Photos by Sumio Yamada
Picks of the Week - Free Sample
The ratings system: How it works
Five stars: Pick of the week.
Four stars: Looks like a winner.
Three stars: Solid selection.
Two stars: Cautiously optimistic
One star: Speculative play
The oddsmakers see Mikey Garcia as being on a different level to Roman “Rocky” Martinez in HBO’s main event from Corpus Christi, TX on Saturday. Although Puerto Rican Martinez is the defending champion in this WBO junior lightweight title fight and is respected as a good, tough, hard-hitting fighter, Garcia is undefeated and seen as a special fighter, hence odds in the -1200 range.
I’m expecting a much more competitive fight than the wide odds suggest, but it’s hard to see past Garcia in this bout.
Although Garcia is moving up in weight I don’t think this makes any difference. Garcia always looked big for a featherweight, and he missed weight for what was to have been a featherweight title bout against Juan Manuel Lopez, when Garcia scaled 128 pounds. It wouldn’t surprise me if Garcia looks the bigger man in the ring on Saturday night.
This should be an exciting fight with a distinct contrast in styles. Martinez presses forward throughout and has a high punch-rate, while Garcia is much more of the methodical, punch-perfect technician.
While I don’t make the fight an easy one for Garcia, I fully expect him to win. Martinez has surprised me in his last three fights, however. I picked underdog Miguel Beltran Jr. to beat Martinez, and Martinez won by split decision. I went with Juan Carlos Burgos over Rocky, and Martinez fought Burgos to a draw. Martinez got me again when he won a split decision over Diego Magdaleno in April — it was very close, but I thought that Martinez deserved the win.
Garcia, though, is a more formidable hitter than Martinez’s last three opponents. Martinez doesn’t exactly shun defence but he tends to leave himself open as he seeks to land heavy blows and I think that Garcia might be able to time him for counters and land the sort of shots that can slow down Martinez’s forward march.
I was disappointed when Garcia faded somewhat after a strong start against Orlando Salido in January, but perhaps he was beginning to deplete himself making 126 pounds. In his last fight, weighing 128, Garcia looked very strong when blowing out JuanMa Lopez in the third round.
There is little likelihood of Garcia getting Martinez out of the fight as quickly as he halted Lopez, but I do think that he can gradually break his man down.
Garcia has been working with strength and conditioning coach Alex Ariza at brother Robert Garcia’s gym in Oxnard, CA, and says he feels faster and more powerful. Martinez is 30 and he’s had some long, gruelling fights. Garcia, 25, is the fresher fighter, and while we’ve seen the best of Martinez I believe that we might not have seen the best of Garcia.
My main criticism of Garcia is that he can be extremely patient, but Martinez’s coming-at-you style might bring the best out of Mikey because he will have to unload heavy punches to prevent Martinez from crowding and bullying him out of the fight. As tough and game as Martinez undoubtedly is, I do think that Garcia can win this fight inside the distance, perhaps around the 10th round as punch-accumulation catches up with Martinez — but Rocky won’t be going out without letting Garcia know he’s been in a fight.
BETTING TIP: I quite like the over 8.5 rounds proposition at -150 at Bet365, because this fight looks almost certain to go into the later rounds. Skybet is offering a proposition of either man to win in rounds 1 to 12 (essentially a “fight won’t go distance” proposition) at -187, and I like that play, too. However, for an “official” pick I will go with “Garcia to win in rounds 7-12” at +162 at Ladbrokes. I will be very impressed — and surprised — if Garcia gets Martinez out of the fight inside six rounds. I think that if the stoppage comes it won’t be until some time in the second half of the fight. I’ll make the “Garcia in 7-12” wager a “to win one unit” recommendation, meaning a risk of less than three-quarters of a unit.
Another play I will recommend is a double — Garcia vs Martinez not to go the distance teamed with Demetrius Andrade to beat Vanes Martirosyan in a junior middleweight title bout on the Corpus Christi show. I’ve been impressed with the athletic southpaw Andrade and I believe he will be too fast and too skilled for Martirosyan in a clash of unbeaten U.S. Olympic representatives. The double works out at +106 at 5 Dimes and +110 at Ladbrokes. I’ll make this a one-unit play.
