Espn2 Friday Night Fights is back, but not for the season, rather a double dip of sorts that kicks off Wednesday night in Southern California at the Barker Hangar. The winner of Wednesday’s bout will be in line for a title shot facing the winner of Wednesday’s fight between Jermain Taylor and Sam Soliman, which will also be broadcasted by Espn.
A few years ago, and 8 pounds north of his current weight class, Curtis Stevens was on a path leading to nowhere fast on the world level. Stevens, known for his power in both hands, struggled mightily with the likes of Jessie Brinkley and Marcos Primera.
With his wheels spinning being stuck in a deep super middleweight division, Stevens decided to test the waters at 160. The move down filled his pockets and raised his profile with a series of stay busy fights on the NBC Sports Network.
Playing hardball with the suits served him well as he was able to land a title shot with HBO’s darling at the time, Gennady Golovkin. The fact that he wasn’t scared to step in the ring with G.G.G., like the majority of guys at 160 seem to be, has earned him a nice following.
Fast forward to the tenth round of a fight he was clearly getting out-boxed by Tureano Johnson until he landed a game-changing punch, forcing Johnson on the ropes and in trouble. Whether the referee stopped the contest too early or not, you have to respect what Stevens pulled off.
Hassan N’Dam spent most of his career fighting in France, capturing an interim WBA 160 title by beating Avtandil Khurtsidze. Almost two years ago Hassan crossed the pond with a sparkling record to face a fellow unbeaten foe in Peter Quillin.
What ensued was a great two-way battle that saw N’Dam hit the canvas six times in total. Even with those setbacks Hassan’s fighter spirit shined through, as he continually got back up and raged forward hurting Quillin on more than one occasion.
After the suffering his first loss as a pro, N’Dam stayed out of the ring for over a year. Now having fought 3 times since last December, Hassan should be sharp and won’t be able to use the “not properly prepared” excuse that he did following the Quillin fight.
Which brings us to tonight’s bout where the rubber meets the road for both men. A win here brings a title shot in what would be a very winnable fight no matter who the winner will be on Saturday.
Logic tells us that N’Dam’s best chance with a puncher like Curtis is to get on his bicycle and deplore a stick-and-move strategy. The question is how long will he be able to stay under control without getting caught in exchanging, the way he did all night versus Peter Quillin?
Did the limited Stevens learn anything in his last fight that he could carry over? Or will he be the same one-dimensional fighter he has always been?
My guess is somewhere in between for both combatants, and predicting left-hook exchanges that result in a knockdown or three, isn’t really going out on a limb.
I see this fight playing out in a similar fashion to “Showtime’s” last fight with Johnson, in which he was able to land a punch that changed the whole fight. And yes, I see those same punches landing in an exchange. Segments of this equally matched scrap will be action-packed, while a good chunk of it could feature one punch at a time, clinch, and repeat.
If N’Dam can use his stick to set up the rest of his offense, combined with a hit-and-clinch game plan, he could win going away. Personally, I don’t think he will stay focused, and at some point get caught enough times to hurt him where it really counts, on the scorecards.
My official prediction is Curtis Stevens by Late Stoppage or Majority Decision.
Written by Chris Carlson Owner and Host of Rope A Dope Radio at http://www.blogtalkradio.com/ropeadoperadio Follow on Twitter @RopeADopeRadio