By: William Holmes
The first two months of the summer were lackluster in action for boxing fans in the United States, but the action will begin to pick up this weekend when Golden Boy Promotions presents an action-packed card from San Antonio, Texas.
The welterweight division is Golden Boy’s deepest division in terms of talent, and on Saturday they will put on two competitive bouts in the welterweight division that will help determine its hierarchy.
Diego Chaves (22-0) vs. Keith Thurman (20-0); WBA Interim Welterweight Title
When we last saw Keith Thurman, he was pounding on the overmatched Jan Zaveck at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York. He called out welterweight champion Paulie Malignaggi in a memorable back and forth tirade at the post fight press conference. Malignaggi instead went on to fight and lose his title against Adrien Broner, while Keith Thurman is left with the undefeated and relative unknown Diego Chaves.
Chaves, like fellow Argentinian Sergio Martinez, started off his athletic career by playing soccer, but later went on to dedicating his life to boxing.
He’s three years the elder to the twenty-four-year-old Thurman, and he has considerable power in his hands. He has stopped eighteen of his opponents. However, like most foreign born fighters when they make their United States debut, he has not faced high level quality opposition. But he has faced good competition in Argentina. All of his opponents since July of 2009 have had winning records. The best fighter he has defeated so far was Ismael El Massoudi (36-3) in July of 2012.
Keith Thurman is the better known fighter who has been getting a slow and steady push from Golden Boy. He has stopped eighteen of his opponents and is just entering his athletic prime. He’s been considerably more active than Chaves in the past two years. He fought four times in 2012 and once already in 2013. His activity should give him an edge over Chaves, who has only fought twice since 2012.
Thurman has a strong amateur background and it really showed in his decision victory over Zaveck. Thurman was riding eight straight stoppages before he met up with Zaveck. Zaveck, however, was an opponent that Thurman was not able to just plow through. Thurman had to rely on his boxing skills and was able to win every single round on all three score cards.
Thurman’s list of defeated opponents is not great. He’s defeated the likes of Zaveck, Carlos Quintana, Orlando Lora, and Brandon Hoskins.
This is an intriguing bout between two undefeated and untested welterweight prospects, but Thurman is more experienced and should come out the victor.
Omar Figueroa (21-0) vs. Nihito Arakawa (24-2); WBC Interim Lightweight Title
The war between Showtime and HBO has been a blessing for boxing fans, since they get to see more fighters from countries they previously wouldn’t have seen. This is especially true for fighters from Asia: Nihito Arakawa is a fighter we would likely have never seen if it wasn’t for the recent rise of televised fights in the United States.
Arakawa, however, is in way over his head against the hard hitting and young Figueroa.
Arakawa is the close to the same height as Figueroa. but is eight years his elder. Age seems to catch up with the lighter fighters quicker than older fighters.
Figueroa first burst onto the scene when he stopped the then undefeated Michael Perez at the Fantasy Springs Casino in Indio, California. He fought an incredible six times in 2012, and he has already fought twice in 2013. He has seventeen knockouts on his record and had defeated the likes of Abner Cotto, Henry Aurad, Dominic Salcido, Ramon Ayala, and Michael Perez.
Arakawa has stopped sixteen of his opponents, but every single one of his fights except for his last loss to Daniel Estrada in November of 2012 has been in Japan. His record is missing quality and recognizable opposition. Only the most hardcore fight fans would recognize some of the fighters he has defeated. But he has defeated the likes of Takehiro Shimada, Ryuji Migaki, Jay Solmiano, and Hiroshi Nakamori.
But Arakawa has little to no chance of winning on Saturday. This writer expects Figueroa to blast through him.
Andre Berto (28-2) vs. Jesus Soto Karass (26-7-3); Welterweights
Both of Andre Berto’s two losses came in his past three bouts and he has only fought three times since 2011. He is a two-time Welterweight Champion, but it appears that he’s on a downward slope in his career.
Karass is a durable and often exciting opponent, but he’s the perfect tune-up for Berto to help him get back to his winning ways. Karass will have the height and reach advantage on Berto, but he’ll be facing a much more powerful fighter. Berto has stopped twenty two of his opponents, while Karass has only stopped seventeen.
Karass won a surprising decision over Selcuk Aydin in January of this year, and that bout helped earn him a shot against Berto. But he has a history of coming up short when he’s matched up with some of the higher tier fighters. He has lost to Marcos Maidana, Gabriel Rosado, Mike Jones (twice), and Alfonso Gomez.
He has shown an ability to take a hard punch and apply solid pressure, but it’s likely he won’t be able to outbox or overpower Berto.
Even though Berto has had a tough time inside the ring recently, he is still a high quality fighter. He’s a former Olympian and has been tested since 2007. He has defeated the likes of Cosme Rivera, Steve Forbes, Luis Collazo, Juan Urango, Carlos Quintana, Freddy Hernandez, and Jan Zaveck.
A fighter with heart, however, can push Berto, and he faded late in his two losses. Both Victor Ortiz and Robert Guerrero have taken Berto the full distance and were able to walk away with decision victories.
Berto should win on Saturday, but he will look to stop Karass early to avoid any late surprises in the fight.