Floyd Mayweather Jr. (46-0, 26 KOs) and Marcos Maidana (35-4, 31 KOs) square off at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas, Nevada Saturday night on pay-per-view for the WBC welterweight title, the WBA Super Duper Ultimate Turbo Edition With Extra Cheese welterweight belt, and (bonus!) the WBC/WBA 154-pound straps, a case of weight class gymnastics at least as absurd as Sugar Ray Leonard imposing a 167-pound weight cap on Donny Lalonde and sticking silver dollars in his own pockets to get to 165 in a farce of a light heavyweight/super middleweight combination title bout in 1988. [Editor’s Note: FightHype.com is reporting that, per Mayweather request, only his welterweight titles will be on the line against Maidana]. The fight is a rematch of a fight that drew 900,000 buys back in May, less than half what Mayweather drew in his fight with Saul Alvarez, which drew 2.2 million for a record $150 million in revenue.
Meanwhile, the undercard would hardly pass muster on ESPN2. In theory, an additional two world titles could change hands, as Leo Santa Cruz (27-0-1, 15 KOs) puts his WBC junior featherweight title on the line against Manuel Roman (17-2-3, 6 KOs) and Miguel Vazquez (34-3, 13 KOs) attempts to extend his four-year reign as the IBF’s lightweight titlist and solidify his debatable (depending on how you feel about Terence Crawford) hold as the best 135-pound fighter in the world, squaring off against Mickey Bey (20-1-1, 10 KOs) in what will be for Bey his first shot at a world title.
On top of that, Alfredo Angulo (22-4, 18 KOs) will try to salvage what’s left of his career after three knockout losses to world-class opponents including KO losses in his last two fights, taking on James De La Rosa (22-2, 13 KOs) at a catchweight of 162 pounds, eight pounds heavier than Angulo has campaigned at for his entire career as a junior middleweight. It will be a step up for De La Rosa, having fought the likes of guys like Lenin Arroyo, Allen Conyers (to whom De La Rosa lost), and Edwin Valero wannabe and confirmed fraud as an actual serious fighter Tyrone Brunson (more on him some other time.)
As if that weren’t enough, those willing to click over to Showtime prior to the pay-per-view portion of the program will get a free look at 34-year-old (but one could be forgiven for thinking he’s much older) Humberto Soto (64-8-2, 35 KOs) taking on the pride of Covina, California, John Molina (27-4, 22 KOs), who will be trying to pick up the pieces after running out of steam in a Fight of the Year candidate, losing by knockout in Round 11 against Lucas Matthysse in April.
Now, a detailed breakdown of all five fights that will be shown with the lights on and the cameras rolling:
Humberto Soto (64-8-2, 35 KOs) vs. John Molina (27-4, 22 KOs), jr. welterweights
It’s hard to draw a solid bead on John Molina’s career. On the one hand, he gave Lucas Matthysse all he wanted and then some for the first half of the previously-mentioned Fight of the Year candidate. On the other hand, both Mickey Bey and Hank Lundy have compelling arguments for why Molina ought to be 25-6 with 20 stoppages rather than 27-4 with 22. Lundy has the better of the two arguments, but if referee Vic Drakulich had allowed Bey to survive the last minute of that fight rather than ruling (correctly, in his and Molina’s defense) that Bey was out on his feet and unable to effectively continue, the fight would assuredly have gone Bey’s way on the scorecards; Molina was the second-best fighter in that ring for nine and a half rounds.
The point is that John Molina is beginning to look like a Josesito Lopez or a Ji-Hoon Kim or any of a number of guys who are good enough to earn world title shots but nowhere near good enough to actually win them. There are worse things to be in this world than a B+ level fighter.
Meanwhile, and speaking of guys Lucas Matthysse has beaten, Humberto Soto is on a six-fight winning streak since “La Maquina” stopped him in five rounds back in 2012. You have to go all the way back to 2008 to find Soto’s previous loss before that one, a Joe Cortez doing Joe Cortez things disqualification against Francisco Lorenzo so egregious that the WBC refused to award the 130-pound belt to the winner and instead ordered a rematch.
Put another way, Soto is better than the eight losses on his record would have you believe, and John Molina isn’t anywhere near as good as his record indicates. On paper, this is a mismatch.
But, as Kenny Mayne of ESPN is fond of saying, “games are not played on paper, they are played inside television sets.” Molina’s greatest strength is his ability to land a game-changing shot at any point in the fight. The trouble is that, except for the meat tenderizers at the end of his arms that Lucas Matthysse hit him with, Soto’s shown an excellent chin throughout his career. The fact that Soto isn’t a big puncher at this point in his career (only one KO win out of his last seven) is less important than the fact that Soto won’t wilt with a lead the way Mickey Bey did when he took one on the chin. This should be a one-sided decision unless Molina gets lucky.