We have many fights to look at and wagering lines were only stabilised in the last 24 hours, so, having taken a look at all the odds, I’ll get right into it and I’ll keep it brief. Here is a selection of Saturday fights and my thoughts on the bouts.
CALLUM SMITH vs RUBEN ACOSTA
Unbeaten 168-pound prospect Callum Smith meets his stiffest test in the very experienced Ruben Acosta, from Argentina, in a scheduled 10-rounder on the Kell Brook vs Vyacheslav Senchenko show in Sheffield. Smith, from the Liverpool family of boxing brothers, has stopped his last six opponents in the first round. The seasoned Acosta has been stopped only twice in 40 bouts so it is highly unlikely that Smith will extend his one-round KO streak. Still, I do feel that Smith is going to be too young, too big and hit far too hard for Acosta. While Acosta is a cagey type of fighter who is used to going rounds, he has stopped only 10 opponents and I don’t think he has the punching power to make Smith cautious. Smith towered over Acosta at the weigh-on and looked very confident. I think that Smith can catch up with Acosta and get him out of the fight in about six rounds.
BETTING TIP: The Sportsbook group has an under 7.5 rounds proposition at -115, whereas other books have a higher line (-175 at Bet365, for instance). I’ll endorse the under 7.5 as a “to win one unit” play at anything up to -150.
ANTHONY JOSHUA vs PAUL BUTLIN
Olympic super heavyweight gold medallist Anthony Joshua has his second professional bout when he meets trial horse Paul Butlin in a six-rounder on the big Sheffield show. Joshua impressively won his debut in the opening round against game but massively outgunned Emanuele Leo, of Italy. Butlin, a 37-year-old from the English midlands, has been stopped eight times, including a fifth-round KO defeat in his last bout against towering Scottish prospect Gary Cornish, although Butlin claimed he was hit by a low blow. Butlin will no doubt keep a tight defence and do his best to make it through the six rounds but Joshua seems to be the type of young man who wishes to make a statement every time he steps into the ring, and he just looked a different animal to Butlin at the weigh-in. I’m expecting a quick win for the powerful and impressive Joshua, maybe in the second or third round.
JACK CULCAY vs GUIDO PITTO
Argentinean Guido Pitto pulled off a big upset when he defeated former world amateur champion Jack Culcay on a split decision last April. They meet again on the big show in Oldenburg, when “Golden Jack” Culcay will attempt to win back the WBA Intercontinental junior middleweight title and avenge his only professional defeat. Pitto relocated to Spain last year and he has the good fortune to work with the top Spanish trainer, Ricardo Sanchez Atocha, a colourful, pony-tailed gentleman best known for his long association with former two-weight world champ Javier Castillejo. Pitto sprang a surprise when he outlasted and knocked out local favourite Reda Zam Zam in Denmark last December in Pitto’s first bout in Europe, and the big win over Culcay came just four months later. Culcay, born in Ecuador, had won 14 bouts in a row before meeting Pitto, the last five by KO, and I think he underestimated his opponent. Pitto took the fight to Culcay and outworked and outfought the flashy German boxer for a close but thoroughly deserved win. Culcay says he knows that he didn’t fight hard enough last time and says that he won’t make the same mistake on Saturday. “I won’t step off the gas until the fight is over,” Culcay promises. I am a bit sceptical about Culcay, who doesn’t particularly like pressure, and I think he is in for another tough fight with a hungry and motivated opponent. I lean towards Culcay but I won’t be laying the price of around -300.
DEONTAY WILDER vs NICOLAI FIRTHA
Heavyweight “Bronze Bomber” Deontay Wilder has lived up to his nickname with 28 KOs in 28 professional bouts. The U.S. Olympic bronze medallist from Tuscaloosa, AL, has yet to go past four rounds. He enjoys knocking people out, and the oddsmakers expect him to make Nicolai Firtha his 29th KO victim on the big show in Atlantic City headlined by Bernard Hopkins in a light-heavyweight title defence against Karo Murat. If you want to bet on Wilder to win by KO TKO or DQ you’ll have to pay a hefty admission price, understandably so. Firtha simply looks made for Wilder — he’s a big, slow heavyweight who isn’t terribly difficult to hit with right hands. Tyson Fury came back from a wobbly moment to overwhelm Firtha with a barrage of punches in the fifth round two years ago, and Firtha has boxed only twice since. Boxing isn’t a bodybuilding competition, but, as with the sculpted Anthony Joshua and the well-padded Paul Butlin, Wilder — streamlined and imposing — looked a different physical specimen standing next to the rather fleshy looking Firtha at the weigh-in today. I will be very surprised if Firtha makes it through five rounds.
