On Saturday, April 22nd, the Boxing world will be treated to two intriguing bouts in Boxing's Welterweight and Featherweight divisions. In a battle of former world champions, former two-time Welterweight world champion Andre Berto will square off against former IBF Welterweight world champion Shawn Porter at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, NY in a bout that will headline the latest edition of the Premier Boxing Champions series broadcast by Showtime in the United States.
This encounter brings together two of the Welterweight division’s most exciting fighters because both have crowd-pleasing styles. In one corner will stand Andre Berto a former two-time world Welterweight champion, who at one point in his career was considered by some to be one of if not the best fighter in the Welterweight division as well as a player in the sport's pound for pound debates. Despite two reigns as world champion, an argument could be made that Berto is perhaps best known more for the fights he has lost than for the status he's earned as a former world champion. A reason one could point to when making that argument is that Berto has taken part in several Fight of the Year candidates throughout his career in bouts he did not always get a victory.
Of course, one of those fights that most remember was Berto’s thrilling first encounter with Victor Ortiz in April 2011 for the WBC Welterweight world championship. A back and forth war that saw both fighters suffer knockdowns where Ortiz earned a hard fought twelve round unanimous decision to hand Berto the first loss of his career and end his first reign as a Welterweight world champion in a fight that was named by several media outlets including Ring Magazine as the 2011 Fight of the Year.
After a brief second reign as Welterweight world champion after defeating IBF world champion Jan Zaveck in September 2011, Berto would again come out on the short end of a grueling battle against former three-division world champion Robert Guerrero in November 2012 and suffer a stoppage loss at the hands of Jesus Soto Karass in July 2013. Since the loss to Soto Karass, Berto has gone on to win three of his last four fights including a fourth round knockout of Victor Ortiz in their rematch in April of last year. The lone loss in Berto's last four fights came in a twelve round unanimous decision against future Hall of Famer Floyd Mayweather in September 2015.
After thirty-five professional bouts and engaging in some of the more grueling battles in the sport in recent years, one might question what the thirty-three year old Berto has left. Standing across the ring from Berto on Saturday night will be former IBF Welterweight world champion Shawn Porter.
Porter, a winner of twenty-six of twenty-nine professional fights will come into this fight off of a hard fought twelve round unanimous decision loss to current WBA/WBC Welterweight world champion Keith Thurman in June of last year. Much like Berto, Porter has a good mix of hand speed, punching power, and is an offensive-minded fighter. As is the case with Berto, Porter has faced adversity in his career in addition to his most recent outing against Keith Thurman.
Some might remember Porter’s title defense against Kell Brook in August 2014. In what was a close and competitive fight where both fighters suffered cuts and were each able to have periods of effectiveness throughout, Porter, who was then the IBF world champion in the Welterweight division, suffered the first loss of his career in losing the championship to Brook via twelve round majority decision. Despite that loss to Brook and his loss against Thurman, Porter remains a top contender for any world champion in the division as he looks to get back in the win column in this fight against Berto.
What interests me whenever there is a bout between two offense-first fighters is to see how each will approach the fight. Both fighters have the ability to get an opponent out of there should the opportunity arise and each has shown the ability to take a punch and keep fighting. Normally what I tend to look for in regard to a fight like this is to see if one fighter will choose to make a tactical adjustment by allowing their opponent to get their offense off first while looking to create openings for counter punches to set up their own offense. This fight, which is an elimination bout to determine a mandatory challenger in the World Boxing Council’s (WBC) Welterweight ratings, might come down to who takes that initiative by looking to play the role of counter puncher.
Although as longtime readers know this observer is not one who likes making predictions, I would be surprised if this bout does not turn into the entertaining fight it appears to be on paper. It is one might argue a classic crossroads scenario between two fighters who each have something to prove.
The second main event that will take place on Saturday night will feature a battle for the World Boxing Organization (WBO) Featherweight world championship as undefeated world champion Oscar Valdez will attempt to make the second defense of his crown against current WBO number one Featherweight contender Miguel Marriaga at the StubHub Center in Carson, CA. Valdez-Marriaga will headline a pay-per-view card in the United States.
This encounter much like the Berto-Porter pits two offensive-minded fighters against each other. The champion Valdez will enter the fight unbeaten in twenty-one professional fights having scored knockouts in nineteen of those bouts registering a career knockout percentage of 90%. In his last fight in November of last year, Valdez scored a dominant seventh round stoppage of Hiroshi Osawa. Valdez has only been as far as ten rounds once in his career and has scored the majority of his knockouts within seven rounds. This suggests that the champion could look to take advantage of any opening that might be available to him in this fight with the intention of ending the encounter early.
