from a straight-forward knockout artist to a crafty accumulation puncher. His two title tiffs with Belfast's Pocket Rocket, Mr. Wayne McCollough were miniature classics of the ring. The boxing clinic he put on against Cesar Soto was a stirring display of skill and strength. His vicious Fight Of The Year type brawl with Israel Vasquez on ESPN's Friday Night Fights was the type of elite match up typically reserved for the premium cable networks. Most recently he's remembered for a courageous duel with pound for pound sheriff, Manny "The Destroyer" Pacquiao, peeling himself off the canvas twice to last the twelve round distance..

After his back to back loses to Vasquez (in the rubber match) and Pacquiao, a victory over Chi would be a fantastic achievement after his recent letdowns. With Humberto Soto, Chris John, and Robert Guerrero milling around in the same division, there is a plethora of excellent title challengers to test his skills against. After complaining for several years about the burden of sweating his 5'8" frame down to the junior featherweight boxing limit, a move four pounds north was long overdue. As tough and determined as he is, punch resistance problems have been Larios' biggest problem for years. His first loss came in 1997, when he was violently stopped by thudding left hook from Vasquez in the opening stanza. Eleven fights later, the tender flesh around his eyes betrayed him, and he was stopped on cuts in five rounds against Agapito Sanchez. In the rubber match with Vasquez last year he was dropped hard in the first round before the fight was stopped on cuts in the third. Weak skin and a weak chin have been constant annoyances throughout his career. Well into the last leg of his career at thirty years old, and with sixty-five fights under belt, the ring wear is starting to show in his performances.

He'll need to be in peak form to beat In Jin Chi. A man-eating brawler from South Korea, Chi will be making the first title defense of his second reign as the WBC belt holder. After a disappointing split decision loss to Takashi Koshimoto seemed to end his boxing career as an elite fighter, he returned to the ring after an eleven-month hiatus to punish Koshimoto's conqueror, Rodolfo Lopez, regaining the title by unanimous decision. Though Chi's comeback win was a commendable achievement, the performance was below the level fans have come to expect from the swashbuckler. Naturally, he chalks the flawed performance up to his recent inactivity. When at his best, Chi is a hard-hitting, hard-headed swarmer who drives a hard bargain with his opponents. He makes up for his lack of hand speed by constantly dictating the action with aggression and superior timing. Excellent endurance, an educated body attack, and a diverse offensive arsenal make him a well-rounded fighter.

Chi's career-defining performance came on July 28 2001, when he waged war with Erik "El Terrible" Morales for twelve rounds before dropping a unanimous decision. He had gone toe-to-toe with one of the best fighters of his generation, even managing to slam the Mexican's eye shut with looping left hooks. Larios would be well served to learn from the mistakes of his countryman: box, don't brawl with Chi. Meanwhile, a man as tough and tireless as Chi must find encouragement in the success of Pacquiao's constant pressure tactics against Larios. Fighting on the boxing undercard of Joan Guzman's lightweight debut against Michael Katidis on HBO's Boxing After Dark series, the stakes are definitely high for both men on May 26. A win for the Mexican would guarantee at least one more payday (possibly a fourth fight with Vasquez). For Chi, a convincing victory would be one step closer to the stardom that he seemed destined for back in 2001. Let's just hope this doesn't end in a draw! Comments and questions are welcome below.

Article posted on 02.04.2007

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