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Prediction Page: Leo Santa Cruz v. Rafael Rivera & Undercard

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Prediction Page: Leo Santa Cruz v. Rafael Rivera & Undercard

Jab Hook's Off-the-Cuff Picks for the bouts from the Microsoft Theater, Los Angeles, Saturday, February 16th, 2019 (Fox/Fox Deportes):

Leo Santa Cruz 35(19)-1-1 vs. Rafael Rivera 26(17)-2-2, boxing 12 rounds for Santa Cruz's WBA featherweight title.

When Jab says, “Mexican Style” he sees Leo Santa Cruz in his mind's eye. Sure, Canelo is “El Rey de Mexico”, but for pure boxing style “El Terremotto” will rock your world from the back foot of North America. Santa Cruz is no saint when he is wearing his opponents threadbare before he rips them apart.

A future hall-of-famer, Leo Santa Cruz is a real champion with multiple belts across three weight divisions. When this Mexican icon gets in the ring the tail of the continent get quiet as everyone watches the legend work. You can almost hear the echoes of the cascading “Eso! Eso! Eso!”.

It is Rafael Rivera's honor as a Mexican to compete against Santa Cruz, and Jab is sure he will give it his all. Going pro at 17yo, he has mostly fought in clubs and small venues. “Big Bang” stepped up big time in 2017 vs Joe Diaz Jr and was outclassed, but he did better against Joet Gonzales in 2018, losing by split decision in his best performance to date.

The gap in experience and quality of opposition between these two pugilists is more like a canyon, and geography does not lie. Leo's 7cm reach advantage will create earth tremors for Rivera, forewarning of the earthquake right hand that will follow. The volume of seismic activity from “El Terremotto” will crack Rivera's foundation. He will try again and again to back Leo up, which is exactly how he will lose the bout. The younger “Big Bang” will battle with futility as entropy reverses in his universe. The referee will stop the momentum before it implodes.

Jab forecasts a TKO win for the Champion, as the referee assesses Rivera's best efforts as ineffectual and stops the bout in round 9.

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Jab Hook is so impressed with this Fox Sports boxing card, just look at this next match up.

Omar Figueroa Jr 27(19)-0-1 vs. John Molina Jr. 37(24)-7(3), welterweights boxing in a 12 round prizefight.

Junior vs Junior is a going to be another war with no prisoners taken. John Molina is one of boxing's finest journeyman today. The former contender with a chin not unlike Rushmore's Washington, Molina is a warrior who has only been stopped by Antonio De Marco (2012), Lucas Matthyssee (2014), and Terrence Crawford (2016). Molina is a puncher-brawler who has real power and an “Old School” focus on attacking the body.

John's best wins were against Hank Lundy(2010 TKO), Mickey Bey(2013 TKO) and Ruslan Provodnikov(2016 UD). Molina has been down five times in four bouts in his career. The last time was in the 2nd round of his last bout vs Ivan Redkach in December 2017, when he got off the canvas to knock Redkach down in the 3rd and the 4th rounds forcing a referee intervention. Typical comeback for Molina, who has been inactive for 14 months.

Omar Figueroa Jr, the former WBC lightweight belt holder, has been out of the ring 19 months. Even worse, has only had two bouts in 3 years, taking all of 2016 and 2018 off. Omar recently said that he hopes his younger, boxer brother Brandon learns from his mistakes, in and out of the ring. The older Figueroa’s career has sputtered due to injuries and a loss of focus as a boxer. It also doesn’t help that Omar jumped 4 weight classes in his last 3 bouts. 

Hand fractures are a reality of our sport and every boxer has had to deal with hand injuries. But Figueroa Jr's string of fractures in both hands have much to do with his style and power than bad luck. Anyone who KO's 18 opponents within three rounds has some head-smashing and hand-breaking power. His last KO was delivered to Robert Guerrero in the 3rd round in a bout where Omar put Robert down three times in the 2nd and twice in the 3rd round. 

Figueroa Jr could have picked a much easier fighter than John Molina Jr for his comeback bout. Omar has a good chin, but nothing compared to Molina's marble mandible. That coupled with the need to preserve his hands will move Figueroa Jr's style toward a boxing oriented, body focused, mid-to-inside fighting style. That strategy may allow him to save his fists with the softer targets of the liver and the solar plexus, and the whipping hooks to the point of the chin, rather than the extremely hard cranium.