Valdez will likely find an opponent who is more than willing to engage in the form of former world title challenger Miguel Marriaga. Marriaga, a veteran of twenty-six professional fights will be making his second attempt at a world championship. The challenger has won twenty-five of those twenty-six bouts scoring knockouts in twenty-one of those fights registering a career knockout percentages of 81%. In his lone defeat, Marriaga lost a twelve round unanimous decision to former World Boxing Association (WBA) Featherweight world champion Nicholas Walters in June 2015 in his previous attempt at a world championship.
Since the loss to Walters, Marriaga has won five straight fights, scoring knockouts in three of those bouts, and also won the North American Boxing Organization (NABO) Featherweight championship along the way. It will be interesting to see whether Marriaga, who has more experience than the champion in terms of professional fights fought and a significant edge in terms of total rounds fought of 126 to 87, will look to extend the champion into the middle and late rounds of this fight where the champion has not been extended much in his career. Despite Marriaga having a high career knockout percentage, he will be best served in the eyes of this observer if he can find a way to neutralize the champion’s power and pressure and attempt to outbox Valdez.
What is also interesting about these two fights is they will be going head to head against each other on television with Berto-Porter airing on Showtime and Valdez-Marriaga airing on cable/satellite pay-per-view. Although there are several elements with regard to the “Business of Boxing “ that should be considered whenever a head to head scenario takes place, one may question the wisdom of putting a pay-per-view card against an established series that has consistently produced competitive fights as well as high ratings. When one also takes into account that Valdez-Marriaga will be available to the public for a price of $54.95 for the High Definition feed of the card as well as the fact that the Saul Alvarez-Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. pay-per-view card on May 6th is expected to produce solid pay-per-view returns in terms of total buys, despite being at a higher price of $69.95 for the High Definition feed one may wonder if this will prove to be a wise move by choosing to put this card on pay-per-view rather than perhaps a different network. In an era where the preferences of television consumption are heading in the direction of Over The Top (OTT digital distribution over traditional cable or satellite television along with ever increasing pay-per-view prices, despite a consistent trend of pay-per-view Boxing events underperforming expected returns in terms of overall buys/revenue, the question of whether a card should be presented on pay-per-view over a cable/satellite network or Over The Air (OTA) broadcast networks is one that will become an increasing issue as time goes on for promoters as well as networks throughout the entire sport on a global scale, who have yet to test the waters of OTT digital distribution, will have to consider.
This however, will not diminish what could be a candidate for Fight of the Year candidate when Valdez and Marriaga square off on Saturday night. Although both Valdez-Marriaga and Berto-Porter look to be exciting fights, it will be interesting to see if the ultimate authority, the Boxing fan will opt to watch one card over the other or if a good portion of the viewing audience will choose to watch both events. There is one thing for certain regardless of what one's opinion might be regarding the concept of head to head Boxing cards on television and/or the concept of “Pay-Per-View” as a focal point of the sport’s biggest attractions, interest in the sport of Boxing remains high and in a year that has already seen some memorable battles, this observer believes both of these encounters will soon be on the list of great fights of 2017. We'll see what happens on Saturday night.
“And That's The Boxing Truth.”
PBC: Berto vs. Porter takes place tomorrow night (Saturday, April 22nd) at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, NY. The fight can be seen in the United States on Showtime beginning at 9PM ET/6PM PT and will also be available on the Showtime and Showtime Anytime apps. Check you local listings for time and channel in your area. For more information about the Premier Boxing Champions series please visit: www.premierboxingchampions.com. For more information about Showtime, Showtime Sports, and the Showtime and Showtime Anytime apps please visit: www.sho.com. Check your listings internationally.
Valdez vs. Marriaga takes place tomorrow night (Saturday, April 22nd) at the StubHub Center in Carson, CA. The card can be seen in the United States on cable/satellite pay-per-view on Top Rank Pay-Per-View for $54.95 HD/$44.95 SD. The pay-per-view broadcast, which will also be available on a pay-per-view basis online on www.toprank.tv will begin at 9PM ET/6PM PT. contact your cable/satellite provider for ordering information. Check your listings internationally. For more information about Valdez vs. Marriaga and Top Rank Inc. please visit: www.toprank.com.
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