Thursday, March 12, 2009

The Minority Report: Pavlik vs. Mora

Word is it's just about official; Sergio Mora (pictured right) will be getting the next crack at middleweight champ, Kelly Pavlik. Jeff Pryor takes an early look at the match-up, and his take on the underdog's chances might surprise you.

Sergio Mora has been written off before. And he's proven a lot of boxing aficionado's wrong before too, perhaps even some of you reading now. With the rumblings of Kelly Pavlik defending his Middleweight Championship this summer against Mora, it appears the all knowing internet message boards deem this a Pavlik whitewash and the final dismantling of the much maligned, and disliked "Contender" winner.

Photos © Ray Kasprowicz

This is boxing, it can be any pugilists ultimate peril each time he slides between the ropes, but in this instance I shall be filing a minority report on why I believe that Mora, at the least, will provide a challenge that many will be unable or unwilling to see coming.

Just a quick note before my brief thoughts on this match; I would wager that I was one of the few who picked Sergio Mora to upset Vernon Forrest when they first met almost a year ago. I knew each man's style well, and perhaps more importantly I knew the psychology that would favor one fighter, in this case Mora. Incidentally, I didn't make such a prediction for their rematch, as I also knew that in that bout the psychological advantage would be Forrest's and that Mora was having serious weight issues leading up to the fight.

In addition, I was one of the few who picked Hopkins to beat Pavlik this past October, something I foresaw, due to knowledge and analysis of each man's style. All this is only to say, I think thus far I've been pretty spot on with the strengths and weaknesses of both Mora and Pavlik. I'm not sure I know of anyone else who correctly predicted both these fights. Perhaps, with these unlikely picks correctly chosen, you will at least hear me out on why I believe Sergio Mora may prove a puzzle for Pavlik.

First, a few facts about Mora. He fights off emotion; the more heated the fight the better he is. He is smart; he self analyzes and understands his weaknesses. He is an inside fighter; don't let his tall lean frame fool you. And He has a chip on his shoulder; he is extremely bothered by his last performance and the general discord his career has received.

These items come into play against an opponent like Pavlik, particularly because of the circumstances each fighter has found themselves in following their first career losses. For instance, Pavlik may think that his psyche has been repaired since the Hopkins' domination, but should he find it difficult to land on the elusive "Latin Snake", how will he respond to another fighter who doesn't paint a bullseye on their forehead and stand in front of him?

It may not be in the same manner and certainly not as comprehensive, but the type of frustration Hopkins delivered to Pavlik can be duplicated by a smart, hard to hit fighter. As well as Pavlik's first loss, Mora would be wise to take a look at Carlos Quintana's game plan in his initial meeting with Paul Williams, in which the smaller man out-maneuvered and frustrated the taller, volume punching champion. Their are definite similarities between Sergio's style and that which Quintana employed so successfully.

In addition, while Pavlik's loss was one that deflated him, I believe Mora's is one that will galvanize him. He is hungry to prove himself and he has shown an under-appreciated tenacity in the past that will drive him both during preparation and in the ring.

Mora has engaged in brutal gym wars with James Kirkland and Alfredo Angulo, by all accounts giving as good as he got. He went in to the rematch with Forrest severely weight drained and sapped of energy after a truncated training camp in which he had to boil his already lithe 160 pound frame to 154 in a short period, but in the ring, toughed it out when it would have been much easier to quit.

As for style on style; Pavlik is meat and potatoes, jab, jab, straight right hand. If that is successful he'll throw to the body. However, if his jab is not landing, he gets into trouble and I think it is going to be a challenge for him to land it. Mora on the other hand gives you some odd angles, a lot of feinting and ultimately darts in with something over the top and then looks to work inside, often to the body. Mora's quickness will likely help him elude any attempt Pavlik will have at trying to time his awkward charges, and once close, Pavlik's game becomes limited and paced. Mora is smart enough to tie up when he's finished or maneuver quickly back out to distance. Pavlik's slim two inch height and reach advantage becomes null inside, and the power on his shots is curtailed, erasing his greatest advantage.

Forrest admitted in the ring immediately after their first match, (and before he came up with excuses later) that Mora was very hard to figure out and Mora's timing made it difficult for him to get anything going against him. When it comes to experience and skill, it would be fair to say that Forrest edges Pavlik. In this light, it's not hard to envision, Pavlik struggling to mount a consistent, effective attack against Mora's awkward style.

Finally, I believe that Mora will come in fired up, and Pavlik will come in like it's another day on the job. This may ultimately be the most important factor in how the evening plays out for both men. Mora feels he needs to prove to all those who bashed him for turning down the Taylor fight a few years ago, and to those who have written him off after he lost his title to Forrest in the rematch and to those who call him a television created fighter, that not only does he belong in the ring with the champion, but that he has a chance to win.

So... does Sergio Mora have a chance to win? Yes.

Will he win?...

It's a little early for predictions, but I'll at least say this; when it comes to Sergio Mora and Kelly Pavlik, the "experts" have been wrong before.

e-mail Jeff Pryor


Carlitos said...

go sergio....i know for a fact he could win this..

dread said...

I thought Doc Andy wrote this for a second. I almost sh1t a sack of sand on that prediction.

Anonymous said...

Sir, although you have very valid and intelligent observations about Sergio Mora and his win over Forrest and Mora giving Pavlik some trouble...yet, you forget that the second fight with Forrest is more significant! The second Mora vs Forrest fight is a blueprint of what will happen when Mora The Latin Fake (couldnt resist) faces Pavlik. Sure Mora will be hard to find, similar to a person chasing a chicken (yes I chose that analogy for a reason). But once Pavlik corners Mora that will be the end! Just like when Forrest Knocked down Mora in the 7th of the second fight. And if Pavlik doesnt and is unable to corner Mora, Mora with his bravado, will sure at one point try to slug it out with Pavlik and Mora will get caught. And Mora will not make the count. All in all, it doesnt look good for The Pretender. Pavlik by terrible and devastating KO within 10. And you heard it first from me first ; )