CHRISTOPHER MARTIN vs. CHARLES HUERTA
Rounds / weight class: 10 rounds / junior lightweights
Location: Costa Mesa, Calif.
The backdrop: Martin (21-0-2, 6 knockouts), a crafty but gutsy boxer from San Diego, is in his second nationally televised bout against a regional rival. His first all-Southern California showdown was his upset 10-round decision over then-undefeated Chris Avalos last August. This time he faces Huerta (16-2, 9 KOs), of Paramount, Calif., who is in a must-win situation coming off an eight-round decision loss to unbeaten Raul Hirales Jr. in his last bout. Huerta, who also suffered a first-round KO to Derrick Wilson in 2009, will no longer be considered a young fighter with promise if he losses again. On the undercard, yet another Southern California-based featherweight/junior lightweight prospect, Ronny Rios (13-0, 6 KOs), of Santa Ana, Calif., sees action against Georgyi Kivlishvili (12-1, 3 KOs).
Also fighting: Ronny Rios vs. Georgyi Kivlishvili, eight rounds, junior lightweights; Alfonso Blanco vs. Roderick Grajeda, six rounds, junior middleweights
Rating the card: B. This is a strong Solo Boxeo main event despite the fact that Huerta is coming off a loss. It’s a good style matchup (Martin is the consummate boxer; Huerta is a stalking puncher) and there’s amateur history between the two (Huerta reportedly knocked Martin out cold). Rios, a 21-year-old former amateur standout, is a steadily improving action fighter with a lot of potential.
Prediction: Martin survives a few rocky moments to score a close decision.
JOEL JULIO vs. ANGES ADJAHO
Rounds / weight class: 10 rounds / junior middleweight
Location: Newark, N.J.
The backdrop: Julio (36-4, 31 KOs), who is just one bout removed from a grueling 11th-round stoppage to Alfredo Angulo, was scheduled to face talented Antwone Smith in what would have been a stern test for the 26-year-old veteran, whose only losses have come against world-class opposition. However, the welterweight fringe contender pulled out with an injury and was replaced with Adjaho (25-5, 14 KOs), a former lightweight contender who is just a sturdy opponent at the heavier weights. On the undercard, 22-year-old Sadam Ali (12-0, 7 KOs), a former amateur star from New York, continues his pro development against John Revish (10-3-2, 8 KOs), a heavy handed journeyman from Louisiana.
Also fighting: Sadam Ali vs. John Revish, eight rounds, welterweights
Rating the card: C. This Friday Night Fights main event went from a fascinating crossroads match to a stay-busy fight for Julio once Smith pulled out. Ali is a special talent, definitely worth watching, but don’t expect him to be tested by Revish.
Prediction: Julio out-punches and outmaneuvers Adjaho to a one-sided decision victory.
Also fighting on Friday:
Mexico’s 21-year-old bantamweight standout Jesus Ruiz takes on spoiler Jesus Galicia in a Telemundo-televised scheduled 12 rounder from Mexico City.
JEAN PASCAL vs. BERNARD HOPKINS
Rounds / weight class: 12 rounds / light heavyweights
The backdrop: Hopkins (51-5-2, 32 KOs), who turned 46 in January, once again attempts to become the oldest boxer to win a major world title with his rematch against Pascal (26-1-1, 16 KOs), the 28-year-old RING champ who many observers believe was lucky to retain his title the first time he fought the ageless wonder last December. Their first bout, which took place in Pascal’s adopted home region of Quebec, ended in a controversial draw, which the Haiti-born Canadian believes to be fair call given that he dropped the former undisputed middleweight champ in the first and third rounds. On the undercard, former two-time light heavyweight titleholder Chad Dawson (29-1, 17 KOs), who is coming off a technical decision loss to Pascal, looks to get his career back on track under the guidance of new trainer Emanuel Steward against rugged contender Adrian Diaconu (27-2, 15 KOs), a Quebec-based Romanian pressure fighter.
