By Jackie Kallen
A lot of people come to the big fights in Vegas and walk into the arena at about 8:00. Just as the main event fighters start walking to the ring, these late-comers get settled into their seats. No matter how much they spent for the seats, all they care about is the Feature Bout. They have no interest (or knowledge) of the undercard bouts. That drives me crazy.
Photo: Gene Blevens/ Golden Boy
The undercard fights can be awesome. Admittedly, some shows have offered a pretty weak selection of opening bouts. But in most cases, these early fights showcase some really outstanding up-and-coming boxers. Tonight’s card at the MGM Grand is featuring some really interesting match-ups.
I wouldn’t want to miss the Jhonny Gonzalez/Daniel Ponce De Leon fight. It has the potential to be a real barn-burner. At 30 years old, the WBC featherweight champ is putting it all on the line. With a record of 52-7, he faces a 32-year old heavy hitter with 43-4 stats. Both men can punch and with his southpaw stance, Ponce De Leon figures to have that going for him.
In 2009, Gonzalez was stopped by Japanese boxer Toshiaki Nishioka, who just happens to be a southpaw. In 2007, Gonzalez was KOed by Gerry Penalosa, another southpaw. That doesn’t necessarily forbode a loss for JG, but it is something to think about.
Ponce De Leon lost to unbeaten champ Adrien Broner last year and suffered a nasty cut when he fought Yuriorkis Gamboa six months later. But he has scored two wins since then, including a solid win over Eduardo Lazcano for the WBC (USNBC) Super Featherweight belt. This fight means a lot to him. A win over Gonzalez would be a huge notch on his belt.
The second undercard title fight features welterweight Marcos Rene Maidana against Jesus Soto Karass for the vacant WBA Inter-Continental Welterweight title. This is a solid match. Both boxers have accumulated over 30 pro fights, and both have had some meaningful wins (and losses.) Maidana, 29, has wins over Erik Morales, Chop Chop Corley and Victor Ortiz. He has losses to Amir Khan and Devon Alexander.
Karass has lost to Alfonso Gomez, Mike Jones (twice) and Gabriel Rosado. His wins include Vince Phillips and David Estrada. On paper, Karass looks like a serious underdog. But upsets happen when people least expect them.
The third undercard title fight pits undefeated Leo Santa Cruz against Eric Morel for the IBF Bantamweight title. Santa Cruz has stopped more than half of his 20 opponents and has one draw against Rodrigo Hernandez. At 24, he is at the peak of his game. Morel, a 36 year-old veteran of almost 40 bouts dropped a wide-margin decision to undefeated Abner Mares in April. He is not predicted to beat Santa Cruz and it would pretty much take some divine intervention to derail the champ.
Be smart, people. Go early and see some of these exciting fights. You can eat and gamble later. These guys deserve an appreciative audience to watch them. I believe a boxer tries harder when he has a large crowd watching.
Jackie Kallen is a boxing manager who has been in the business for over three decades. Her life inspired the Meg Ryan film “Against the Ropes” and she was a part of the NBC series “The Contender.” www.JackieKallen.com, www.facebook.com/JackieKallen