Juan Urango and Randall Bailey face off tonight at the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Hollywood, Florida, in what promises to be a good old-fashioned rumpus.
Urango, 21-2-1 (16), is coming off a lopsided decision loss to Andre Berto last May at welterweight. Urango was, as expected, outclassed by the speedier Berto and has since returned to the junior welterweight division in order to defend his Alphabet title. Bailey, on the other hand, was last seen waylaying Francisco Figueroa on ESPN2 in April. Bailey rose from a second round knockdown to stretch Figueroa for the count in the fourth. Figueroa was down for several minutes.
Bailey has won 11 out of 12 fights since being stopped by Miguel Cotto in 2004, with his only setback over that span a razor thin decision to Herman Ngoudjo two years ago in Montreal. Lost in the pat story of Bailey, 39-6 (35), rejuvenating his career is the atrocious level of his recent knockout victims. Among them are the appalling Juan Polo-Perez, who lost 25 of his last 27 fights before retiring in 2007 and was once a super flyweight paper champion; the hapless Dario Esalas, currently on a 1-11 streak, and Santos Paku, the Kiwi equivalent of a circuit fighter, who has lost his last five bouts in row. His win over a shot DeMarcus Corley is of no consequence whatsoever. When “Chop Chop” was at his best, in 2003, Bailey could barely lay a glove on him. It says a lot about Bailey when Francisco Figueroa can be considered a step up.
Despite the poor quality of opposition, however, not many fighters carry the kind of dynamite Bailey has in his right hand. Every punch he throws has knockout potential. The key to his success, or lack thereof, is whether his power shots will be effective against a sturdier opponent. If not, Bailey usually struggles. A solid chin is a prerequisite for any one who steps into the ring with Bailey. On that front, Urango, who has never been stopped or knocked down, fits the bill nicely.
Bailey, Miami, Florida, is also vulnerable to boxers. Luckily for him, Urango is not a boxer, and he is as far away from slick as a demolition derby is from the Concours d’Elegance. Nor is he on par with the fighters who have handled Bailey in the past. In other words, Urango is the least of the best to have faced Bailey. With his freight train style and arcing blows, Urango is a hazard to anyone who steps into the ring with him. Still, a competent boxer will always pose problems for the plodding southpaw. Ricky Hatton, of all people, outfoxed and outboxed Urango in 2007. Compared to Urango, Bailey resembles Pernell Whitaker in the ring, and he might pull out a few Fancy Dan moves for the occasion tonight.
A few years ago Bailey was a stalker prone to following his opponent around and waiting for an opportunity to shoot his torpedo of a right hand. Now, he is a little more active in the ring and has also added some new moves to his game, including feints and head movement. Still, his modus operandi remains essentially the same after thirteen years as a pro: wait for an opening and drop the hammer. Bailey first burst into prominence by blasting out Bolilo Gonzalez in less than a minute to win the WBX junior welterweight title in 1999. He lost the trinket a year later, losing a bruising decision against Ener Julio in a fight where Bailey struggled to the bitter end with an eye swollen to a slit. Another title bout, against Diosbelys Hurtado, ended in disaster when Bailey was stopped by a flurry of body shots that did not seem particularly damaging. Indeed, Bailey appears most vulnerable to the body and it is up to Urango to whip right hooks into the
ribcage whenever the opportunity presents itself.
Tonight Bailey gets a chance to cash in on one last Score. If he wins, a money fight will present itself sooner or later; if he loses, Bailey, 34, might never get another opportunity for the Big Time again. Urango, Monterria, Colombia, now fighting out of Cooper City, Florida, is looking to cash in on his junior welterweight title. An impressive win, and he, too, might find himself in a marquee bout.
This is a very difficult bout to call. Bailey is taller, faster, and more athletic; Urango has the edge in chin, workrate, bodypunching, and also has the southpaw advantage. Bailey will try to keep Urango at a distance and look for openings and the occasional counterpunch. If Urango finds himself on the outside being measured by jabs, he will be in for a long night. Bailey is not the kind of fighter you want setting up. On the other hand, charging in recklessly will leave Urango open to counters. He will need to close the gap by working behind his underused jab and throwing leather in the clinches. In close quarters Bailey is a relatively safe proposition and Urango can go to work there without fear of a knockout blow. Although Bailey is considered the wrecking ball puncher, Urango carries serious power in his right hook. It is easy to picture Bailey landing a straight right hand down the middle while Urango is winging wide haymakers. But what
happens if Urango stays on his feet? In the end, this bout may come down to a chin-checking contest. If Urango can survive some heavy clouts early, he might be able to outwork Bailey on the inside, score a knockdown, and squeak by on a split decision. But this scenario is only one of several possibilities in a fight where the unexpected is practically guaranteed.