PARLAY SUGGESTIONS: Callum Smith KO TKO DQ teamed with the under 5.5 rounds in the Wilder-Firtha fight works out at -140 at Bet365. I’ll make this a “to win one unit” play.
Smith-Acosta under 7.5 teamed with Wilder-Firtha under 5.5 works out at +115 at 5 Dimes. I’d suggest a wager of to win half a unit here.
Callum Smith by KO TKO DQ teamed with the Kell Brook-Vyacheslav Senchenko fight not to go distance and Deontay Wilder to win in rounds 1-5 against Nicolai Firtha works out at +162 at Ladbrokes. I’ll suggest a risk of “to win one unit” on this one.
I give all three of these parlays a decent chance of hitting but I would tread carefully here because we are dealing with over/under plays and KO propositions, which can be tricky.
Note: I’m still looking at the Brian Rose vs Javier Maciel; Peter Quillin vs Gabriel Rosado and Hopkins-Murat fights and hope to have previews available by Saturday morning at the latest.
Tommy Coyle had the fight won against Derry Mathews last July when he walked into a huge left hook in the 10th round. On Saturday, fighting before a home crowd in Hull in the north of England, Coyle promises to come back a smarter, improved fighter against Scottish veteran John Simpson in their 12-rounder for the vacant IBF International lightweight title.
Coyle was originally to have faced Gavin Rees, but Rees pulled out with an injury and Simpson took the fight on three weeks’ notice.
I like Coyle’s attitude going into the fight. He told the Hull Daily Mailnewspaper that while he initially felt devastated by the Mathews defeat he has analysed the fight and learned from the bitter experience of getting stopped. Basically, Coyle says, he was looking to knock out Mathews with every shot and fighting at “100 miles an hour”. He said that his trainer, former British light-middle champion Jamie Moore, has settled him down. Now, Coyle says, he will be working on “money in the bank shots”, the type of punches that wear a man down. “I feel a more rounded fighter.” Coyle said. “I feel like I’ve come on so much since the Derry Mathews fight and I’m excited about showing everyone the new Tommy Coyle.”
While I like what I’m hearing from Coyle, he faces a stern test against Simpson, the former British and Commonwealth featherweight champion whose only defeat inside the distance in 34 bouts came when Lee Selby dropped him with a wicked left hook to the body in the fifth round two years ago.
Simpson is a solidly skilled, game, industrious fighter with a reliable chin, and he has the experience of having been through many 12-round fights. In his last fight, Simpson outpointed the always tough Mongolian warrior, Choi Tseveenpurev. However, Simpson was meeting a 41-year-old fighter that night and I thought that Choi was looking his age in the later rounds. On Saturday, Simpson is meeting a younger, fresher, faster, bigger fighter.
While I see this fight as being a real test for Coyle, I do expect him to win. So, unfortunately, do the oddsmakers, who have installed Coyle as roughly a -250 favourite.
I’m not too keen on laying the price, so I’ve had a look at the method of victory market.
Coyle to win by decision — on paper the likeliest outcome — is available at -120. I’m wondering, though, whether Coyle might be able to force a stoppage here.
Simpson turned professional as a featherweight but moved up to the junior lightweight division in June 2012 after the Selby defeat. Now he is moving up from 130 to 135 pounds and he is coming in as a fairly short-notice substitute. Coyle has been a lightweight all of his career and has even boxed as a light-welterweight. Coyle looked ripped at the weigh-in, and he could be significantly heavier than Simpson by the time the two men step into the ring on Saturday.
There were times when Coyle looked like overwhelming Derry Mathews. Although Coyle says he will box a more restrained type of fight on Saturday he is usually a pressure-fighter type and I have to wonder whether the 30-year-old Simpson can stay with Coyle for 12 rounds.
Logically, this fight goes 12 rounds, but I’m getting the sense that Coyle might be able to impose his youth, size and strength and get Simpson out of the fight around the 10th or 11th round.
