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Boxing: Previews and Predictions of February's 10 Biggest Fights

Will ProtheroeContributor IIIFebruary 1, 2012

Boxing: Previews and Predictions of February's 10 Biggest Fights

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    The cancellation of the Feb. 11 rematch between Victor Ortiz and Andre Berto announced yesterday leaves a big hole in February's big fight schedule.

    Despite this disappointment however, there are still a host of excellent fights on the horizon.

    This weekend see's Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. in possibly his toughest test to date against Mexican slugger Marco Antonio Rubio.

    Pound for Pound contender Nonito Donaire faces off with former WBO super bantamweight champ Wilfredo Vazquez Jr.

    We will see who the best cruiserweight in the world is when Steve Cunningham looks to avenge his loss against Yoan Pablo Hernandez.

    Later in the month there's good heavyweight action in store as Vitali Klitschko and Alexander Povetkin are both in fights.

    The fight of the month could come in the welterweight showdown between Devon Alexander and Marcos Maidana. When was Maidana last in a bad fight?

    Add to this Paul Williams, Jorge Arce, Tavoris Cloud, Marco Huck and Demetrius Andrade, and by the end of the month we might've forgotten the disappointment of Ortiz-Berto.

    Here are previews and predictions of the ten biggest fights upcoming this month.

Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. vs. Marco Antonio Rubio

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    Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. (44-0-1 31 KOs) looks to extend his unbeaten record in his toughest fight to date against Marco Antonio Rubio (53-5-1 46 KOs)

    The biggest story going into the fight has been the drama surrounding the WBC's choice of referee.

    Chavez Jr. is the darling of the Mexican sanctioning body and its president Jose Sulaiman. Due to this Rubio has brought up the issue of fair play.

    Rubio officially requested referee Guadalupe Garcia be replaced for the fight but the request was denied.

    It's a clever move from Rubio, as Garcia's every move will now be under huge scrutiny.

    The stakes are high because the winner will likely go onto a huge fight with either Saul Alvarez or Miguel Cotto.

    Rubio often looks for that one big punch and this could cause him trouble. The fact is that Rubio will be there to hit.

    Chavez Jr. lacks the power to really trouble people at middleweight. Even if Rubio leaves himself open, it is doubtful that Jr. will be able to knock him out. What he does have is a good attack to the body.

    We saw this in his fight against Sebastian Zbik last June. Even if Rubio comes out of the blocks fast (which he is more than likely to), Chavez has the skills to bring the fight round to his advantage.

    As the bigger man, Chavez Jr. should be able to use his reach and keep Rubio away from him, lessening the chance of that one big punch landing.

    That goes against the grain for Jr. though, who prefers to fight on the inside. This may give Rubio the one opportunity he needs.

    Protheroe's Prediction: Chavez Jr. to wear down Rubio with a solid body attack en route to a win by unanimous decision.

Nonito Donaire vs. Wilfredo Vazquez Jr.

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    The co-main event to Chavez Jr. vs. Rubio sees Nonito Donaire (27-1 18 KOs) move up to junior featherweight to fight for the vacant WBO super bantamweight title.

    His opponent, Wilfredo Vazquez Jr. (21-1-1 18 KOs) lost against Jorge Arce in a thriller last May. Since then he has rebounded with a confidence boosting third round KO of journeyman Roberto Carlos Leyva.

    Contrastingly, Donaire's last fight was an uncharacteristically boring affair. Omar Narvaez was hopelessly out of his depth and spent the whole fight (sensibly) defending himself.

    This shouldn't be a problem with Vazquez Jr. though. The Puerto Rican is prepared to stand toe-to-toe and take a punch to give one back.

    The problem for Vazquez Jr. is that there are no glaring weaknesses in Donaire for him to exploit.

    Donaire shouldn't have too much trouble in the move up to junior featherweight. He was a big bantamweight so it should be a fairly natural progression.

    His speed, power and movement are all first class and it is hard to see anyone at 122 who will be able to beat him

    Protheroe's Prediction: Donaire will be too much for Vazquez Jr. There will be some good back and forth action but Donaire will seal the victory by KO in Rounds 7 or 8.

Yoan Pablo Hernandez vs. Steve Cunningham

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    Steve Cunningham (24-3 12 KOs) looks to avenge his loss to Yoan Pablo Hernandez (25-1 13 KOs) last October and regain his IBF cruiserweight title.

    The first fight ended prematurely when Hernandez was cut by a clash of heads. Many felt Cunningham should have won, but Hernandez was ahead on two cards and took the belt back to his home in Germany.

