So begins our marathon coverage of one of the biggest fights of 2012, Manny Pacquiao vs. Juan Manuel Marquez 4 on Dec. 8 on HBO pay-per-view. Now: A preview of the undercard and the rest of the week's boxing schedule. Next: whether you should care about the fight.
Like fish drawn to an illegal Taiwanese flare fisherman, boxing fans — casual and hardcore alike — are drawn to the biggest events of the year. Manny Pacquiao vs. Juan Manuel Marquez on HBO pay-per-view (PPV) is just such an event. Really, I just want to put up a cool photo, but I feel I have to justify it with an awkwardly stretched metaphor.
There’s other stuff on besides the Manny and Juan Manuel show and its undercard featuring Yuriorkis Gamboa, though, including Mikkel Kessler being Danish in Denmark, various top prospects on a few cards and under-the-radar American heavyweight prospect Bryant Jennings fighting on NBC Sports Net. To the fights!
Manny Pacquiao vs. Juan Manuel Marquez Undercard
- Yuriorkis Gamboa vs. Michael Farenas. The junior lightweight return of Gamboa (21-0, 16 KO) is upon us. Once known as YURIORKIS GAMBOA around these parts, the dynamic Cuban may need to re-earn his caps after more than a year away from the ring. His opponent on Saturday, the Phillipines’ Farenas (34-3-4, 26 KO) might not be an ideal measuring stick. While he’s an experienced, hard-punching southpaw, Farenas has too many traits that play into Gamboa’s hands. For one, he tends to stand still while under attack, not a good idea against “The Guantanamo Cyclone.” Nor is his willingness to exchange wildly. Unless Gamboa gets really stupid, I think he’ll win this one inside the first half.
- Miguel Vazquez vs. Mercito Gesta. This undercard has a bit of a Latin/Filipino flavor, doesn’t it? Like Sisig Tacos. Transnational Boxing Rankings Board (TBRB) top 10 lightweights Vazquez (31-3, 13 KO) and Gesta (26-0-1, 14 KO) are very different fighters. Gesta is a short, fast, sometimes wild southpaw, very much in the mould of the man at the top of the bill. Vazquez, by contrast, is a tall, crafty boxer. He struggled much more than expected in his last outing with Marvin Quintero, a southpaw with the same dimensions as Gesta, so that will buoy the Filipino’s hopes. But I see Vazquez outboxing him from range to win a decision.
- Javier Fortuna vs. Patrick Hyland. Dominican featherweight Fortuna (20-0, 15 KO) might be the single most promising prospect in the sport. He’s up against undefeated Irishman Hyland who owns a good looking record of 27-0 (12 KO) earned against unspectacular opposition and is promoted by Snooki of "Jersey Shore" infamy. The Irishman is scrappy but make no mistake, ladies and gents, this is a showcase bout for Fortuna on the big stage. Look for a decapitation.
The Rest Of The Week’s Boxing Schedule
- Hugo Ruiz vs. Koki Kameda, Tuesday, Osaka Japan. This bantamweight fight takes place in Osaka’s awesomely named Bodymaker Coliseum, but has more than that to recommend it. Kameda (28-1, 17 KO) and Ruiz (31-1, 28 KO) are five and six, respectively, on the TBRB’s lightweight roster. Ruiz is really tall for a bantam at 5’9 ½”, and despite being reed-thin is the second hardest puncher in the whole sport, at least by TQBR’s Andrew Harrison’s math. He’s usually happy to counterpunch, but knows when to go for the finish, as his 28 knockouts indicate. Kameda, a more normal sized bantamweight, is a southpaw counter-attacker and stalker in turns. He’ll easily be the best opponent that Ruiz has ever faced, but he’ll have to be cautious about the Mexican’s big right hand. To be honest, I have no idea who wins this, but I think Kameda will force an up-tempo, entertaining fight.
- Ray Beltran vs. Ji-Hoon Kim, Thursday, ESPN2, Las Vegas. Lightweight veteran and longtime Manny Pacquiao sparring partner Beltran (26-6, 17 KO) finally got a lucky break this year when he upset Hank Lundy. Back on ESPN, Beltran is looking to continue his streak against Korean wild man Kim (24-7-2, 18 KO), who’s proved over the course of his career that he can dish it out, but can’t really take it. That, along with Beltran’s superior boxing skills, force me to predict a short, painful night for Kim.
- Bryant Jennings vs. Bowie Toupou, Saturday, NBC Sports Net, Philadelphia. With Seth Mitchell’s upset loss to Jonathon Banks last month, Bryant Jennings (15-0, 7 KO) dons the mantle of America’s best heavyweight hope. Though he’s already had a busy 2012, Jennings will look to close the year with a victory over Tonga’s Bowie Toupou (22-2, 16 KO). Toupou is coming off a lackluster loss to Malik Scott, in which he retired with a hurt arm in the final round. Unlike Toupou, Jennings is patient and tidy, so look for a decision victory. To me, this seems like about the right level of competition for Jennings at this stage. I’d like to start seeing him in with some heavyweight fringe contenders a couple of fights down the road, though.
- The Rest. Welterweight prospect Jessie Vargas (20-0, 9 KO) takes a major step sideways against Armenia’s Vito Gasparyan (14-2-5, 8 KO) in Las Vegas Friday on Azteca America. Mexican Olympian Oscar Valdez (1-0, 1 KO) fights for the second time in just over a month on the same card… Junior featherweight Jose Nieves (20-2-3, 9 KO) faces Glenn Porras (28-3, 17 KO) on Telemundo from Florida Friday night… Undefeated lightweight prospect Luis Ramos, Jr. faces Ricardo Williams, Jr. in a battle of juniors on Fox Deportes Saturday night from California… English super middleweight James DeGale (13-1, 9 KO) faces veteran trial horse Fulgencio Zuniga (25-6-1, 22 KO) on Saturday in Yorkshire, to be broadcast by WealthTV in the States… Danish super middleweight Mikkel Kessler (45-2, 34 KO) returns this Saturday against Northern Ireland’s brave Brian Magee (36-4, 25 KO), who may be in for a short night of the worst kind… Flyweights Giovani Segura (28-2-1, 24 KO) and Glen Donaire (19-5-1, 10 KO) are said to be fighting on Saturday, but no venue has been announced. If the card is on, Sonny Boy Jaro is on the undercard…The final installment of Pacquiao-Marquez 24/7 will air on Friday night. Hopefully it will touch on Freddie Roach’s controversial comments about performance enhancing drugs… Another interesting Pacquiao vs. Marquez promotional titbit: TNT will air "Charles and Reggie: Toe to Toe with Manny Pacquiao," after the basketball on Thursday night. The Charles and Reggie in question would be NBA legends Charles Barkley and Reggie Miller, who'll check out Pacquiao's training for a 30 minute segment. Cool, if a little strange.