Predictions: Pascal-Diaconu II, Diaz-Malignaggi II, Bradley-Peterson and More

Though boxing doesn't have an offseason like the stick-and-ball sports, it does take a de facto holiday recess each year from roughly mid-December to mid-January. It's not that there isn't any boxing during that time, but you won't see any championship bouts either.

This year's schedule is no exception, but at least fans are getting treated to one last action-packed weekend before the sport goes on hiatus. The next 48 hours will see title fights taking place in the U.S., Canada and Switzerland, plus what promises to be an exciting sequel in Chicago.

On Friday night, Jean Pascal and Adrian Diaconu meet for the second time this year to do battle for the WBC light heavyweight belt that Pascal claimed by decision in the first fight. Though Diaconu lost by at least three points on all three official scorecards, he put up a good battle most of the way, especially when he got off the canvas to rock Pascal late in a wildly entertaining fifth round.

Here's what I wrote about Pascal following that victory:

I'd never seen Pascal fight before, and he struck me as a really poor man's Roy Jones Jr. He carried his hands low, using his reflexes and movement to dodge punches, often at the last possible moment.

He also flashed some quick hands on offense, though he didn't seem to have a ton of power behind all of his shots. You definitely got the feeling he was flirting with disaster even as he was winning rounds, which may not be the safest way to have success but does provide a good show for fans.

I still feel the same way going into the rematch. As far as making a pick, I learned a long time ago not to pick the loser of the first fight to win the next one unless there is some kind of extenuating circumstance.

That doesn't seem to be the case here. Diaconu is a tough guy and a solid boxer, but Pascal is faster and more talented and should retain the title by decision.

Pascal-Diaconu II is just an appetizer to the main course on Saturday, as HBO and Showtime serve up dueling cards which should both be worth watching. HBO has Victor Ortiz returning to action attempting to shake off his first career defeat and a rematch between Juan Diaz and Paulie Malignaggi in the main event.

The first battle between Diaz and Malignaggi was certainly memorable. Paulie spent much of the time before the fight complaining that he wouldn't get a fair shake from the judges fighting in front of Juan's hometown judges in Houston, and he turned out to be partially correct: after a tight, back-and-forth affair, one judge saw it 118-110 for Diaz.

They'll meet in Chicago this time around, so bias shouldn't be an issue. We know what to expect from Diaz, who comes straight forward and throws punches until either he or his opponent give out.

What isn't as certain is which version of Malignaggi will show up, as Paulie has been maddeningly inconsistent over the last two years. He has the faster hands but even less power (only five knockouts among his 26 career wins), so he'll need to be able to outbox Diaz for 12 rounds to win.

The educated guess is that Malignaggi will throw the quicker and more accurate shots while Diaz will be busier and have slightly more pop. Picking a winner could be a matter of personal preference, but my gut tells me Diaz will squeak it out on the cards, leaving Malignaggi despondent once again.

Along with the live fights on HBO will be tape delayed coverage of Vitali Klitschko taking on Kevin Johnson in Switzerland. This will be the elder Klitschko's third fight of 2009, as he attempts to make up for time lost to injury a few years ago.

The undefeated Johnson isn't short at 6' 3", but he'll have the same problem that most people do when facing Klitschko. Namely, he'll be too small to box from the outside and face too much firepower if he tries to get inside.

Johnson doesn't appear to have the power to stand and trade with Klitschko even if he does close the range, so I'm not sure how he pulls off the upset. Vitali will keep rolling with a mid-round KO.

Last but certainly not least, Showtime has two title fights on tap for Saturday. Vic Darchinyan drops back down in weight after an ill-fated effort at bantamweight to take on Tomas Rojas, while Timothy Bradley defends his 140-pound belt against undefeated Lamont Peterson.

Bradley has come out of nowhere to give his division a potential star with three solid victories over the past two years, along with a fight against Nate Campbell that was going his way until a cut ended it early. No individual aspects of his game stand out as being truly elite, but he's above average in speed, strength and technique and never seems to tire.

Fighting out of Memphis, Tennessee, Peterson is 27-0 but is taking a significant step up in competition to face Bradley. He can bring it to the head and body, though like his foe this weekend, he doesn't have particularly frightening KO power.

Peterson will have height and reach advantages, but Bradley has faced the same kinds of challenges before and prevailed. Both men have fast hands, so it will be interesting to see who takes the lead in terms of aggression.

This has the makings of a crowd-pleasing scrap between two fighters whose best years are almost certainly still in front of them. Experience fighting top-level opposition could turn out to be the difference, so I'm leaning toward Bradley to win by decision.

Posted by The Franchise

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