    The last fight showed that Hernandez has the power to hurt Cunningham. In the first round Cunningham was knocked down by a crisp left and was almost out on his feet.

    That left from Hernandez clearly has the power to hurt Cunningham but this time Cunningham will be prepared for it.

    He's a smart fighter and shouldn't make the same mistakes twice. He hits with the cleaner shots and is more accurate than Hernandez.

    Cunningham needs to establish his jab early in the fight. Something that he didn't do in the first fight. The knockdown rattled him and seemed to prevent him from doing this.

    If Steve can do this, then Hernandez will start to get frustrated. He likes to be on the inside looking for the big shots, so if Cunningham stays at a comfortable distance he will start taking risks.

    Protheroe's Prediction: Cunningham will have learnt from the first fight and will outbox Hernandez. Cunningham to win by decision.

Demetrius Andrade vs. Derek Ennis

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    Unbeaten prospect Demetrius Andrade (15-0 10 KOs) looks to break further into the spotlight when he headlines Friday Night Fights against Derek Ennis (23-3-1 13 KOs) on Feb. 10.

    Ennis is a step up in class for Andrade, whose biggest wins have come against career journeymen Saul Duran and Grady Brewer

    Ennis' biggest win came against Nigeria's former IBF middleweight title challenger Eromosele Albert.

    At 5' 8", Ennis is giving up five inches to Andrade and that's where the fight will be won an lost.

    Andrade has an excellent jab and showed in his fight with Grady Brewer that he is prepared to stay behind it all night and win by decision.

    Andrade is also aware of the negative reaction a performance like that prompts. He was widely criticized by fans for not taking any risks.

    He is in need of a fan pleasing performance to keep his career on the track he wants. Andrade has the potential to become a beast at middleweight in the next few years and that won't be derailed by Ennis.

    Protheroe's Prediction: Andrade to stick behind a solid jab and good defense before knocking Ennis out in the ninth or tenth round.

Vitali Klitschko vs. Dereck Chisora

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    Britain's Dereck Chisora (15-2 9 KOs) finally gets his shot at a Klitschko when he takes on Vitali (43-2 40 KOs) in Munich on Feb. 18.

    Chisora's record may have taken some damage since then after losses to Tyson Fury and Robert Helenius, but in the Helenius fight he showed how much he has improved as a fighter.

    He has stepped up his conditioning and looked in good form against Helenius, a fight that he won despite what the home cooked scorecards might have said.

    The sad fact for pretty much everyone going up against either Klitschko is that they only ever have a puncher's chance of winning.

    Vitali is simply too strong, too tall, too experienced and simply too good for any heavyweight other than his brother to have a chance against. Unlike his brother, he is not afraid to open up and knock an opponent out.

    With a stunning knockout percentage of 89, Vitali is unstoppable even at the age of 40.

    With that in mind, Chisora won't be afraid to bring the fight to Vitali and it should be an entertaining scrap while it lasts.

    A good comparison would be when Vitali fought Albert Sosnowski in May 2010. Sosnowski gave it his all for nine rounds, connecting with a solid uppercut in the fourth and winning some rounds.

    Vitali sprung into action in the ninth however, pinning Sosonowski on the ropes and opening up before hitting an obliterating right hand to secure the KO in the tenth.

    Protheroe's Prediction: An entertaining fight by heavyweight standards to end by way of a Vitali KO in the eighth round.

Tavoris Cloud vs. Gabriel Campillo

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    IBF light heavyweight champ Tavoris Cloud (23-0 19 KOs) takes on Spain's Gabriel Campillo (21-3-1 8 KOs) in Texas on Showtime on Feb. 18.

    Cloud is coming into the fight on the back of an eighth round TKO of Yusaf Mack, a solid but not elite opponent.

    His only big win came in 2010, when he beat Glen Johnson.

    Cloud needs to start fighting real contenders soon, and this is a good start.

    Campillo comes into the fight after a controversial draw against Karo Murat. Campillo looked to be in control of the fight and easing to a win when Murat rallied in the late rounds. Enough, by two the judges standards at least to save the German from his second professional loss.

    This should be an entertaining fight with a good contrast of styles.

    Cloud has the ability to end this fight early. Campillo has a tendency to start fights slowly, and if Cloud comes out swinging it could be an early knockout.

    The longer the fight goes on, the more it should favor Campillo. The Spaniard is a slightly better boxer than Cloud, but Tavoris has undeniable power and underrated skills.

