IBHOF inductee Graham Houston weighs up this weekend’s clash between the popular Ryan Garcia and former world champion Javier Fortuna, and also looks at the bouts pitting Lennox Clarke vs Mark Heffron, Hamzah Sheeraz vs Francisco Torres and Ricardo Sandoval vs David Jimenez.
There’s big-fight action to look forward to in both the UK and US today so let’s get right to it.
Exciting and power-punching Ryan Garcia is in a made-to-win appearance against veteran Javier Fortuna. It’s a scheduled 12-rounder in Los Angeles and unsurprisingly Garcia is a huge favourite (1/14 at Betfred).
Fortuna asked for a 140lbs weight limit for this fight. Does that mean that he let himself get grossly overweight after a one-round KO win in February? He looked a little soft in the body at 138.8lbs at the Friday weigh-in, while Garcia looked ripped at 140. Indeed, Garcia was talking afterwards about staying at 140 rather than moving back down to lightweight.
The talk from Golden Boy Promotions is that Garcia wants to meet Tank Davis in his next fight after Fortuna. In order for this to happen, Garcia needs to look good tonight. A stoppage win would be ideal and it looks likely.
Garcia is younger, bigger and stronger than the 33-year-old Fortuna. While Fortuna is a seasoned, crafty southpaw, he isn’t a runner. Garcia might be able to get to him with a big left hook at some point in the scheduled 12 rounds. Garcia never really looked like stopping Emmanuel Tagoe in his last fight, although in fairness Tagoe was extremely negative and it’s difficult to halt an opponent whose sole intention is to avoid a stoppage defeat. Garcia had stopped five opponents in a row before meeting Tagoe so maybe he was “due” a full-distance bout.
Fortuna has only been stopped once, when the rugged Jason Sosa wore him down for an 11th-round TKO back in 2016, in a 130lbs title bout. So it’s not easy to stop Fortuna. He hits hard enough to get respect and he knows how to move, duck and dodge, tie up and survive. Still, the likelihood is that Garcia eventually catches up with him. I mean, has Fortuna ever met anyone as big as Garcia, and with Garcia’s hand speed and firing power? I don’t think he has.
Betfred offers a Boxing Social boost of Garcia to win in rounds 1-6 at 11/4 [+275]. This could be a good bet when you consider that 16 of Garcia’s 18 KO wins have come in side six rounds. But we just don’t know how much ambition Fortuna is going to show, nor do we know how well he will hold up if Garcia starts to catch and hurt him. The fight not to go the distance looks the safer play, giving a bettor 12 full rounds to work with, but the admittance price is a bit steep at 4/11 [-275].
Most intriguing fight of the weekend is, for me, the British and Commonwealth super-middle title bout between champion Lennox Clarke and underdog challenger Mark Heffron at the Copper Box Arena in London.
Clarke deserves respect after his close fight with slick southpaw Lerrone Richards and the way he beat up prospect Willy Hutchinson in five rounds. He was the underdog against Hutchinson but he’s a fairly wide favourite against Heffron (3/10, or -340, at Betfred).
Heffron is 30 and he has never lived up to his potential although he did fight a draw with Denzel Bentley at middleweight and was unlucky to suffer a swollen eye in the second round of their rematch. Heffron says he drained himself making 160lbs but stopping two set-ups doesn’t really tell us what to expect from him in his first real fight at 168lbs.
However, Heffron says he has been sparring with “big, strong light-heavyweights” at the Joe Gallagher gym in Manchester so he feels he will be able to match Clarke’s physicality. Clarke, meanwhile, has had injury issues and he’s actually had just one fight — the win over Hutchinson — since November 2019.
As a straight pick I’d go with Clarke, but the asking price is too steep for my liking. Heffron is offered at 11/4 (+275) at Betfred. That’s an attractive number. But there are doubts about Heffron. His best win was the sixth-round TKO over Andrew Robinson (21-3-1 going into the fight), and that was four years ago.
Still, I do make Heffron a live underdog against Clarke. Both men looked great at the weigh-in. However, I can’t quite trust Heffron to get it done. Clarke looks like being too rugged, too insistent and too strong. It’s a fight, though, and by no means a sure thing for Clarke. The “distance — no” proposition at 5/4 (+125) could be worth considering, if only because this looks like being a high-contact affair.
Undefeated prospect Hamzah Sheeraz tops the bill at the Copper Box in his second bout in the middleweight division, having outgrown 154lbs. Tall, talented and powerful, Sheeraz looks like being much too strong for Argentina’s Francisco Torres. Although Torres can be a tricky customer (he was unlucky to have to settle for a draw against home fighter Jose Benavidez in Phoenix) he doesn’t have much power and I think he will struggle to keep Sheeraz off him. Sheeraz is unplayable as a money-line bet at 1/14. However, the KO, TKO, DQ proposition at 8/15 (-188) is a good look.
A bet I quite like that some books are offering is the over 6.5 rounds in theWBA flyweight title eliminator between Ricardo Sandoval and David Jimenez, which takes place on the Garcia vs Fortuna bill in Los Angeles.We know how good Sandoval is — he broke down and stopped Jay Harris in the UK — but theCosta Rican Jimenez looks a tough customer. Jimenez has had only nine pro bouts (all wins) but he had an extensive amateur career, which included a bronze medal in the World Championships. Jimenez looked really up for it at Friday’s weigh-in. There seemed genuine confidence there. At time of writing the over 6.5 was available at around -130 (10/13).
Main image: The popular Garcia (left) looks to make a point against Fortuna (right) on Saturday night. Photo: Tom Hogan/Hogan Photos/Golden Boy Promotions.