- Joe Tessitore, Boxing
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If everything goes according to plan, this week's "Friday Night Fights" will not be competitive. Richard Gutierrez and Baby Face Garcia should dominate their opponents. So why watch? Because Richard Gutierrez and Baby Face Garcia should dominate their opponents!
They are two of the most intriguing up-and-comers in the game. One is a prospect trying to become a contender. The other is a contender trying to become a title challenger. One is dangerous and young yet immensely experienced. The other is experienced yet fights in a dangerously youthful way.
Baby Face Garcia's real name is Julio Cesar Garcia, but when you turn pro five days after your 15th birthday, it's going to take some time to get rid of the Baby Face nickname. He is now just 20 years old. That is 20 years younger than his opponent, Troy Browning. Browning (19-0-1, 8 KOs) turned pro in 1991. That was a good year for Garcia. Back then, he was a happy 4-year-old growing up in Guadalajara, Mexico.
Now, they will meet in a battle of generations, with the younger fighter having the huge edge in experience. It sounds strange but it is oh-so-true. Just ask the 42 opponents the 20-year-old has faced in a mere five years.
Garcia has won 13 straight fights since losing a decision to unbeaten prospect Larry Gonzalez in 2005. If one round that night had been scored differently, it would have been a draw. It doesn't really matter. The bottom line is that fight was just more seasoning for Garcia. With now an amazing mark of 40 wins, Garcia has more seasoning than pork tenderloin marinating in Emeril Lagasse's fridge.
He is expected to have no trouble against Browning. The question is: Will he have no trouble at the next level of junior middleweights?
Baby Face (40-2, 33 KOs) has a mean left hook to the body. He can pop. We saw that when he blew out Grover Wiley on FNF in July. In fact, every boxing fan knows the effects of Garcia's body punching. You probably just didn't realize it was him.
Remember when Jose Luis Castillo's rematch with Diego Corrales had to be postponed? Castillo was injured by a sparring partner. The sparring partner cracked the champ in the ribs with a body shot. Yep, it was Baby Face.
"When I heard about the sparring incident with Castillo, I began to look into it," promoter Luis DeCubas said. "I took him to Miami to spar and Roberto Duran said to me, 'I get goose bumps just by the way he goes into the ring.' I think this is a special kind of kid who comes along once every 20 years. There's no rush. He's like a diamond. We still have to polish him up."
Garcia's handlers have polished well. Come this Friday, they will take their precious stone out of the jewelry case to be seen by a nation of fight fans always eager to find the next great one.
Garcia will be sharing the spotlight with promotional stablemate Gutierrez. The Colombian native is also in a fight he should control throughout. His opponent, Luciano Perez (15-5-1, 13 KOs), hasn't shown that he can handle this kind of talent gap nor Gutierrez's raw aggression.
When last we saw Gutierrez (22-1, 14 KOs), he was putting the finishing touches on ending the career of former title contender Teddy Reid. Gutierrez was one of those big question marks just a few years ago.
He was framed as a wildly hyped Colombian slugger. Some thought he would be eaten up once he got in the ring against the better American-based fighters. However, when Gutierrez arrived on the U.S. boxing scene in 2005, that was not the case at all.
He wowed us, instantly proving he is a legit "one to watch" in the welterweight division. Gutierrez was thrown into a title eliminator against tough-as-nails Josh Clottey.
That July 2006 fight was a rough 12 rounds with back-and-forth action. Gutierrez worked very hard to be the aggressor. One judge saw it even. The two other judges leaned slightly toward Clottey. Meanwhile, the crowd booed the decision, thinking Gutierrez had been robbed.
It was the kind of showcase night when you really didn't need the judges to tell you what happened. Everybody in the game knew this wasn't just some South American paper champion. Gutierrez was the real deal.
With the Reid TKO win behind him, it's time for Gutierrez to land another big shot.
"Richard is being ducked by a lot of people, and he has to make another splash on ESPN so he can jump up into the big time," DeCubas said. "We'd like to fight Andre Berto or one of those upcoming stars. Antonio Margarito or Paul Williams, Richard would fight anybody at 147 pounds."
Berto is fighting on FNF later this summer. Seems like a great fight if it could ever get made.
For now, it's just about lining up and not letting up. The next victim, in the form of Perez, is in front of Gutierrez. Don't expect him or Garcia to let up at all. Friday night in Miami, it is home cooking for two hungry hot shots.
Joe Tessitore is the blow-by-blow announcer for ESPN2's "Friday Night Fights."
Age ain't nothing but a number to Baby Face Garcia and Richard Gutierezz. Both are experienced, talented and dangerous, and are expected to dominate their opponents this weekend.