Photos by Sumio Yamada
MIKE ARNAOUTIS vs RICARDO TORRES
It will be boxer against banger in an excellent match on Saturdays Pacquiao-Morales PPV show when slick, speedy southpaw Mightyâ€? Mike Arnaoutis meets oh-so-dangerous Colombian Ricardo Torres for the WBO junior welter title that Miguel Cotto relinquished.
Arnaoutis, the Greek who now lives in New Jersey, has won his last three fights in the first round, and he hits sharply from his southpaw stance.
Torres, though, is the puncher in the fight, with 27 KOs in his 29 wins and in his only loss he dropped and almost stopped Miguel Cotto before being worn down and counted out in seven thrilling rounds in September of last year. He has boxed just once since, a second-round blowout of the Venezuelan Carlos Donquiz.
The fight game was sceptical about Torres before the bout with Cotto. A string of quick wins in Colombia didnt mean a lot, and although Torres overwhelmed the veteran Edwin Vazquez in three rounds on a Telefutura show from Puerto Rico he had merely done what was expected of him. In the Cotto fight, however, Torres showed he is a threat at top level, dropping the Puerto Rican in the second round and having him so wobbly in the fifth that one judge made this a 10-8 round in the Colombians favour even though there was no knockdown.
This fight left us in no doubt that Torres can throw but he might not catch too well, because when Cotto came back with his own hard punches he broke down the Colombian, who was dropped four times.
Arnaoutiss promoter, Londoner Mike Michael, of Cestus Management, feels that Torres is not quite the danger man that his record and the fight with Cotto might suggest.
Speaking over the phone this week, Michael said: Whats his claim to fame? Everybodys rating this guy because he knocked Cotto down, but Cotto got up and destroyed him. You dont know if Cotto was weight-weakened or had an off-day. Ive sat down and watched the Cotto fight on numerous occasions and I just saw a kid coming forward, throwing a lot of leather and he just caught Cotto basically.
Weve done our work. Well be moving around, working the jab, pot-shotting when were on the inside, three or four shots. We want to do what Joe Calzaghe did with Jeff Lacy basically.â€?
Torres can hit, but Michael points out that Arnaoutis can do damage, too.
Before, Mike wasnt sitting down on his punches, now hes matured and come into himself,â€? Michael said. Hes got some pop. Hes a sharp puncher, straight down the middle. The shots are straight and correct. And hes got the speed, and you know as well as me that speed creates power.â€?
Speed could indeed be the key for Arnaoutis, who, being a Greek pro boxer, is a rarity. The only Greek world champ was the light-heavyweight Anton Christoforidis, in 1941. I enjoyed watching a crowd-pleasing welterweight named Tanos The Tankâ€? Lambrianides in London in the 1960s; world-class Aussie lightweight Michael Katsidis is of Greek ancestry. Basically, though, Greece just does not have a boxing heritage, so Mike Michael was a bit surprised to discover that in Arnaoutis he had discovered a genuine prospect.
Michael was working with Panos Eliades in London at the time when Eliades was promoting Lennox Lewis under the Panix Promotions banner.
Basically I was promoting some shows in Cyprus with Panos,â€? Michael said, and this kid from Greece called me continuously for six months.
I came over from London to Greece to watch this kid train, saw him box in a tournament and realised he had talent, and being myself of Greek heritage I thought: â€˜Lets see what we can do with a Greek kid.
I brought him to London to spar with Steve Murray, who was preparing for a British title fight with Bobby Vanzie, whos a southpaw like Mike, and he more than held his own with Murray, so I signed him up.
When Panos and Lennox went their separate ways and the company eventually broke up we formed Cestus Management and came to America.â€?
Now, after more than five years of being a pro fighter, Arnaoutiss big moment is at hand.
Arnaoutis seems to be ready. He has won 17 bouts and boxed a gruelling 12-round draw with the strong Colombian southpaw, Juan Urango. A technical draw in Indonesia that is listed on his record was really an exhibition, promoter Michael said. He explained: Mike was on a training holiday and these guys wanted to do an exhibition match, some kind of charity. Mike actually destroyed this guy, the guy got cut, and thats what happened. We forgot all about it, and then they put it up on the records.â€?
Arnaoutis showed the grit of a true fighter when he moved straight from the six-rounders into the 12-round bout with the favoured Urango and he almost won.
He looked very impressive in stopping normally durable opponents Jesse Feliciano in one round and Jauquin Gallardo in three. A surprisingly close 12-rounder with late substitute Ramon Santa Cruz seemed a rare off-night, but Arnaoutis came through under difficult circumstances he was cut on the bridge of the nose, over the left eye and was spitting blood in the later rounds due to a cut tongue. But, with the fight close on the judges cards, Arnaoutis made sure of winning by finishing strongly in the 12th.
Finding a way to win on a night when things arent going right is an indication of character.
Arnaoutis has shown he can go 12 rounds and still be coming on at the end; Torress stamina might be suspect because so many fights have ended early 11 wins in the first round, seven in two rounds.
Always cocky, Arnaoutis professes to be unimpressed by Torress KO string while Mike Michael said: I never like to make too many predictions. I never, ever say my guys going to knock the guy out but I will say I expect a dominating performance.â€?
I expect Arnaoutis to win, too, although I believe that the first half of the fight is likely to be fraught with peril. Arnaoutis will have to keep moving and stay alert, scoring points and not staying in one place for too long.
Assuming Arnaoutis doesnt get caught early I think he should be able to take command from the seventh. If Torres starts to get winded from big misses, Arnaoutis can begin to take chances and open up more.
One mistake against someone like Torres can be costly, but the longer the fight goes the better it should be for Arnaoutis and I expect to see him box his way to an intelligent victory on points.