After a 61 year drought, world championship boxing makes a sensational return to the New York borough of Brooklyn tomorrow evening with a quadruple title show at the spanking new Brooklyn Centre (home to the Brooklyn Nets NBA franchise).
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Headline act of the card screened live by Showtime across the US is a rematch for the WBC and WBA Super light-welter titles between Danny Garcia and Mexican legend Erik Morales.
Could viewers be tuning in to witness the final ring appearance of Mexico’s only four division world champion? Victorious in 19 of the 24 world title wars he has waged over five divisions since September 1997, ‘El Terrible’ is a ‘shoe in’ first ballet inductee to the International Boxing Hall of Fame in Canastota after he finally bows out.
In his prime, the Tijuana man was the ultimate machismo Azteca warrior; granite chinned, leaden fisted, and blessed with the fiercest fighting spirit. His scalp list includes notables like Daniel Zaragoza, Junuior Jones, Wayne McCullough, Marco Antonio Barrera, Kevin Kelley, Guty Espadas, In Jin Chi, Paulie Ayala, Jesus Chavez, Carlos Hernandez and Manny Pacquiao! A true great.
Garcia might be just about the worst type of opponent that Morales could confront at this battle worn stage of his career. At 24, the Puerto Rican descendant is ambitious, bull strong and mobile; an extremely competent all rounder blessed with deceptively heavy hands.
Unbeaten in 24, ‘Swift’ has been a rising star on the Golden Boy roster for several years now and Morales should expect an even more formidable beast following the inject of confidence that championship status and his subsequent four round wipe out of Amir Khan will bring. Unsurprisingly, bookmakers have placed Garcia at 8-1on, to retain his belts.
Since returning from a well needed 31 month break in March 2010, the Mexican great has looked reasonable, getting edged out on a majority after a valiant challenge to Marcos Maidana for the interim WBA 10 stone strap, prior to landing that historic fourth WBC belt with a ten round retirement victory over late sub Pablo Cesar Cano in September of last year.
In fairness, 36 is not ancient for a prizefighter in the modern age and his initial spat with Garcia was undeniably close for ten rounds. Morales dismisses his subsequent demise in the championship rounds on the gall bladder surgery he endured just three months before the fight. After training manically at altitude in the Mexican mountains, he is adamant he shall not be found wanting this time.
Given his vast experience in such rarefied company, he might be competitive for half a dozen rounds – Khan showed Garcia can be outboxed – but there is no escaping that the fight is made for 12 and I expect him to be stopped any time after the turn.
Far more competitive should be the homecoming of WBA welterweight king Paulie ‘Magic Man’ Malignaggi who makes an interesting maiden defence against rising Mexican banger Pablo Cesar Cano.
The 31 year old Sicilian-New Yorker – stopped comprehensively in eleven rounds by both Ricky Hatton and Amir Khan at light-welter – is presently in the richest form of his 11 year, 35 fight career (just four losses).
In April, live on BoxNation, he travelled to the Ukraine to boss and stop previously undefeated home hero Vyacheslav Senchenko in nine rounds (albeit on a cut) to plunder the title.
A former IBF titlist down at ten stone, it was the brash and flashy Brooklyn native’s championship debut up at 147lbs and, given he’d stopped just seven of 31 at the weight below, it was commonly predicted that he’d lack the brawn and pop to be competitive.
But ‘The Magic Man’ reminded us that his A game has always revolved around frenetic lateral movement, plus speed of fist, foot and thought. There was no evidence that any of those tools had diminished following advances in age and weight over in Donetsk. This is his first gig in Brooklyn since his July 2001 pro debut and he’ll certainly be hoping to turn on the style.
Malignaggi can expect plenty of problems from Senor Cano, the WBA’s ‘interim’ champion, who is appetizingly priced at 4-1 to spring an upset.
The 23 year old from Mexico City has lost just once in 27 – that short notice defeat to Morales – and has sent 19 of his victims for an early shower. Known professionally as ‘El Demoledor’ (The Demolisher), several succumbed to his brutal body attack. It is no surprise to find he is schooled by Rudy Perez who enjoyed a long and productive association with Marco Antonio Barrera.
This should prove the most even scrap on the card and, despite the heavy odds in Malignaggi’s favour, it could swing either way.
But fighting in Brooklyn should sway the close rounds in the home fighters direction. Malignaggi on points, possibly controversially, after 12 high paced, action filled rounds would appear the safe pick.
Another ’Brooklynite’ anxious to grab the limelight will be highly touted middleweight Peter ‘Kid Chocolate’ Quillin, who finally debuts at world championship level when challenging unbeaten French-African Hassan N’Dam N’Jikam for the vacant WBO strap.
At 29, Quilliin is arguably the oldest ‘prospect’ in the sport. Now a resident of Manhattan, the Cuban descendant spent his formative professional years learning his craft in the borough. Undefeated in 27, with 20 stoppage wins, he appears to possess the full package; speed, athleticism, durability, a high punch output and chilling power.
