While all eyes will be focused on the hotly anticipated rubbermatch between Mexican warriors Eric Morales and Marco Antonio Barrera on Saturday night, there is another compelling matchup on the card that may rival the main event for action and sheer excitement.
Nedal 'Skinny' Hussein
In what promises to be an explosive affair, longtime WBC number one super bantamweight Nedal 'Skinny' Hussein finally gets his chance to fight for a world title when he steps into the ring against reigning champion Oscar 'Chololo' Larios in one of three support bouts on the Top Rank/Golden Boy Promotions card at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas, Nevada.
Speaking exclusively to DoghouseBoxing two days before he flew out to the USA, Hussein said that his more accurate punches will be the difference when he steps into the ring with Larios this weekend.
"I reckon Larios is wild, real wild," said Hussein, 36-1 (22). "I think I can catch him when he's punching. That's when I reckon I can hurt him; punch when he's punching, punch with him. And hopefully the straight punches will always beat the wilder, rounder ones."
While Larios can't claim to be the most skillful boxer going around, what he lacks in natural talent he makes up for with heart, raw aggression and a high octane workrate. Still, Hussein is confident that he'll be able to match the Mexican livewire's punch output and keep the 28-year-old on the back foot.
"To be completely honest I believe he'll try to bring me on his shots and just expect me to come out [at him], that's what he is going to do," explained Hussein. "He's not going to come forward, I'll tell you that much, because I'm going to be in his face throwing punches and he is going to bring me onto his shots. That's what Larios likes to do. He likes to bring you onto his punches when you walk onto them. He's going to be going backwards a lot."
Larios, 53-3-1 (35), will be a tough nut to crack. After losing his first world title bid to Willie Jorrin by a razor thin margin, Larios reeled off four straight wins before picking up the interim version of the WBC title by defeating current IBF titleholder Israel Vazquez by twelfth round knockout, avenging a first round knockout loss to his compatriot that occurred five years earlier. After a successful defence against Manabu Fukushima, Larios rematched with his conqueror Willie Jorrin in November 2002 to consolidate his claim to the title proper. The result this time was vastly different. Jorrin barely had a chance to get out of the gates as Larios battered him into submission at 1:28 of the first round.
Since that victory Larios has gone from strength to strength, successfully defending his title four times and keeping a busy schedule with an additional three non-title bouts thrown into the mix.
Despite these daunting credentials Hussein remains confident that he can pull off the upset and says that he is more concerned about imposing his will on Larios than what the champion might plan to do to him.
"I just like going in there and trying to make them fight my fight," Hussein said.
Despite Larios going 66 rounds in the past two years compared to Hussein's 25, the 26-year-old Lebanon-born Australian believe that his previous experience over the distance will see him through.
"It won't matter because I've been 7 rounds six or seven times before, so I know I can do the rounds not a problem," said Hussein.
"If I hadn't been twelve rounds it might've been an issue. But because I know I've been twelve rounds - I went 10 with 'Action' Jackson [Asiku] and 10 rounds with Manny Pacquaio. And I'll tell you something, Manny punches a lot harder than Larios does."
Hussein is trained by Hall of Fame fighter Jeff Fenech, who insists his charge in the best body puncher in the world today. A victory over Larios would provide an extra sense of satisfaction for Fenech, who won the same WBC title back in May 1997 from Samart Payakaroon by fourth round knockout. But for Hussein it would simply mean vindication for all the hard work and sacrifices he has made over the last seven years as he has fought his way to the top.
"A dream, to be completely honest," Hussein said of winning the title. "I'm just itching to fight. I know that if I go in there and do what I usually do, I know I'll win the fight. It will open the doors for a Barrera fight, a Marquez fight, a Pacquaio rematch. At least someone can see me and know I'm pretty competitive."
The lone loss on Hussein's ledger remain a bit of a bugbear to him. In October 2000 Hussein traveled to the Philippines to challenge current featherweight flavour of the month Manny Pacquaio for his WBC International crown. After dropping Pacquaio in the fourth round, Hussein believes the local fighter received an extremely generous count from the referee and that the fight was stopped prematurely in the tenth when a cut over his eye brought an end to the contest.
"Pacquaio is always going to be a bloke that I want to fight," admitted Hussein. "When he fought Jorge Julio on the Tyson card, his manager said that Pacquaio wanted to fight but he didn't want to fight me. We were supposed to fight in December when he was supposed to fight Fashang [3K Battery], that was after Gairy [St.Claire] and that fell through, but they wanted an easier fight than Gairy."
Despite the pro-Mexican crowd that will be on hand for the event, Hussein remains undaunted by the hostilities that are expected when he steps into the ring on Saturday night.
"Mate, I live up to it," said Hussein. "I was on the undercard for Tyson-Lewis. It won't matter mate, there will be ten Aussies and fifteen thousand Mexicans, but it won't matter. When I'm in the ring it's just me and him.
"I'm just hanging to get in there. Watch it on the 28th if you're living in Australia and support your local fighter. I'm going to win this fight, there's no doubt in my mind."
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