RAMON VALADEZ vs. RAMON FLORES
Rounds / weight class: 6 rounds / just lightweights
Location: Los Angeles
Television: Fox Sports Net; RingTV.com (live stream)
The backdrop: Valadez (8-1, 4 KOs) is best remembered by those who saw it as one principal in an amazing four-round brawl last July on a Fight Night Club. The L.A.-area product lost a decision to Oscar Andrade but made fans as a result of his courage and fighting spirit. Turns out he’s also a pretty good boxer. He has demonstrated solid skills in winning each of his seven fights since his setback and might actually turn out to be a prospect. Valadez in November outpointed Flores (3-12-2, 3 KOs), who is stepping in again because matchmakers had difficulty finding a suitable opponent. The L.A.-based Mexican has worked fairly extensively as a foil for young, developing prospects.
Also fighting: Jamie Kavanagh vs. John Willoughby, six rounds, lightweights.
Rating the card: C+. Valadez is fun to watch even if his opponent is overmatched, which appears to be the case here. Kavanagh (6-0, 2 KOs) is a well-schooled former amateur star from Ireland who appears to be a legitimate prospect.
Prediction: Valadez pitched a four-round shutout the first time he fought Flores. This time, with more experience, he’ll take his opponent out.
JOHN MOLINA vs. ROBERT FRANKEL
Rounds / weight class: 10 rounds / lightweights
Location: Temecula, Calif.
The backdrop: Molina (22-1, 18 KOs) returned from a 10-plus-month hiatus to stop Alejandro Rodriguez in three rounds in May. The lightweight contender has had problems with particularly good boxers – including Martin Honorio (decision loss) and Henry Lundy (KO victory) – but his punching power is a formidable equalizer. He has stopped nine of his past 10 opponents, the 10th being Honorio. Molina is ranked in the Top 10 in three of the four major sanctioning bodies, meaning a title shot is within sight if he continues to win. Frankel (28-10-1, 5 KOs) is a capable, experienced boxer with little power. He recently spent about a year in prison on a domestic abuse conviction. He lost a majority decision to former titleholder David Diaz upon his release but stopped inexperienced Adam Limon in two rounds after that.
Also fighting: Michael Dallas Jr. vs. Mauricio Herrera, 10 rounds, lightweights; Javier Molina vs. Hector Alatorre, 6 rounds, junior middleweights; Ricardo Williams Jr. vs. Arman Ovsepyan, 6 or 8 rounds, welterweights
Rating the card: B. Molina has the kind of punching power that excites the fans. And Frankel probably won’t be a pushover. Should be an interesting matchup. Michael Dallas is trying to bounce back from his first loss, to Josesito Lopez; unbeaten Javier Molina is a talented prospect; and Williams is a 2000 U.S. Olympian.
Prediction: Frankel is a solid boxer but probably not in the class of Honorio or Lundy, meaning he’ll probably be broken down and stopped late in the fight.
BRIAN VERA vs. ELOY SUAREZ
Rounds / weight class: 8 rounds / middleweights
Location: Frisco, Texas
The backdrop: Vera (18-5, 11 KOs) pumped some much-needed life into his faltering career when he outworked Sergio Mora to win a split decision in February. The tough 29-year-old from Austin, Texas, desperately needed a victory after losing four of his previous five fights. He trained hard and then fought hard to get it. Suarez (11-11-1, 5 KOs) doesn’t figure to provide much resistance. The 37-year-old Mexican has lost his last five fights and is 0-6-1 (with one no-contest) in his last eight. Also on the card, James Kirkland (27-1, 24 KOs) will fight for the first time since his stunning first-round KO loss to Nobuhiro Ishida in April. He has reunited with longtime trainer Ann Wolfe, who believes we’ll see the beast of old against 38-year-old Saul Duran (37-18-2, 30 KOs) of Mexico. Kirkland was 2-1 under trainer Ken Adams after his release from prison.
Also fighting: James Kirkland vs. Saul Duran, 8 rounds, middleweights; Jose Rodriguez vs. Martin Kamarillo, 4 rounds, junior lightweights
Rating the card: B-. Vera is an extremely tough guy who comes to fight, usually giving the fans their money’s worth. And Kirkland adds an intriguing element to the card. Was his KO loss a fluke? Or was the reckless slugger simply overrated?
Prediction: Two KOs, Vera’s within four rounds and Kirkland’s in the first.
JESUS PABON vs. JAVIER CASTRO
Rounds / weight class: 12 rounds / junior welterweight
The backdrop: Pabon (17-1, 11 KOs) fights is a fairly capable southpaw from Puerto Rico who could be facing his most-significant test against Castro (24-4, 19 KOs). Pabon has won seven consecutive fights since he was stopped by inexperienced Luis Herandnez in two rounds in 2007 but his opposition has been marginal. You might remember his foul-filled fight against one-time contender Ernesto Zepeda in August, in which Pabon went down four times but stopped his foe in eight. He has three consecutive KOs, including a first-round stoppage against Americo Santos in February. Castro seemed to be on his way to becoming a contender – having lost only a close decision to Antonio Diaz in recent years – but he has lost his last two fights. He lost a 10-round decision to Ameth Diaz in October and was outpointed by sub-.500 journeyman Dunis Linan in April. We’ll see whether he merely slipped up or is in the midst of a freefall.
