This Saturday night, the fans win on both coasts when Oscar Valdez and Shakur Stevenson meet in the West not long after an undisputed bout takes place in New York, matching Katie Taylor with Amanda Serrano.
The sport is on a great run right now and will continue at least thru June. The promoters and networks have agreed to make sure fans at home can see these two main events separately. Valdez vs. Stevenson will be on ESPN, and Taylor vs. Serrano will be on DAZN.
Madison Square Garden will be humming when Ireland and Puerto Rico get it popping in what should be a boisterous live audience considering the location and stakes of the matchup. Katie Taylor turned pro in late 2016 after a stellar amateur career that included a gold medal in 2012. In her 8th pro bout, she defeated a solid fighter in Jessica McCaskill. Twice she beat Delfine Persoon, one by majority decision, and another close victory came over Natasha Jonas. Katie Taylor looks every bit the part of a skillful boxer that can also deliver when the going gets tough. She’s been tested a few times, but this boxing podcaster believes, like many, that her opponent on Saturday will be her biggest hurdle thus far.
Amanda Serrano was heavily influenced by watching her sister Cindy’s box. Amanda had just ten amateur bouts, but that hasn’t stopped her from putting together an impressive pro career. In 2009 Serrano made her pro debut, and in 15 fights with just one draw, she challenged for a world title. In a close loss to Frida Wallberg, 23 victories later, Amanda stepped up against then-undefeated boxer Heather Hardy. Serrano beat the always-game Hardy cleanly, which put her on the map of the hardcore boxing scene. Serrano has collected belts at seven different weight classes, recently signed with Jake Paul’s MVP promotional outfit, and she’s seen a bump in popularity heading into a battle with Katie Taylor for all the marbles at lightweight.
Can Katie use her boxing IQ and ring generalship to keep Serrano at bay? If she’s able to accomplish that, she will win this fight. Taylor can land the necessary punches but will they have enough on them to disarm Amanda? Serrano has skill as well to go along with grit and combination punching. Will Amanda be able to crack the defense and footwork on what will be a moving target in Taylor? The tried and true boxer versus puncher tag does apply here, but each fighter has layers to their game, making it a 50-50 on the betting books.
Look for Taylor to get off to a better start in the opening minutes, then a power punch by Serrano followed by combo punching will turn the tide. Taylor will need to be at her technical best-placing shots, whether lead or counter, at the right time, along with her movement both head and feet. As long as Serrano doesn’t get carried away trying to land only big punches and focuses on winning the rounds with volume punching, she will get her hand raised. A good start by Taylor slowly but surely turns in favor of the heavier-handed Serrano once she establishes the range she needs to deliver. The overall depth of woman’s boxing is still a problem, but the recent surge will only improve it as the youth will surely be heavily influenced and motivated. A matchup up like this could go a long way in furthering the positive vibes taking place in woman’s boxing.
My Official Prediction is Amanda Serrano by Majority-Decision.
Flipping coasts out to the fight capital of the world, Las Vegas, Nevada, where we find a lineal title on the line. One could debate how Oscar Valdez, who was dropped out of the ring magazine rankings due to having a banned substance in his system, can be fighting for their title. Regardless this is a legit one versus two at junior lightweight involving two former Olympians. It’s safe to say both men will be facing their stiffest competition once the first bell rings on Saturday at the MGM Grand Arena.
Oscar Valdez is far and away the more experienced fighter, having faced a variety of veteran boxers at this point. He’s touched the canvas more than once and has found himself in several adverse situations as a professional. He’s not your stereotypical ‘Mexican’ fighter, yes, Valdez likes to attack the body, and yes, he is more than willing to exchange punches. However, you can still see the amateur influence in Oscar’s game at times, using a solid jab and circling his opposition fighting at range instead of always face-first raging forward.
It took a fair amount of fights for Shakur Stevenson to get the non-paid ranks habits out of his system. Even somewhat recently, he was content to outbox and fight smart against Jeremia Nakathila. The funny thing is Shakur told the media that he could punch, so he was using his skill set to win the fight, not just in there to prove a point. And sure enough, Nakathila showed his power by stopping Miguel Berchelt in March. Even though Shakur chose to outbox regardless if the fans and media claimed he was boring last fall, he proved he had a different gear. Stevenson took the fight right to WBO champ Jamel Herring to almost everyone’s surprise, including Herring.
Stevenson hasn’t lost many rounds in his 17-bout career, and his defense has stood out, to say the least. Although Shakur has already won titles at two weight classes beyond Herring, he really hasn’t been in the ring against a top-level guy.
Saturday, he will get his chance to show the world that he is as great as he and many experts think. Stevenson having past the eye test with flying colors, has a chance to put on a performance that will have the boxing world raving.
As the outside boxer, one can assume Stevenson will use a jab and lateral movement to land enough punches to win the early frames. Oscar will have to take some damage to get inside, and once in that spot must really commit to bodywork and punches in bunches. Cutting off the ring and trapping Stevenson on the ropes or in the corner will be a must. That’s not to say using footwork to step to the side keeping his head off center won’t be needed, but he must rough up and fluster Shakur as much as possible. Tying up Shakur and landing scoring blows or shots on the hip is a sure way to at least frustrate, if not wear down Stevenson.
Stevenson will get hit several times with shots we haven’t seen at the pro ranks, but the adjustments he will make will be the difference. Look for Shakur to be first most of the night, along with constantly turning Oscar and making him miss power punches. His ability to time and counter Valdez will be what wins him this fight, along with spots in a given round where he will see Shakur bite down and exchange.
Shakur is just too accurate of a sharpshooter for Oscar and by the mid-to-late rounds, look for Stevenson to really pour on the clean punching. Don’t get me wrong, Oscar will win rounds and have moments, but it won’t add up to a victory unless he lands a game-change which he is fully capable of. Overall pedigree and too many paths to victory is the main reason this hack-of-a-scribe is leaning with the young man from Newark, New Jersey.
My Official Prediction is Shakur Stevenson by Unanimous Decision.
Written by Chris Carlson Host/Producer of The Rope A Dope Radio Podcast Available at www.blogtalkradio.com/ropeadoperadio & TheGruelingTruth.Com Follow on Twitter @RopeADopeRadio