Juan Diaz vs. Paulie Malignaggi, Malcolm Klassen vs. Robert Guerrero, Danny Jacobs vs. Ishe Smith: Predictions

The Franchise says...

There's no such thing as a "must-win" bout in boxing, but we are going to be seeing a "damn-close-to-must-win" fight for both sides of HBO's main event this Saturday.

Juan Diaz gets to fight before his hometown fans in Houston, trying to right the ship after going 1-2 (and the one win was by split decision) in his last three fights. Smart, articulate and offensively talented - but defensively suspect - the Baby Bull was Victor Ortiz before Victor Ortiz, and has even more soul-searching to do at this point.

His opponent Paulie Malignaggi has actually seen his rise through the sport stopped twice: once after losing to Miguel Cotto in 2006 and again after his TKO loss to Ricky Hatton last November. There's certainly no shame in having those two gentlemen hand you your only two defeats, but the Magic Man seems to go to the back of the line more than most after taking an 'L.'

I think it's pretty well established at this point that Diaz only knows one way to fight. He's going to come forward and throw lots of punches. If that doesn't work, there's no Plan B. His chin is probably the best part of his defense, though as Juan Manuel Marquez proved, it has its limits.

Malignaggi is the bigger question mark. He's known as a light-hitting slickster (and that's being generous, as under 20 percent of his wins came via KO), but he curiously allowed Hatton to out-box him for most of their fight. He's naturally bigger and taller, though it remains to be seen if those qualities do him any good keeping Diaz out of his face.

It's not like Malignaggi can't win this fight, especially if he's able to consistently outmanuever Diaz or withstand an early barrage and pile up points down the stretch. It's just that his margin or error is so slim that the odds are against him being able to pull it off.

Diaz has found out that against the very best competition, what he does best isn't quite good enough. But Paulie is a step down from the likes of JMM and Nate Campbell, so I like the Baby Bull to win by late TKO.

In the co-feature, Robert Guerrero attempts to take the IBF super featherweight title from Malcolm Klassen after making a slight lightweight detour his last time out. After fighting just once in 2008, The Ghost has been a busy man, as this is already his fourth fight this year.

Klassen will make his first appearance in the U.S. after fighting all but one of his previous bouts in his native South Africa. He's fought just good enough competition to suggest he's not a stiff, and though he has four career losses, they've all come by the scorecards.

It's hard to break this one down having never seen Klassen fight, but the consensus opinion among boxing writers is that this will be the best guy Guerrero has faced to this point. Still, there's no reason to think that if he brings his 'A' game, he won't come out on top, and he's been fairly consistent in that regard in 2009. Guerrero wins by late KO.

HBO is also giving us a rare treat with a third televised fight, as undefeated Danny Jacobs tangles with Ishe Smith.

Fans have been waiting to see the 22-year old Jacobs take a step up in competition, but this may not qualify in that regard. Once upon a time Smith seemed to be a future title challenger, but that was probably five years ago, even before his unsuccessful attempt to win the first season of The Contender.

Jacobs got a little testy defending this fight on his Twitter feed, but he certainly appears to be taking the fight seriously, even if it isn't likely Ishe will have the power to hurt him. What Smith may have is enough veteran craftiness to go the distance.

But that's okay because the Golden Child has never gone ten rounds, so we may learn something about him in the process. Smith will learn that the younger man is too fast and too strong, and Jacobs will roll to an easy decision.

Posted by The Franchise

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