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HBO PPV Boxing Preview: Pacquiao vs. Bradley, Beltran vs. Usmanee, Allakhverdiev vs. Vargas

By: William Holmes

There’s no question that Saturday Night’s pay per view title fight between Manny Pacquiao and Timothy Bradley is the biggest fight of the year. On paper, it’s also the most competitive.

The MGM Grand in Las Vegas, Nevada will be the host site for HBO’s pay per view offering. It will be a career defining moment for both Pacquiao and Bradley. Can Pacquiao avenge his prior loss to Bradley? Will Pacquiao emerge unscathed and continue to pursue his white rabbit, Floyd Mayweather Jr.? Will Bradley finally get worldwide recognition he feels he deserves after beating Pacquiao, on the scorecards at least, in their first encounter? Will Bradley be able to dominate Pacquiao to the point that nobody will question he deserves the victory?

It’s a highly anticipated fight, and many expect it to be closer than their first encounter.

The following is a preview of the main event, as well as two of the televised undercard bouts.

Khabib Allakhverdiev (19-0) vs. Jessie Vargas (23-0); WBA Junior Welterweight Title

This is the most intriguing bout on the undercard. Both Allakhverdiev and Vargas are undefeated and are high level prospects. Allakhverdiev, however, is thirty one and seven years older than Vargas so he needs an impressive showing more than Vargas. Allakhverdiev will also have a disadvantage in reach, height, and speed.

Neither fighter is known for their knockout ability. Both have nine stoppages, with Vargas’ last seven victories coming by way of decision. However, Allakhverdiev has had three stoppages in his past five fights.

Both boxers have had impressive amateur careers. Vargas was a member of the 2008 Mexican Olympic team and was a Mexican National Champion as well as a U.S. Junior National Champion. Allakhverdiev won the bronze medal in the lightweight division at the 2005 World Amateur Boxing Championships.

Despite his amateur success, Allakhverdiev was not a highly touted prospect until he handed Joan Guzman his first professional defeat in November of 2012. He’s only fought once since then, a 11th round TKO over Souleymane M’baye in July of 2013. He might suffer from ring rust on Saturday.

Allakhverdiev has also defeated Kaizer Mabuza, Nate Campbell, and Ignacio Mendoza.

Jessie Vargas is signed by Top Rank Promotions, and Top Rank is one of the best promoters at signing young talent in the sport of boxing.

His lack of power is concerning, but his hand speed and technical ability makes up for it. He fought twice in 2013 and four times in 2012 and is ready to make the jump from prospect to champion.
Vargas has fought decent competition during his career, but he hasn’t defeated world class competition….yet. He has defeated the likes of Ray Narh, Wale Omotoso, Steve Forbes, Vivian Harris, and Josesito Lopez.

Vargas should continue his rise through the junior welterweight ranks with a decision victory on Saturday, but Allakhverdiev will make it a tough bout.

Raymundo Beltran (28-6) vs. Arash Usmanee (20-1-1); Lightweights

At first glance Raymundo Beltran’s record does not look overly impressive, and it might appear that he does not deserve to serve as the lead in fight for the main event. But Beltran has been tested throughout his career and has improved greatly under the tutelage of Freddie Roach and has often served as the sparring partner for Manny Pacquiao.

In his last fight, Beltran broke the jaw of title holder Ricky Burns and according to most observers clearly won the fight. However, he was robbed of the chance at winning his first title and a split decision draw was announced as the result.

In theory, this should be a title fight.

Arash Usmanee and Raymundo Beltran are the same age. Usmanee will have a three inch reach advantage but Beltran will have a slight height advantage. Neither boxer had an overly impressive amateur career. Beltran will have a slight advantage in knockout power, he has stopped seventeen of his opponents while Usmanee has only stopped ten.

Beltran has been relatively active in the past few years. He fought three times in 2012 and twice in 2013. He should have been awarded the victory over Ricky Burns in his last fight, and he has also defeated Ji-Hoon Kim, Hank Lundy, David Torres, and Alejandro Rodriguez. Beltran has also lost to Luis Ramos Jr., Sharif Bogere, Ammeth Diaz and others early on in his career.

But, momentum means a lot in boxing, and despite the fact Beltran lost his last fight most would agree that he deserved to win it.

Arash Usmanee has also been active the past few years. He fought twice in 2013 and four times in 2012. His last fight was a majority draw that probably should have also been ruled a victory for him. He lost to Mendez in August of 2013, despite knocking him down in the last round and having that ruled a slip. He also lost a close, and controversial, decision to Rances Barthelemy in January of 2013 that many felt Usmanee should have won.

Usmanee has defeated the likes of Alan Paredes, Chris Howard, Innocent Anyanwu, and Cristian Faccio.

The difference maker in this bout might be size. Beltran has been fighting in the lightweight division for most of his career while Usmanee will be making the jump from the super featherweight division to the lightweight division.

Beltran’s grit, experience, and size advantage should lead him to a decision victory.

Timothy Bradley Jr. (31-0) vs. Manny Pacquiao (55-5-2); WBO Welterweight Title

From what I remember, the only two “media” personalities who scored the fight for Bradley in Las Vegas were Thomas Hauser and Brian Kenny. Nearly every other writer scored it for Pacquiao and I had a hard time giving Bradley no more than four rounds.

However, when a fight goes to the judges’ scorecards you never know what you are going to get and Bradley somehow scored the major upset.

But, a lot of people forget that Bradley did hurt both of his ankles early on in his bout with Pacquiao and that affected his performance inside the ring. Bradley has also continued to impress observers since their initial bout, while Pacquiao suffered the most devastating knockout of his career.

Bradley will have a slight reach advantage over Pacquiao and he is also five years younger than the Filipino icon. Manny clearly has the faster hands, but Bradley is a better defensive fighter than Pacquiao and has a more durable chin. Pacquiao has more knockouts than Bradley. Manny has thirty eight stoppages to his credit while Bradley only has twelve. However, Pacquiao has not had a stoppage victory since he defeated Miguel Cotto in 2009 and many observers feel he does not fight with the same intensity as he used to.

Both boxers have a very impressive list of defeated opponents, but Bradley has had more success in recent years. He won a split decision over Juan Manual Marquez in his last bout, but many including this writer feel he won a clear decision over Marquez. He survived a war with Ruslan Provodnikov and to dig deep in order to defeat him. He has also defeated the likes of Joel Casamayor, Devon Alexander, Luis Abregu, Lamont Peterson, Nate Campbell, Kendall Holt, Miguel Vazquez, Edner Cherry, and Junior Witter.

Timothy Bradley is one of the most underappreciated boxers in the world, and he has only looked better each time he steps inside the ring.

Pacquiao was able to bounce back from his defeat to rival Marquez with a trouncing of Brandon Rios in Macau, China. Rios was a tailor made opponent for Pacquiao, and Manny will have a much more difficult time with Bradley.

Pacquiao has gone 2-2 in his last four fights and badly needs an impressive victory to remain a pay per view star. He has also defeated an impressive list of opponents. He beat Marquez, Mosley, Margarito, Clottey, Cotto, Hatton, De La Hoya, Diaz, Morales, and Barrera.

The last time Pacquiao was able to avenge a loss was a decision victory over Erik Morales in 2005. However, Morales did not appear to have his heart in boxing at that time. Pacquiao now has two losses to avenge, and Bradley is a very motivated and skilled opponent.

If Pacquiao can fight as well as he did against Rios he should be able to defeat Bradley, and the judges are unlikely to make the same error that did in his first fight with Bradley. However, Pacquiao is past his physical prime, and speed….long his most feared weapon, is the first thing to go with age.

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