It's fair to say that most fight fans would prefer for boxing to have more of an MMA mentality and for the powers that be, who include promoters and managers, would make a concerted effort to make pick-'em matches more regularly than they do.
Too often, there is a hesitation on the part of the promoter, the manager and even the fighter to sign on for a pick-'em fight, a bout in which there is no clear favorite. Much or most of this has to do with the worship of the zero, the emphasis placed on being undefeated. The same mentality doesn't curse the MMA world.
On tomorrow's edition of "Friday Night Fights," in the main event at the College Park Center in Arlington, Texas, circumstances have conspired to allow us to enjoy a pick-'em fight between two prospects, Mike Dallas Jr. and Miguel Gonzalez. I try to employ a practice of positive reinforcement when I wear the hat of the fight writer, so let me offer my thanks and congratulations to all associated with making this welterweight match. Let us hope such pairings become less rare as we look forward.
Dallas (17-2-1, 7 KOs) has two losses on his record, and that could help explain why he's involved in such a bout at this juncture. The 25-year-old Bakersfield, Calif., resident is backed by Goossen/Tutor Promotions and has a flashy manager (Jackie Kallen) and now a marquee trainer in Virgil Hunter, the 2011 Boxing Writers Association of America trainer of the year for his work with Andre Ward, the BWAA fighter of the year for 2011. So some might be surprised that he's in tough against 26-year-old Miguel Gonzalez (20-2, 15 KOs), a Clevelander who is nicknamed "Silky Smooth" and was just signed to a promotional deal with Banner. We're all too accustomed to prospects being coddled for too long.
Dallas told ESPN.com that he appreciates what the losses have done for him. He actually disputes the last one, a 10-round majority decision to Mauricio Herrera on FNF last June. And in fact, many, if not most, who saw the bout thought Dallas did enough to win. In his previous fight, he was stopped by Josesito Lopez, then 28-3, but believes that the ref shouldn't have pulled the plug.
"With the losses, I picked up lot of experience," Dallas said. "I learned from my mistakes. If I was 20-0, I would not really have learned anything."
As for applying that knowledge, we could see an improved Dallas against Gonzalez, because this is his second fight with Hunter. For the past month, he has been living in Oakland, Calif., and training with Hunter, who brought Ward from pipsqueak to pound-for-pounder.
"I've learned a lot," Dallas said. "I see things differently. Everything came together, and people will be surprised at what they see -- inside, especially inside, and outside. I'm more balanced."
You have to like Dallas' resolve. The kid isn't in a "woe is me" state, isn't decrying the B.S. politics of the sport. He's saying all the things you want to hear from a guy coming off back-to-back losses. "The hype goes away when you lose the undefeated record," he said. "You see a lot of people turn their back on you; it's just part of the sport. I just stay focused. I didn't get down; it made me hungrier, made me work harder."
Gonzalez basically says the right things about his losses as well. They came against less-heralded boxers, in his fifth and eighth pro bouts. The 2008 U.S. Olympic alternate, who holds wins in the amateurs over Gary Russell Jr. (2007), Diego Magdaleno (2008) and Jerry Belmontes (2007), told ESPN.com it didn't help that he took the fights on ultra-short notice. But Gonzalez came back to beat the first man he lost to, Eric Ricker, and said he'd love a rematch with the second conqueror, Angelo Santana.
He agreed that we don't see two prospects of his and Dallas' caliber paired often enough. But he doesn't seem to regard Dallas as being in the same league that he's in. Gonzalez, a slick southpaw, likened himself to a Pernell Whitaker type, who will catch your shots and quickly counter you. He also said he can turn it up a notch, show a different look and go Tyson on you, breaking down both sides of the body.
"If I'm not the favorite this time, I'm sure to be the favorite next time around," said Gonzalez, who got his nickname with his impressive slap-boxing skills on Detroit Avenue, the west side of Cleveland. "I plan on making it an early night, coming straight forward, getting him out of there as early as possible and enjoying the rest of my Friday night. I got family and friends coming out."
It doesn't sound like Gonzalez will be cowed by the site of Hunter across the ring, not while his dad, Sonny Gonzalez, works his corner. "Virgil is not fighting, Dallas is fighting," he said. "I respect Virgil; him and Andre are like me and dad. Ward and Virgil got the relationship I got with my trainer."
But Gonzalez emphasizes that it's the fighters' skill, not the trainers' rep, that will speak loudest Friday: "The best man will win that night."
Gonzalez sounds quite certain that he will be that best man. "If you ask me, I still haven't lost. When all is said and done, I want to be a legend in this game." And don't forget: He wants to finish things early so he can have some nice wind-down time with his family and friends.
Me, I'm leaning toward Dallas in this tussle. Gonzalez hasn't fought the level of competition as a pro that Dallas has, and he is taking a considerable leap, from 135 pounds in August, to 147.