HOLLYWOOD, Florida – Roger Gutierrez has a healthy respect for Hector Luis Garcia.
The WBA 130-pound champion’s opinion of his upcoming opponent isn’t based, though, on the ease with which the undefeated Dominican contender defeated Chris Colbert in his last fight. The strong southpaw replaced an ill Gutierrez as Colbert’s opponent on less than three weeks’ notice, but Garcia dropped the previously unbeaten Brooklyn native during the seventh round and dominated him on the scorecards in their 12-round WBA elimination match (119-108, 118-109, 118-109).
The then-unknown Garcia (15-0, 10 KOs, 3 NC) impressively introduced himself to the boxing world by upsetting a 22-1 favorite in a main event Showtime televised February 26 from The Cosmopolitan in Las Vegas. Venezuela’s Gutierrez, who contracted COVID-19 while preparing to box Colbert (16-1, 6 KOs), was less captivated than most observers by Garcia’s career-changing outing, which led to his shot at Gutierrez’s title Saturday night at Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino.
“He’s a tremendous fighter,” Gutierrez told BoxingScene.com following a press conference Thursday. “I have all the respect in the world for him, especially for how he beat Colbert. But I’ve been saying it and I’ll keep saying that anybody would’ve beat Colbert that night. Because I saw that after around the fifth round that he was tired.
“It didn’t seem like he took things serious, didn’t have a good camp or train properly. And you could see it in the fight. That’s why you never underestimate any opponent. You have to always respect your opponent, and the consequence of not doing that is what happened to Colbert.”
Garcia is nevertheless listed by most sportsbooks as approximately a 3-1 favorite to dethrone Gutierrez (26-3-1, 20 KOs) in the second of four fights Showtime will televise Saturday night (8 p.m. ET; 5 p.m. PT). Robert Diaz, the primary matchmaker for Golden Boy Promotions, believes handicappers have underestimated Gutierrez’s grit in an advance of their 12-round championship match.
“It is a tough fight,” said Diaz, whose company promotes Gutierrez. “Garcia obviously is undefeated. Taking the fight against Colbert on only one week’s notice and doing such a great job, all respect to him. But [Gutierrez] is a kid that’s come up the hard way. He doesn’t have that undefeated record, but he’s fought the best opposition out there. So, he’s learned from his defeats.
“He knows what it is to be now at the top, as a champion, and he knows what it is to be at the bottom. He knows the difference in what the purses can be. He knows how his life can change. That’s where it’s gonna take somebody who’s ready to go through hell and fire to take that title away from Roger, because he’s hungry and he wants to defend what’s his.”
Before Gutierrez, 27, and Garcia, 30, square off, Showtime will televise a 10-round, 143-pound opener in which hard-hitting junior welterweight contender Brandun Lee (25-0, 22 KOs), of La Quinta, California, is set to battle Albany’s Will Madera (17-1-3, 10 KOs). The Dominican Republic’s Albert Puello (20-0, 10 KOs) and Uzbekistan’s Batyr Akhmedov (9-1, 8 KOs) will fight for the vacant WBA super lightweight title in the 12-round co-feature.
Omar Figueroa Jr. (28-2-1, 19 KOs), of Weslaco, Texas, and Kazakhstan’s Sergey Lipinets (16-2-1, 12 KOs) are scheduled to meet in the main event, a 12-round, 140-pound bout. Lipinets, a former IBF junior welterweight champ, replaced Figueroa’s original opponent, Adrien Broner, on only five days’ notice because Broner felt he needed to address his mental health.
Keith Idec is a senior writer/columnist for BoxingScene.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.