(from left: Abner Mares, Yonnhy Perez, Vic Darchinyan and Joseph Agbeko; credit: Howard Schatz, Showtime)
Long live the Showtime tournaments. Saturday inaugurates the second installment in the network's recent tourney binge, a bantamweight series that takes the super middleweight series and boils it down to four people instead of six, and four fights to the end instead of a round robin with semifinals and finals. They couldn't have picked a better division for a sequel, either. The four men fighting Saturday -- Yonnhy Perez vs. Joseph Agbeko II, Vic Darchinyan vs. Abner Mares -- are talented, proven fighters, each with a history of making exciting fights, in several cases against one another, in a weight class overflowing with talent. And now they're going to do it again and again and again and again, then stop. I like the round robin format of the Super Six, but this works great, too, especially since Fernando Montiel and Nonito Donaire turned down the chance to enter. With those two tentatively scheduled to face off early in 2011, the winner of that bout and the winner of the Showtime tourney could be fighting for divisional supremacy by the end of the year. Bladow.
Over on HBO Saturday night, junior welterweight Amir Khan can make the world his oyster if he can overcome doubts about his soft chin against one of the hardest hitters in all of boxing, Marcos Maidana. Khan's as physically gifted and well-schooled as anybody, except for, potentially, that chin of his. And Maidana can stake a claim to be one of the three best men in the division with all that crude power of his by knocking off Khan. Here's the thing: Last time a much-ballyhooed young Golden Boy-promoted junior welterweight was going into this kind of "final test/world's his oyster/just has to hold up against a big puncher" scenario, it was Victor Ortiz, and the man who did him in was Maidana. And wouldn't you know it, there's Ortiz on the undercard of Khan-Maidana, trying to come all the way back from that devastating loss against Lamont Peterson, himself a talented youngster with one loss on his record. Khan-Maidana is the more interesting fight dramatically speaking, but Ortiz-Peterson is probably the better one action-wise.
Overall, that's a lot of bang for your buck for one Saturday night, but that's boxing's screwed up don't-give-fans-jack-for-the-first-10-months-then-jam-it-all-into-the-last-two 2010 for you. (Truth be told, these fights deserve more than one giant blog entry, but your TQBR proprietor is galloping on fumes to the finish line of the year.)
[TQBR Prediction Game 5.0 is in effect for all four fights. Due to the lateness of this post, you have until 9 p.m. ET -- the start of the Showtime broadcast -- to make your predictions. Remember (the rest of) the rules.]