Our resident boxing writer Diego Morilla previews the fights you need to follow every week.
Quebec, Canada, Nov. 30
Adonis Stevenson vs. Tony Bellew, 12 rounds, WBC light heavyweight title
Aside from being the most relevant fight of the week, this one holds the promise of being one of the best grudge matches of the year, as both contestants went all black-Friday-at-Walmart on each other during the weigh-in. “Superman” Stevenson (22-1-0, 19 KO), a native of Haiti who calls Canada his home, is one of the division’s hardest punchers, and he demonstrated it by knocking out Chad Dawson in the first round back in June in his title-clinching effort. He resorted to his superb boxing skills only three months later to beat highly regarded Tavoris Cloud in his first defense, and now he’s gunning for England’s Bellew (20-1-1, 12 KO), who’s quite the banger himself. Nicknamed “The Bomber”, Bellew is on a mission to erase the shame of his lone defeat, a blatant robbery at the hands of Nathan Cleverly in 2011, in what was his first title shot. Stevenson is the huge favorite but the fight is open to surprises, and there’ll be plenty of fireworks throughout the night. Win or lose, both of them will continue being two of the most attractive fighters in the division, and we only hope they both manage to get much more than a great low price on their favorite household appliance as a result of their efforts.
What to look for in this fight: another KO for Stevenson, who is poised to become a driving force in the division for years to come.
Sergey Kovalev vs. Ismayl Sillakh, 12 rounds, WBO light heavyweight title
A title is on the line, yes. But this one feels like a mere appetizer for a much bigger challenge for the winner, in a division that has come alive beautifully in recent months. Sillakh (21-1, 17 KO) was a top contender with a fabulous amateur pedigree until he ran into former kick-boxer Denis Grachev, who rallied to score an upset TKO to put a halt on Sillakh’s brilliant unbeaten run. On a 4-0 streak since then, the Ukranian native with African roots will now be meeting one of the division’s fastest rising stars in Kovalev (22-0-1, 20 KO), who crushed Nathan Cleverly in four rounds last August to grab his belt and has looked very solid throughout his career. It is a rare fight between two young, powerful, skilled and hungry fighters on a mission to prove they’re ready for the big time, so don’t be surprised if this one ends up stealing the spotlight and becoming a prelude of bigger and better things for the eventual winner.
What to look for in this fight: Sillakh will be fighting in do-or-die mode and he’ll be dangerous in every round, but Kovalev is in a different level and should cruise to a decision.
Kevin Bizier vs. Ionut Dan, 12 rounds, IBF welterweight eliminator
An intriguing matchup between two tough contenders will take place when Romanian-born Ionut “Jo Jo” Dan Ion (31-2, 17 KO) takes on unbeaten contender Kevin Bizier (21-0, 14 KO) in a promising welterweight elimination bout. Ion has already fought for a second-tier title in two occasions against 2004 Olympian Selcuk Aydin in the latter’s native country of Turkey, returning to his Canadian base with two debatable point losses. Bizier owns a stoppage loss against former champ Nate Campbell last February, and seems ready to have a taste of bigger challenges, and the added neighborhood clash between Montreal’s Bizier and his foe from Quebec should add some emotional spice to what could be an explosive and entertaining bout.
What to look for in this fight: more desire, more firepower and more support from the crowd will translate into a hard-earned victory for Ion.
David Lemieux vs. Jose Miguel Torres, 10 rounds, middleweights
Once considered a future star, Lemieux (30-2, 28 KO) saw his stock plummet after back-to-back losses in 2011, especially his stoppage defeat by a rallying Marco Antonio Rubio. But his huge KO of Hector Camacho in late 2010, and his recent 5-0 streak against a solid group of opponents lead us to think he’s on the brink of a dramatic resurgence. He has a great opportunity to show where he stands when he faces a heavy-handed fringe contender in Colombia’s Torres (27-5, 24 KO), a tough-chinned, experienced fighter riding a 6-0 streak himself. We should see some great boxing in the early rounds, and some solid exchanges when both fighter go to second gear in the middle rounds.
What to look for in this fight: reinvigorated with his solid winning streak, Lemieux should show some progress and start making his way to bigger opportunities with a solid victory on points.
