FRANCISCO SIERRA VS. JESUS GONZALES
Rounds / weight class: 12 rounds, super middleweights
The backdrop: Gonzalez (26-1, 14 KOs) was considered a U.S. Olympic medal hopeful in 2004 but decided to turn pro at 18 in 2003. The southpaw from Phoenix was 17-0 when he was stopped by veteran Jose Luis Zertuche in 2005 and his career has sputtered since. He has won his nine fights since the setback but missed two years because of promotional problems and hasn’t become a contender. He’ll have a good opportunity against Sierra (24-3-1, 22 KOs) to make a statement on national TV. The tall (6-1), hard-punching Mexican is 4-0-1 since he was stopped in one round by Edison Miranda in 2009 and has crept into the 168-pound rankings of two major sanctioning bodies. The draw came against Dyah Davis in February.
Also fighting: Yuandale Evans vs. Emmanuel Lucero, 8 rounds, junior lightweight.
Rating the card: B-. The main event is a good, even matchup of capable young fighters.
Prediction: Gonzalez has the pedigree but Sierra is a more-proven commodity, which makes this a compelling fight. The feeling here is that the American’s boxing skills will allow him to survive Sierra’s punching power and win a close decision.
JESSE VARGAS vs. WALTER ESTRADA
Rounds / weight class: 10 rounds, junior welterweights
Location: Primm, Nev.
The backdrop: Vargas (15-0, 8 KOs) is an excellent young prospect who is trained by Roger Mayweather. The 22-year-old Las Vegas resident, a fine all-around boxer, is coming off a first-round knockout of badly faded Vivian Harris in April and has yet to face a legitimate test. Estrada (39-14-1, 25 KOs) is at least a slight step up in competition. The experienced Colombian, a southpaw, had a horrible 2-9 streak mostly against rising prospects from 2007 to 2010 but is 4-1-1 in his last six fights. That includes a victory over aging Nate Campbell. He lost a one-sided decision to Vicente Escobedo in March.
Also fighting: Alfonso Blanco vs. Cleveland Ishe, 6 rounds, junior middleweights
Rating the card: C+. Vargas fights with a compelling combination of skill and ferocity. He could go far. And he’s fun to watch. Estrada probably will lose but he comes to fight.
Prediction: Vargas is too talented to slip up against a fighter as limited as Estrada, although you never know because of the latter’s experience and toughness.
PAUL WILLIAMS vs. ERISLANDY LARA
Rounds / weight class: 12 rounds, middleweights
Location: Atlantic City, N.J.
The backdrop: Williams (39-2, 27 KOs) was on everyone’s pound-for-pound list in November but now seems to be fighting for his professional life. The soft-spoken Georgian is coming off a stunning one-punch second-round knockout loss against Sergio Martinez on Nov. 20, a devastating setback that changed the perception of the lanky punching machine. He also looked shaky in four rounds against Kermit Cintron in his previous outing. He needs to win this fight to put the Martinez disaster behind him and regain some momentum. It won’t be easy. Lara (15-0-1, 10 KOs) is among an elite group of former Cuban amateur stars who have found success as professionals since defecting from their native country. He is coming off a disappointing draw against Carlos Molina in March, making this a must-win for him too, but he clearly has the ability to give any middleweight in the world trouble. That includes Williams. The biggest knock on Lara is that his technical style is boring to watch.
Also fighting: Akifumi Shimoda vs. Rico Ramos, 12 rounds, for Shimoda's WBA junior featherweight title; Cristobal Arreola vs. Friday Ahunyana, 10 rounds, heavyweights; Jhonny Gonzalez vs. Tomas Villa, 12 rounds, for Gonzalez's WBC featherweight title.
Rating the card: A. Williams’ aggressive style and the stakes will make the main event fun to watch. And the undercard is packed. The Shimoda-Ramos fight gives us a chance to see a top-level Japanese fighter. Arreola is the most-exciting heavyweight in the world. And Gonzalez might be the best fighter on the card.
Prediction: Tough one. Williams probably will be more determined than he has ever been in a fight. However, we wonder whether he’ll ever be the same after his KO loss. Lara is talented but has never been in with anyone as good and experienced as Williams. Williams will end up outworking Lara to win a close decision if the knockout hasn’t taken anything out of him.
BRANDON RIOS vs. URBANO ANTILLON
Rounds / weight class: 12 rounds, lightweights
Location: Carson, Calif.
The backdrop: The boxing community is drooling over this matchup, a rare can’t-miss brawl between two Los Angeles-area fighters that probably won’t go all 12 rounds. Rios (27-0-1, 20 KOs) emerged as a star with his scintillating 10th-round knockout of talented Miguel Acosta in February to win the WBA 135-pound title, which he will defend on Saturday night. The Oxnard resident wears his opponents down with relentless pressure and uncommon strength for a lightweight. Antillon (28-2, 20 KOs) lost a decision to Humberto Soto in one of the most-thrilling fights of 2010, which enhanced his reputation as one of the most-exciting boxers in the world and earned him a shot at the title. He was originally scheduled to fight Soto in a rematch but that fight fell out.
Also fighting: Kermit Cintron vs. Carlos Molina, 10 rounds, junior middleweights; Mercito Gesta vs. TBA, 10 rounds, lightweights; Matvey Korobov vs. Lester Gonzalez, 8 rounds, middleweights.
Rating the card: A. The main event quite simply is a great matchup between two fighters who don’t know how to back up, which is why the card receives an “A.” Cintron vs. Molina (who last drew with Erislandy Lara) is a nice supporting act.
Prediction: The fighters are similar. They are good boxers who throw a lot of punches and like to move forward. Rios is just a little better at all of the above. He’ll wear down Antillon and score a late-rounds knockout in a dynamite fight.
LUCIAN BUTE vs. JEAN-PAUL MENDY
Rounds / weight class: 12 rounds, super middleweights
Location: Bucharest, Romania
Television: None in U.S.
The backdrop: The IBF 168-pound titleholder, defending his belt for the eighth time in 3½ years, will fight in his native country for the first time after becoming a big attraction in his adopted country of Canada. Bute (28-0, 23 KOs) reportedly is likely to face Kelly Pavlik in November if he gets past Mendy (29-0-1, 16 KOs). That seems likely given the Bute’s outstanding all-around ability and the roll he is on. The Frenchman is coming off a bizarre fight against Sakio Bika in July in which he was knocked out cold in the first round while he had a knee on the canvas, which resulted in Bika’s disqualification. Mendy has a victory over capable Henry Buchanan and a draw with Anthony Hanshaw but has faced nowhere near the level of competition Bute has faced.
Also fighting: Viorel Simion vs. Jun Talape, 12 rounds, featherweights.
Rating the card: C+. Bute is one of the most-compelling fighters in the world and his homecoming is an interesting story. However, Mendy isn’t likely to be the one who knocks him off.
Prediction: Bute, highly motivated in Romania, will outclass his overmatched foe and score a middle-rounds knockout.
Also Saturday: Hugo Cazares defends his WBC junior bantamweight title against Arturo Badillo in Los Mochis, Mexico.