Most matchmakers seek to pit contrasting styles but if given a choice to pair similar approaches, a predator vs. predator fight such as Saturday's super middleweight tussle between Edwin Rodriguez and Jason Escalera would be much preferred. Excitement is almost guaranteed when two volume-punching specialists are matched and when both have respectable power, the can't-miss equation skyrockets.
Which carnivore will consume whose carcass in pursuit of victory? Their recent CompuBox profiles provide these factors:
An Interesting Blend: Most fighters are taught to fight behind the jab while most volume punchers heavily depend on power shots to get by. Rodriguez has managed to merge these seemingly opposed axioms and the results have been impressive.
In his most recent outing against Donovan George, Rodriguez fired 71.8 punches per round -- 41.3 of which were jabs -- en route to a decision victory and connect gaps of 215-156 (total) and 136-77 (power). In blasting Chris Traetti into a two-round corner retirement Rodriguez averaged 94 punches and 61 jabs per round -- far above the super middleweight averages of 54.5 and 30.9 respectively -- and achieved connect leads of 41-24 (total), 14-8 (jabs) and 27-16 (power).
When he faced the persistent Will Rosinsky, Rodriguez changed up a bit as 61 percent of his total punches were power shots while Rosinsky offered a more balanced approach (54-46 in favor of power punches). Still, Rodriguez averaged more jabs than Rosinsky (30.7-26.6), landed 46.4 percent of his power punches and built sizable connect gaps (278-214 total and 224-141 power) en route to a shutout decision that probably should have been 97-93.
One Drawback: Against Traetti and Rosinsky, Rodriguez was more reachable, especially with power punches. Traetti landed 42.1 percent of his hooks, uppercuts and crosses while Rosinsky landed 45.2 of his. Against George, however, that number dropped to 34.7 percent. It remains to be seen whether that improvement is the result of his work in the gym or George's limitations as a fighter.
Escalera's Plusses and Minuses: His most recent fight, a draw against Tyrone Brinson, revealed Escalera's best and worst qualities. On the positive side Escalera showed excellent comeback capacity, storming back from an early beating to stage a late rally and save himself from defeat. His body attack was the cornerstone of his surge and by round seven Brinson was utterly exhausted.
While Escalera proved he had admirable intestinal fortitude, the fact he had to showcase it at all at this stage of his career is troubling. His defense was nearly non-existent as Brinson landed 57 percent, 61 percent and 78 percent of his power punches in rounds three through five, 44 percent of his overall punches and 52.6 percent of his total power punches. The CompuBox figures captured the draw decision perfectly as both landed 185 each but his defensive numbers are nothing short of alarming.
Prediction: Rodriguez is a notable leap up in competition for Escalera and if he is to win he'll need to transform his sieve-like defense into something much less penetrable. He'll need to hurt Rodriguez early and get him out of his rhythm to give himself the best chance to win. The guess here is that Rodriguez will settle into his volume-punching rhythm and score a late-round on-his-feet TKO.
COMPUBOX ANALYSIS - LUIS DEL VALLE vs. VIC DARCHINYAN
Few venues in sport expose the truth like a boxing ring. Once the gloves are put on and the opening bell rings, all the pretense and pre-fight hype melts away and all that is left is what "is."
Saturday night's fight between Luis Del Valle and Vic Darchinyan promises to reveal what "is" for both. For Del Valle it is his first fight against a two-division titlist and a onetime pound-for-pound entrant. Are his skills good enough to repel a 37-year-old veteran with 16 "major" title fights under his belt? For Darchinyan, who has lost three out of his last five, he'll find out whether he still has what it takes to remain among the elite and to turn back a young buck who wants to go where he has already been.
Which version of what "is" will emerge Saturday? Their respective CompuBox profiles will gauge which reality is closer to being real.
Darchinyan vs. Speed: Strangely enough, the Del Valle fight will only be Darchinyan's third against a right-hander in his last nine fights. However, his fights with lefty speed merchants Shinsuke Yamanaka and Anselmo Moreno reveal that this version of "The Raging Bull" struggled with fast hands and feet -- Del Valle's main strengths.
One byproduct of those fights is lower average output, perhaps because an older Darchinyan can't pull the trigger against quicker targets the way he used to do.
In beating Diosdado Gabi in March 2006 Darchinyan averaged 61.3 punches per round and against more agreeable styles like that of Evans Mbamba (another southpaw, but an aggressive one), he averaged 65.1 and pounded out connect advantages of 184-71 (total) and 145-30 (power). But now that he's meeting younger and faster fighters, his ability to fire has decreased.
Against Moreno he averaged 46.2 punches per round and was out-landed 216-101 (total), 103-33 (jabs) and 113-68 (power), mostly because Moreno (who averaged 41.5) was extremely accurate. He landed 43.4 percent of his total punches, 31.6 percent of his jabs and a mind-blowing 65.7 percent of his power punches, which propelled Moreno to a dominant decision victory.
Against Yamanaka last time out, Darchinyan had good moments in the first half of the fight (he trailed just 68-63 in overall connects) but down the stretch he was out-landed 57-47 (total) and was stunned with sudden single blows in rounds 10 and 11 en route to slight Yamanaka leads in total connects (129-118) and jabs (66-62). Darchinyan's 56-43 edge in power connects wasn't enough to overcome Yamanaka's ring generalship and home ring advantage.
Del Valle's Pros and Cons: Besides his quickness, Del Valle is industrious. Against the once-beaten Christopher Martin -- perhaps his best opponent to date before meeting Darchinyan -- Del Valle launched 74.4 punches per round, limited Martin to 44.5 and out-landed him 218-161 (total) and 192-75 (power). When he encountered similar fire, Del Valle was up to the task. Dat Nguyen tried to apply pressure (65.8 per round) but Del Valle sliced through his porous defense to the tune of 47.4 percent overall accuracy, 51.5 percent power precision and canyon-esque connect gaps of 368-164 (total) and 336-134 (power).
Durable journeyman Jose Luis Beranza actually out-threw Del Valle (581-573 in total punches) but the veteran came out on the short end in total connects (147-140) and power connects (126-101), nullifying Beranza's 39-21 lead in landed jabs. For a fighter who banks on speed, Del Valle is very aggressive: In seven CompuBox-tracked fights, 75.8 percent of his 76 punches per round were power punches.
One potential danger surfaced in the Martin fight -- Del Valle was struck by 38.5 percent of Martin's power punches. Maybe it's because Del Valle didn't respect Martin's power (six knockouts in 23 wins) but if he is to get by a puncher like Darchinyan he'll have to be more mindful of his defense.
Prediction: Darchinyan has miles of experience over Del Valle but that experience has come at a price. He still has enough in the tank to test the prospect, but his power will not be as potent in his first fight at 122 as it was at 112 and 115. All of Del Valle's 16 fights have been at 122 lbs or higher. Del Valle's volume and speed will enable him to win by unanimous decision.