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Boxing Preview, Predictions: Rios v. Antillon, Williams v. Lara and More

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By Nick Tylwalk 

In terms of the number of "name" fighters in action, this is one of the busiest boxing Saturdays of the year. We've got a doubleheader on Showtime and another one on HBO that also has recognizable names on the untelevised portion of the card. And lest we forget, super middleweight champ Lucian Bute is also in action in his homeland of Romania.

I'll start with the Showtime main event, where Brandon Rios puts his WBA lightweight title on the line against Urbano Antillon. This has the makings of something truly explosive, as both men are offense-first fighters who also take some shots in return. Rios has vicious power, while Antillon is a relentless worker who also has a pretty decent punch himself.

I'm not quite as enamored with Rios as some seem to be. There's no question that he's talented and a threat to end a fight at any time, but I believe he's still a work in progress in some aspects of the game. That's a stark contrast to Antillon, as you know exactly what you're getting with him.

It took Rios quite a while to get going in his last fight against Miguel Acosta, but that probably won't be an issue since Antillon also likes to be the one coming forward. If both guys stay true to form, it could be a slugfest right from the opening bell. Antillon may benefit from boxing more as he figures to have the higher punch output and has a reach advantage, but will he be disciplined enough not to just stand and trade? I have my doubts.

That would seem to shade things back toward Rios. It's a dangerous fight for Bam Bam, but I like his explosiveness more than Antillon's consistency. I'll take Rios by mid-round KO in a fight that should be exciting for as long as it lasts.

The HBO main event also promises to see lots of punches thrown, and it's got more of a storyline as Paul Williams returns to the ring for the first time since he was victimized by a sensational knockout at the hands of middleweight king Sergio Martinez. The Punisher isn't in easy, either, as he faces undefeated former Cuban defector Erislandy Lara.

As he often does, Williams will enjoy a sizable height advantage. He's also got long arms that allow him to throw punches from angles that lots of fighters just aren't accustomed to seeing. Though he was once known as a punch-throwing machine, he's shown some signs of toning his work rate down a bit, and you wonder if the KO he suffered will make him more or less likely to let his hands go.

Fellow southpaw Lara has much less pro experience but plenty of amateur credentials. He has shown signs of being a dangerous puncher, running off four straight first-round stoppages in 2010-11, but he didn't look great in his majority draw with Carlos Molina in March (he lost the one card that wasn't deadlocked in that one). Williams is unquestionably the best boxer he's ever faced as a pro, so this will be a really telling fight for him.

Some boxers never fully recover from their first brutal knockout loss, and there's no way of knowing if Williams will respond the way he needs to until the punches start flying. He's vowed to make this an action-oriented bout, but one wonders if that's really the best way to approach Lara.

That makes a pick in this fight somewhat of a leap of faith. I think The Punisher has it in him to rebound with a good showing, so I'll go with Williams by unanimous decision and see if my faith is justified.

I've rambled on long enough, so here are quick picks for the day's other significant fights:

Kermit Cintron by UD over Carlos Molina
Jhonny Gonzalez by KO over Tomas Villa
Rico Ramos by narrow decision over Akifumi Shimoda
Lucian Bute by TKO over Jean Paul Mendy
Chris Arreola by KO over Friday Ahunanya

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