By: William Holmes
Ever since HBO has declared that they will no longer do business with Floyd Mayweather Jr., Golden Boy Promotions, and Al Haymon managed fighters they’ve been devoting their resources towards building up new stars of their own for the boxing public. They’ve recently added light heavyweight knockout sensation Sergei Kovalev to their roster and have strengthened their relationship with Top Rank Promotions.
On Saturday night at Mashantucket, Connecticut HBO will broadcast a triple header featuring two fighters who have the potential to be bona fide stars and one champion who is on his way to being considered the top boxer in the middleweight division.
The following is a preview of all three televised bouts on HBO.
Willie Nelson (20-1) vs. Luciano Cuello (32-2); Junior Middleweights
When you watch Willie Nelson fight he’ll remind you of former junior middleweight contender Paul Williams. His height and reach advantage is enormous for the junior middleweight division and it will give any opponent an extremely difficult time inside the ring with him.
He caught HBO’s eye with a punishing first round TKO over Michael Medina in March of this year and they’ve invited him back to compete on the network.
Nelson doesn’t quite have the power of Williams, only twelve of his fights have resulted in a stoppage. He also has a majority decision loss to Vincent Arroyo in April of 2011, a bout that saw Nelson knocked down three times. But he has since rebounded nicely from that loss.
His victory over the then undefeated Yudel Jhonson in May of last year showed that the loss on Nelson’s record may be an aberration as Jhonson had a lot of hype prior to that bout. He continued his winning ways by defeating the then undefeated John Jackson for the NABF Light Middleweight title, and followed that up with a knockout performance on HBO.
Nelson is a fighter to keep a close eye on with top 10 potential, but he’s not quite championship material…..yet.
His opponent, Luciano Leonel Cuello is an Argentinean boxer that has never fought in the United States before. He has decent power, half of his victories were stoppage victories, but he has never faced and defeated quality opposition.
He was given an opportunity against Saul “Canelo” Alvarez in July of 2010 but went down in the first and second rounds before the fight was stopped in the sixth round. He was also given an opportunity against Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. in March of 2009 and lost by decision in that bout.
Cuello is being used as a stepping stone by Nelson and HBO for bigger and better fights. Can he win on Saturday? Highly unlikely, but he gave Chavez a much tougher time than expected in a close decision loss.
Thomas Oosthuizen (21-0) vs. Brandon Gonzalez (17-0); Super Middleweights
At first glance this looks to be the best and most competitive fight of the night. Both fighters are young, undefeated, and hope to challenge for a world title soon.
But a closer look at their history and records will reveal that Oosthuizen should walk out the victor.
The South African Thomas “Tommy Gun” Oosthuizen stands at 6 ft 3 in. tall and uses a southpaw stance. He’s ranked in the top ten by multiple media outlets and his height alone will give opponents fits.
He’s stopped thirteen of his opponents and is the current IBO Super Middleweight Champion. He also has a large edge in experience on Gonzalez. Gonzalez has only boxed 77 rounds which pales in comparison to the 153 rounds of Oosthuizen.
Tommy Gun has defeated the likes of Rowland Bryant, Marcus Johnson, Aaron Pryor Jr., and Fulgencio Zuniga. None of these opponents are “big” names, but they all sported very respectable records.
Only two out of the past five of Oosthuizen’s victories ended in a stoppage. And his last three victories were decision victories. That decision streak will likely continue on Saturday.
Gonzalez has ten stoppages on his record but only one stoppage in his past five fights. Gonzalez has also not faced an opponent on the level of Gonzalez. His biggest victory to date was a close split decision over Ossie Duran in Atlantic City in October of 2011. He’s only fought once in 2012 and once this year, so he hasn’t been as active as an undefeated fighter should be.
Oosthuizen needs to impress on the big stage to continue to get fights on HBO. A boring decision victory may mean more fights in South Africa and less fights in the United States.
Gennady Golovkin (26-0) vs. Matthew Macklin (29-4); WBA Middleweight Title
Golovkin’s name has been slowly and steadily increasing in popularity amongst boxing fans and HBO appears to be throwing a lot of weight in support of him. He holds a legitimate middleweight title and does not need any more warm up fights to challenge either Sergio Martinez or Julio Cesar Chavez Jr.
But having twenty three knockouts and being a former amateur World Champion and a Silver Medalist in the 2004 Olympics will make big name opponents hesitant to face him.
Golovkin is the real deal and he has been on a tear. He’s been the WBA Title holder since 2010 and he has stopped his past thirteen opponents. That kind of power, in title fights, has not been seen by the boxing public in a very long time.
He’s also made mince meat of some very tough competition. He was the first man to stop Nobuhiro Ishida, he pounded and bruised up the face of Gabriel Rosado despite being sick with the flu, he blitzed Gregorz Proksa in the fifth round, and he stopped Kassim Ouma and Milton Nunez.
Golovkin has also shown he’s not afraid to travel to fight and seek out opponents. He’s already fought twice in 2013 and has been to Monte Carlo, New York, the Ukraine, Germany, Panama, and his native Kazakhstan.
He’s been avoided for good reason, he’s an absolute terror inside the ring.
Macklin is being given this fight for two reasons. He’s willing to take it and he put on a good fight when he faced Sergio Martinez.
He doesn’t have the amateur background of Golovkin. He doesn’t have the power or accuracy of Golovkin. He doesn’t have the hand speed of Golovkin.
Macklin has stopped twenty of his opponents but has lost two of his last four fights. He lost to Sergio Martinez after knocking Martinez down once in the seventh round, he lost a close, and controversial, decision to Felix Sturm in Germany in 2011, he was knocked out by Jamie Moore in 2006, and lost a decision early in his career to the unknown Andrew Facey.
The well known opponents that Mackline has defeated are Joachim Alcine and…..that’s it.
He’s been in the ring with good fighters but has come up short each time. He’ll be a good test for Golovkin but it’s unlikely that Macklin will defeat him.
Golovkin is the real deal and a convincing and entertaining victory might earn him that big name fight he’s been aching for.