By Oliver Goldstein
On the televised undercard, Jose Benavidez takes a huge step up in competition when he meets Mauricio Herrera for an interim welterweight bauble. Benavidez (21-0, 15 KOs), from Phoenix, Arizona, has long been touted as a potential star through his fledgling career, while Herrera (21-4, 7 KOs) has continued straining to transcend his meager power, unflattering record, and often limited connections, to remain relevant in boxing’s upper echelons. Who will win here? The numbers say Benavidez, who is smilingly undefeated, and boasts an attractive KO percentage. But the numbers might be lying — or at least not telling nearly the whole truth. In the past five years, Herrera has faced Ruslan Provodnikov, Danny Garcia, Mike Anchondo, Mike Dallas Jr, Karim Mayfield, Ji-Hoon Kim, and Johan Perez among others. He has fought comfortably more than one hundred rounds. He has also never proven less than competitive: he beat Provodnikov before the Russian was fashionable, and should have had the duke against Garcia this year. Benavidez has never even been scheduled to go ten rounds: his deepest fight was an eight-round victory against Pavel Miranda. If that proves sufficient preparation for a fighter as wily as Herrera, count this writer a surprised observer.
Additionally, Matt Korobov meets Andy Lee for a vacant middleweight belt. Korobov (24-0, 14 KOs) turned pro some years back with substantial hype — a fight on the Pacquiao-Hatton undercard in 2009 stood as testament to the esteem he commanded. But injuries and prevarication have held the Russian back: only in the last year has he faced more substantial competition. Even then, Jose Uzcategui, his first HBO opponent, might yet prove little to write home about. Lee, a former Emanuel Steward pupil now working under Adam Booth’s tutelage, has lost two previous fights, against Brian Vera (later avenged) and Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. Has he regrouped under Booth? Certainly, a recent win against John Jackson looks good on paper, but struggles against Anthony Fitzgerald and Frank Haroche Horta don’t suggest much about the partnership. Lee is a capable fighter, though, with powerful fists and a decent heart. But his tendency to keep his head high and back stiff remains likely to get him in trouble: should Korobov prove half the fighter he is said to be, this should end in a first major victory for the Russian.