HBO Boxing Preview: Rigondeaux vs. Agbeko, Tapia vs. Kirkland, Macklin vs. Russ


By: William Holmes

In some aspects the current “cold war” is bad for boxing in that it deprives fans of seeing marquee matchups that they desire, such as Mayweather vs. Pacquiao. However, the cold war has also benefited fans in that promoters are forced to put on more compelling and competitive matchups on non pay-per view platforms to attract a wider audience.

Guillermo Rigondeaux vs Joseph Agbeko Final Press Conference

Saturday night is a perfect example of these competitive matchups that will be broadcast on both HBO and Showtime.

The legendary Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City, New Jersey will be the host to a Top Rank promoted HBO card featuring a WBA/WBO Junior Featherweight title bout between pound for pound stalwart Guillermo Rigondeaux and perennial contender Joseph Agbeko. Fast rising prospect Glen Tapia will serve as to co-main event when he takes on the hard hitting James Kirkland and Matthew Macklin will face Lamar Russ.

The following is a preview of the three televised bouts.

Matthew Macklin (29-5) vs. Lamar Russ (14-0); Middleweights

One of the biggest knocks against European boxers is that they often build up their records in Europe against sub-par competition before fighting in the United States. Matthew Macklin is not one of those boxers, which might help explain the five losses on his record.

Macklin has fought for the world title three times and has failed each time. It’s unlikely that Macklin will get another title shot anytime soon and at this stage of his career he’s more of a gatekeeper than a title challenger.

Macklin has an amateur background but no international accolades or accomplishments that are worth noting. He had decent power as he has stopped twenty of his opponents, but he will be giving up five years in age, three inches in height, and five inches in reach to Lamar Russ.

In fact, three of Macklin’s last four bouts have resulted in a loss, and two of those three losses were by way of stoppage. He was stopped in the third round by a body shot from the Gennday Golovkin, the referee waived off his fight with Sergio Martinez in the eleventh down after being knocked down twice. His other title shot was a loss to Felix Sturm, in a fight that many felt he won.

Macklin’s notable victories have come against Joachim Alcine, Shalva Jomardashvili, and Amin Asikainen.

His opponent Lamar Russ appears to have all the physical tools to be a future world title challenger. He never reached the top of any amateur rankings but he was a well regarded amateur. He is not known for his knockout ability, he has only stopped seven of his opponents.

In fact his past three fights have went to decision. This will be his fourth fight in 2013 and he has been considerably more active than Macklin in the past two years. His notable victories include Latif Mundy, Jonathan Cepeda, and Jose Alonzo.

Russ is promoted by Lou DiBella and is likely being given a shot on HBO due to his tremendous upside. Macklin is on the downside of his career while Russ is rising, and I expect Russ to showcase his talents against Macklin on Saturday night.

Glen Tapia (20-0) vs. James Kirkland (31-1); Junior Middleweight

This is the most anticipated fight of the night on HBO’s card for most boxing fans. “Jersey Boy” Glen Tapia is one of Top Rank’s highly touted prospects and he’s on the cusp of breaking through for a major title shot. James Kirkland is a hard hitting puncher that has had to deal with outside the ring issues but is known for putting on exciting fights.

Kirkland has only fought once since 2012 in a highly controversial disqualification victory over Carlos Molina. Since then Kirkland, who has a prior conviction for armed robbery and a firearm charge, has been arrested for assault in Texas. Many feel that Kirkland’s problems outside of the ring will be a hindrance to him when he steps inside the ring.

James Kirkland was once considered one of the top prospects in the junior middleweight division. He had a successful amateur career and has an impressive twenty seven knockouts on his record. The southpaw is extremely powerful and has been compared to Mike Tyson. Three of his past four victories have come by way of knockout.

Kirkland has also faced considerable tougher opposition than Tapia. He has defeated the likes of Alfredo Angulo, Joel Julio, Brian Vera, and Ossie Duran. His lone loss came by way of a shocking knockout to Nobuhiro Ishida in April of 2011.

Glen Tapia is currently undefeated but he has yet to face someone with the power of Kirkland. He’ll have a two inch height advantage and a three inch reach advantage over Kirkland and he would be wise to avoid wild exchanges with the heavier hitting Kirkland.

Tapia had a successful amateur career with a record of 130-13. He’s stopped twelve of his opponents, including three of his past four. Kirkland is a big step up in competition for Tapia, as his biggest victories to date have been over Elco Garcia, Abraham Han, and Ayi Bruce.

However, he has been very active in 2013 and this will be his fifth fight. He has the potential to be a big draw in Atlantic City since New Jersey is his home state, but his defense is questionable. He was hurt several times in his victory over Han and even the elder Garcia was able to land punches on him more often than expected.

Some are calling Tapia the next Gatti, and if he’s able to put on fights like Gatti he’ll be very popular in Atlantic City. But this fight may be a little too early for Tapia. If Kirkland is able to work through his issues outside of the ring he should be able to win by a stoppage.

Guillermo Rigondeaux (12-0) vs. Joseph Agbeko (29-4); WBA/WBO Junior Featherweight Title

Guillermo Rigondeaux is one of the most decorated amateur boxers of all time. His reflexes are lightning fast and he possesses some of the best footwork in boxing today. The two time Olympic Gold Medalist was fast tracked to a world title shot and he has been scary good inside the ring.

Many complain that Rigondeaux is a boring fighter, but his eight stoppage victories show that he can end a fight when he chooses to. He absolutely dominated Nonito Donaire at Radio City Music Hall and was up on the scorecards comfortably despite being knocked down in the tenth round.

Rigondeaux only stands at 5’4”, so it’s highly unlikely that we’ll see him campaign at any higher weights. Besides Donaire, Rigondeaux has also defeated Robert Marroquin, Teon Kennedy, Rico Ramos, Willie Casey, and Ricardo Cordoba.

Top Rank was so confident in Rigondeaux’s ability when they signed him that they were able to get him a title shot in only his seventh fight.

If Rigondeaux has a weakness it’s that he can be caught off guard and knocked down. He was knocked down by Ricardo Cordoba and Nonito Donaire but he was still able to win on the scorecards quite comfortably.

Joseph Agbeko is a pressure fighter that should be able to force Rigondeaux to fight instead of coasting comfortably like he is known to do. Agbeko does not have the deep amateur experience of Rigondeaux but very few fighters do.

Agbeko has given some of the top bantamweight fighters very tough fights and he’s being brought in to fight Rigondeaux with the hopes he can challenge the Cuban sensation. He has twenty two stoppages on his record and has never lost by KO or TKO.

Agbeko has spent most of his career fighting in the bantamweight division and this will be a step up in weight class for him. His four losses have come to Abner Mares (x2), Yonnhy Perez, and Volodymyr Sydorenko. He was able to avenge his loss to Perez and his first loss to Mares was controversial due to repeated low blows by Mares.

Agbeko won the IBF Bantamweight title in 2007 and has defeated the likes of Luis Perez, William Gonzalez, Vic Darchinyan, and Luis Melendez.

Agbeko has a punchers chance of pulling off the upset on Saturday, but it’s likely that Rigondeaux will win comfortably and make it look easy.

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