Weekend wrap: Something for everyone in Texas, Mexico
By Lyle Fitzsimmons,
Contributing Boxing Editor
Ocala, FL (Sports Network) -
Those looking for in-ring contrast this weekend needn't look too far.
Across 24 hours at three venues spanning 1,000-plus miles in two countries, an engaging mix of young, old, prospect and suspect will take a next step -- forward, backward or otherwise -- in careers that are at this point most accurately described as "unfinished."
Beginning in Austin, Texas, the weekly "Friday Night Fights" show on ESPN2 features veterans Steve Forbes and Grady Brewer -- with 27 years, 83 fights and 62 wins between them -- in gatekeeper roles against unbeaten risers Karim Mayfield (13-0-1) and Fernando Guerrero (21-0).
Forbes, 34, and Brewer, 40, met five years ago in the finale of that year's "Contender" series in Los Angeles, where Brewer won a surprise 10-round decision that fattened his wallet and increased his profile en route to five wins in his subsequent six fights.
He was stopped in round 10 by unbeaten Cuban export Erislandy Lara two fights ago in Las Vegas, but, after a decision win over Abel Perry in Tulsa, Oklahoma in May, insists he's prepared to give Guerrero, a 24-year-old Dominican, a full-fledged learning experience this time around.
"My conditioning is really good," he said. "And add to that the fact my fighting style, (which) some people say is awkward (because of) the movements I can make during different situations in a fight, can be hard for a less- experienced opponent like Guerrero.
Steve Forbes, pictured, lost a surprise 10-round decision to Grady Brewer five years ago.
"My power is 100 percent so he's going to know by far, I will be his toughest fight."
Forbes has lurched closer to "opponent" status since the Brewer loss, encountering high-profile foes like Demetrius Hopkins, Oscar De La Hoya and Andre Berto across eight fights but winning just three.
Most recently, he lost a six-round technical decision to highly-ranked Ionut Dan Ion in February.
"The key to getting the win is me imposing my style on him and not letting him get into the groove of things. I definitely look forward to doing that," Mayfield said. "He still is a good name and he still is a good opponent."
A straight shot south toward the Rio Grande to Hidalgo, Texas brings three more prospects on Telefutura, including former U.S. Olympic team member Gary Russell Jr., whose road to a would-be medal was halted in 2008 when he collapsed after returning from a morning run.
The two-time national champion had been a favorite in the bantamweight division, but was found unconscious and severely dehydrated after struggling to make the 119-pound weight limit.
He's won 15 straight fights since turning pro in January 2009, but has had just seven opponents with winning records and only three who've met him while coming off a victory.
Friday's foe, Antonio Meza, is 0-5-1 in his last six fights and has just one win in eight since 2007.
"I haven't had a fight where I had to change," Russell said. "I've fought guys who can box but can't punch. They can punch but can't box. They can brawl. A lot of things that are in my arsenal have not come out."
Last in the TV line for the weekend is a trip to Mexico, where WBC super welterweight champion Saul Alvarez will attempt the first defense of his title Saturday night against visiting Englishman Ryan Rhodes.
Alvarez, who'll turn 21 in July, is 36-0-1 with 26 knockouts since turning pro when he was 15.
He won the 154-pound title vacated by Manny Pacquiao in March with a decision over another UK export, Matthew Hatton.
Rhodes, who's 34 and has never fought outside his home region, is 45-4 in a career that began in February 1995, when Alvarez was four years old.
"I'm like fine wine. I'm better with age," Rhodes said. "I've had a fantastic career. I've had a lot of ups and downs in my career and I feel that, at the age of 34, I'm in the peak. I'm in the best condition I've ever been in.
"Even when I was 20, 21 years old, when I was fighting for world titles back then, I feel now I'm a more complete fighter. I'm a better fighter and, overall, I'm a better fighter completely. It took a bit of time to get this fight, but we've got it now."
ESPN2 -- Frank Erwin Center, Austin, TX
Karim Mayfield (13-0-1) vs. Steve Forbes (35-9) -- 10, welterweights
Fernando Guerrero (21-0) vs. Grady Brewer (27-12) -- 10, junior middleweights
TeleFutura -- State Farm Arena, Hidalgo, TX
Gary Russell Jr. (15-0) vs. Antonio Meza (24-9-1) -- 8, junior lightweights
Omar Figueroa (11-0-1) vs. Eric Cruz (11-6-3) -- 8, junior welterweights
Jermell Charlo (14-0) vs. Larry Smith (9-3) -- 8, junior middleweights
Fox Espanol -- Musica Hall, Toluca, MX
Giovani Segura (27-1-1) vs. Eddy Zuniga (7-5-1) -- 10, flyweights
Miguel Vazquez (28-3) vs. Marlon Aguilar (25-10-1) -- 10, lightweights
HBO -- Arena VFG, Tlajomulco de Zuniga, MX
Saul Alvarez (36-0-1) vs. Ryan Rhodes (45-4) -- 12, WBC super welterweight title
Adrien Broner (20-0) vs. Jason Litzau (28-2) -- 10, junior lightweights
Lyle Fitzsimmons is a veteran sports columnist who's written professionally since 1988 and covered boxing since 1995. His work is published in print and posted online for clients in North America and Europe. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter.