by Eric Raskin
Take the plastic off the furniture and bust out the fancy bean dip, because you have a couple of celebrity guests coming into the house for your pay-per-view party on December 8. Two stars known far better by their nicknames than their given names, 50 Cent and Snooki, are promoting fighters on the Manny Pacquiao-Juan Manuel Marquez 4 undercard. But, as always, the boxers in action are the real stars of the show, and this undercard features a battle of unbeatens, a talent knocking on the door of the pound-for-pound list, some Filipino flavor, and even the pro debut of one of the most decorated American amateurs ever. That would be 20-year-old lightweight Jose Ramirez, who will open the show in a scheduled four-rounder. Here’s a look at the three 12-rounders that will follow:
Yuriorkis Gamboa (21-0, 16 KOs) vs. Michael Farenas (33-3-4, 25 KOs), 12 Rounds, Junior Lightweights
Are you suffering from Gamboa withdrawal? It’s been 15 long months since the Cuban “Cyclone” kicked up dust in a prize ring, but he’s finally back and ready to show off his extraordinary combination of speed and power against Filipino southpaw Farenas. Gamboa sat on the shelf due to promotional squabbles, and his promotional status remains a major talking point because rapper 50 Cent is now officially the man guiding his career. This bout marks Fiddy’s promoting debut, and it marks the 31-year-old Gamboa’s first major fight at junior lightweight following an impressive run atop the featherweight division. Gamboa, whose 2010 defeat of Orlando Salido keeps looking better with the passage of time, is a healthy favorite over the unproven Farenas (who is trained by Pacquiao assistant Buboy Fernandez). But the Cuban also has a troubling tendency to find himself on the canvas, and with 25 knockouts among his 33 victories, Farenas can pop a little bit. Blink at your own peril.
Miguel Vazquez (32-3, 13 KOs) vs. Mercito Gesta (26-0-1, 14 KOs), 12 Rounds, Lightweights
Pacquiao and Farenas aren’t the only Filipino southpaws in action, as Gesta will get in on the fun in pursuit of his first pro title in what looks like a pick-’em fight against the crafty Mexican Vazquez. The 25-year-old Vazquez was viewed by some as the top dog in the lightweight division until a rocky outing against Marvin Quintero in October – which ended with Vazquez winning a split decision – socked his stock. He gets a chance at redemption against Gesta, who is also 25, hasn’t faced the level of competition that Vazquez has, but has shown flashes of potential on his way up. Vazquez is four inches taller at 5’11”, so expect the stocky challenger known as “No Mercy” to try to fight at close quarters and score with bodyshots and short uppercuts. This will come down to which man is able to dictate the style of the fight; the more action-packed it is, the better that will be for Gesta.
Javier Fortuna (20-0, 15 KOs) vs. Patrick Hyland (27-0, 12 KOs), 12 Rounds, Featherweights
New York-based Irishman Hyland has Snooki in his corner … and a “situation” in front of him. The 23-year-old Dominican Fortuna is one of boxing’s hottest prospects, particularly on the heels of his dazzling two-round destruction of veteran Cristobal Cruz this past July. He represents a major step up in class for Hyland who, despite having a Jersey Shore star for a promoter, is a relative unknown. But with two undefeated records on the line, Fortuna and Hyland might just produce a brawl that puts even the best Ronnie vs. Sammi fight to shame.