Sunday, November 15, 2009

Mikkel Kessler vs. Andre Ward Prediction

By JE Grant

The Super-Six tournament has already proven a stunning, innovative success. By taking in six top fighters in one division, various promoters are working toward a common goal has not really been seen since the alphabet organizations began proliferating in the 1970s.

Mikkel Kessler and Andre Ward are super talents that would not have met for at least a couple of years (if ever) had it not been for the Super-Six. Ward may have very well captured one of the various belts and been forced, as Kessler has been, to engage in meaningless mandatories ad nauseam.

So, it is with particular relish that we get to see this bout come to fruition Saturday night.

Kessler, 30, 42-1 (32 KOs), Denmark, is clearly in his prime years. The tough loss to Joe Calzaghe notwithstanding, he has resided at or near the top of the division for years. Wins over the likes of Markus Beyer, Eric Lucas, and Anthony Mundine, among others, has solidified his place as an elite fighter. What none of those names have given him, however, is the breakout victory that he needs to become an international figure. This tournament, with Andre Ward first on the menu, gives him that opportunity.

His crisp and precise punching has enabled him to adjust to a variety of opponent styles. In his most recent title defense, Kessler demonstrated that he had little trouble adjusting to the tall southpaw Gusmyr Perdomo. While Perdomo does not have nearly the talent level of Andre Ward, he was a useful warmup for the switch-hitter Ward.

Ward, 25, 20-0 (13 KOs), Oakland, came to the pro ranks with an Olympic Gold Medal pedigree -- a rarity for American fighters of late. In amassing his undefeated ledger, he has not been in any hurry to climb the ladder. Whatever doubts fans and pundits may have had about his development had their questions answered earlier this year when he outpunched and outboxed the hard punching Edison Miranda. In that fight Ward show that he could take the big shot and use a range of skills to decision a dangerous opponent.

PREDICTION: Kessler and Ward are possibly the most talented and versatile fighters in the tournament. Kessler has an edge in experience with big fights, having performed in front of huge crowds. That is offset by the fact that they are fighting in Ward's hometown. Kessler is also a proven knockout puncher while Ward tends to wing his right and relies on accumulated blows to cause stoppages. Ward's clear advantage is his hand and foot speed. Calzaghe gave Kessler problems with his ability to punch at blazing speed and move around the ring. On this night, however, it will not be enough for Ward. Kessler has been in the deep-end far more often than Ward and he knows how to adapt. Ward's game plan will likely call for him to rely heavily on jabs and giving Kessler unique angles. If he can keep Kessler off-balance he could sneak a decision win. This fight will go to the fighter with the bigger tool kit and that is Kessler. Both fighters are elite competitors -- don't be surprised to see the two fighters meeting multiple times.

Kessler by 12 round decision.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Manny Pacquiao vs. Miguel Cotto: Fight Prediction

By JE Grant

Manny Pacquiao has emerged as boxing's most popular international figure. As the only fighter to win lineal titles in four weight classes, his popularity is more than matched by solid achievement. In destroying Oscar de la Hoya (even a diminished version), and spectacularly knocking out a strong Ricky Hatton --- and doing so in weight classes in which he had not ventured --- "Pacman" exceeded all expectations of stardom.

Miguel Cotto is a star in his own right. His wins over top competition such as Shane Mosely, Zab Judah, and Carlos Quintana, should not be overshadowed by his own devastating knockout loss to Antonio Margarito. Indeed in light of Margarito's subsequent scandal involving hand-plastering prior to his fight with Shane Mosely, one has to view his fight with Cotto with some skepticism.

Both fighters are strong, quick-fisted (though Pacquiao has a clear edge), exhibit punching power (with perhaps a slight edge to Cotto), and come to every fight to win with their shields held high or on them.

Pacquiao holds an advantage in his corner with the legendary Freddie Roach at the helm. Cotto's history with cornermen is also legendary by in a negative sense. A round-robin of cornermen for Cotto may prove crucial in a close bout down the stretch.

PREDICTION: Pacquiao knows only one gear -- fast. He will attempt to overwhelm the more methodical Cotto from the opening bell. No one should expect Cotto to fold early, even if he hits the deck --- again, he's in this to win it if he can. Pacman's vulnerabilities come with his swarming style. His wide punches, though delivered with lightning speed, can allow a well-positioned Cotto to sneak in his sharp, short right hands to the chin. Cotto has been on the deck and, except for the Margarito bout, rose to win. Hitting him is not especially difficult, though he often make opponents pay for the privilege. On Saturday Pacquiao's machine, however, won't be denied. While Cotto will fight to the fullest of his ability, he won't slow Pacman's advance. He'll get hit more often than ever and from more angles than ever. His chance lies in his power and he'll need to go for the big punch early or risk being hopelessly behind and exhausted late in the fight.

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