Predictions: Froch-Taylor, Lopez-Penalosa, Spinks-Latimore

April goes out with a bang in the sport of boxing, with Showtime televising cards on Friday and Saturday night and HBO chipping in with one of the most exciting fighters in the game on Saturday as well. On paper, the most interesting bout sees Carl "The Cobra" Froch put his WBC super middleweight title on the line against former middleweight champion Jermain Taylor.

To me, Taylor represents one of the most interesting "What if?" cases in the sport today. Had he been able to keep Kelly Pavlik on the canvas the first time they met in 2007, it's quite possible that despite his soft-spoken nature and lack of gamesmanship, he'd be one of the biggest stars in boxing.

Kevin Iole recently wrote about the caliber of competition Taylor has faced, mentioning that his foes had a combined 83.7 winning percentage at the time of their fights. That's only going to go up this weekend, as Froch brings in a perfect 24-0 mark with 19 KOs.

But Froch has fought just once outside his native U.K. (knocking out Henry Porras in California in 2005), and his fight record is largely devoid of recognizable opponents. Is he another Joe Calzaghe, just waiting for the chance to display his wares to a wider audience? Or is he another Gary Lockett or Michael Jennings who's about to be exposed?

Everything I've read and seen from Froch suggests he leans more toward the former, but I still think Taylor has enough to get past him. I expect he'll have an edge in speed, and since he had trouble cutting to 160 toward the end of his time as a middleweight, there's reason to believe him when he says he feels stronger at 168.

I don't think Taylor will have an easy time of it - he rarely seems to - and this win is unlikely to propel him back to the top of the sport. Nevertheless, I like Taylor to win a unanimous decision.

HBO's Saturday night broadcast showcases bright young talent and knockout machine Juan Manuel Lopez. It's hard to name too many boxers who have had more impressive runs over the last two years than Juanma, who's KOed 10 men since the beginning of 2007 - seven of them in three rounds or less and three straight in the first round.

The consensus seems to be that former bantamweight titleholder Gerry Penalosa will prove Lopez's stiffest test so far, and the veteran does bring a wealth of experience and some power of his own to the table. He's also over a decade older and facing decent disadvantages in height and reach.

It's a mistake to read too much into common opponents in boxing, but it is interesting to note that Penalosa was easily outpointed by Daniel Ponce de Leon in March 2007. Lopez fought him a little more than a year later and blitzed him in less than two and a half minutes.

Amazingly, Lopez fought less rounds in four 2008 fights than Penalosa did each of the last eight times he's stepped into the ring. Does that mean Gerry has an edge if he can weather the early storm and take the fight to the late rounds? I'm not sure, but the next time Juanma goes past the 11th round will be his first, so it couldn't hurt.

Not that I believe that will actually happen. Even though Penalosa has yet to be stopped, the younger man will prove too explosive in this one, and Lopez will rack up another KO to add to his growing resume.

Last in importance but first chronologically is Friday night's junior middleweight Battle of St. Louis between Cory Spinks and Deandre Latimore. Spinks will get a chance to somewhat right a career that's come off the rails since he was holding multiple welterweight titles about five years ago, while Latimore will be making a bit of a step up in his level of competition.

Both men are southpaws and about even physically. Latimore is talented but still raw, and that could be an issue as he goes up against someone who almost guarantees a long, frustrating night.

Power should be the difference here. Spinks has gone more than eight years without leaving an opponent on the canvas and wasn't a heavy hitter back when he fought at 147. Compare that to Latimore who seems to have legitimate 154-pound power and it's no contest.

Though I don't discount the chance of Spinks winning ugly, I have to go with the guy who has multiple ways to win. Since Cory is tricky to put away, I'll go with Latimore by decision.

Posted by The Franchise

No comments: