The Final Four of 2014

2014 Fox Sports Boxing: Rico Ramos vs Jesus Cuellar - May 2, 2014


When you’re my age, the holiday season presents an opportunity to look back at yet another year in the books.

I now ignore what the calendar is telling me because time is definitely speeding up.

But fighters aren’t writers. They’re young men, and time doesn’t move fast enough for them.

Those appearing on Saturday night’s card on SHOWTIME EXTREME, which will be the last televised fight night of 2014, are looking ahead. Their resolutions? Win fights. Make money. Make a name. Win world titles.

Make the future now.

Here’s a look at the four fights we’ll be airing from the Little Creek Casino Resort in Shelton, Wash.

Jesus Cuellar vs. Ruben Tamayo, featherweights: I was ringside in Vegas when Cuellar retired Juanma Lopez by hammering the Puerto Rican legend inside of two merciless rounds. I winced with every punch. Cuellar is that kind of fighter, a wrecking machine whose intent is maximum damage.

The southpaw Cuellar is 25-1, and with wins over a previously unbeaten Claudio Marrero and former world titlists Rico Ramos and Lopez, the Argentinian has established himself as a legitimate top-10 contender.

He’s fun to watch–but not to fight.

Cuellar’s opponent, Mexican left-hander Tamayo, is a respectable veteran who’s coming off an upset win over Efrain Esquivias. Tamayo, 25-4-4, is a rangy one-two puncher, but he’s been stopped in three of his four losses. Add the fact that Cuellar is the naturally bigger man and there’s only one conclusion to be drawn: Both Cuellar’s winning streak and his highlight reel will be extended.

Gary Russell Jr. vs. Chris Martin, featherweights: This is the first fight of the second stage of former U.S. Olympian Russell’s career.

Last time out, Russell, 24-1, lost on points to Vasyl Lomachenko in a bout for the vacant WBO 126-pound title. Russell had been an excellent amateur. Two-time Olympic gold medalist Lomachenko, on the other hand, had been arguably one of the five greatest amateurs in history. The difference showed, with Russell punching often, but with little oomph, and Lomachenko ripping shots to the body.

Now Russell, who was widely criticized for the undemanding opposition he faced before meeting Lomachenko, starts over. His opponent, the tricky Martin, 28-4-3, has lost two of his last three. At his best, Martin is a tricky boxer who was good enough to upset Chris Avalos on ShoBox: The New Generation four years ago. But that was at 122 pounds, which is better suited for the featherfisted Martin than 126.

As has been the case in several of his bouts, look for the southpaw Russell to overwhelm Martin with speed and a sizzling right hook.

Russell is only 26. The Lomachenko fight was a painful lesson. It’s time to prove he’s a better fighter for it.

Julian Williams vs. Jamar Freeman, super welterweights: We’ve televised a handful of Williams’ fights on SHOWTIME, and I consider him as blue-chip a prospect as I’ve seen. In fact, it’s not a stretch to already label him a top-15 contender.

Williams, 17-0-1, is a well-schooled boxer-puncher. He’s patient, technically sound, and Philadelphia-tough. That’s a lot for Freeman to overcome.

Freeman, 13-3-2, has been busy this year (this will be his fifth fight), but when moved up in class, he’s failed. He’s a late sub in this one, and it seems a tough spot for him.

Look for a clinical performance from Williams–and a likely stoppage victory.

Julius Jackson vs. Jonathan Nelson, super middleweights: If you’re too young to recall former two-division world titlist Julian Jackson, visit YouTube without passing Go. Jackson was among the biggest hitters of any era, and his one-punch kayos never get old.

Julius Jackson is Julian’s son. The 27-year-old puncher is 18-0 with 14 kayos, but neither he nor Nelson has scored any wins of note. The difference: While Nelson’s been building his record (19-1) against sub-.500 opposition in Texas towns like Texarkana and Nacogdoches, Jackson’s been winning in Panama, Uruguay, Argentina, the Dominican Republic, Mexico, and his native Virgin Islands.

Jackson’s passport may be impressive, but this’ll be his first fight in the USA.

Jackson is rangy, physical, and heavy-handed. His balance, however, needs work. Nelson’s more of a boxer, so look for Jackson to march forward with a seek-and-destroy mentality.

Julius will never be the fighter his father was. For that matter, he can’t match the skills of his brother John, a fringe contender at junior middleweight.

Regardless, this is his chance to begin to make a name for himself.

See you Saturday—and happy holidays to all!

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