HBO's Boxing After Dark gets off to an intriguing start as Juan Manuel Lopez rises in weight to fight WBO featherweight champ Steve Luevano and Yuriorkis Gamboa takes on rugged Rogers Mtagwa, who nearly dethroned Lopez in one of 2009's best fights.
The main event offers a stark stylistic contrast with the explosive Lopez and the lanky stylist Luevano. Factors that will come into play include:
Activity: Luevano has had only one fight since decisioning Billy Dib in October 2008 – the seven-round DQ win over Bernabe Concepcion – while Lopez fought five times over the same span. Moreover, of the 33 rounds Lopez fought, 31 of them were in his last three fights.
Ring Age: At 28, Luevano is 21 months older but older in ring wear. Seven of his last eight went 11 rounds or longer, he suffered knockdowns against Mario Santiago and Terdsak Jandaeng and while the record shows he beat Concepcion his body suffered the equivalent of a knockout loss. The same could be said of Lopez after fighting the 12th virtually unconscious and tasting 36 power shots. That is mitigated by Lopez moving to a more comfortable weight and fighting 110 rounds in 27 fights to Luevano's 250 rounds in 39 fights.
Recent Form: Against Santiago and Concepcion, Luevano averaged 54 and 53.4 punches per round – near the 57 of typical featherweights – but against Dib his output dropped to 32.2, probably because of the Aussie's negative fight plan. Luevano threw more power shots than jabs against Dib and Santiago (a 58-42 ratio against each) and was accurate (43.5 and 36.2 percent respectively), but against Concepcion the reverse was true (71-29 ratio). Worse yet, the jab landed just 8 percent of the time (22 of 268) and he will need that weapon to hold off Lopez. Luevano has dazzled in the past with his jab, landing a CompuBox featherweight record 240 jabs in his decision win over Terdsak Jandaeng on 3/15/08.
Lopez will push the pace, for he averaged 113.3 (Penalosa), 65.8 (Lontchi) and 69.7 (Mtagwa). He is also the superior marksman (three-fight average of 41.5 percent overall connects and 44.5 percent power connects). Against the southpaw Penalosa, an open target otherwise (Lopez out-landed Penalosa 444-99 overall), Lopez landed just 15 percent of his jabs as opposed to 34 percent (Dib) and 30 percent (Santiago). Luevano, a southpaw, defends the jab fairly well (three-fight average of 24.4 percent).
Prediction: Younger, fresher and more comfortable, JuanMa will return to form via sixth round TKO.
Gamboa-Mtagwa will pit flash against grit and the outcome will be determined by one thing – the fear factor.
The real threat posed by Gamboa's talents inhibits opponents' risk-taking. Roger Gonzalez threw 467 fewer punches (245-712), Tomas Rojas 144 less (320-464) and Whyber Garcia 130 fewer (71-201) in just four rounds and that's because Gamboa piled up 133-31, 99-50 and 64-10 advantages in power connects. But if Mtagwa is anything, he is fearless – and he is dangerous to the very end.
Against Villa, Mtagawa overcame a ninth round knockdown to record three of his own in the 10th, amassing a 24-1 power connect advantage in doing so. His final round heroics continued against Lopez as he went 36 of 79 to JuanMa's 9 of 94. But Mtagwa does hold down his output in the face of superior talent, for he averaged 50.5 punches per round against Lopez while the numbers jumped to 72.5 and 69.1 against lesser lights Villa and Valtierra. Therefore, Mtagwa is in a Catch-22: If he throws often he'll probably catch often too, but if he doesn't apply pressure he'll quickly fall behind on the scorecards. His one hope is Gamboa's vulnerable chin, which has been dented early and often. However, Gamboa was more measured against Rojas and Garcia as he averaged 46.4 and 50.2 blows per round respectively as opposed to 71.2 against Gonzalez. For Gamboa, patience will be a virtue.
Prediction: Gamboa slowly breaks down the Tanzanian to a lopsided decision victory.
Luevano has dazzled in the past, landing a CompuBox featherweight record 240 jabs against Terdsak Jandaeng.
Posted 12:00 AM | Jan 18, 2010
HBO BAD - Jan. 23, 2010
Gamboa vs Mtagwa
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