On paper, at least, HBO has put together an excellent tripleheader to kick off its year of boxing coverage. In my view, all three fights -- which are being put on in a joint promotion by Top Rank and K2 Promotions -- should produce action.
The main event on Saturday night (HBO, 9:45 ET/PT) at the Madison Square Garden Theater in New York will pit featherweight titlist Orlando Salido against Mikey Garcia. The co-feature will match middleweight titlist Gennady Golovkin (one of the most crowd-pleasing fighters in boxing) against Gabriel Rosado.
As interesting as those two fights are -- and they are both very compelling -- I think that the opener, which will match junior lightweight titlist Roman "Rocky" Martinez (26-1-1, 16 KOs) and mandatory challenger Juan Carlos Burgos (30-1, 20 KOs), has a chance to steal the show.
The fight, a classic matchup of Puerto Rico (Martinez) versus Mexico (Burgos), is the least-publicized of the three bouts, but it could wind up being the best.
Martinez has been in some very good fights. When he lost his junior lightweight belt via decision to Ricky Burns in Scotland in 2010, it was a tremendous battle. And when Martinez reclaimed his old belt (which Burns had vacated) in September in a bloody split-decision slugfest with Miguel Beltran Jr., it was a legit candidate for the fight of the year. In fact, aside from the epic 12th round of the Sergio Martinez-Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. main event, that Martinez-Beltran fight basically stole the show.
Martinez said he will be even better for this fight than he was in the tough fight with Beltran.
"We have been working hard for this fight against Burgos because we know he is a good fighter and slick," Martinez said. "But I'm better than for the fight against Miguel Beltran. We have a plan for this fight, but we are ready for all Burgos brings.
"I learned a lot in my last fight against Beltran. After that fight, I went right back to the gym and haven't stopped training since."
Burgos (30-1, 20 KOs) is on a nice run and has also been in crowd-pleasing fights. In his past three bouts, Burgos bumped off undefeated Puerto Rican Luis Cruz in what many considered an upset; he clearly outpointed former featherweight titlist Cristobal Cruz; and in July, Burgos destroyed undefeated Cesar Vazquez in the third round.
Burgos is a mandatory challenger who actually deserves his title shot because of his results, not just good connections. Also, his only loss -- a decision -- came at the hands of Hozumi Hasegawa in a 2010 vacant featherweight world title fight in Japan. Hasegawa won the fight, and deservedly so, but it was a very, very good scrap.
Now Burgos is getting his second title shot, and he doesn't plan to let it go by the wayside.
"I don't want to let this opportunity get away from me," he said. "I have been in this position before when I faced Hasegawa and I know I could've done much better that night. It could have been a life-changing victory for me, but I let that one get away. Not this time. I have grown mentally and physically, and I am prepared for a fight like this and I know it will be exciting.
"Not only do I want to get the victory and be a champion, but I want to please the crowd and make sure that the fans get their money's worth."