Francisco Vargas vs. Orlando Salido
Drug testing not withstanding, this fight is highly anticipated for many other reasons. These are two men who routinely engage in FOTY type brawls, and the winner is likely to face Vasyl Lomachenko, if he gets past Roman Martinez. A unification match-up that will be great no matter who the two winners are? You had me at "hola". Salido never gets old, and usually gets stronger as fights go on, but it is hard to pick against Vargas after how he looked against Takashi Miura. This is a pick 'em fight, but I like Vargas in an action packed majority decision.
Artur Beterbiev vs. Ezeqiuel Maderna
Beterbiev is finally back in action, and in true fashion of his promoter, Al Haymon, he is not facing any of the other big dogs in the Haymon 175'b stable. Maderna's only two losses came against then-unbeaten Edwin Rodriguez and Tommy Oosthuizen, and he was competitive against both, but having a good chin against Beterbiev just prolongs the agony. Beterbiev by mid to late rounds TKO, and hat's being generous to the Argentine.
Roman Martinez vs. Vasyl Lomachenko
This is the other half of the 130lb sweepstakes that will lead to a consensus world champion in the division. Martinez has never been known for his easy schedule, but other than his loss to Mikey Garcia, no one has ever conclusively beaten him. He may have been lucky against Salido in the rematch, and Burgos earlier in his career, but he was always competitive. I believe Lomachenko is in that elite Mikey Garcia class, however, and this one will not be as hard. Lomachenko by wide UD, in an exciting fight.
Ruslan Provodnikov vs. John Molina
This is one of those fights that has "fight of the year" written all over it, before either man has thrown a punch. Neither man takes backward steps. Neither man uses much boxing skill, except relentless pressure. Neither man knows what a jab even is. These are also two men whose stock goes up more with losses than wins, as long as they win one every now and then. Provodnikov has the far better chin, however, and another pressure fighter is tailor made for him. Provo by KO in the mid to late rounds, unless his face busts up beyond recognition early.
Demetrius Andrade vs. Willie Nelson
Nelson is a spoiler who it is easy to root for. If you are anything less than 100% for real, Nelson will usually figure it out. Also, Andrade has been off, and seems to have rekindled his promoter issues by signing away from the entity where all his 154lb competition resides. Unless he signs with Haymon, or goes to England to face Liam Walsh, he will remain largely belt-less and opponent-less. However, he is looking to get his hands on another title belt, at a time when the others are all up for grabs, so maybe some good fortune will happen if he wins. He will. He is still too good, and I think unless Nelson fights the fight of his life, we will see Boo Boo stay unbeaten in a clear cut UD.
Shawn Porter vs. Keith Thurman
Hopefully this will actually happen this time, however, unless one of them absolutely dominates, the delay from arch to June puts them both out of the running for Floyd's comeback fight in September. I know Floyd has not announced anything of the sort, yet, but we all know it's coming. More than likely Danny Garcia will get the assignment in a bout that proves nothing, but if Thurman or Porter can prove conclusively superior, they will leap ahead of Swift in the public's eyes. Sadly, I don't think that will matter to Floyd, who would be looking to capitalize on a Latino fan base. Plus, I think this is a close competitive fight, that may even be more awkward than people think. Both men are looking at long layoffs, but unless one is rustier than the other I like Thurman to jump out to a lead from boxing well, and Porter to make it closer down the stretch, but not close enough. Thurman by close UD.
Raushee Warren vs. Juan Carlos Payano
The rematch of their controversial last encounter is coming off of a 10 month layoff for both men. In fact neither had been that active coming in, but especially Payano. For the WBA belt that is considered "super", it is odd that neither man has been fighting, while Tomoki Kameda and Jamie McDonnell have been stealing all the thunder, for the "regular" bantamweight title. Not that it was a barn-burner the first time, but the oft-robbed Warren never got a chance at redemption in his 3 Olympic screwings. He gets one here, and I believe it will finally be his big day. Warren by UD.
Abner Mares vs. Jesus Cuellar
While Cuellar's resume pretty much consists of big wins over former world champions on the downside, that may actually be what Mares is now. I applaud Mares for taking this fight, but honestly, he really didn't have much of a choice. He could move up and try to win a fourth division belt, but that division is too competitive right now, and he has not outgrown 126 yet. If he wants into the big fights again, he needs a big win like this. I do not think he will get it. Cuellar by late TKO, after falling behind on points.