A former streetfighter with nominal amateur experience, the 6ft 1in starlet joined the profession in June 2005 and has cruised past the likes of Antwun Echols, Fernando Zuniga, (both comprehensively outpointed over 10), Jesse Brinkley (butchered in three) and Edinburgh’s useful Craig McEwan (halted in six). Last time, he emphatically schooled a faded Winky Wright, dropping the former two weight world champion in round five.
Sterner tutorials will have taken place behind closed doors at coach Freddie Roach’s Wildcard gym in California where his sparmates include Julio Cesar Chavez Jnr and Gennady Golovkin. Brits Carl Froch and Matt Macklin both provide glowing testimonials after utilising Quillin’s services.
With promoters Golden Boy seemingly grooming Quillin for future superfights against Sergio Martinez and Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez, the ‘Kid’ will be eager to standout against exalted company on this card.
Opponent N’Dam N’Jikam also arrives with a perfect 27 fight slate (albeit with three fewer stoppages) and enters as the more decorated challenger; having captured ‘interim’ world titles with both the WBA and WBO.
The Cameroon born, French resident can also claim a better amateur pedigree, having captured silver at the 2003 All African Games in Nigeria and competed at the 2004 Athens Olympics. There, he eliminated Ireland’s Andy Lee on a countback, prior to conceding to a Russian in the quarter-finals.
After a drawn out apprenticeship, he surfaced at world level in October 2010 when he unanimously outpointed 5ft 4in Georgian Avtandil Khurtsidze for the WBA ‘interim’ belt. However, worryingly, he has fought just twice since, bagging clear decisions in interim championships over the Dominican Republic’s Giovanni Lorenzo (WBA) and the Ukraine’s Max Byrsak (WBO).
At 28, he is close to his physical peak and, with a cherished unbeaten record to safeguard and fresh US audience to impress, his motivation and ambition should both be high.
So certainly a ‘live’ test for Quillin but one he should certainly be capable of conquering on home soil. His quicker, slicker, harder combinations should allow him to be increasingly dominant as the fight develops and enable him to win clearly, if not comfortably, on points. Anything sooner would be mightily impressive.
The final world championship pitches 38 year old IBF welter king Randall Bailey against slick St Louis southpaw Devon Alexander.
Champion Bailey is justifiably known as ‘The Knockout King’ having stopped 37 victims on his 43-7 card. Promoter Lou DiBella styles him as ‘the hardest puncher, pound-for-pound in boxing’ and that may indeed be the case. However, he’s some distance from being the best technician and shall open the defence of his title as a 5-1 underdog.
Those odds shall be highly appealing to anyone who witnessed his vacant title win over Philadelphia’s previously unbeaten Mike Jones in June. A country mile adrift on the official cards, the Floridian flattened Jones with the old one-two in round ten before dispatching him for good with a vicious uppercut in the following session.
And that victory was certainly no fluke. Bailey has made a habit of relieving opponents from their senses since debuting way back in April 1996.
Each of his first 21opponents were dispatched inside the distance as he clattered his way to the WBO light-welter strap with a savage 41second annihilation of Mexico’s 48-3-1 Carlos ‘Bolillo’ Gonzales in May 1999.
He finally conceded his belt and kayo streak on a split decision loss to Columbia’s Ener Julio 14 months later and, in the ensuing decade, half a dozen others have managed to avoid his scuds and take his scalp; most notably DeMarcus Corley (pts12) Miguel Cotto (rsc 6) and Juan Urango (rsc11). However, it is a well trodden line in boxing circles that the last thing to desert a fading fighter is his punch power …as Mike Jones painfully discovered in June!
You’d certainly expect challenger Alexander to assume the role of matador. The 25 year old might not be the most watchable in the 147lb division but he’s unquestionably one of the hardest to beat; a savvy, defensively sound and highly skilled portsider.
Starting out at the age of seven, he racked up a remarkable 298-12 amateur card, snaring Junior Olympics gold, plus US national titles at both junior and senior level. Still only 17, he just missed out on a 2004 US Olympic berth when Rock Allen edged him out on a countback.
Later that year he joined the profession, and was still only 22 when he dominated Junior Witter to capture the vacant WBC light-welter title in August 2009. The Sheffield man retired on his stool citing a hand injury after round eight.
Seven months after, the man from Missouri added the IBF strap with a career best eight round demolition of Columbia’s Juan Urango, then consolidated with a more sedate decision over the Ukraine’s decent Andriy Kotelnyk.
The sole blip on ‘Alexander The Great’s’ 24 fight slate came in January 2011 when he was roughed up rather too easily in a unifier with WBO king Tim Bradley. He dropped a ten round Technical Decision after a butt induced split to his right brow rendered him incapable of continuing.
Nevertheless, his resurrection against serial Argentine bangers Lucas Matthysse and Marcos Maidana (both outpointed over ten) will have provided ideal dress rehearsals for nullifying a home run hitter like Bailey. While the former dropped him in round four, Alexander had the nous to cross the finish line, safely and victorious, both times. I envisage a similar outcome on Saturday.
Alexander to complete the mission Jones started and box his way to a landslide decision. Given the disparity in their technical capabilities, I sense it’s going to be one-sided so a late stoppage for Alexander wouldn’t be inconceivable.