Wednesday, September 26, 2007

While You're At It, Please Do Slap A Fantastic Undercard Fight On There

As if the aforementioned can't-miss showdown between the two best middleweights (160 lbs.) around -- Jermain Taylor and Kelly Pavlik -- wasn't good enough for one Saturday night, HBO put a crackerjack fight on the undercard. In one corner we have Andre Berto, the ESPN 2006 prospect of the year and a crowd-pleasing knockout artist, and in the other we have David Estrada, the tough, brawling borderline contender who was one half of last year's early 2006 fight of the year nominee with Kermit Cintron.

This one has drama written all over it.

Both men are severely allergic to putting it in reverse, preferring to shift their offense into overdrive. Both think a victory in this title eliminator gets them to where they desperately want to go next -- in Berto's case, on the precipice of a title challenge, and in Estrada's case, in line for a rematch with beltholder Cintron and a chance to avenge his last loss. Each inhabit boxing's glamor division, the jam-packed welterweight (147 lbs.) class.

Berto is coming off his near-disastrous win over Cosme Rivera, his first fight against anyone you couldn't call a stiff. Pretty much everyone else before Rivera, Berto had sledgehammered into unconsciousness with his complete array of weaponry. Instead, losing decisively, the crafty Rivera laid out Berto in the sixth with a left uppercut. Berto stumbled back to his corner, slowly recovered -- perhaps aided by some conveniently loose tape on his glove between rounds that caused a delay and gave him time to swat away the tweety birds circling his head -- and opened a nasty cut over Rivera's eye, then pulled out a decision win. From the looks of things, to me, Berto got caught by a beauty of a punch from a more experienced foe as he got impatient and careless in his compulsion to take out Rivera. Yet for some, the knockdown dented Berto's aura of super-prospect. Indeed, the fight did expose him, to me, as having short arms that could be a liability against taller welterweights, like, say, Cintron, who could keep him on the end of a jab. Something to worry about later, maybe.

That shouldn't be an issue with Estrada. His inner boxing computer is programmed to get him inside on his man and slug away. He's got two straight knockouts over borderline opponents since his first KO loss, to Cintron. In a fight where momentum swayed back and forth from round to round and even minute to minute, Estrada gave Cintron, still rebuilding his confidence at the time after his debilitating KO loss to Antonio Margarito, everything he could handle. For most of the fight, no matter what Cintron hit him with, Estrada kept charging. But Cintron's power, and a technique honed by new trainer Emmanuel Steward, eventually shattered the iron chin of Estrada. Either way, Estrada is ferocious, if not a little crude, and it wouldn't be smart to underestimate someone who fights like a wolverine until he can no more.

This is as good an archetypal battle as you're likely to find between fresh young challenger -- Berto's only 24 -- and dangerous gatekeeper.

MY PREDICTION: Berto, by late round KO or decision. I don't think Berto hits as hard as Cintron, but he's not far behind in the league of elite power-punchers. Before the Cintron fight, and even during it, it looked very much like it would take an anvil dropped from a cliff, Wile E. Coyote-style, to put Estrada on the deck. On the other hand, once an unknockoutable fighter is knocked out once, it's usually easier the second time. Even if Estrada lasts to the bell, he's not as technically sound as Berto, I don't think, which should give the young talent the edge he needs to win a decision.
CONFIDENCE: 65%. Not only is Estrada tough, but he's got the edge in experience, having lost to Shane Mosley, Ishe Smith and of course Cintron. That may point to an inability to rise to the occasion, but because Estrada fought so well in some of his losses, I think it can't hurt him to have been in against the better competition. He's also gone the distance more than Berto, so conditioning could work to his favor. One scenario in my mind has Estrada surviving Berto's onslaught then wearing down the younger, greener fighter en route to a decision or even a knockout. A KO is less feasible, though, because I think Berto's knockdown was unique, not an indicator that he can't take a punch. And I expect Berto's going to fight Estrada much smarter than he did in his moments of overeagerness against Rivera. It should be enough.
MY ALLEGIANCE: Like Pavlik, Berto's on my blog's side rail (to the right) of favorite fighters. But I've also got a soft spot for the kind of fighter called a "gatekeeper," as I've mentioned before. I'll be in Berto's corner, but secretly thrilled if Estrada climbs the ropes of his in celebration.

Berto may need the services of Mr. Coyote to hurt Estrada, but either way I expect him to win.


Dammrod said...

I'm leaning towards Berto too, but I haven't seen enough of the guy to come to a solid conclusion. I'm assuming that Rivera was the first fighter to put Berto on the canvas, but has Berto ever been staggered or stunned before that?

JimPanzee said...

I take Estrada by decision.

Tim -- said...

Dammrod: Never that I've seen, no. Not even a little. I've seen him four or five times.

Jimpanzee: I like the arbirtrariness of it all.