LEO SANTA CRUZ vs. JOSE LOPEZ
Rounds / weight class: 8 rounds / bantamweights
Location: Indio, Calif.
Also fighting: Luis Ramos vs. Francisco Lorenzo, eight rounds, junior welterweights
Rating the card: B. The Solo Boxeo Tecate main event and co-feature are classic crossroads matches that should be competitive and telling of the potential of the two undefeated prospects.
Prediction: Santa Cruz emerges as a young bantamweight to watch with unanimous decision over Lopez in a good fight.
YUDEL JHONSON vs. MIGUEL TORRES
Rounds / weight class: 10 rounds / welterweights
Location: Tampa, Fla.
Also fighting: Walter Estrada vs. Tyrese Hendrix, eight rounds, junior welterweights.
Rating the card: C+. Jhonson should have little problem with Torres in this Friday Night Fights main event.
Prediction: Jhonson outworks, out-boxes and easily outpoints Torres to a unanimous decision.
CARL FROCH vs. GLEN JOHNSON
Rounds / weight class: 12 rounds / super middleweight
Location: Atlantic City, N.J.
The backdrop: Both Froch (27-1, 20 KOs), the defending two-time WBC super middleweight titleholder, and Johnson (51-14-2, 35 KOs), a former light heavyweight champ, are skilled and battle-tested veterans who should make for a hotly contested fight. Froch, a gangly boxer-brawler from Nottingham, England, has proven to be one of the best 168-pound fighters in the world by going 4-1 against Jean Pascal, Jermain Taylor, Andre Dirrell, Mikkel Kessler and Arthur Abraham in his last five bouts. Only Kessler managed to defeat Froch via competitive 12-round decision in his native Denmark. Johnson, a 42-year-old marvel who earned THE RING’s Fighter of the year honors in 2004, was a perennial contender at light heavyweight for the past 10 years before entering the Super Six World Boxing Classic as a sub for Dirrell and scoring an eighth-round TKO of Allan Green in his first bout of the tournament. The winner of the Froch-Johnson Super Six semifinal bout will face Andre Ward in the tournament finals later this year.
Also fighting: Mikkel Kessler vs. Mehdi Bouadla, 12 rounds, super middleweights (same-day tape from Copenhagen, Denmark)
Rating the card: A. The main event of this Showtime World Championship Boxing broadcast matches a versatile boxer-brawler (Froch) against a hard-nosed pressure fighter (Johnson) in a can’t-miss barnburner.
Prediction: Froch will mix in just enough lateral movement with numerous exchanges to win a close decision.
SEBASTIAN ZBIK vs. JULIO CESAR CHAVEZ
Rounds / weight class: 12 rounds / middleweights
Location: Los Angeles
The backdrop: Chavez Jr. (42-0-1, 30 KOs) seeks to become the first middleweight titleholder from Mexico and to silence his many critics by beating Zbik (30-0, 10 KOs), a solid boxer from Germany who holds the WBC’s 160-pound belt. Zbik, THE RING’s No. 6-rated middleweight, has the edge in hand speed and technique, while the 25-year-old son of the Mexican legend appears to be the bigger and stronger fighter. The result of their interesting matchup should be a competitive and entertaining fight as both unbeaten middleweights will try to impose their contrasting styles on the other. On the undercard, undefeated featherweight contender Miguel Angel Garcia (25-0, 21 KOs) stays busy against late-sub Rafael Guzman (28-2, 20 KOs).
Also fighting: Miguel Angel Garcia vs. Rafael Guzman, 12 rounds, featherweights.
Rating the card: B+. Neither Zbik nor Chavez are really worthy of calling themselves “champion.” RING middleweight champ Sergio Martinez would easily overwhelm either man. However, Zbik’s technically sound European boxing should mesh well with Chavez’s more aggressive Mexican style and fans will likely get a good fight.
Prediction: Chavez’s aggression, sporadic pressure and concentrated body attack will receive more credit from the judges than Zbik’s accurate one-two combinations and the young Mexican star will win a close, perhaps controversial, decision.
Also fighting on Saturday:
Faded former three-division titleholder Johnny Tapia faces cross-town rival Frankie Archuleta in a third fight scheduled for 10 rounds in Albuquerque, N.M.
Former 140-pound beltholder Gavin Rees takes on Andrew Murray in a scheduled 12-round bout for the vacant European lightweight title in Cardiff, Wales.
Photo of Sebastian Zbik (left) and Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. by Chris Farina-Top Rank.