DIEGO MAGDALENO vs. GILBERTO LEON
Rounds / weight class: 10 rounds / junior lightweights
Location: Las Vegas
The backdrop: Magdaleno (18-0, 6 knockouts) made some new fans with his last bout, a fifth-round stoppage of Marcos Jimenez in January. The Las Vegas native exhibited well-rounded technique and a versatile arsenal during the entertaining Fox Sports Net-televised victory over the capable Dominican. If the 24-year-old southpaw continues his winning ways he could develop into something Las Vegas hasn’t had in a long time: a homegrown attraction. Magdaleno will get a significant push toward that goal with his Friday Night Fights main event against Leon (31-8-2, 11 KOs), a durable Mexican veteran with a difficult style. His regional title bout with the near-6-foot technician takes place at the Mandalay Bay the night before the biggest fight of the year, so it’s a sure bet that press row will be crowded. Will Magdaleno give the boxing media something to rave about? Probably, but it won’t be easy. Leon has lost four of his last 10 bouts, most recently to then-unbeaten prospects Eloy Perez and Roberto Marroquin, but all of those setbacks were to quality opposition. It should be noted that the losses to Perez and Marroquin were competitive decisions. On the undercard, popular Filipino featherweight fringe contender Bernabe Concepcion (28-4-1, 15 KOs) will attempt to rebound from the fist KO loss of his career — an exciting second-round stoppage to Juan Manuel Lopez last July — against tough Mexican journeyman Juan Carlos Martinez (18-12-1, 7 KOs). Also, still-green light heavyweight prospect and Norte Dame grad Mike Lee (4-0, 3 KOs) continues his gradual development against Gilbert Gastelum (0-1-1).
Also fighting: Bernabe Concepcion vs. Juan Carlos Martinez, eight rounds, featherweights; Mike Lee vs. Gilbert Gastelum, four rounds, light heavyweights
Rating the card: B. This is a very solid Friday Night Fights show. Don’t let Leon’s and Martinez’s losses fool you into thinking that they won’t be competitive with Magdaleno and Concepcion. Both Mexican veterans can fight and will be looking to score upset victories on Cinco de Mayo weekend.
Prediction: Magdaleno will outwork Leon to a close unanimous decision in competitive, sometimes tactical but generally entertaining bout.
LIBRADO ANDRADE vs. AARON PRYOR JR.
Rounds / weight class: 10 rounds / light heavyweights
Location: Indio, Calif.
The backdrop: Andrade (29-3, 22 KOs) hasn’t fought in nearly a year, since his eight-round stoppage of former titleholder Eric Lucas last May in Quebec, his only fight of 2010. In order for Andrade, a three-time super middleweight title challenger, to remain in the rankings — the rugged pressure fighter is No. 2 in the WBC ratings, No. 8 in THE RING — he had to get busy. Enter Pryor (15-3, 11 KOs), the capable son of former 140-pound champ and hall of famer Aaron Pryor. The son of “The Hawk” has nowhere near the amount of world-class experience of Andrade. The best names on Pryor’s resume are prospects Edwin Rodriguez, who beat him in his last bout in January, and Dyah Davis, who he out-pointed over eight rounds last November. Pryor will fight the worldly Andrade at the heaviest weight of his career, 172 pounds. However, the 32-year-old Cincinnati native’s style and considerable height (6-foor-4/193 cm) and reach (84 inches/213 cm) could cause the Southern Californian problems. On the undercard, Andrade’s younger brother Enrique Ornelas (30-7, 20 KOs) looks to bounce back from his unanimous decision loss to super middleweight beltholder Robert Stieglitz (one of his older brother’s KO victims) with a stay-busy victory over game but comparatively inexperienced Hector Hernandez (10-3-2, 4 KOs). Junior featherweight prospect Randy Caballero (9-0, 5 KOs), a popular resident of Coachella, Calif., which is next door to Indio, is also in action against a competent and mature journeyman in Francis Ruiz (9-4, 4 KOs), of the Dominican Republic.
Also fighting: Enrique Ornelas vs. Hector Hernandez, eight rounds, light heavyweights; Randy Caballero vs. Francis Ruiz, six rounds, junior featherweights
Rating the card: B-. Andrade and Ornelas are always worth watching because of their entertaining styles but their opponents on this card lack their experience and also possess styles that could detract from the usual excitement the rugged brothers bring to the ring.
