Boxing Previews, Predictions: Froch-Johnson, Chavez Jr.-Zbik and More


By Nick Tywalk

It's another great night of boxing for fans in the U.S., with televised cards on both HBO and Showtime - and even staggered by an hour to allow for maximum viewing pleasure.

The Showtime main event between Carl Froch and Glen Johnson is the most significant fight of the night, as it will determine who will face Andre Ward in the final of the Super Six World Boxing Classic later this year. It's a compelling match-up between two very different fighters who fittingly earned their spots in the semifnals in completely opposite ways.

Froch did it the hard way, winning a close decision (over Andre Dirrell) and losing another (to Mikkel Kessler) in his first two Super Six bouts before dominating Arthur Abraham in his third. Though power was supposed to be his top attribute coming into the event, the Brit advanced this far mostly through his caginess, adaptability and toughness.

Longtime fans know Johnson as the ultimate worker bee, a relentless pressure fighter who has proven more than capable of giving top light heavyweights more than they could handle. Yet he showed surprising pop as a late tournament sub (not to mention cutting to 168 at age 41), stopping Allan Green in eight rounds to earn a date with Froch.

There's little question that Johnson will do the advancing while Froch will look to counter and move. It very well could end up with Johnson landing more punches but Froch scoring with cleaner shots, and we all know those are the hardest fights to score.

It's never wise to bet against Johnson, and the Road Warrior has made me look foolish more than once in his underrated career. But it's hard to shake the feeling that Froch just has more tricks up his sleeve, more ways he can approach the fight if his first game plan doesn't work.

I expect a tough fight - there's rarely a Johnson fight that isn't - and I'd be borderline shocked if there's a stoppage since Froch has never been knocked out and Johnson hasn't been TKOed since 1997. The Cobra just knows how to pull out wins when it counts though, so I'm backing Froch by close but unanimous decision.

The HBO main event also carries some intrigue as Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. attempts to begin to climb out of his dad's considerable shadow by winning his first world title. Opponent Sebastian Zbik is undefeated but also untested outside of Germany and pretty much an unknown quantity to U.S. fans.

Despite racking up 42 pro wins before his 25th birthday, many observers remain skeptical of JCC Jr. thanks to his buttery soft competition. Zbik is seen as a step up above most of his previous victims, but how big a step is a legitimate question.

One thing Chavez shouldn't have to worry about too much is getting knocked out, as Zbik has an almost comical 33 percent KO rate in his pro career. Chavez has gone the distance in five of his last six bouts (yet another reason for some doubt in his bona fides), so don't be surprised if this one lasts the full 12 rounds.

One huge advantage Chavez enjoys is the wisdom of Freddie Roach in his corner. Expect Roach to have a solid idea of how to solve Zbik and for JCC Jr. to listen.

Since Roach has been raving about Chavez's improvement, I'm going to give him the benefit of the doubt for now. I think Chavez will take the title by unanimous decision, but I'm hoping for more than that so I can start to be impressed.

If you're looking for real fireworks tonight, you may have to tune in for the HBO co-feature between Miguel "Mikey" Garcia and Rafael Guzman. These featherweights have combined for 41 knockouts in 55 total fights, and Garcia has the look of a rising star.

Both guys are young (Garcia is 23, Guzman 25), and though Guzman has more pro experience, Garcia has fought the tougher competition of late. It's possible both men may hit the canvas, but I like Garcia to win by knockout and continue his climb up the ranks. 

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