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HBO Boxing Preview: Garcia vs. Burgos, Jennings vs. Szpilka


By: William Holmes

New York’s most revered boxing arena, Madison Square Garden, will be the host for Saturday’s Boxing After Dark card. Mikey Garcia will look to continue to make his case as one of the world’s pound for pound elite when he takes on the always tough contender Juan Carlo Burgos. Two fast rising heavyweights will meet in the night’s other televised bout as Bryant Jennings and Artur Szpilka will put their undefeated records on the line.

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Photo: Chris Farina/Top Rank

The bout between Szpilka and Jennings was in jeopardy a few weeks ago due to Visa issues for Szpilka, but those issues have been cleared up and the bout is ready to go. Garcia has been in the news recently for stating his desire to fight Manny Pacquiao in the future, but he would first have to get by Burgos.

Rising prospects Jesse Hart and Seanie Monaghan against opponents they are expected to beat, but they’ll definitely be the top two boxers on the undercard worth watching.

The following is a preview of both televised bouts.

Bryant Jennings (17-0) vs. Artur Szpilka (16-0); Heavyweights

At the advice of his manager, Bryant Jennings has recently left Russell Peltz Promotions to sign with Gary Shaw. While he was with Peltz Boxing he was in discussions to face Tomasz Adamek and possibly on HBO, but since he signed with Shaw he will now be facing the lesser known and more dangerous Artur Szpilka in the first televised bout of the night.

When Jennings first began boxing professionally it was obvious that he was a very raw prospect, he had all the athletic talent in the world but his boxing skills needed some fine tuning. At this point in his career he’s nearly a complete product and one of the heavyweight division’s mst intriguing fighters.

He’s undefeated with nine stoppages to his record, including four of his past five bouts. He’s been a regular feature on NBC Sports’ Fight Night Series and always made the best of every opportunity in front of him. His competition is becoming progressively more difficult and he has been tested so far.

He stopped Andrey Fedosov in the sixth round in his last bout in June of this year, and he fought an incredible five times in 2012 against decent competition. His best wins in 2012 were against Bowie Tupou, in which Jennings was knocked down and rebounded to stop Tupou in the fifth round, Steve Collins, and Siarhei Liakhovich.

His bout with Tupou gives some pause for concern since Szplika has more power than Tupou.

Szpilka is also undefeated, and he has twelve stoppage victories to his credit, including three of his last five bouts. Jennings was originally scheduled to face Mariusz Wach, but took his place after Wach pulled out of the fight.

Szpilka is best known for his two fight series with Mike Mollo in Chicago. Szpilka won both of those bouts by knockout, but was threatened by Mollo several times and had to dig deep to pull of the win.

Szpilka other big victories came against Owen Beck in just his eighth professional bout, and Brian Minto and Jameel McCline in Poland. Jennings will be Szpilka’s toughest bout to date.

Szpilka will have youth on his side, he is five years younger than Jennings. He will also have a slight reach advantage over Jennings.

I predict this will be the most exciting bout of the night with both fighters being hurt by the other, but Jennings experience should help propel him to a victory over the dangerous Szpilka.

Mikey Garcia (33-0) vs. Juan Carlos Burgos (30-1-2); WBO Junior Lightweight Title

Mikey Garcia doesn’t need to call out Manny Pacquiao to be considered by most a top pound for pound fighter. When you’re undefeated, a former National Junior Golden Gloves Champion, a legitimate world champion in two division, and you have twenty eight knockouts on your record, it’s hard to say you’re not one of the best in the sport of boxing.

Garcia is dominant fighter who can make boxers fight the style of fight he wants and makes good boxers look terrible. Roman Martinez was stopped in the eighth round by Garcia and was never really in the bout. Juan Manuel Lopez was blitzed by Garcia and didn’t make it out of the fourth round. Orlando Salido was knocked down three times before having the bout stopped in the eighth.

Garcia made three good boxers and former champions look like amateurs inside the ring with him. He’s expected to win and should win on Saturday, but there’s the risk that he’s looking past this bout and that’s a dangerous thing to do when you’re in the ring with a veteran like Burgos.

Juan Carlos Burgos is the same age as Garcia and close to the same height and reach. However, Burgos does not have the amateur experience of Garcia and has not defeated the level of competition inside the ring that Garcia has. He also doesn’t have the speed of Garcia, the power of Garcia, or the defense of Garcia.

Burgos has stopped twenty of his opponents and only has one stoppage victory in his last five bouts. His last two fights ended in a split draw and one of them came against Roman Martinez, even though most felt Burgos did enough to win that bout. Burgos also drew with the unheralded Yakubu AMidu, but most also felt Burgos did enough to win that bout.

His lone loss was to Hozumi Hasegawa in Japan in November of 2010. His biggest victories to date have been against Cesar Vazquez, Cristobal Cruz, Luis Cruz, and Frankie Archuleta. Does he have the ability to beat Garcia?

Quite simply, no. But he’s not an opponent that Garcia should be looking past.

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