If Omar replaces his old seek and destroy approach with boxing, if he can start by taking rounds and getting ahead on the scorecards, then he could win and preserve his brittle hands at the same time. But that is easier said than done. When Molina fights back fiercely, who can blame Omar for reverting to character and letting the bombs drop? Let's see how Figueroa Jr does against a provoking, attacking, relentless John Molina Jr.

Jab Hook sees this unfolding as a war of attrition kind of bout, because Molina will allow nothing else.

A late round stoppage may be possible for Figueroa Jr, if he can get the referee to step in. But the durable John Molina Jr will likely survive all 12 rounds and lose to Omar Figueroa Jr by unanimous decision.

Cesar Juarez 23(17)-6(1) vs. Ryosuke Iwasa 25(16) -3(2), boxing 12 rounds in an IBF bantamweight eliminator.

Ryosuke Iwasa is the former IBF Super Bantamweight belt-holder who lost it to TJ Doheny in Osaka in August 2018. In his return to the ring he is moving down in weight and going to box in the USA for the first time. Iwasa has fought mostly in Korakuen Hall in Osaka, but ventured to Bristol, UK in 2016 vs Lee Haskins where he got stopped in the 6th round.

An aggressive southpaw with quick hands, Iwasa is a boxer-puncher who likes to move forward. He blocks some punches, but his defense is not tight. Frequently dropping his hands after combinations, he relies on his reflexes too often. He has faced better opposition than his next opponent from Mexico.

Cesar Juarez is a 27yo club fighter from Mexico City. The last few years he has fought internationally in mid-sized venues, but his level of competition has been lower than his Japanese rival. When he has fought better opposition, like Isaac Dogboe and Nonito Donaire, he got stopped and dominated on the cards. “Corazon” Juarez is puncher-brawler with a rudimentary defense that leaves him open to counter-punches and combinations. He moves forward behind a peek-a-boo, arms up posture that makes his body as an easy target. But like his nickname, Juarez has heart. He also has a very good chin, and some decent hooks inside.

Jab Hook expects a strong, Mexican-style performance from “Corazon”, But the southpaw Iwasa will be too accurate and skilled for Juarez, who will walk into too many punches.

Isawa wins by unanimous decision in a rough affair with a high potential for a cut, which could lead to a TKO.

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Carlos Licona 14(2)-0 vs. DeeJay Kriel 14(6)-1-1, 12 rounds, for Licona's IBF straw-weight title

The straw-weight division (48kg/105lbs) is a very different boxing world which faces special challenges. It is only a couple of decades old, has quite a limited pool of boxers worldwide, very fast action that challenges the eye, shorter bouts, much lower KO rates than larger weight divisions, difficulties getting sparring partners, and even less chance of landing a spot on a major boxing card. But Jab loves these guys from the minimum mass weight class.

El “Mexicanito” Lincona has been very active in his career averaging over three bouts a year since 2015. He has once fought 8, 10, and 12 rounds, and has had good opposition on the international level in his last few bouts. 

DeeJay Kriel is a tough South African who took the bout on short notice. He has faced the best in boxers in his homeland and done very well. He fought one bout only in 2018, and that was nearly a year ago. He comes into this bout with less experience and a lack of physical advantages. My man in South Africa Ryno Liebenberg says,

“… (Kriel) is someone who is always in the gym and ready to go… Deejay has skills, endurance and the will to win any fight… sparred many many many rounds with Hekkie, Moruti and Khonca… his biggest problem is not doing enough in the beginning of a fight and giving rounds away, leaving late to come on. I’m backing him 110% .”

Jab Hook thinks this IBF Belt bout will go the distance with El “Mexicanito” Lincona taking a clear unanimous decision over a brave DeeJay Kriel.

Check NYFights.com this weekend for Jab Hook's Epilogue on the bouts from the Microsoft Theater, Los Angeles

“Jab Hook”, aka “Brooklyn” Joe Healy is a boxing expert commentator for DAZN.de, a professional cutman from the BOXWERK gym, and a licensed referee/judge in amateur boxing. A lifelong aficionado born in Brooklyn and living in Munich, “The Sweet Science” is his passion. Please feel free to contact him as Jab Hook on FaceBook, at AficionadoKO@gmail.com, or on Twitter https://twitter.com/BoxAficionado