Hooker vs Saucedo : The hope would be that while the WBA and IBF titles are unified in the final of the WBSS, the WBO and WBC titles also end up belonging to one fighter, setting a potential post-WBSS unification clash.
But while Jose Ramirez awaits his next challenge of the WBC strap, Maurice Hooker must retain his WBO portion of the Super Lightweight pie against an unbeaten, and highly rated young challenger.
Mexican born Alex Saucedo is 24-years old, and makes his maiden world title challenge in front of his adopted home faithful in Oklahoma City.
Saucedo 28-0(18KO’s) has been fed the right diet up until this point, all of which culminated in a streak of knockout wins over the last 12 months. Gustavo David Vittori lasted just 3 rounds, while Abner Lopez and Leonardo Zappavigna were both stopped in the 7th.
Saucedo has a well-sized frame for a 140lbs fighter, but even his 5’10” height is no match to the naturally gifted Hooker. The champion is registered at 5’11”, but he stands more like 6’1” with an astonishing 80” reach.
However the Dallas born and bred fighter has not always been blessed with keeping his opponents at such a distance.
In fact his long arms may in fact be more of a hindrance, as it forces Hooker 24-0-3(16KO’s) to throw more punches than he otherwise would like to, and it makes him a sucker for counter punches, as opponents know that once Hooker has let his hands go, they can burst inside with the knowledge that Hooker’s guard won’t be up in time to protect his chin.
That is a large reason for the three draws on his record, albeit the first two were down in part to a lack in experience, while the most recent, against Darleys Perez, was a case of getting a helping hand from two judges.
Victory over unbeaten Terry Flanagan for the vacant title, last time out, was the best win of ‘Mighty Mo’s’ career thus far, and signs that he was beginning to put valuable lessons to good practice in the ring.
Although the cynic in us all would allude to Flanagan moving up from Lightweight, and his lack of power being the reason that when the Mancunian got on the inside, he was unable to take advantage like other fights could.
The split decision win may have also been blighted slightly when Flanagan fought gamely, only to be outclassed over 12 rounds by Regis Prograis in the opening round of the WBSS.
For Saucedo, the route to victory will be in perfectly balancing patience and desperation in the boxing ring. Finding himself in too much of a rush could result in Hooker allowing him to waste much of his energy early on, or even giving Hooker a great opportunity to score a damaging knockout.
On the other hand, a patient approach could allow Hooker to establish a rhythm, and once in front, Hooker’s long arms make it tricky to win enough rounds convincingly to sway the judges at the end.
Hooker was never fazed to head into Flanagan’s backyard to take the title, and will not be overwhelmed on Friday night when he stands up to Saucedo’s Oklahoma/Mexican fan base.
Both these men come in to the ring in the form of their careers thus far, but while one may have hit the peak of his powers, the other is still improving. That is why the younger Saucedo will need the judges to favour his aggressive style in a tantalisingly close contest.
The feeling is that Hooker has been overlooked by many coming into his first world title defence, and there is a significant chance that the champion will spoil the challenger’s crowing night and prove many doubters wrong.
Saucedo will race to a good start, using up that nervous energy in the opening exchanges.
As the challenger waits for his second wind, Hooker will close the gap as he establishes the jab, while also connecting with a host of eye-watering uppercuts to the lowered head of Saucedo.
Once Saucedo bites down on his gum shield, the action will really begin to hot up.
Hooker’s corner will try their best to get their man back on the outside, but with so many opportunities to fire away on his opponent, it will prove an impossible task to convince Hooker to box smart in those latter stages.
Down the stretch, Hooker will land the better quality while Saucedo lands the higher quantity. It will be down to the three judges to decide which they prefer.
At the end of 12 rounds at the Chesapeake Energy Arena, home of NBA’s Oklahoma City Thunder, the crowd will celebrate the result like they do a Russell Westbrook fast break dunk, as their man, Alex Saucedo is crowned the new WBO Super Lightweight champion of the world, by way of split decision.