Alfredo Angulo (22-4, 18 KOs) vs. James De La Rosa (22-2, 13 KOs), middleweights
Alfredo Angulo may be entering the twilight of his career, a loss away from permanent relegation to the gatekeeper pile at best and the broken shell of a once-promising fighter pile at worst. At his apex, Angulo held the “interim” WBO junior middleweight title. He smashed Joachim Alcine and Joe Gomez in a single round apiece and dropped James Kirkland in the first round of their fight. Sadly, that was as good as it got; Kirkland went on to utterly smash Angulo en route to a sixth-round stoppage that drew the great backhanded “he has a warrior’s heart” compliment that boxing scribes tend to give to guys who take their medicine in the cause of satisfying the bloodthirstier among us.
Since that devastating loss, Angulo has two wins against nobodies (Raul Casarez, a first-round knockout, and a decision against Jorge Silva) and two stoppage losses against guys who can actually fight (Erislandy Lara and Saul Alvarez.) That usually says something about where a fighter is at in his career, which only leaves one question—is James De La Rosa a “nobody” or a “guy who can actually fight”?
De La Rosa has only fought four times since 2009. Allen Conyers dropped him three times en route to an easy ten-round decision in 2011. Marcus Willis, who has not won a fight since, grabbed an eight-round majority decision over the Mexican in 2013. Meanwhile, De La Rosa owns a win against Tyrone Brunson, a man who once tried to claim himself the equal of Edwin Valero after breaking the latter’s record for consecutive first-round knockouts to start a career mainly by beating strip club bouncers and the kinds of people who got their boxing licenses by saving up cereal box tops. Brunson is back on the hobo circuit, his only fight since being utterly exposed as a fraud by De La Rosa in 2012 a first-round KO against a guy who came into the fight 0-1…in the Dominican Republic.
De La Rosa’s remaining victory in this four-fight stretch was in his last fight, against Fabian Reyes, who has 10 wins against raw rookie nobodies on the Mexican club circuit and 2 losses in his only two fights outside of his home state of Tamaulipas.
You begin to see a pattern developing here. Both men are stepping up in weight, but in terms of level of prior opposition and evident level of ability from performance against that quality of opposition, this looks like a complete squash waiting to happen.
The smart money is on Angulo closing the show in a single round like he has against every other C-level fighter he’s faced…but is Angulo shopworn after getting his ass handed to him in devastating fashion on three separate occasions? If you want intrigue, there’s your intrigue, but this looks by all accounts to be a comical mismatch and a chance for Angulo’s handlers to start to wash the stink off his reputation.
Leo Santa Cruz (27-0-1, 15 KOs) vs. Manuel Roman (17-2-3, 6 KOs), WBC jr. featherweight title
Now we get into a fight that is an absolute no-questions-asked mismatch. Leo Santa Cruz has been a world titlist at 118 and 122 pounds on a more or less constant basis since 2012, when he captured the IBF’s version of the bantamweight title. He is 6-0 in world title fights with three stoppage wins. The only blemish on his record is a draw in a four-rounder in only his second pro fight; he has won 26 in a row since then.
Standing across the ring from the champion is a guy who made his pro debut as a flyweight and who is 3-2-2 in his last seven fights. Manuel Roman has only one win against an unbeaten fighter with more than ten pro fights in his career, an eight-round unanimous decision over John Amuzu, a fighter from Benin who in 14 fights prior to his scrap with Roman had 10 wins against opponents who were a combined 0-44-4, three more against guys with two wins or less, and a win over a guy who was 49-19-7.
Roman’s other fight against an undefeated fighter fitting that ten-fight minimum criterion was a loss to 15-0 Randy Caballero for the NABO title at 118 pounds; this was also the only time Manuel Roman has fought for even a legitimate stepping-stone belt (the NABO is the WBO’s feeder title, comparable to the NABF or USBA belts.)
Once again, “you begin to see a pattern developing here.” Long story short, this is a showcase fight for Santa Cruz against a complete no-hoper who Boxrec says is the 91st-ranked bantamweight (not junior featherweight, which is where this fight will take place on the scale, but 118-pounder) in the world. Leo Santa Cruz needs only to look good and he can possibly set himself up for a bigger-money fight down the road against 122-pound fighters you may have actually heard of like, say, Guillermo Rigondeaux.
