For all the matchmaking story lines that unfold in boxing, the one that is more desired amongst fans and media -- but not among managers and promoters -- is the one that pits two, young, unbeaten fighters who are still looking to ascend to the big leagues in terms of purses. Such fights are tremendous risks for those involved for while victory will set them on the road to potential riches, a bad loss could wipe out years of hard work.
Saturday's showdown between South African Thomas Oosthuizen (21-0-1, 13 KO) and Sacramento-based Oregonian Brandon Gonzales (17-0, 10 KO) is one such fight and the risk-reward equation may well enhance the final product. The super middleweight class is arguably the deepest in boxing and a win could gain them admittance to its highest echelons.
CompuBox factors that may determine the outcome include:
Finding His Way: At 6-4 and owning a 78-inch wingspan, Oosthuizen (pronounced oos-THAY-sun) is one of history's tallest and rangiest 168-pounders. But while he owns the body of a boxer, he has the temperament of a slugger and as a result he is at constant war with himself as well as with his team. His corner, led by two-time title challenger Harold Volbrecht, wants him to box at long range while Oosthuizen prefers to fight at close range, even when doing so isn't the smartest thing to do.
In four CompuBox-tracked fights Oosthuizen -- at least in terms of punch selection -- was more boxer than puncher in two and more puncher than boxer in the other two. It is noteworthy that Oosthuizen's more boxing-oriented fights have been his two most recent efforts, so one can assume his corner's preferences are taking hold.
Oosthuizen was more aggressive in his approach against Aaron Pryor Jr. (W 12) and Marcus Johnson (W 10), for 61.9% of his punches against Pryor (475 of 770) and 69% of his total output against Johnson (430 of 621) were either hooks, crosses or uppercuts. Against Pryor (who's also 6-feet-4 inches tall), Oosthuizen pressed the action throughout, landing 48% of his 39.6 power shots per round, connecting on 24% of his 24.6 jabs per round and amassing connect advantages of 299-184 (total), 71-66 (jabs) and 228-118 (power) en route to a commanding decision. He was even more effective against Johnson as he landed 44% of his total punches, 18% of his jabs and 55% of his power punches en route to big connect gulfs (270-167 total, 35-21 jabs, 235-146 power) and a commanding points win.
His most boxing-oriented outing was against Rowland Bryant (W 12), where 55.5% of his total punches were jabs (357 of 643). His 53.6 punches per round was the only time Oosthuizen's output slipped below the 54.5 super middleweight average and his connect percentages were the most underwhelming (28% overall, 21% jabs, 37% power). He prevailed 182-96 (total), 76-6 (jabs) and 106-90 (power) but Bryant, though limited to just 26.8 punches per round, still landed 37% of his power punches, the highest percentage of the four profiled bouts.
Oosthuizen effectively merged the two approaches in his most recent fight against veteran tough-guy Fulgencio Zuniga (W 12) as he threw 61.7 punches per round, achieved a balanced attack (53%-47% in favor of power shots), landed 46% of his power punches, achieved solid connect advantages (223-184 total, 44-25 jabs,, 179-159 power) and exhibited his best defensive numbers (26% overall, 14% jabs, 29% power). At age 25 it appears Oosthuizen is hitting his stylistic peak just as he his reaching his physical one.
Bringing the Heat: The best way for a shorter man to fight a mantis-like opponent is to barrel in behind a high-octane attack and the good news for Gonzales is that he has done just that in his recent fights.
He, too, has exhibited versatility in terms of punch selection. In decisioning Lester Gonzalez in January 2011, Gonzales averaged 72.1 punches per round, of which 64.8% were jabs (374 of 577). His 46.8 jabs per round (nearly double the 23.7 super middleweight average) and 16% accuracy were enough to set up effective power punching (46%) and create connect gaps of 154-69 (total), 61-24 (jabs) and 93-45 (power). His long-range fighting also limited the damage he absorbed, for Gonzalez landed just 16% overall, 8% jabs and 31% power.
The closest Gonzales came to defeat was against veteran Ossie Duran (W 8), a bout the ringside commentators he lost. Gonzales averaged 90.6 punches per round, of which 58.9% were jabs (427 of 725), but Duran came with similar output (70.9 per round) and superior accuracy (33%-25% total, 26%-16% jabs, 43%-38% power) and out-landed Gonzales 185-183 (total) and 113-97 (power) to push the prospect to a split decision victory.
In his two subsequent fights against Elie Augustama and Don Mouton (both W 8), Gonzales has been more aggressive in his punch selection. Against Augustama, Gonzales averaged 71.6 punches per round, of which 70.7% were power shots (405 of 573) while versus Mouton he averaged 81 per round, of which 58% were hooks, crosses or uppercuts (376 of 648). The change in approach had no negative effect on his offensive effectiveness, for he landed 37% overall and 43% power against Augustama and 36% overall and 46% power against Mouton. However, Gonzales is getting hit more, for despite being out-landed 213-114 (overall) and 176-98 (power), Augustama landed 40% of his power shots, usually a defensive red flag.
Prediction: The result will hinge on Gonzales' ability to get inside Oosthuizen's albatross-like reach. If he can do so, he can take advantage of the South African's two major weaknesses: Getting hit by right hooks at close range and vulnerable scar tissue above the right eye. But if Oosthuizen can keep Gonzalez at arm's length, he won't be touched.
Given Gonzales' borderline defensive liabilities and Oosthuizen's improvement in terms of commanding range, the most likely result will be a points win for the South African.