The marque fight of the weekend takes place at Madison Square Garden, a battle between Vasyl Lomachenko (9-1, 7 KO’s) and Guillermo Rigondeaux (17-0, 11 KO’s), two all-time amateur greats competing for a 130-pound title belt. In Las Vegas on the same night, Orlando Salido (44-13-4, 31 KO’s) battles Miguel Roman (57-12, 44 KO’s) in a bout that is also being contested on the 130-pound division. While most boxing experts and fans will be fixated on Lomachenko-Rigondeaux, could Salido-Roman steal the thunder?
As much as fans and experts are looking forward to Lomachenko-Rigondeaux, keep something in mind. I am not trying to be a buzzkill but this fight could turn into a very boring tactical affair.
On the other hand, Salido-Roman could turn into something very special. I rarely issue guarantees but there is no question that this fight will be all action from the opening bell. This won’t be a highly skilled chess match.
Salido’s style is that of an aggressive pressure fighter. He wants to continuously come forward, getting into the sink of his opponents and letting his hands go on the inside. And not pitty pat punches, but hard crunching shots to the head and body. Sometimes too maybe use the head a little or throw one or two south of the border. Salido (pictured on the left) wants a bar room type brawl and will do whatever is in his power to get his opponent to fight his style.
Stylistically, Roman is very similar. He is a pressure fighter who is not afraid to eat a few punches to get in one or two good shots. Like Salido, Roman is at home in a phone booth type of fight. And he is not throwing softballs on the inside either, but winging big shots with the intent of knocking his opponent out.
A few other tidbits: Neither moves his head much and both are willing to entirely abandon any thoughts of defending himself to get his offense going. Also, they have both been durable fighters, especially in the last half of their respective careers, showing an ability to absorb punishment. So we have two guys who want to aggressively bring the fight to each other throwing haymakers while fighting in a phone booth with both possessing a good set of whiskers. See why this could be something really special?
Salido-Roman could well turn into something like Gatti-Ward I or Corrales-Castillo I. When this chapter of boxing history is written, I believe that Salido-Roman will be remembered much more than Lomachenko-Rigondeaux.
The Other 130 Pound Title Fight
There is a third significant fight in the 130-pound division this coming weekend. On the undercard of Salido-Roman, Tevin Farmer (25-4-1, 5 KO’s) takes on Kenichi Ogawa (22-1, 17 KO’s) with a belt on the line. In a weight class that is suddenly becoming very hot, Farmer-Ogawa is a very pivotal bout and the stage is set for one these men to break out as the year comes to an end.
Similar to headliner Orlando Salido, Tevin Farmer suffered his share of setbacks early in his career. Following a nationally televised TKO loss to Jose Pedraza in 2012, Farmer appeared to be headed toward journeyman status. But Farmer persevered.
Always naturally gifted athletically and possessing very fast hands, he started to put things together following the Pedraza defeat and learned from the early losses. He sprung a few upsets, including outclassing then heralded undefeated prospect Emanuel Gonzalez in June of 2014, and began to put his natural tools to use in the ring.
As Farmer grew, he developed into a slick skilled defensive fighter who mastered the art of counterpunching. A southpaw by trade, Farmer could stand in front of his opponents and make them miss with his natural reflexes and then make them pay unloading fast combinations before side stepping out of harm’s way. The process then starts again with Farmer using subtle movement while standing in front of his opponents to cleverly beat them to the punch. It is somewhat reminiscent of how the great Pernell Whitaker once fought.
Farmer was shot in his right hand during an altercation back in his hometown of Philadelphia this past July. Undeterred, he did not allow this incident to keep him away from fighting for a world title belt less than five months later.
His opponent, Kenichi Ogawa, is no pushover. Ogawa can best be described as a boxer-puncher who likes to press the action. He is a good counterpuncher but also will lead if given the opportunity. Ogawa has a very wide stance. With this wide stance, he can easily be out-boxed by a fighter with quick hands and quick feet like Tevin Farmer, but Ogawa is not interested in winning a decision and instead will be looking for the knockout.
And make no mistake about it; Ogawa has a legitimate puncher’s chance in this fight. His right hand has one punch knockout power and is a punch that Ogawa often throws straight as an arrow with full force. If it lands flush, it does damage. Ogawa has shown a penchant too for throwing this punch with precision accuracy and timing. He will anticipate the movement of his opponent and throw the right to the spot he anticipates he is headed. There is no question Ogawa is not an opponent to be taken lightly.
I love this bout and think we will see a very interesting, well fought match. Farmer’s speed and skill may bedazzle at times but Ogawa’s power could change the course of the contest at a moment’s notice.
The Biggest Development in the Sport in 2017
It is that time of year when lists will start coming out about all the happenings in boxing in 2017. We will all soon be reading and debating about fighter of the year, fight of the year, the best prospects in the sport, etc. But one area that may go overlooked when these lists come out is the biggest development in the sport in 2017. There’s been a big shift in how the sport will be broadcast to the fans, particularly those in the U.S., going forward. Big time boxing is back on mainstream television and the importance of that cannot be overstated.
While premium cable networks such as HBO and Showtime will still deliver content, boxing found a home on one of the biggest platforms available in ESPN. The cable network is delivered to many more homes than HBO and Showtime, attracting more eyeballs to the sport.
ESPN cut deals in 2017 with both Golden Boy Promotions and Top Rank. Unlike deals hammered out in recent years, ESPN is taking more of a partnership role in the content and as such the quality of the product has been excellent. Though Golden Boy may have a smaller budget than Top Rank, they have consistently put on well matched quality cards that fans enjoy. Top Rank is bringing over all their content to ESPN which has resulted in bringing significant bouts off of premium cable and to a much larger audience. For example, Manny Pacquiao fought on ESPN this past July in a fight that received extremely high ratings.
The ESPN deals were not the only significant development in how the sport was delivered to U.S. fight fans. The advent of legally streaming cards took off in 2017 and should only continue to grow in the future. Promoters found streaming as a way to get their events to the masses. Star Boxing and Thompson Boxing regularly broadcast their shows, previously only available to those able to attend, via various social media platforms. Golden Boy and Top Rank used an ESPN streaming service to showcase undercard bouts that were previously unavailable for fans to watch. Banner Promotions partnered with Twitter to live stream some international contests. And Showtime is live streaming a card from the U.K. next week on its social media platforms.
The way the sport is being delivered to fans in the U.S. changed in a big way in 2017 and was far and away the biggest development in the sport.
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