By Nick Bellafatto
In the tradition of great African warriors like Dick Tiger, Azumah Nelson, and Ike Quartey amongst others, I like unbeaten Ugandan born Sharif “The Lion” Bogere (23-0, 15 KO’s) in that he’s a fighter, willing to skillfully yet intelligently mix it up in an effort to outdo his opponent.
And mix it up is exactly what this reach disadvantaged pugilist is going to have to do against the much lengthier Miami based Cuban Richard Abril (17-3-1, 8 KO’s) when they meet this weekend for the WBA lightweight title at the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas, Nevada.
Mainly looking to control distance and use his height in a way that serves his best interest, Abril by no means is one dimensional in that along with certain boxing ability he is able to successfully work inside to a degree. Bodying up on the shorter more aggressive types, the Cuban has a way of offsetting an opponents rhythm and timing, essentially disrupting one’s course of action.
This was quite in evidence as regards formidable slugger and former WBA 135 pound champion Brandon Rios, against whom Abril would clearly maintain control over only to be victimized as the result of a wrongful decision.
But in a sudden turn of events the recently vacant WBA lightweight title has now come to rest in the hands of Abril who has been elevated from interim to regular champion by this same sanctioning organization. Suffice it to say that this Saturday night Richard Abril will be on display in his first ever world title defense.
Getting back to matters at hand, in consideration of Bogere having stopped his last three opponents while previously contending with fighters taller than he, it’s apparent they didn’t possess the skill set of a Richard Abril. With that said, this looks to be not only a step up, but a bit of an uphill climb for the currently undefeated fighter now residing in Las Vegas, Nevada.
Abril will simply not make himself readily available so that Sharif will have to at times make his way towards the Cuban, with good head and upper body movement being essential so as not to walk into scoring blows.
This is the same type of movement which would be successfully implemented by Hank Lundy who in a 2010 contest with Abril would elude the Cuban’s offensive output to then land counter shots etc., resulting in a close split decision win for “Hammerin” Hank.
A similar strategy could just as well prove decisive for Bogere who is no less capable than Lundy. What’s more is that “The Lion” is sharp in reeling off his punches, so that if able to bait Abril into coming towards him, this may in fact open another potential avenue of attack.
And with the possibility of the fight getting off to a slow start in that both men have similarly been inactive, Abril out for approximately ten months with Bogere out for eight, these layoffs should cancel each other out, most likely allowing things to settle in quite nicely after the first few rounds.
All told, even though leaning towards Abril in that he was able to objectively conquer the likes of a Brandon Rios, this to me is really a pickem fight. In other words, at the end of the day the WBA belt will belong to the man who can impress upon the ringside judges that he has imposed his style over the course of twelve rounds. That means I don’t see a knockout here in what looks to be a very competitive match up.
Russell Jr. takes on European champion Gusev
The potential of a knockout is more likely to come in the ten-round co-main event when the blazingly fast and talented Gary Russell Jr. (21-0, 13 KO’s) of Capitol Heights, Maryland sets foot in the ring to take on European featherweight titlist Vyacheslav Gusev (20-2, 5 KO’s) of Prokopyevsk, Russia.
Creating a human highlight reel at the expense of a walking punching bag in Roberto Castaneda his last time out, the murmurings are growing even louder for Gary Russell Jr. to step up and face more worthy competition.
With that said, Gusev on paper seems to represent that step up. However, I highly suspect the reality for the feather-fisted Russian is more in line with him either becoming the victim of another sensational stoppage, or at the very least a defeated fighter by way of a rather large scoring disparity.
This will only be Gusev’s second time performing on U.S. soil, losing in his American debut to recent title challenger Juan Carlos Burgos. So unless I’m confused or misinformed I don’t believe it’s a question of whether or not Gusev will suffer the loss, the question is how devastating of a loss?
Sharif Bogere vs. Richard Abril and Gary Russell Jr. vs. Vyacheslav Gusev will be telecast on Showtime Championship Boxing beginning at 10pm ET/PT (delayed on the West Coast) with preliminary fights to air live on Showtime Extreme at 8pm ET/PT (delayed on the West Coast).