Also fighting: Sullivan Barrera vs. Frank Paines, 10 rounds, light heavyweights; Ana Julaton vs. Angel Gladney, 8 rounds, junior featherweights
Rating the card: C. Pabon is an action fighter even if he doesn’t have much power. Castro probably will give him trouble.
Prediction: The hunch here is that Castro is the better boxer. And, with his career on the line, he should be hungry. He’ll win a close decision.
DEVON ALEXANDER vs. LUCAS MATTHYSSE
Rounds / weight class: 12 rounds/ junior welterweight
Location: St. Charles, Mo.
The backdrop: Alexander’s stock has fallen since his spectacular eight-round KO of Juan Urango in March of last year. He struggled to beat Andreas Kotelnik last August. And he lost a technical decision against Tim Bradley in January. The Bradley fight was stopped when Alexander was unable to continue as a result of repeated accidental head butts. Thus, this is an extremely important fight for the pride of St. Louis. If he wins, he remains a major player in the division. If he loses, he’ll have a tough time rebuilding. Matthysse (28-1, 26 KOs) bounced back from his disappointing (and controversial) split-decision loss to Zab Judah by stopping DeMarcus Corley in eight rounds in January. The Argentine, who has exceptional punching power, probably will be in line for a major title shot if he wins.
Also fighting: Tavoris Cloud vs. Yusaf Mack, 12 rounds, for Cloud's IBF light heavyweight title; Cornelius "K9" Bundrage vs. Sechew Powell, rematch, 12 rounds, for Bundrage's IBF junior middleweight title; Bermane Stiverne vs. Ray Austin, 12 rounds, WBC heavyweight eliminator.
Rating the card: A. We don’t often see quality fighters such Alexander, Matthysse, Cloud and Bundrage in competitive fights on the same card.
Prediction: The main event is a 50-50 proposition. Alexander is the better boxer and athlete. Matthysse, a solid boxer, punches harder and is tougher. The latter wins out. Matthysse by late-rounds KO.
MIKE JONES vs. RAUL MUNOZ
Rounds / weight class: 10 rounds / welterweights
Television: Fox Sports Net / Fox Deportes
The backdrop: Jones (24-0, 18 KOs) bounced back from a narrow points victory over Jesus Soto-Karass to win more comfortably in the rematch but has yet to dazzle anyone against top-flight opposition. And fighting Munoz (22-13-1, 16 KOs) won’t prove anything. The product of Topeka, Kansas, long ago became that designated “opponent” for fighters with legitimate title aspirations. He is 6-11-1 in his last 18 fights, losing to the likes of Alfonso Gomez, Julio Cesar Chavez Jr., Austin Trout, Enrique Ornelas, Sam Soliman and even Hector Camacho Sr. (in 2005). Jones, highly ranked by all four sanctioning bodies, is biding his time until he gets a title shot. He will be fighting in his hometown for the first time since March of 2009.
Also fighting: Glen Tapia vs. Taronze Washington, 6 rounds, junior middleweights; Phil McCants vs. Kaseem Wilson, 6 rounds, welterweights
Rating the card: C-. The only interesting aspect of this card is Jones’ name. The main event probably won’t be competitive. If it is, then Jones isn’t what we think he is. Tapia (9-0, 5 KOs) apparently is someone to watch.
Prediction: Jones by early KO.
FELIX STURM vs. MATTHEW MACKLIN
Rounds / weight class: 12 rounds / middleweights
Location: Cologne, Germany
The backdrop: Sturm (35-2-1, 15 KOs) seems to have been a one-time stablemate of Max Schmeling but is only 32. The three-time titleholder from Germany is 13-2 when major belts are on the line, although some will criticize his overall level of opposition. He has rarely fought outside Germany. Of course, who can blame him? He lost a disputed decision and his WBO title against Oscar De La Hoya in 2004 the one time he fought in the U.S. Sturm, making the 10th defense of his WBA title, said he wants to fight Sergio Martinez next. This is the big opportunity Macklin (28-2, 19 KOs) has been building toward. The 29-year-old resident of Birmingham, England, has won his past 11 fights and collected both British and European titles along the way.
Also fighting: Manuel Charr vs. Danny Williams, 10 rounds, heavyweights
Rating the card: B. Sturm and Macklin is a compelling matchup of good, experienced fighters who have earned their place among the best in their division.
Prediction: Sturm has been here many times, which is the biggest advantage he has. The German will win a unanimous decision.
Also Saturday: Humberto Soto defends his WBC lightweight title against Motoki Sasaki in Cozumel, Mexico. In Culiacan, Mexico, Fernando Montiel faces Nehomar Cermeno in a 10-round junior featherweight bout. And in Sheffield, England, Kell Brook fights Lovemore N’dou in a 12-round welterweight bout.