FRES OQUENDO vs DAMIAN NORRIS

Location: 
Mahi Shrine Temple, MIAMI, May 2
Graham's Odds: 
Oquendo -800; Norris +500
Over 9.5 -185; under 9.5 +155

Two-time heavyweight title challenger Fres Oquendo, narrowly beaten by Evander Holyfield in his last bout, is back in action when he meets Cuban Damian Norris in a 10-rounder on Wednesday Night Fights .

It is Oquendo’s first fight with DRL Promotions, which has high hopes for the Chicago-raised Puerto Rican.

Oquendo stormed from the ring in disgust after the judges scored him the loser against Holyfield, and it was certainly a contest that could have gone either way. The problem with Oquendo in that fight is that he was just too cautious after being dropped in the opening round. Although Oquendo was crafty and picked up points with counters, he allowed Holyfield to win rounds simply by looking as if he was the man who wanted to fight.

On Wednesday Oquendo takes that first step back, and DRL’s matchmaker, Eric Bottjer, has not exactly matched him in an easy fight against the 6ft 5ins Norris, who has limited professional experience but apparently had more than 150 amateur bouts and was a world junior champion at light-heavyweight.

Oquendo has the experience of being in big fights and of course has boxed at a much higher level than Norris, but the Cuban is coming into the fight after a career-best win, when he stopped the unbeaten but untested Roderick Willis in three rounds.

Although Norris was stopped in four rounds by the much heavier and stronger Chris Arreola he fought well before getting caught. In that fight, Norris was simply overpowered him. I think he might be able to box quite competitively against Oquendo, whose style is to let the other man come to him and counter. Whether Norris can win is another matter.

Oquendo, 34, knows he cannot slip up here and I am sure he is not taking Norris lightly. The Cuban has never met anyone like Oquendo, who is good at getting opponents fighting the way he wants them to fight, making them miss and hitting them with quick, sneaky punches. If Norris is a bit in awe of the big-name boxer, if he stands back and tries to think things out, Oquendo will outclass him. I do think Norris has a chance, though, if he does not show Oquendo too much respect and boxes in a bold and determined manner.

Norris has the height and reach, he is the younger man by nine years, and I believe he has talent — and he has nothing to lose. Logically Oquendo should win this comfortably — obviously DRL Promotions would not put him in with someone, on their own show, who they think is going to beat him — but this might not be quite the foregone conclusion it appears to be. If Oquendo lost it would be a huge surprise, certainly, but I would not put it in the “unthinkable upset” category.

Last Updated: 
May 1, 2007 - 3:01am