BETTING TIP: Simpson has pulled off upsets before, and if he does it again on Saturday I will just have to give him all the credit in the world, but I do expect Coyle to come through and I’m going to go for the gusto and take a shot on Coyle to win inside the scheduled 12 rounds. Skybet offers either man to win in rounds 1-12 at +175 and Paddy Power has a “fight not to go distance” proposition at +175. I like either of these plays but for an endorsement I’ll go for Coyle by KO TKO DQ at +400 at Bet365 or Coyle to win by KO TKO DQ or technical decision at +350 at William Hill. I suggest a risk of half a unit on either of these plays, which is low risk with a potential nice payout.
While Gennady Golovkin’s middleweight title defence against Curtis Stevens is the main event in New York on Saturday, the 10-round heavyweight chief supporting bout between Russia’s Magomed Abdusalamov and Mike Perez (a Cuban who lives in Ireland) is worthy of top billing in its own right.
The fans in the arena at Madison Square Garden’s theatre and those watching on HBO in the States and Sky Sports in the UK will be witness to a rare 50-50 fight between unbeaten heavyweights, with the winner taking a major step towards a world title fight.
Each man boxes out of the southpaw stance, with Abdusalamov the bigger hitter while Perez is the more skilled boxer.
As an amateur, Abdusalamov boxed in the world championships but Britain’s David Price defeated him on the “outclassed” rule in the 2008 European Olympic qualifying tournament — the bout was stopped when Price was 20 points ahead on the electronic scoring system.
Perez was a world junior champion in the light-heavyweight division and boxed internationally on the Cuban team in the senior amateurs — Russia’s two-time world champion Evgeny Makarenko beat Perez in the light-heavyweight final of the 2005 World Cup tournament in Moscow.
Abdusalamov, 32, has 18 KOs in 18 fights as a professional, with 11 one-round wins — he can really hit, and he brings heavy pressure from the opening bell. However, Abdusalamov can be a bit open as he comes in banging. A faded, 41-year-old Jameel McCline knocked Abdusalamov down in the first round, for instance. The fight that really showed Abdusalamov’s defensive limitations, though, was his very hard-earned fifth-round win over the Puerto Rican Olympic representative Victor Bisbal last March. Abdusalamov’s superior firing power proved too much for Bisbal in a wild slugging match, but I made the note that the Russian fighter was “far too hittable”.
Perez, 28, has won 19 bouts in a row with 12 KOs, which includes winning the Prizefighter international heavyweight tournament. While Perez isn’t nearly as exciting to watch as Abdusalamov he possesses excellent boxing ability and decent hand speed. Abdusalamov is the puncher in the fight, but Perez can bang a bit — if Perez can catch Abdusalamov cleanly with a counter punch, I think he can hurt him.
According to Perez’s manager, Irish businessman Patrick Thomas, the people guiding the top heavyweights have turned down fights against Perez. Part of the reason for this, he believes, is that U.S. heavyweights brought over to Ireland to spar with Perez (including Kevin Johnson, Fres Oquendo and Johnathon Banks) have spread the word back home about Perez’s talent.
Perez hasn’t lost a round as a professional boxer. Although he won his last three bouts on points I had the impression that he wasn’t particularly motivated and was content to cruise through the contests. Saturday’s fight is the one that can launch Perez’s career to the big-time level and, knowing he is the ring with a very dangerous opponent, I am expecting Perez to be sharper and more focused than he’s ever been — if he isn’t, he will be in trouble, because Abdusalamov will be going right at him and looking to hurt him.
I’m going with Perez to win this pick ’em fight. I think we’ve seen the best of Abdusalamov, but I have a sense that Perez can possibly reach another level. Obviously, a puncher such as Abdusalamov can end a fight quickly, and Perez doesn’t have much margin for error, but I think that Perez can weather the early onslaught and come back to slow his man down with counter punches, either winning on points or by a TKO around the eighth round.
BETTING TIP: I really wanted to wait until after the weigh-in before sending out this preview, but, after opening at +150 in the initial Paddy Power “feeler” line, Perez has been attracting most of the money and is currently sitting at around -110 at most of the books that have offered odds on this fight, so I didn’t want to wait any longer. I’ll endorse Perez as a “to win one unit” play at current odds. I might think twice if the odds move much higher, but I’m sure that there are Abdusalamov backers waiting in the wings for a better price on the Russian bomber, so if the odds on Perez do move north I’m expecting them to be bet down again as Abdusalamov money starts to show. If either man enters the ring higher than say, a -140 favourite, I will be surprised because this fight can go either way and I think the players are well aware of this.