Miguel Vazquez (34-3, 13 KOs) vs. Mickey Bey (20-1-1, 10 KOs), IBF lightweight title
Mickey Bey needed only to last 59 more seconds against John Molina and it might have been his ass getting handed to him by Lucas Matthysse instead of Molina’s. As it stands, Bey stayed at 135, where Boxrec has him ranked 52nd in the world.
Bey’s record in “real” fights, as in ten-rounders rather than eight-round Friday Night Fights co-features (regular viewers of ESPN’s showcase for up-and-comers will recognize Bey’s name from his appearances on the network) or off-air short contests is peppered with who-dats; the combined record of his opponents not named John Molina at that distance is 84-22-4, and he is 3-1 with one no-contest, a third-round KO of Robert Rodriguez, overturned by the Nevada commission due to a failed drug test for elevated testosterone.
Meanwhile, Miguel Vazquez is either the number one or number two lightweight in the world depending on how the person you’re asking feels about Terence Crawford. He is 7-0 in world title fights, two of his three losses came against Saul Alvarez when both men were coming up through the ranks in Mexico, and Vazquez is undefeated in his career whenever he has weighed in below 139.5 pounds.
Pardon this broken record player, but “you begin to see a pattern developing here.” On one side of the ring, you’ve got a seasoned champion whose three losses have come against not only some of the best in the sport (two to Alvarez, the third to Timothy Bradley), but the best of weight classes naturally heavier than where Vazquez has found himself most comfortable in the ring.
On the other side of the ring, you’ve got a guy who got knocked silly by a fighter who might not actually be that good and who may be at less than full power without his Popeye spinach. The only wild card here is that Vazquez isn’t a knockout artist, but all that means is that it will be a wide unanimous decision rather than a squash of a first-round knockout. Either way, this is nearly guaranteed to be a very one-sided affair.
With the undercard out of the way, however, fans can get to the true reason they ponied up the sixty or seventy bucks to buy into this pay-per-view event in the first place…
Floyd Mayweather Jr. (46-0, 26 KOs) vs. Marcos Maidana (35-4, 31 KOs), WBC and WBA Super welterweight titles, WBC jr. middleweight title
The first fight between these two men was exactly the sort of fight where you’d think “if anyone on any night can beat Floyd Mayweather, Marcos Maidana looks like the guy and this looks like the night.” Better fighters than Maidana have tried that formula in the past; Jose Luis Castillo first showed a hint of a blueprint way back in 2002, then Oscar De La Hoya had Floyd in trouble a couple of times early in their matchup in 2007. Maidana’s pressure clearly frustrated the champion, but Mayweather’s vastly superior speed and counter punching ability turned the tide and finally led to a wider-than-the-scorecards majority decision win for Floyd.
Historically, a guy who’s been given all he wanted in the first fight but come out on top in the end can tend to figure his opponent out and make a better show of things the second time round. Go watch the second Diego Corrales-Jose Luis Castillo fight or the ass-kicking Manny Pacquiao administered to Timothy Bradley (a guy he beat every way except on the crooked scorecards the first time) in April for prime examples.
Marcos Maidana delivered a superhuman performance in the first fight and it wasn’t enough. If he is in any way ordinary in the second fight, if anything at all regresses to the mean, then Floyd Mayweather should win this fight very easily.
Maidana’s strongest weapon is his power, but Floyd Mayweather has only been down once in his career, and that was thirteen years ago against Carlos Hernandez. Floyd ate some big shots from Oscar De La Hoya and stood up to them with hardly a sign of damage; hell, Floyd ate some big shots from Maidana in the first fight and shrugged them off.
If there’s a pattern developing here, then, well, you begin to see a pattern developing here.
Look for Floyd Mayweather to silence those who questioned him after the first fight, because for all the talk over the years about pressure fighters being Floyd’s green kryptonite, he still looks plenty enough like Superman when the decisions are announced.
The Mayhem card looks like a few easy wins for your boxing prediction league; every one of these fights has a clear on-paper favorite. Then again, when that happens in college football, a top-5 school usually gets beat by an unranked opponent at home. Someone’s going to pull an upset. The guy who wins the prediction contests this week is the guy who can sort out which of these underdogs is going to be the one to pull the feat off.
Mayhem airs on Showtime PPV Saturday night, September 13; consult your local cable or satellite provider for details and pricing information. The Boxing Tribune will bring you continuing coverage throughout fight week. Stay tuned.
Fox Doucette writes the weekly What If series for The Boxing Tribune and writes The Only Preview You Need for major pay-per-view events. He can be found talking sports and video games on his Facebook page: facebook.com/MysteryShipRadio. Fan mail, hate mail (oh, the hate mail!), and suggestions for What If columns can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.