Prediction: Andrade will have trouble getting inside Pryor’s jab and he’ll probably eat his share of right hands during the early rounds of the bout, but as the 32-year-old veteran shakes off ring rust, he’ll step up his pressure and begin to time the taller, rangier boxer with single power shots. Andrade will take over the second half of the bout and outwork Pryor, especially on the inside, to a unanimous decision.
Also fighting on Friday:
Junior featherweight fringe contender Jonathan Oquendo takes on Thomas Snow in a scheduled 10-round bout in San Juan, Puerto Rico.
MANNY PACQUIAO vs. SHANE MOSLEY
Rounds / weight class: 12 rounds / welterweights
Location: Las Vegas
Television: Showtime PPV
The backdrop: It’s finally here, the biggest boxing event of the year takes place when Pacquiao (52-3-2, 38 KOs) defends his WBO 147-pound title against Mosley (46-6-1, 39 KOs) at the MGM Grand. There’s no denying that this showdown between future first-ballot hall of famers has the kind of name recognition and hype that will attract casual fans of the sport. Promoter Bob Arum and network Showtime, which will produce and distribute the pay-per-view show, have done a masterful job promoting and selling the May 7 event. However, will the fans who tune in (and at least a million will probably plunk down their money to order the live fight) get a competitive fight. Common wisdom says “no.” Mosley, who turns 40 in September, has looked like an “old” fighter in three of his last four bouts. The exception was his 2009 demolition of Antonio Margarito, who has a made-to-order style for the experienced “power boxer.” Against Ricardo Mayorga (who gave him fits before getting caught in the final seconds of the final round), Floyd Mayweather (who outclassed him over 12 rounds) and Sergio Mora (who held him to an embarrassing draw), Mosley appeared unable to let his hands go when he wanted to. That can be a problem against Pacquiao, who won an unprecedented eighth major title in an eighth weight class when he beat up Margarito over 12 rounds last November. Despite being outweighed by at least 15 pounds by fight time, Pacquiao, weighed well under the welterweight limit for the 150-pound catchweight bout, heaped an ungodly amount of punishment on Margarito by using his trademark explosive combinations and his underrated footwork. It doesn’t bode well for Mosley but the fact that the painfully slow and plodding Margarito was able land hard punches to Pacquiao’s body and head does provide some hope for the former three-division champ and his fans. On the undercard, 122-pound beltholder Wilfredo Vazquez Jr. (20-0-1, 17 KOs), the talented son for the former three-division titleholder from Puerto Rico, defends his WBO title against aging Mexican star Jorge Arce (56-6-2, 43 KOs), who is probably too old and small to pull the upset. Former middleweight champ Kelly Pavlik (36-2, 32 KOs) has a comeback bout against unbeaten but unproven Texan Alfonso Lopez (21-0, 16 KOs). And junior welterweight fringe contenders Mike Alvarado (29-0, 21 KOs) and Ray Narh (25-1, 21 KOs) meet in what should be a competitive and entertaining 12-round bout.
Also fighting: Wilfredo Vazquez Jr. vs. Jorge Arce, 12 rounds, junior featherweights; Kelly Pavlik vs. Alfonso Lopez, 10 rounds, super middleweights; Mike Alvarado vs. Ray Narh, 10 rounds, junior welterweights
Rating the card: B. Pacquiao is the sport’s No. 1 fighter and star, and Mosley is a legend, but this showdown is happening too late in Mosley’s career for knowledgeable fight fans to get excited. The pay-per-view undercard is solid but not spectacular. The Alvardo-Narh fight is the only competitive bout on paper. Still, each fight will probably have moments of intense action, which will satisfy most viewers.
Prediction: Pacquiao and Mosley will duke it out in the early rounds, much like the Filipino icon’s fight with Miguel Cotto in 2009, which will thrill the crowd and worldwide PPV audience. However, at the behest of trainer Freddie Roach, Pacquiao will settle into more of stick and move/get-in-and-get-out mode after the fourth or fifth round and control the game but outclassed Mosley for the duration of the bout, earning a comfortable unanimous decision.
Also fighting on Saturday:
Evander Holyfield continues to defy his age (he’s 48) and common sense by fighting on, this time against Danish star Brian Nielsen, who hasn’t fought since 2002, in Denmark, Copenhagen.
Middleweight beltholder Sebastian Sylvester defends his IBF strap against Australian mandatory challenger Daniel Geale in Neubrandenburg, Germany.
Popular bantamweight beltholder Koki Kameda defends his “regular” WBA title against Nicaragua’s Daniel Diaz in Osaka, Japan.
Photo by Tom Casino-Showtime