Chester, West Virginia, Nov. 30
Johan Perez vs. Paul Spadafora, 12 rounds, junior welterweights
Pittsburgh’s Spadafora (48-0-1, 19 KO) is a former lightweight titlist and a very solid and entertaining fighter who remains undefeated in spite of a couple of retirement periods due to personal and legal problems. Perez (17-1-1, 12 KO) is a former titlist in his own right as well. But the fact that Perez got his belt at super flyweight and that Spadafora got his in 1999 means that they both will have a lot to prove in this junior welterweight “interim vacant” title bout. It should be interesting to see how they can perform at this level and in this weight, in what could be a very interesting crossroads fight with lots at stake for both fighters.
What to look for in this fight: Spadafora may keep his unbeaten streak a little bit longer, but he’s due to lose as soon as he steps up in level of opposition in a star-studded division.
Colon, Panama, Nov. 30
Vicente Mosquera vs. Javier Prieto, 12 rounds, lightweights
Celestino Caballero vs. Jimmy Aburto, 10 rounds, featherweights
Two interesting fights were slightly watered down after two original opponents were scrapped at the last minute. Mosquera (33-2-1, 18 KO) was expected to face a much tougher Gilberto Gonzalez in this WBC Silver title bout, but he’ll have to settle against Mexico’s Prieto (23-7, 18 KO) for what now amounts as little more than a stay-busy fight in which Mosquera will seek to put his unbeaten streak in double digits since losing his title against the late Edwin Valero in 2006.
Former two-division champion “Pelenchin” Caballero (36-5, 23 KOs) also saw his level of opposition downgraded from the always respectable Jonathan Perez, and now he’ll be up against Nicaragua’s Jimmy Aburto (14-2-2, 5 KO) for a regional title, in a fight in which he’ll try to bounce back from his disputed split-decision defeat at the hands of Mexico’s Robinson Castellanos back in April.
What to look for in these fights: little more than a display of power and skill by both local idols, on their way to bigger and better challenges.
London, England, Nov. 30
Dereck Chisora vs. Ondrej Pala, 12 rounds, heavyweights
Chisora (18-4, 12 KO) is one of boxing’s most notorious overachievers, and the distance between what he proclaims to be worth and his real market value is one of the longest ones in boxing. He feasted on a menu of third-level opponents until he finally stepped up his game, only to go 1-4 in 2 years with losses against Tyson Fury, David Haye, Vitali Klitschko and Robert Helenius. Fighting to revive whatever is valuable in his uneven career, Chisora will try to keep the momentum going after a very good performance against Malik Scott (TKO 6 in July) with this tune-up fight against the enigmatic Ondrej Pala (32-3, 22 KO ) of the Czech Republic, with a regional title on the line and a championship bout awaiting the winner in the not-too-long run.
What to look for in this fight: aside from Chisora’s antics, we should be seeing another dominant performance by a fighter who seems to be finally putting his act together, which is bad news for Pala.
Baton Rouge, Louisiana, Nov. 30
Jeff Lacy vs. Martin Verdin, 8 rounds, super middleweights
Former super middleweight champ and former US Olympian Jeff Lacy (25-4, 17 KOs) will be returning after a three-year hiatus against a Verdin (20-16-2, 11 KOs), a local club fighter with very little experience against ranked opponents. It is the perfect setup for a triumphant return by a once-terrific fighter like Lacy, but his performance will go a long way in telling us what’s left in this great fighter after so many wars, especially his title-losing beating at the hands of Joe Calzaghe in 2006.
What to look for in this fight: a dominant performance capped by a spectacular KO by Lacy. Anything else would mean he should seriously consider retiring again.
Reading, Penn., Nov. 30
Travis Kauffman vs. Jason Barnett, 10 rounds, heavyweights
Kauffman (26-1, 19 KO) was supposed to fight Manuel Quezada in this main event, but a last minute cancellation triggered a worldwide search that ended when Barnett (14-14, 7 KO) took the assignment on short notice. With a few upset wins over previously unbeaten up-and-comers, Barnett is riding a two-fight winning streak, but he’ll be in against a tough contender getting ready for bigger things and fighting on his home turf, which is never a good recipe for a late replacement.
What to look for in this fight: signs of progress by Kauffman, a top-10 ranked contender for the WBA looking to get to the next level.