The ESPN2 Friday Night Fights TV Cheat Sheet- Apr. 13, 2012
By Marty Mulcahey

“Friday Night Fights” returns after a week’s absence, featuring four boxers with no superstitious hesitations about fighting on a Friday the 13th. The star attraction is Australian Michael Katsidis, a popular banger usually seen on HBO or pay-per-view-level events who gambles a big card future by facing an unknown wildcard like Ghanaian Albert Mensah. I find myself ambivalent about the co-feature but it has nothing to do with the quality of the boxers or matchup. It seems a shame this rematch between popular Californians Artemio Reyes and Alan Sanchez is held in Vegas instead of a California venue where the atmosphere would have been palpable. It should be an entertaining fight again but the duo’s fans could have given them an extra emotional push pursuing the victory. Still, all four boxers have a chance to make this their lucky Friday the 13th, not an easy thing to accomplish in Vegas.

At the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino, Las Vegas, NV
(ESPN2) Michael Katsidis (28-5) vs. Albert Mensah (24-3-1)
(ESPN2) Artemio Reyes (15-1) vs. Alan Sanchez (9-2-1)

Alan Sanchez – Lanky counterpuncher has average record on paper but closer inspection reveals 21-year-old Californian’s setbacks were controversial and against solid opposition. Sanchez argues that if not for questionable judging, he would be undefeated. Some of the blame falls on Sanchez, as he does not have a great deal of power, preferring to work angles for a perfect punch instead of landing more blows by cranking up his volume. He is also a bit defense-first, more matador than bull, but Sanchez’s fists are slicing and swift, cutting several opponents. Born in Guadalajara, Mexico, Sanchez came to America before his teens and started boxing at age 13. I do not know about Sanchez’s amateur credentials but his fundamentals hint at regional success and he was the main sparring partner for WBC lightweight champion Antonio DeMarco. Sanchez loves to throw right hands from outside, falling in with it as a defensive tactic, and when on the inside sprays some nice uppercuts. Uses a tricky left hook backing out trying to catch his chasing foe with it. Jab is flicking, doing little to hide punches or allow him to gauge distance. Sanchez’s two losses were by split (to Reyes) and majority decision and a dominant win over veteran trial-horse Cristian Favela is his most complete win. Lacks the power to separate himself from foes, showing on defense where he has a hard time preventing pressure fighters from pushing him backward. Knocked down prospect Luis Grajeda twice (a two-time Mexican amateur champion), was held to a draw on cards by not pressing advantages and tiring down the stretch. Also beat undefeated Nicaraguan prospect Alberto Morales but periods of lost focus allowed his foe to rally. Sanchez was on television before (Telefutura), so cameras will not distract. A tall welterweight, 6’1” with 76-inch reach, Sanchez’s body absorbs punishment well, though he keeps both hands up on defense. Does not use his long legs; instead of moving out of danger, Sanchez falls in and clinches, allowing the referee’s break to get back at a distance. When Sanchez moves backward out of clinches, he has a bad of habit of skipping out, leaving himself vulnerable to looping or long-armed punchers. A hard luck prospect to date, Las Vegas seems a good place for Sanchez to turn his fortunes around.

Artemio Reyes – Strong Californian’s physical power is matched by his mental strength, not allowing a loss in his second pro fight to fellow prospect Mike Dallas to stifle his ambitions. Reyes has shown dedication and heart overcoming the setback, winning 14 bouts in a row and stopping 11 victims. Reyes only had 36 amateur bouts, doing well in tough California region without gaining national experience. A workaholic in the gym, Reyes has sparred good pros like Josesito Lopez. Six months ago, Reyes tangled with undefeated US Olympian Javier Molina on “ShoBox” and handed Molina his first loss by overwhelming the stylist with pressure and incessant body attack. A fast starter, 10 stoppages in the first or second round, Reyes forces exchanges with his legs, taking long strides to cut off the ring and setting up straight punches. Though physically strong, Reyes is not a one-punch guy, despite 75% kayo ratio, employing upper body bulk well on the inside. Has had some hand problems, with his right hand at risk of injury, but has remained active, averaging five bouts a year. Long and lean arms hold more power than apparent and balance is a strong part of Reyes’ game, allowing him to push or maul on the inside and go to the body. When fights have gone substantial rounds, Reyes showed dedication to body punching and good stamina going eight hard rounds against Molina on the road. Reyes’ defense is sound but he was knocked down by ordinary Jesus Vallejo, recovering from that right hand well and otherwise looking solid. Blocks or knocks down punches vice head movement, which is high guard/chin down, and because of forward momentum, has not had to react defensively much. Dealt well with the speed of Molina by timing punches and never reached, throwing solid counters. At 6’0” with 74-inch reach, is a big welterweight but lacks the hand speed to make him a legitimate world title threat for now. The 25-year-old has boundless energy, attending college for accounting and running the family restaurant. Until recently, also cared for his father, Artemio Sr., who sadly passed away last week (Artemio Sr. had been comatose since a car accident in 2008). One of boxing’s many feel-good stories, Reyes has the type of desire to make it all the way to the top.

