HBO Boxing After Dark Preview: Crawford vs. Beltran, Gradovich vs. Velez
By: William Holmes
On Saturday, November 28th, HBO will broadcast the replay of Manny Pacquiao’s twelve round destruction of Chris Algieri and immediately following it will broadcast two live world title fights from Omaha, Nebraska.
Top Rank Promotions’ Terence Crawford will be fighting in his hometown for the second time in 2014 as he looks to defend his WBO Lightweight title against the always tough Raymundo Beltran. Preceding that bout will be a featherweight title fight between Evgeny Gradovich and Jayson Velez for Gradovich’s IBF Featherweight title.
Evgeny Gradovich (19-0) vs. Jayson Velez (22-0); IBF Featherweight Title
Evgeny Gradovich is trained by Robert Garcia and is called by many the “Mexican Russian” for his high output style and willingness to go to the body.
He’s currently in his prime at the age of twenty-eight and is two years older than the lesser experienced Velez. However, Velez will have a three-inch reach advantage and a two-inch height advantage over Gradovich.
Velez also has the edge in power. He has stopped sixteen of his opponents, and three of his past four opponents have failed to see the final bell. Gradovich only has nine stoppage victories, and only one of his past four victories was the result of a stoppage.
Gradovich does have the edge in amateur experience as he was a member of the National Russian Boxing team. Gradovich also had the edge in professional experience.
Gradovich’s first big victory was an upset decision win over then champion Billy Dib in March of 2013. The judges scored it closer than it should have been, but Gradovich went on from that win to sweep Mauricio Javier Munoz in Macao, China. Gradovich then fought Billy Dib again and won much more convincingly with a ninth round TKO.
Gradovich’s other notable victory came against Alexander Miskirtchian in May of this year.
Velez hasn’t faced tough opposition at this point of his career and has only fought twice since December of 2012. His biggest victories to date came against Salvador Sanchez in a three-round blowout and against Dat Nguyen in October of 2013.
This bout should surprise many and it should be action-packed. This is a big step up in competition for Velez, but the times he has fought he has looked very impressive and has the makings of a possible star.
Gradovich is a good boxer, but he appears to lack that pop in his punch that makes champions fan favorites.
This writer feels Velez will surprise many and beat Gradovich in a very tough and physical bout. A victory for either will likely lead to a unification title fight in 2015.
Terence Crawford (24-0) vs. Raymundo Beltran (29-6-1); WBO Lightweight Title
At first glance, this fight may seem like a mismatch. You have a six-loss thirty-three-year-old fighter going against an undefeated twenty-seven-year-old champion with a 70% knockout ratio.
However, those who have seen Beltran fight knows he’s much better than his record suggests and he’s the type of rugged bruiser that can give any boxer a very hard time inside the ring.
Beltran is the same height as Crawford, but will be giving up about two inches in reach. He has seventeen knockouts, the same as Crawford, but he has the lower knockout ratio. Beltran’s past five fights went to the judges’ scorecards, while two of Crawford’s past five fights ended in a stoppage.
Crawford had a successful amateur career and is a former National Police Athletic League Champion as well as the US Pan American Champion. Beltran did not have the amateur success of Raymundo Beltran and is more famous for being Manny Pacquiao’s sparring partner.
Most of Beltran’s losses came early on in his career, but his notable losses have been to Ammeth Diaz, Sharif Bogere, and Luis Ramos Jr. His best victories have come against Hank Lundy, Arash Usmanee, Ji-Hoon Kim, and a tough split draw against Ricky Burns that should have been awarded to him.
Crawford had a much easier time with Burns than Beltran when he won the WBO Lightweight world title in March of this year. He looked sensational against Yuriorkis Gamboa in his first world title fight in his hometown in June of this year. He has also defeated the likes of Andrey Klimov, Breidis Prescott, and Davod Rodela.
Crawford is the better technical boxer and he should be able to out-box Beltran over twelve rounds, if he can effectively use his reach and avoid the body attacks of his opponent.
Beltran will give Crawford a tough test, but it’s a test most expect Crawford to pass.