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By Chris Strait
There has been a lot of talk in boxing about over-hyped fighters. While it is true that many fighters do not do justices to the ink/voices that precede them (examples: Paulie Ayala, Kostya Tszyu, Eric "stone cold" Kirkland), I believe there is a fighter who has come under this fire unnecessarily as of late.
IBF lightweight champion Paul Spadafora is largely viewed as a limited, primarily one-dimensional fighter, without much power. This is a common opinion in boxing circles, and it is true when comparing him to the top ten fighters in the world. What people are not giving the Pittsburgh kid credit for, however, is the nitch that he has re-carved. there are many, I'm sure who note his win against a since pitiful 'Pito' Cardona, and subsequent near-disaster in his first defense as support of this position. However, Cardona was favored to win at that time, and Spadafora did rise from the canvas to win in his first defense, in a fight that was nearly stopped. Instead of questioning the champion, maybe we should've questioned how quickly we stop some fights. I understand the need for safety, but when heart is allowed to be displayed, it is good for boxing on many levels.
There is a reason that nearly every one of Spadafora's fights is televised, by either HBO or ESPN2. It is because he is what few fighters have been recently... a good champion. With belts flying every which way, it is difficult to take being a champion seriously. Spadafora brings a bit of this much needed attitude back to boxing. He defends his title consistently, against top ranked contenders, is never a sure thing to win, yet always finds a way to do so. He shows vulnerability in nearly getting stopped in his first defense, yet shows dominance against his mandatory, Billy Irwin, who had looked impressive in recent wins.
Paul Spadafora has the stuff to test WBC champ Castillo. In fact, barring a power punch, I would pick Spadafora in that fight. With the ineveitable move up in weight from Mayweather (following dominance), Corrales (following prison), Casamayor (following a loss to Mayweather), and Freitas (ditto), Spadafora is in a prime position to take advantage of his exposure, and lure the bigger names into lucrative paydays. Even those who aren't impressed with him would have to admit, Spadafora is not the type of fighter who would be finished were he to lose.
So I say, to Paul... let the doubters speak. They only enable the fans to make a hero out of you.
Does Gonzales have a shot against Jones?
When conversing with 'Southern California Fight Scene' magazine's editor "Boxing Don" Dinkins, he informed me he could find no one, even in the latino community, who believes that Julio Gonzalez has a chance of defeating Roy Jones. There is little belief that even a competitive fight might ensue, when they meet at the Staples Center in my hometown in late July.
Gonzalez will have a home-court advantage, but that seems (on the surface) to be where the advantage category ends for him. I watched Gonzalez progress from a forum fighter in Inglewood and Anaheim, CA. into a viable contender. His off-the-canvas win against Julian Letterlough was admirable, but it did nothing to sell him as a tough fight for Jones. In fact, he may very well have gotten his shot by exposing his questionable chin, and strategy.
On the surface, this looks like a no-brainer. Roy Jones is faster, stronger, more experienced, and just plain more talented than Julio Gonzalez. For every one time letterlough hit him, Jones would hit him three times. While letterlough's questionable chin prevented him from taking the risk to finish Julio, Roy barely flinches when most fighters hit him... therefore that hesitation will not be there. This seems like a fight roy can finish quickly (for a change), and get in a payday before Dariusz. Yet, while I may be one of the only ones to say it, "Boxing Don" got me thinking... what if?
I still think this is a victory for jones, but it may not be so easy. For starters, Gonzalez is not the type to ever quit pressing. Second, his confidence is up, regarding the overcoming of adversity. Although he should use his height to box, his persistence to stand and trade might be the only thing capable of annoying Roy, who prefers breaking spirits to breaking bones. While Jones does have power, he is not likely to level some one as Letterlough does, so Julio will not be hesitant to walk in.
Roy had better establish dominance early, and finish the job, because as long as Gonzalez is standing, Roy could have a fight on his hands. Dariusz Michaelchewski should view this fight closely. Julio Gonzalez might just stay in there long enough to chip away some of the granite of Roy Jones, and make Dariusz's task a bit less daunting.