Verdict – It is hard to say what effect the loss of Reyes’ father will have on him, either steeling or distracting him? As mentioned in the lead-in, these two have fought each other before with Reyes edging the fight via split decision through volume punching. Each boxer landed plenty of blows without staggering the other, which only Reyes is likely to improve on, in terms of power punching. I expect the same again, with Reyes’ superior power and volume catching the judges’ eyes to win the close rounds again. Reyes also looks the smarter boxer when he goes rounds, switching to attacking the head after working the body early while Sanchez rarely varies in his attack. The pressure of Reyes and Sanchez’s retreating style will play out in favor or Reyes again, running away with the fight late for a decision win.

Albert Mensah – This is the second fight in America for the Ghanaian jabber after an impressive debut, outhustling and imposing himself on southpaw prospect Andre Gorges. I found no amateur information on the 29-year-old but he turned pro at 19, so there was opportunity for amateur seasoning. Mensah’s best win in Africa was handing undefeated but flawed Ayi Bruce his first loss, knocking him out in the ninth after a draining war. Mensah is not the typical Ghanaian boxer, though possessed of usual strong jab and muscular frame, attempting to employ defense instead of wading in and taking unnecessary punishment. A tall and rangy boxer, 5’10” with sinewy arms, he has the physical tools but lacks elite speed and boxing acumen to get the most out of his body. The jab is strong but inconsistent- sometimes hesitating or pushing it- caught between the Philly and Mayweather-style shell defense with his hands held close to the body and head. Also keeps left hand low and does not have the upper body mobility to get away with that consistently. Began career with an average record of 9-3-1, against poor opposition, but enters with 14 consecutive wins. As the opposition has improved, so has Mensah, a good sign as it shows he fights up to the level of the opposition. Can be drawn into the trenches (late rounds of his best win against Gorges showed that) but prefers to stay on the outside and let his jab lead the way. Is in great shape and has plenty of stamina, going 12 rounds five times, but has been inactive, only fighting three times in three years and has been out of the ring for nine months. Trained by former cruiserweight contender Joseph Awinongya (got Osumanu Adama to a title shot), who has high hopes for his protégé. “There is no doubt about it; Albert Mensah is one of the best boxers coming out of Ghana along with Osumanu Adama. Albert is going to be a world champion in the near future. He is not going to be a world champion that fades away; he will stay there for a long time.” Awinongya thinks this is a matchup of equals, “Albert’s style is similar to Katsidis’ but Katsidis can’t match him for strength and power. Every punch he throws, it means something. He doesn’t waste his punches.”

