Two of boxing's exciting young world champions travel to "The Mecca of Boxing", The Madison Square Garden, this Saturday night. Bob Arum's Top Rank Promotions seems to have quite the knack for bringing Puerto Rico's stars in front of the huge Puerto Rican-New York crowd, and with much past success.
Puerto Rico's Juan Manuel (Juanma) Lopez (26-0, 24KO), defends his WBO Junior Featherweight strap against Rogers Mtagwa (26-12-2, 18KO), of Tanzania. In the Co-Feature bout, Cuban dynamo Yuriorkis Gamboa (15-0, 13KO) defends his WBA Featherweight strap against Whyber Garcia (22-6, 15KO), of Panama.
Juanma has promised a knockout of Mtagwa. Given the brutality of his destruction of former champion Daniel Pence DeLeon, a knockout is a realistic possibility. Some say Juanma is one of the biggest punchers in boxing, pound-for-pound. Mtagwa needs to avoid his power and try to test Juanma's untested chin if he expects to avoid being put to sleep and give himself a chance to win.
I've read that Top Rank is already in discussions for a unification bout between Juanma and Celestino Caballero. I don't see Mtagwa spoiling those plans Saturday night.
In Whyber Garcia I don't see much competition for Yuriorkis Gamboa. Gamboa does have a history of defensive lapses and being dropped because of his in-ring clowning. Gamboa has assured everyone that his focus is on impressing the world Saturday night and we won't see his hands around his waist mugging for his opponent.
As much as I'd like to see Gamboa and Juanma in the ring together, it may not be a reality just yet. Juanma may be better suited to unite his division and allow Gamboa more time to gain valuable experience before they meet.
Before the "Island Warriors" step into the ring, Odlanier Solis will warm up the crowd in a ten-round bout. Solis is slated to take on his 3rd opponent since the initial announcement of the card, Monte Barrett. Solis was initially contracted to fight Kevin Johnson, who pulled out for the opportunity to chase Vital Klitschko's WBC Heavyweight title. Fringe contender Fres Oquendo stepped in as a replacement, but pulled out recently for undisclosed reasons. Solis is looking to move up in the Heavyweight rankings and take a swipe at one of the Klitschko brothers. Monte Barrett would like to do the same, but must go through Solis to get backin the mix. Barrett has been knocked out four times in his career, but he is a game competitor and shouldn't be a pushover for Solis. With that being said, I'm picking Solis to win by KO.
All in all, it looks like it will be a good night for Top Rank Promotions.