Convicted Artist Magazine

Feb 28th
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boxing_art_035The featherweight division is a mess.  It’s the kind of mess that you wake up to on a Sunday morning, after a great party.  It’s for a good reason, but still a mess.  The talent-rich 126lb-ers have made every move possible without actually pitting the young guns against each other.  While this has meant fighters like Orlando Salido and Steven Luevano have gotten into the mix, along with old pros like Rafael Marquez, there is a clear avoidance of what fans want to see.  They want to see Juanma, Gamboa, and now to a lesser extent Caballero. 
While everyone is advocating tournaments now, and I agree, I have long been doing this “clean-up” recommendation for divisions, and will keep the format the same.  Here is my idea for a single elimination, Super 8.  While Top Rank doesn’t want to do all of the work only to benefit promoters of other fighters (rightfully so), there should be enough Latino last names here to make them feel it is worth the gamble. 
Juanma Lopez vs. Elio Rojas – A chance for Lopez to unify belts, and take on a fighter who wuill make it exciting, if not very competitive.  While this may look like more delaying of the inevitable, when we have a tournament, where we are guaranteed the best to face each other, we can simply watch these kinds of fights and enjoy them.  Rojas is hungry, but I believe he will not provide much that Juanma hasn’t seen before.  His opponents list is not impressive, and he has a fairly recent loss to spoiler Gamaliel Diaz.  Lopez by middle-round TKO.
Hozumi Hasegawa vs. Celestino Caballero -  Caballero’s victories at 122 are impressive, as was Hasegawa’s leap two divisions to win a belt at 126… however, both have embarrassing losses in their recent past, and need to re-establish interest with a quality win.  My pick here would be Caballero by late stoppage.  The Litzau loss was a hiccup, and Hasegawa’s best opponent was also his biggest defeat. 
Yuriorkis Gamboa vs. Ponce De Leon – Does anyone actually think De Leon will fare any better against Juanma a second time?  Not yet, anyway.  While he is the madatory for a rematch with Lopez, he should forgo it.  This gives him a chance to get the title shot he has rightfully earned, while Gamboa can get a payday against a name that will probably be an easy night for him.  De Leon is a power puncher, so he’s always a risk, but Gamboa will likely box his ears off all night.  My pick would be Gamboa by wide decision, after surviving an early knockdown.
Chris John vs. Rafael Marquez – Sure Marquez is probably done, but he’s not likely to take bombs from John, and it gives him a chance to win a belt in both a sanctioning body and division he has not yet had, plus avenge a controversial loss suffered by his brother.  Marquez makes it interesting, and comes forward… but I believe John still has enough left to win a decision.  Marquez by late KO is not out of the question, however.
That last fight is the closest, but also the most unlikely to happen.  John’s handlers would probably rather he defend in Indonesia until retirement, rather than risk Gamboa or Juanma.  But going with this set-up, I believe John vs. Gamboa would result in a decision win for Gamboa, and Juanma vs. Caballero would result in a points win for Juanma Lopez. 
So, with all the build-up out of the way, we can finally get our dream match, which is a pick ‘em fight.  I believe we could be looking at a Vasquez vs. Marquez style trilogy, given the strengths and weaknesses of each fighter.  However, if you make me choose, I pick the steadiness of Juanma to make the difference in a close decision win.  I know I picked a lot of decisions, but I believe they will all be fairly exciting.

Chris Strait

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