    Campillo has an awkward style that could trouble a pressure fighter like Cloud. But over the course of the fight, Cloud will land the more telling punches that will sway the judges to awarding him a very close victory.

    Protheroe's Prediction: Cloud to win by late knockout or majority decision.

Paul Williams vs. Nobuhiro Ishida

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    Paul Williams (40-2 27 KOs) looks for redemption against James Kirkland conqueror Nobuhiro Ishida (24-6-2 9 KOs).

    Ishida propelled himself into boxing fame by knocking down heavily favored James Kirkland three times en route to a stunning first round knockout.

    Will lighning strike twice for Ishida? No.

    Williams is a better fighter than Kirkland, and will be wary of having the same fate. His performance against Kirkland aside, Ishida is not a strong puncher.

    Only nine of his 24 wins have come by way of KO. His one fight since destroying Kirkland was against Mexican debutant Edson Espinoza.

    Williams freakish reach and high work rate will be far too much for an average fighter like Ishida to handle

    Some have accused "The Punisher" of being a spent fighter since the Martinez knockout. While it is true that he didn't look great while eking out a majority decision against Erislandy Lara, Lara is an excellent fighter and Williams still got the win.

    Ishida is rightly enjoying his time in the sun but it will be over on Feb. 18. Expect Williams to inflict the first KO of Ishida's career.

    Protheroe's Prediction: Williams to win by KO in the fourth round.

Jorge Arce vs. Lorenzo Parra

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    Jorge Arce (59-6-2 45 KOs) defends his WBO bantamweight title against Lorenzo Parra (31-3-1 18 KOs) in a rematch of their 2010 fight that ended in a draw.

    This should be a very different fight to the first. Since drawing with Arce, Parra has only fought once, losing against Anselmo Moreno by TKO.

    Parra, fighting at his lightest weight in over four years, looked slow and plodding against Moreno, who out-boxed him with ease throughout the fight until Parra quit with a hand injury.

    By comparison, since the draw Arce has fought and won four times, including a fight of the year candidate with Wilfredo Vazquez Jr.

    Arce looked in good shape back at 118 pounds when he beat Angky Angkota in a near shutout.

    Protheroe's Prediction: Arce to win by a wide margin on all three scorecards.

Devon Alexander vs. Marcos Maidana

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    The most entertaining fight of the month could come on Feb. 25, when the slick Devon Alexander (22-1 13 KOs) takes on the hard hitting Marcos Maidana (31-2 28 KOs).

    Alexander has lost his mojo of late, losing and looking bad while doing it against Timothy Bradley, and getting a controversial split decision over Lucas Matthysse last June.

    He will need to be on better form to get the better of Maidana, who is one of the most dangerous punches around.

    Maidana is coming off wins against Erik Morales in a fight of the year candidate and a homecoming fight against Petr Petrov.

    Maidana's two losses have come against slick boxers in Amir Khan and Andriy Kotelnik, and Alexander has the tools to win as they did.

    Alexander relies on his speed and reflexes to get him out of trouble, but needs to work on his weak jab.

    Both Matthysse and Bradley found it very easy to get inside and trade with Alexander, something Maidana will relish.

    Protheroe's Prediction: In an entertaining fight with both men going down, Maidana takes the decision.

Alexander Povetkin vs. Marco Huck

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    Alexander Povetkin (23-0 16 KOs) puts his pointless WBA "Regular" Championship on the line against cruiserweight champ Marco Huck (34-1 25 KOs) in Stuttgart on Feb. 25.

    Povetkin is coming into the fight after a solid victory over Ruslan Chagaev last August. He followed this up by knocking out Cedric Boswell in December.

    The win against Chagaev put Povetkin in the position of 'best of the rest' after the Klitschko's.

    He has good hand speed for a heavyweight and has good accuracy with his punches. He's not afraid to throw the odd flurry and, unless he has a very bad day at the office, Huck should be no problem.

    Povetkin does sometimes take a while to find his feet in a fight, but once he gets into his rhythm he is a hard man to stop.

    This is Huck's first foray into the heavyweight division after holding the WBO cruiserweight title for eight defenses in just over two years

    Huck is a pressure fighter who has relied on his strength when at cruiserweight. Now that he has moved up to heavyweight, that strength will not be so much of a factor.

    Huck has made a mistake by jumping straight in with Povetkin. He should have found his feet at the weight before moving on to someone with real skills.

    If he does lose, it will be interesting to see if he sticks around a heavyweight or jumps straight back to cruiser.

    Protheroe's Prediction: Povetkin to win by KO in the seventh round.

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