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Fernando Montiel vs. Hozumi Hasegawa

Fernando Montiel vs. Hozumi Hasegawa Fight Preview and Pick to Win
When: Friday, April 30, 2010
Where: Nihon Budokan in Tokyo, Japan
Weight Class: WBC Bantamweight Title: 12 Rounds

By Scotty L of

Fernando Montiel, 40-2-2 (30 KOs), Los Mochis, Mexico, WBO bantamweight Champion. Vs. Hozumi Hasegawa, 28-2 (12 KOs), WBC Bantamweight Champion.

Fight Odds: Fernando Montiel (+130), Hozumi Hasegawa (-170)
Over/Under: Over 10.5 (-105), Under 10.5 (-135)

Analysis: An important bantamweight title fight takes place in Tokyo on Friday, April 30 when longtime standout Fernando Montiel takes on Japanese national hero Hozumi Hasegawa. It is important from a few different perspectives. The bantamweight division is getting hot now, with a handful of talented fighters now making their push to the number one spot. This fight establishes a clear top guy in the division. Perhaps even more importantly, this fight represents a break in the apparent blockade between fighters from the east and west.

For years, western lighter-weight enthusiasts have been denied seeing some of the finest practitioners from Asia. Over the years, Japan, Thailand and South Korea have produced dozens of excellent fighters that western fans would have surely adored if only afforded the opportunity to see them. Itís almost as if Japan has recently operated in a vacuum. Finally, we have a preeminent Japanese champion taking on a top guy from the west. May this signal the beginning of a new phase, where the Asian greats fight great fighters from Europe, the U.S. and Latin America.

Both of these fighters have deep credentials to back up their claims as the number one and two guys in the division. Montiel had built his career largely in Mexico and the southwest U.S. The 31-year old is a veteran with almost 15 years under his belt. His style is one of finesse and technical brilliance, highlighted by ample power, as his 30 knockouts attest to. He did most of his better work at 112 and 115 lbs. His first voyage into the competitive and hard-hitting bantamweight division resulted in a loss to then-peaking Jhonny Gonzalez. He also lost to ex-champ Mark Johnson, the last great performance of an excellent fighter.

Montiel still has almost a decade of excellence at the highest level under his belt. He is a three-division champion who claims wins over a slew of really good fighters. His crushing knockout over classy champion Martin Castillo 2 years ago really showed his class and that he was still squarely in his prime. The one possible complaint is that since that victory, he has more or less been biding time. He has been winning, but his opposition has been lackluster. Itís disappointing that he couldnít work in another meaningful fight or two in the interim.

Hasegawa is a 29-year old in his prime. He started out 3-2 and has since put together a 25 fight-winning streak. Even more impressive is after beginning his career 23-2 with only 7 knockouts, he has recently tapped into an unheard-of power surge that has seen him annihilate his last 5 opponents in quick order. Normally a fighterís knockout percentage ebbs as he faces tougher fighters. Hasegawa has managed to do the opposite while fighting quality contenders who hadnít shown much of a propensity toward getting knocked out before they faced Hasegawa.

The masterful Japanese is a master of distance, knowing precisely when to launch forward with blinding combinations or a sneaky left that snakes through the air to his opponents chin with startling speed and power. His countrymen love him, not only for his formidable fighting prowess, but also for his humble and classy demeanor. He looks to enjoy a home-court advantage on Friday. Some wonder if Hasegawa has been primed properly to face a fighter of Montielís seasoning and excellence. His two wins over long-reigning Thai legend Veeraphol Sahaprom and a dominant string of defenses over relatively unknown, but capable contenders seems to be ample preparation for a fighter of Montielís timber. Itís at least a decent progression.

Scotthy's Pick to Win: Montiel will have his hands full. He is a veteran with immense skill, so I do not expect him to be lost in this spot. I sense an air of something special about Hasegawa. I think Montiel will compete on even terms with Hasegawa for the first third of the fight. He is an expert practitioner of boxing skill, but Iím not sure he is in the heart of his prime. I think he is in the middle of a long, almost imperceptible slide from his peak powers. Hasegawa, however, is as in his prime as it gets.

I think Hasegawa will zip in some lefts in the middle rounds that will cause great distress to Montiel, perhaps causing a knockdown or two. Montiel is clever enough to adjust, which I think he will. I see a competitive, high-level boxing match to take place between the 8-10 rounds, with Hasegawaís flash playing off the more steady work of Montiel. In the last two rounds, I see Hasegawa managing something dramatic to once again drop Montiel. He will cruise home the winner after a tough and competitive fight. Lay the Ė170 on Hozumi Hasegawa to win.

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