After the frustration of an IBF title challenge against Devon Alexander being postponed three times due to injuries suffered by both fighters, undefeated welterweight Kell Brook is back in the ring on Saturday, topping the bill in a 12-rounder against Ukraine’s Vyacheslav Senchenko in Brook’s hometown of Sheffield in central England. Sky Sports will televise the fight in the UK and the bout can be seen on AWE TV (formerly WealthTV) in the U.S.
Promoter Eddie Hearn pointed out at this week’s press conference that Brook could have taken an easy, ticking-over fight while he awaits a crack at the winner of Alexander’s title defence against the unbeaten Shawn Porter. However, Brook wanted to fight a world-class opponent, and Senchenko, a former WBA champion who wrecked Ricky Hatton’s comeback dream, is a perfect choice, a boxer with an excellent record (34-1; 23 KOs) who is well known to British boxing fans after his ninth-round knockout over Hatton in Manchester last November.
Senchenko looks a decent test for Brook. Ranked No. 8 by the IBF and No. 11 by the WBC and WBA, Senchenko had a solid amateur background that included representing Ukraine in the Olympics and world championships. He captured the WBA title by outscoring Ukrainian rival Yuriy Nuzhnenko in April 2009 and made three successful defences, one of which was a tough and quite close contest against Charlie Navarro, a Venezuelan veteran who pressed Senchenko hard all through the bout. Indeed, Senchenko looked the worse for wear at the finish of his bout with Navarro, with a cut on the bridge of the nose and some swelling and bruising under and around the eyes.
The fight with Navarro showed that Senchenko was quite beatable, but it was a surprise to many when Paulie Malignaggi went to Ukraine and not only defeated Senchenko but also somewhat beat him up. The fight was stopped due to Senchenko’s left eye having swelled shut from below, but although the bout was close on the scorecards, Malignaggi looked the dominant boxer almost from the start.
Ricky Hatton’s people perhaps assumed that Senchenko might be a “shot” fighter, but if this was their thinking they got it wrong.
However, even though Senchenko took command of the contest against Hatton from the halfway stage and ended the bout with a beautifully placed left hook to the body, there were times in the early rounds when Senchenko looked as if he might be overwhelmed — and this against a 32-year-old Hatton who had been inactive for three-and-a-half years and had ballooned in weight and indulged in destructive lifestyle practices during the long layoff.
If a diminished Ricky Hatton could have Senchenko looking anxious and under pressure, if only for the first four or five rounds, then I believe that a young, strong, powerful fighter such as Brook is going to be far too much for the Ukrainian boxer.
Senchenko is 36, and while I am sure that he has trained very well for this fight I’m not sure he has the ammunition to hold Brook off for the full 12 rounds.
Brook has stated in various interviews that he means to go out and make a statement. He says that he will be seeking to stop Senchenko. “After the first round, he’ll know he’s in with a different animal,” Brook says.
I believe that Brook has trained very hard for this fight — I believe that his late-rounds fade against Carson Jones 15 months ago taught him a lesson about the importance of top-class preparation. Certainly Brook looked devastating when blowing away Hector Saldivia in three rounds and in his eighth-round hammering of Carson Jones in their rematch in Brook’s last two bouts.
Senchenko has the height and reach advantages and he is a capable boxer with a good jab and straight right hand, and, as he showed against Hatton, a useful left hook to the body, but Brook looks much more of a formidable, all-round fighting force. I like Brook by stoppage here, perhaps around the ninth round.
BETTING TIP: I was going to hold off on this preview until after Friday’s weigh-in, but lines on the Brook KO proposition have been inching north so I thought I would get this out now. Brook to win by KO TKO or DQ is now priced at -150 at Bet365, -137 at Ladbrokes and -125 at betway. I’ll endorse the Brook KO TKO DQ proposition as a “to win one unit” wager at current odds but I would hesitate to play anything higher. At Skybet, then under 10.5 rounds is offered at -125 and I like that line as a “to win one unit” play.