Also fighting: Chad Dawson vs. Adrian Diaconu, 12 rounds, light heavyweights
Rating the card: A-. This is an excellent World Championship Boxing card. The first Pascal-Hopkins bout was surprisingly entertaining and there’s no reason to assume the rematch won’t also be hotly contested. Hopkins remains the superior ring general but susceptible to flush power shots. Pascal, who isn’t going to get any better, technically speaking, knows he either has to gun for an early KO or maintain his offense over 12 rounds. Dawson-Diaconu figures to be a competitive boxer-vs.-pressure fighter matchup between two seasoned top-10 contenders in their primes.
Prediction: Hopkins avoids knockdowns but has to tame a more motivated version of Pascal down the stretch of a close and competitive unanimous decision victory.
NATHAN CLEVERLY vs. ASLEXY KULIEMSKI
Rounds / weight class: 12 rounds / light heavyweight
Television: EPIX, EPIX2 (and EPIXHD.com)
The backdrop: Cleverly (21-0, 10 KOs), one of the fastest rising stars on the British scene, was all set to challenge Juergen Braehmer for the German’s WBO title but the southpaw pulled out of the contest due to a cut suffered in training leaving the 24-year-old Welshman to face unheralded Polish veteran Aleksy Kuziemski (21-2, 5 KOs) instead. The card isn’t a total bust, however. The co-featured bout between undefeated super middleweight prospects James DeGale (10-0, 8 KOs) and George Groves (12-0, 10 KOs) is probably the most heated grudge match between British 168-pound fighters since Nigel Benn and Chris Eubank attempted to unify major titles in a rematch that ended in a draw back in 1993. DeGale and Groves, who have been going at each other in the British press for months, are only fighting for the national title. However, this fight is about more than titles to the talented former amateur standouts. It’s about pride and bragging rights. DeGale, the cockier and more versatile boxer of the two, won a gold medal at the 2008 Olympics. However, Groves, a hard-punching stalker in the ring, defeated DeGale in their only amateur meeting.
Also fighting: James DeGale vs. George Groves, 12 rounds, super middleweights
Rating the card: B. Cleverly-Kuziemski is a letdown but DeGale-Groves promises to be explosive.
Prediction: Cleverly dominates Kuziemski to a late stoppage victory.
ALFONSO GOMEZ vs. CALVIN GREEN
Rounds / weight class: 10 rounds / welterweights
Location: Cabazon, Calif.
Television: Fox Deportes
The backdrop: Gomez (22-4-2, 11 KOs) has not fought since stopping former lightweight champ Jose Luis Castillo on the Manny Pacquiao-Joshua Clottey undercard last March. The welterweight fringe contender was supposed to fight Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. in a middleweight bout last December but a training injury scratched that opportunity. However, Gomez is getting back into the swing of things against the perfect opponent for an inactive fighter. Green (21-5-1, 13 KOs) fought Sergio Mora, who had also been out of the ring for more than a year, last April, and the gutsy Texan made Gomez’s fellow Contender alum fight hard. On the undercard, hard-punching Filipino junior lightweight fringe contender Michael Farenas (30-3-3, 26 KOs) takes on faded former featherweight title challenger Daniel Attah (25-6-1, 9 KOs).
Also fighting: Michael Farenas vs. Daniel Attah, eight rounds, junior lightweight; Michael Franco vs. Rafael Lora, eight rounds, junior lightweights
Rating the card: B-. The undercard bouts figure to be mismatches but the main event of this Top Rank Live card is a competitive matchup between two aggressive boxers who like fight in close.
Prediction: Gomez earns a hard-fought but unanimous decision.
Also fighting on Saturday:
Roy Jones Jr. continues to poorly emulate Hopkins by challenging Russian cruiserweight contender Denis Lebedev in a scheduled 10-round bout in Moscow.
THE RING’s No. 2-rated junior bantamweight Tomas Rojas defends his WBC belt against Juan Jose Montes in a scheduled 12-round bout in Veracruz, Mexico.