Anthony Crolla Previews Abril-Bogere
Tomorrow evening one of the most technically gifted lightweights on the planet clashes with one of the most flamboyant when Cuban exile Richard 'El Tigre' Abril makes the premier defence of the WBA title he was handed last week against Uganda's Sharif 'Lion Warrior' Bogere at the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas.
Last April, the Miami-based Abril delivered a clinic to comprehensively outfox Brandon 'Bam Bam' Rios for this belt, only to be regally shafted by the three blind mice perched on the judges' chairs.
A gangly, unorthodox but super slippery operator, the 30 year old champion will be hoping to force his way into the mix for lucrative unification spats against rival claimants Adrien Broner (WBC) and Ricky Burns (WBO).
Opposing him is one of the current game's most colourful showmen; the undefeated (23-0) and outrageously confident Bogere who is carried to the ring inside a cage, bedecked in a lion's headdress and skin!
(That alone is worth tuning in for and once again BoxNation, the Channel of Champions, deliver live and exclusive in the UK, broadcasting from 3 a.m on BoxNation, (Sky Ch. 437, Virgin Ch. 546)).
To analyse the fight for us, boxing writer Glynn Evans called up former British and reigning English lightweight king Anthony 'Million Dollar' Crolla who shall be seeking to add the vacant Commonwealth strap to his collection when he reconvenes with Liverpool rival Derry Mathews later this month.
Crolla, one possesses one of the most studious and analytical boxing minds among today's active fighters, provided the following preview.
"It promises to be an intriguing, close, competitive fight.
Abril was robbed beyond a joke when he fought Brandon Rios for the title last year – Rios never got near him - but we'll never really know how weight-drained Rios was for that one. He failed the scales the fight before against John Murray so he could've been 'dead' at lightweight.
Still, you couldn't help but be impressed by Abril. Above all, like most who've been through the Cuban amateur system, he's really well schooled and super relaxed. Nothing's ever forced or rushed and, consequently, he's able to sustain a high pace throughout the 12 rounds because he doesn't waste any unnecessary energy.
Abril's not the most exciting and only the real purists probably appreciate how good he is but he's very sensible and very clever. He'd be a good fighter for youngsters to study and learn the basics off.
I don't think he's a kayo puncher at the highest level – his record suggests he isn't – but he's sharp and throws with correct technique so you certainly can't walk through him. He's capable of fighting in phases; in, out, gone. If you let him get into a rhythm he'd be very difficult to beat. Occasionally, he comes up a little bit high but generally he's pretty solid; few glaring faults.
He may lack a little bit of experience compared to the other champions at 135lbs but he's already been in with some big names like Rios, Breidis Prescott and Henry Lundy and I believe all his losses have been debatable.
I studied Bogere's fight against Ray Beltran, a Mexican who I know from Freddie Roach's Wildcard gym in California. Beltran's almost world class yet Bogere won unanimously in a foul filled blood bath.
He's definitely a real character – with that lion head and skin and his caged entrance. He's certainly the more colourful; probably the one that the TV, promoters and fans would prefer to win so they can see more of him. That might be crucial if the fight's close and goes to the cards. Remember what happened to Abril against the more marketable Rios.
I know Bogere boxed at the world amateur championships so clearly he has a bit of pedigree. From what I've seen, he's much quicker than Rios so that could pose problems for Abril. He's got fast hands and fast reflexes which could be very important in this fight. I see him trying to drop right hands over Abril's long, rangy jab.
He's a bit short which might be a worry against someone as tall as Abril but Beltran also had a big height advantage over the African yet Sharif coped with that okay. He crouches down and makes taller fighters sacrifice their reach.
He can also stab away downstairs and that could be significant in a long fight, which I think this will be. I certainly see Bogere as the bigger puncher of the two. On the downside, he can be a bit wild.
If Abril is to win, he's going to have to keep the fight at mid and long range and try to bring his uppercuts up or land rights over the top whenever Bogere looks to bang downstairs. Richard has to get off to a good start, keep moving, keep Bogere guessing; land then pivot off. He doesn't need to fight inside or look to force a stoppage. I think he'll try for points.
If I was advising Bogere, I'd get him to use those fast feet to get in, land, then get out; wait for Abril's counters, then counter the counter. He too needs to start brightly. He can't rely on ending this with one shot. You'd not want to be playing catch up from four rounds down at the halfway stage against a fighter with Abril's style.
I expect the fight will start out cagey and Abril will assume an early lead by dominating from the outside. He's too smart to war and he'll force Bogere to go searching. The second half of the fight will be crucial. That's when it should open up a little bit. Can Abril 'stick and move' for the full 12 or will he need to set his feet a bit more down the stretch? That's the intrigue.
It's possible that Bogere will have tightened things on the scorecards by the finish but Abril's early dominance should be enough to edge it for the Cuban. He doesn't get hit much and I think Bogere will struggle to get his shots off, struggle to get to grips with him. By the time he finds the right keys to unlock Abril's defences, it'll probably be too late but he won't stop trying.
Abril by close decision appears the smart bet."