I have a crazy feeling that somehow Julio Chavez Jr./Sebastian Zbik is going to turn into a brawl and outshine the more anticipated Super Six semifinal between Carl Froch and Glen Johnson.
As much respect as I have for the Road Warrior who hasn't been stopped in 10 years and consistently takes on top-level competition, I see Froch doing some damage early and solidly outboxing him the rest of the night.
Froch is too savvy to get roped in and expose himself like Allan Green did, even if the finishing blows may have included a behind-the-head shot. I don't think Froch puts himself in a position to be knocked out, and he's never been stopped in his career. I don't see how Johnson wins this on points against the younger, fresher, probably busier and technically superior Froch.
There should be some entertaining moments and maybe Johnson can hurt Froch and shush his lovely lass in the stands for a few seconds. But I think this turns into a one-side clinic where Froch methodically breaks down Johnson late in the fight, and we may even see the second stoppage of the noble warrior's career.
Froch would join Bernard Hopkins as the only men to stop Glen Johnson, the second thing they have in common as the only two fighters to defeat Jean Pascal.
I hope I'm at least a little bit wrong, because the more success Johnson finds, the better this fight becomes and ultimately I root for a good fight. The Chavez Jr./Zbik fight is a lot harder to forecast, because no one really knows how good either of these guys are. Zbik was in some ways selected for Chavez Jr., which tells you that Chavez Jr.'s handlers believe this to be a winnable fight.
One glaring question is who are all these guys that Zbik's been feasting on over in Germany? Many of Zbik's opponents were well-regarded in Europe and boasted solid records. The same was true for Sergei Dzinzurik, in fact his resume was much stronger than Zbik's, and Dzinzurik was undressed and outclassed by Sergio Martinez.
Matthew Hatton was also coming off a string of wins over respectable European competition (his previous three opponents boasted a record of 98-3-3 when he fought them) when he met Saul Alvarez, and he was tactically and physically taken apart for 12 rounds. (Hatton was fighting above his weight Alvarez was obviously the much bigger man, it should be noted).
Now Chavez Jr. is no Sergio Martinez, and he's not even Canelo Alvarez, in fact not even close. The point is, there are a lot of fighters with great records in their own countries or regions, Europe or South America, and until they prove themselves against a known commodity, it's very tough to determine how good they really are.
It's tough for me to bet against a guy with Freddie Roach in his corner, and the powers that be possibly swaying any close calls in his way....(this cryptic line refers to the fact that for the business of boxing, it is better if Chavez Jr. wins, because he can make a lot bigger fights than Zbik, and occasionally the guy in that scenario benefits from any tough decisions on the scorecards or by the referee. Shocked, aren't you?)
I think Zbik will win this fight. I'm not sure how, because it will have to be decisive to get the benefit of the doubt on those sometimes fickle scorecards, and Zbik is no knock-out artist. But he just looks better to me. The styles should make for a lot of action, both men usually looking to stalk their opponents and neither being known as a defensive master. Zbik's got good combinations and a nice right hook. This could be a fight where it comes down to who wants it more.
Freddie Roach, as we've seen from his work with everyone from Manny Pacquiao to Lateef Kayode, will urge his fighters to seize their fate and go for the kill, not leave a close fight in the hands of the judges. It will be interesting to see if he takes that route with Chavez Jr., who Top Rank would probably rather protect in a late-fight situation, knowing he can box his way to a win in a home-court environment at Staples center. Not to suggest that a promoter could ever interfere with a trainer...
I think the fight ends up with Zbik the winner on the scorecards, after a lot of inside action that leaves Chavez Jr. obviously the worse for wear. But I also think the son of the legend goes out on his shield. He may not have his father's skills (ok, he does not have his father's skills and never will), but the Chavez blood runs through his veins and he won't back down from a firefight. He just may, like Vazquez Jr. before him, go out with more respect from a loss than he came in with undefeated.