TAVORIS CLOUD vs. FULGENCIO ZUNIGA
Rounds / weight class: 12 rounds / light heavyweights
The backdrop: Cloud (21-0, 18 KOs) is making the second defense of the title he won by outpointing Clinton Woods in August of last year. The slugger from Tallahassee, Fla., followed that with a solid unanimous decision over ageless Glen Johnson this past August. Cloud hopes a victory over Zuniga (24-4-1, 21 KOs) will lead to a matchup with one of the division’s elite fighters, Lucian Bute, Chad Dawson or the winner of Jean Pascal-Bernard Hopkins. Zuniga has been talking big and has the power to back it up. However, the Colombian has not fared well in his biggest fights. He lost to Bute (TKO 4), Denis Inkin (UD 12) and Daniel Santos (UD 12) in previous title shots, and was stopped by Kelly Pavlik in nine rounds. His last two opponents, both of whom he KO’d, had a combined record of 10-38-1. The winner of the Odlanier Solis-Ray Austin heavyweight fight could be in line to face Vitali Klitschko. And former three-time titleholder Ricardo Mayorga, 37, makes his return to the ring after a two-plus-year hiatus against Michael Walker.
Also fighting: Odlanier Solis vs. Ray Austin, 12 rounds, WBC heavyweight eliminator; Mike Marrone vs. Darrel Madison, 10 rounds, heavyweights; Ricardo Mayorga vs. Michael Walker, 10 rounds, middleweights
Rating the card: B. Cloud and Zungia are both punchers, which should make for an explosive fight. Solis-Austin is a matchup of legitimate heavyweight contenders. And Mayorga is entertaining.
RONNY RIOS vs. ADOLFO LANDEROS
Rounds / weight class: 8 rounds / featherweights
Location: San Diego
The backdrop: This card features four undefeated prospects. Rios (12-0, 6 KOs) is stepping up to his first eight-round fight against a stepping-stone opponent from Mexico. The young Santa Ana, Calif., featherweight, a top amateur fighter, has fought primarily in the Los Angeles area and has been impressive. Landeros (20-16-1, 9 KOs) has lost his last six fights but generally puts up a fight. Gary Russell (13-0, 9 KOs) didn’t have an opponent as of Thursday. The former Olympian from the Washington, D.C., area has dominated his overmatched opponents with his speed and all-around ability. Martin (20-0-2, 6 KOs) will face Yogli Herrera (22-13, 15 KOs) in an eight-round featherweight matchup in front of a hometown crowd; he’s from the San Diego area. And Anthony Martinez (6-0, 5 KOs) of Las Vegas will face Jamie Orantia (13-27-5, 4 KOs) in a six-round welterweight bout.
Also fighting: Gary Russell Jr. vs. TBA, 6 rounds, featherweights; Christopher Martin vs. Yogli Herrera, 8 rounds, featherweights; Anthony Martinez vs. TBA, 6 rounds, junior welterweights
Rating the card:C+. It’s always fun to watch and try to gauge promising young fighters. The only down side is that they usually face overmatched opponents on the way up.
Also Friday: Former junior lightweight titleholder Steve Forbes faces Roberto Valenzuela in an eight-round welterweight bout in Hammond, Ind., on NESportsTV.com.
JEAN PASCAL vs. BERNARD HOPKINS
Rounds / weight class: 12 rounds / light heavyweights
Location: Quebec City
The backdrop: Hopkins (51-5-1, 32 KOs) is one of the great wonders of boxing. The future Hall of Famer, 45, would become the oldest man to capture a major title – this one THE RING lightweight championship – with a victory. That won’t be easy, though. Pascal (26-1, 16 KOs), who took the championship from then-unbeaten Chad Dawson in August, is young (28), athletic and hungry. The main event might not be particularly entertaining – few Hopkins fights are – but it certainly is fascinating. Some believe Hopkins has bitten off more than he can chew this time. Others say Pascal’s still level, while solid, might be just low enough to give Hopkins a chance. Paulie Malignaggi and Daniel Jacobs, featured on the undercard, will try to bounce back from devastating losses in their most-recent fights. Malignaggi was stopped in 11 rounds by Amir Khan in May while Jacobs, seeking his first title, was knocked out by one punch from Dmitry Pirog in the fifth round in July.
Also fighting: Paulie Malignaggi vs. Michael Lozada, 10 rounds, welterweights; Daniel Jacobs vs. Jessie Orta, 8 rounds, super middleweights
Rating the card: A-. This is a must-watch card because we wouldn’t want to miss Hopkins making history, if that’s what happens. Either way, we all want to see how much he has left. It also will be interesting to see how Malignaggi and Jacobs look coming off one-sided losses, although their opponents probably aren’t serious threats.
JORGE ARCE vs. ADOLFO RAMOS
Rounds / weight class: 10 rounds / junior featherweights
Location: Campeche, Mexico
Television: Fox Deportes
The backdrop: The most-interesting thing about this main event, outside the fact that is great fun to watch, is what lies ahead. If the Mexican brawler gets past Ramos, he has a date with unbeaten junior featherweight titleholder Wilfredo Vazquez Jr. in April. Arce (55-6-2, 42 KOs) already is a three-time titleholder in two weight classes, including the junior bantamweight belt he claimed by beating Angky Angkota in January. This will be the busy 31-year-old Mexican’s fifth fight in 2010. He’s coming off a 12-round split-decision draw against Lorenzo Parra in a title eliminator in September. Ramos (18-10-1, 10 KOs) doesn’t appear to be a legitimate threat. The Colombian is 2-4-1 against journeymen in his last seven bouts.
Also fighting: Ramon Garcia vs. Carlos Melo, 12 rounds, for Garcia's WBO junior flyweight title; Joksan Hernandez vs. Jorge Lacierva, 10 rounds, featherweights
Rating the card: B-. The only reason this grade is so high is that Arce is one of the most-exciting fighters in the world. He figures to dispatch Ramos fairly easily, although one never knows when the wear and tear of a taxing career will catch up to a fighter.
ERIK MORALES vs. FRANCISCO LORENZO
Rounds / weight class: 10 rounds / junior welterweights
Location: Tijuana, Mexico
The backdrop: Morales, two fights into his comeback after he “retired” in 2007, has some big plans. First and foremost he wants to fight Juan Manuel Marquez in May, which would be the first meeting between the two Mexican legends. The future Hall of Famer must get past Lorenzo (35-8, 16 KOs) first, though. That might not be easy. No. 1, Morales had been preparing to face Jorge Barrios but the Argentine had to pull because of legal issues back home. And No. 2, Lorenzo, a last-minute replacement, is pushover even though he’s 39 and 2-4 (with one no-contest) in his last seven fights. The Dominican gave Jorse Linares trouble as recently as March, losing a majority decision. And, frankly, Morales, 34, hasn’t looked particularly good in his comeback fights.
Also fighting: Manuel Jimenez vs. Luis Carillo, 12 rounds, strawweights.
Rating the card: C. A faded Morales against a fighter who isn’t fun to watch isn’t our idea of entertainment. Only Morales’ name and ramifications of this fight make it worth watching.
Also Saturday: Marco Huck defends his WBO cruiserweight title against Denis Lebedev in Berlin. Alexander Povetkin takes on Nicolai Firtha in a 10-round heavyweight fight on the same card.