Michael Katsidis - I admit my biases. Win, lose or draw, I love watching this ring menace do his thing. Katsidis really is an Australian Arturo Gatti, delivering exciting fights against anyone but losing to the elite while dispatching of foes not of champion caliber with vigor. Underrated Justin Fortune is Katsidis’ new trainer, attempting to add defense to his arsenal to stop Katsidis’ reliance on his attacking presence alone. This fight is at 140 pounds and Katsidis says he feels great, believing he drained himself making weight in the past. Katsidis’ go-for-broke, full-frontal attacks on opponents are made for TV and so is the Spartan helmet he wears into the ring. Burst onto the American scene in a savage fight against Filipino Czar Amonsot in 2007 and fared particularly well in England knocking off two of their champions. Despite suffering losses to champions (Joel Casamayor, Juan Diaz, Juan Manuel Marquez, Robert Guerrero and Ricky Burns) Katsidis’ star can ascend again, given that kamikaze style of his. Was a fine amateur, finishing with a 75-6 record, and made a quarterfinal appearance at the 2000 Olympics. Even before Katsidis wowed American audiences, he had a “Fight of the Year”-type encounter against Graham Earl, which (our British sister site) rated the best fight of 2007. Other than Manny Pacquiao and Marco Huck, Katsidis might be the most consistently exciting fighter in boxing today. Losses have come against elite lightweights whom Katsidis enjoyed his share of good moments, knocking down Juan Manuel Marquez and Joel Casamayor. Katsidis showed unexpected boxing ability against Casamayor, surviving two early knockdowns to fight his way back into contention. An offensive mindset like Katsidis’ prevents some of that skill from emerging but against boxers who are not well-rounded, this brute force strategy works. With Katsidis, there is the possibility of a cut or swelling but reports say defense is a main focus in training. In general, Katsidis’ defense is weak, limited to sparse head movement and an occasional duck to avoid a punch. The Aussie now lives in America with his family to cut down on travel and is happy with the new training regimen. “[Fortune]’s not changing too much but changing me just enough. It’s not just the common walk-up to our style of fight. I’m gonna throw something different out there and they won’t know what to expect from me come April 13.” Katsidis has only lost to elite foes but given his violent fighting style, once the 31-year-old loses to a foe who is lesser than that level, it might be time to get out.

Verdict – Judging from limited footage and feedback, Mensah is a bit of a spoiler, though I doubt anyone can spoil a fight involving a hard-charging Katsidis. I am interested to see how much- or if- Katsidis has improved under Justin Fortune and if he can cut off the ring with his feet. Mensah lacks the timing and ability to maintain distance with his legs, allowing the more accurate punches of Katsidis to take their toll. The volume and pressure of Katsidis should serve him well with the judges, while Mensah has a hard time going backward despite his strong jab. The one chance Mensah has is to stay at arm’s reach and jab, timing his movement to catch Katsidis coming in. Given Mensah could not accomplish this consistently against a C-level Katsidis type in Andres Gorge, I don’t see how he pulls off this fight unless there is a cut. Katsidis takes some punches early but catches on quickly timing the cautious Mensah and dominating to the final bell.

Quick Hits…

I was surprised to get a lot of emails asking my opinion on tomorrow night’s PPV card and if I was going to do a TV Cheat Sheet on it, so here is a quick rundown of the bouts.

Mike Alvarado vs. Mauricio Herrera – Alvarado is simply too big and strong for the tricky Herrera and, unlike Ruslan Provodnikov, has the lateral movement to keep Herrera in punching range. A mitigating factor to watch out for is Alvarado’s recent tendency to be lazy on defense and eat punches, which has caused him to cut and swell. Herrera is solid but his stick-and-move style is draining and the late rounds will tell with a physically stronger Alvarado bossing the final four rounds to win a decision.

Brandon Rios vs. Richard Abril – The press conference confrontations will probably be the most we remember of this matchup in a couple years. Rios could get in a screaming match with the Dalai Lama or Pope if they crossed his path at a podium and Abril can talk all he wants but is not elusive enough to throw Rios off balance. The one thing that scares me in this fight is Rios’ problem making the lightweight limit of 135 pounds and Abril is awkward with his tricky punching angles. Look for Rios’ usual power game to take effect from the fourth round on, with Abril choosing to stand and fight in spots but getting the worst of it. Abril is smart enough to see it is a losing strategy and tries to win at a distance without much luck. Rios’ bodywork makes Abril wilt and forces the fight to the ropes where he finishes him off in the championship rounds.

Juan Manuel Marquez vs. Serhiy Fedchenko – The early rounds could be entertaining with Marquez adjusting to Fedchenko’s pesky jab, upper body strength and calculated European style. Once Marquez has evaluated Fedchenko’s tendencies and weaknesses, it is all over, much like a vintage Julio Cesar Chavez fight where the Mexican takes over after three rounds to grind his opponent into the canvas. Marquez’s fists are too educated and his combinations begin to land consistently, forcing Fedchenko to back up into more punches instead of circling away like in earlier rounds. By the eighth round, Fedchenko is busted up and red around the ribs. His corner will let him try for another round or so but pull him out before the bell for the 11th round sounds.

Prediction record for 2012: 83% (28-6)
Prediction record in 2011: 88% (138-19)
Prediction record in 2010: 85% (218-40)