Super featherweights take center stage in Las Vegas with a number of the best 130-pounders in the world on a boxing card resembling global warfare.
Can you imagine if the world could settle its difference by sending its best fighter to face another country’s best fighter?
This fight card is kind of like that but without politics.
Mexico, USA, Japan, Russia, Nicaragua, and United Kingdom all have representatives on a fight card loaded with super featherweights in a quasi-tournament on Saturday Dec. 9, at the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino in Las Vegas. HBO will televise.
Here’s a breakdown of the matchups:
The opening bout of the telecast pits former champion Francisco “Bandido” Vargas (23-1-2, 17 KOs) against United Kingdom’s Stephen Smith (25-3, 15 KOs) in a 12 round super featherweight clash. Vargas (pictured on the left) changed trainers and now is working with Joel Diaz in Indio, Calif. Their focus has been on defense and they were hard at work. It’s a slow process but needed for Vargas who has been in two “Fight of the Year” wars. How much does he have left? Vargas faces Smith, another hard-hitting super feather who is making his first appearance on American shores. It’s an interesting contest and will determine which fighter has anything left.
Japan’s Kenichi Ogawa (22-1, 17 KOs) meets Philadelphia’s Tevin Farmer (25-4-1, 5 KOs) for the vacant IBF super featherweight world title in the co-main event. Ogawa has never fought outside of Japan. Both will be attempting their first world title bids in their Las Vegas debuts. Farmer, a southpaw, has a deliberate style and Ogawa likes to go for knockouts. It’s an interesting contrast.
In the other co-main event Orlando Salido (44-13-4, 31 KOs) meets Miguel Roman (57-12, 44 KOs) in a 10 round bout. It’s another battle between Mexican sluggers and although no belt is at stake per HBO, some are yet predicting a fight of the year candidate. Salido just seems to have too much experience for Roman who was broken down by Japan’s now retired Takashi Miura last January.
A 10 round super feather bout pits Russia’s Denis Shafikov (38-3-1, 20 KOs) against Nicaragua’s Rene Alvarado (27-8, 19 KOs). Both are very seasoned veterans who have faced top notch competition. Shafikov has fought for the lightweight world title three times but has struck out. This time he drops down a weight division to see how he fares at 130. Alvarado has been riding high since knocking out undefeated prospect Roger Gutierrez last July in Los Angeles. We will see if Shafikov can fight comfortably at a lower weight. Alvarado is not an easy touch.
Five undefeated prospects fill out the rest of the fight card. From super welterweights to flyweights all will be tested.
Lightweight prospect Emilio Sanchez (15-0, 10 KOs) meets Sergio Frias (19-8-2) in an eight round bout. Sanchez, 23, fights out of Pacoima and is managed by Frank Espinoza who is talented in picking out contenders. Sanchez has not had an easy touch in more than two years. Frias knocked out Vic Darchinyan. He is not an easy opponent.
Another lightweight prospect, Pedro Duran (15-0-2, 12 KOs) out of Paramount, Calif., has had two draws in his last three fights. He hasn’t won a bout by decision in over three years. Duran fights Daniel Evangelista who has been stopped in two of his last three fights. Duran, 24, needs to learn how to beat the guys with good chins.
Female flyweight prospect Sulem Urbina makes her first American appearance after six pro fights. Though she lives in Phoenix, she signed a promotional contract with Zanfer Promotions and all six of her fights have been in Mexico. Urbina (6-0) meets Sonia Osorio (10-5-1) in a six round fight that should be very tough. Osorio has fought for a world title. Urbina was a member of Team Mexico as an amateur.
Joselito Velasquez (4-0) is another former member of Team Mexico as an amateur who is also managed by Frank Espinoza. Velasquez, 24, meets Armando Vazquez (25-19-1, 6 KOs), a veteran out of Mexicali who fought former world champion Brian Viloria. It’s a very big test for the youngster Velasquez.
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