Our resident boxing writer Diego Morilla previews the most relevant fights you need to follow every week around the world.
Sydney, New South Wales, Australia, March 27th
Bowie Tupou vs. Hunter Sam, 10 rounds, heavyweights
It’s not the most glamorous fight out there, and it will probably be over by the time you read this, but it’s the tip of the iceberg in a weekend full of notorious comebacks in the heavyweight division. Tonga-born Tupou (24-3, 17 KO) will be meeting Australia’s Sam (11-4-2, 4 KO) just in time to avoid the one-year period of inactivity that would have pushed him out of the rankings (not that he’s very high up on any of them, but still) with the African title (?!?!) on the line. I can live with an Aussie and a Norwegian fighter clashing for the Caribbean title, because they’d be meeting “half way,” right? But Africa is… you know… on the other… oh, wait, it’s the WBO African title. NOW it all makes sense!
Panama City, Panama, March 27th
Shannon Briggs vs. Zoltan Petranyi, 10 rounds, heavyweights
It took one more week than expected, but the answer is finally “sí, señor!”. The “Shannon Briggs One-Round-Or-Less Barnstorming Tour” is finally headed south of the border! Briggs (57-6-1, 50 KO), a former world heavyweight titlist on a first-round stoppage streak (or sort of) in his comeback trail after his loss to Vitali Klitschko back in 2010, is already in Panama taking the country by storm, crashing on legendary Roberto Duran’s restaurant to have his customary shirtless picture taken with him, and revving up the locals with his war cry “Let’s go champ” translated (as we predicted last week) into Spanish as “Vamos campeón”. He’ll be facing a relatively live opponent in Petranyi (51-21-1, 16 KO), a 48-year-old Hungarian globetrotter. God knows where Briggs will take his act next, but this will surely be fun while it lasts. #AyDiosMio.
I MADE IT ITS A WRAP!!! #THEHANDSOFSTONE #ROBERTODURAN NOT ONLY GAVE ME HIS BLESSING BUT HE JOINED #LETSGOCHAMPNOSHIRTGANG HE AN HONORARY TRIPLE OG SO HE GOT IN WITH NO HESITATION #LETSGOCHAMP IM AT HIS RESTAURANT THE FOOD IS AMAZING!!!! HIS FIGHTS ARE ON AND THE PLACE IS JUMPING #VAMOSCAMPEON #LETSGOCHAMP
Arcadia, Florida, March 27th
Daniel Lozano vs. David Carmona, 10 rounds, super flyweights
As much as you’re going to hate missing Briggs’ pre-ordained exhibition bout in Panama (yeah, sure), you can still have a Spanish-themed boxing event in your TV on Friday night when Lozano (13-1, 10 KO) and Carmona (18-2-4, 8 KO) meet in a Telemundo broadcast, in what should be an interesting scrap between two young contenders in dire need of a redeeming victory.
Las Vegas, Nevada, March 28th
Jhonny Gonzalez vs. Gary Russell Jr., 12 rounds, WBC featherweight title
And running unopposed for the title of fight of the week, we have a classic brawler-boxer matchup that could end up being much more interesting than anticipated in a year of great matchups. Russell Jr. (25-1, 14 KO), a fast and talented boxer coming off a disappointing title-losing performance against a 1-1 (1 KO) fighter (which has to hurt, regardless of whether he is one of the most decorated amateurs in recent memory), will be facing a battle-tested former three-time, two-division champ in Gonzalez (57-8, 48 KO), the incumbent WBC featherweight belt holder and one of the toughest hombres in the 126 lb landscape for many years. The clash of styles is very promising, and they both seem to be aware of the importance of this challenge at this stage of their careers, so even in the worst case scenario this should be a solid fight with lots of exciting moments.
What to look for in this fight: Although they’ve been known for producing some glaringly uninteresting performances during their careers, expect this to be a poor man’s version of Whitaker-Chavez, with the judges finally getting it right this time.
Jermell Charlo vs. Vanes Martirosyan, 10 rounds, junior middleweights
Time to put up or shut up, fellas. Jermell Charlo (25-0, 11 KO) is the young lion still trying to establish his name as a legitimate threat in the 154 lb division, and Armenia’s Martirosyan (35-1-1, 21 KO) wants to return to that same status after seeing his career derailed by a dubious draw against Erislandy Lara and a failed title bid against Demetrius Andrade. Not a bad matchup at all. Martirosyan should feel the pressure early and surge through the middle rounds, but Charlo may prove to be too strong and determined to allow him to escape with a victory.
Jermall Charlo vs. Michael Finney, 10 rounds, junior middleweights
J’Leon Love vs. Scott Sigmon, 10 rounds, super middleweights
In the non-televised portion of the card, Jermall Charlo (20-0, 16 KO) will continue the tradition of fighting alongside his twin brother Jermell by taking on Finney (12-2-1, 10 KO), and Love (18-1, 10 KO) will be looking to redeem himself after his first defeat against a proven trial horse in Sigmon (24-6-1, 13 KO).
Sheffield, England, March 28th
Kell Brook vs. Jo Jo Dan, 12 rounds, IBF welterweight title
Dan (34-2, 18 KO), a Romanian-Canadian contender, will get his overdue title shot in a tough challenge abroad as he faces the incumbent IBF 147 lb titlist and local hero in Brook (33-0, 22 KO), a fighter who has managed to make a miraculous recovery after being attacked with a machete during a vacation in Spain. Brook will be making his first defense of the belt that he took from Shawn Porter in dramatic fashion in August of last year, but he suffered the life-threatening attack a few weeks later and his entire career was in doubt. Now, he’ll be facing a legitimate threat in Dan in front of what is expected to be a raucous local crowd.
Frankie Gavin vs. Bogdan Mitic, 10 rounds, welterweights
Gavin (21-1, 13 KO) will be facing Serbia’s Mitic (20-6, 13 KO) in what is thought to be both a confidence builder after his loss to Leonard Bundu in August 2014 and a prelude to his big May 9 fight against Chris van Heerden.
Merida, Mexico, March 28th
Juan Francisco Estrada vs. Rommel Asenjo, 12 rounds, WBO/WBA flyweight title
Estrada (31-2, 22 KO) is one of Mexico’s finest young champs, and he’ll be defending his two belts against a mildly dangerous Filipino contender in Asenjo (26-3, 20 KO) while he waits for his much anticipated rematch against Roman Gonzalez somewhere down the road.
Pasay City, Philippines, March 28th
Donnie Nietes vs. Gilberto Parra, 12 rounds, WBO junior flyweight title
Nietes (34-1-4, 20 KO) is becoming more and more appreciated by fans and press alike, even by those who usually do not keep an eye on the lower divisions in the sport. This time, he will be making a relatively easy defense against Mexico’s Parra (19-2, 17 KO) with his mind set on his future mandatory defense against Francisco Rodriguez sometime in the near future.
Nonito Donaire vs. William Prado, 10 rounds, junior featherweights
It wasn’t too long ago that Donaire (32-3, 21 KO) was considered one of the best fighters in the world, pound for pound, but he is now in the comeback trail after his first stoppage loss, and time will tell whether he’ll become just another former titlist trying to get back in the mix and fighting in co-main events wherever he can land a fight. This time, he’ll be returning to his native land for a fight against Brazil’s Prado (22-4-1, 15 KO) in hopes of rebuilding his career and landing another title shot in the near future, hopefully (both for him and for us) against WBC champ Leo Santa Cruz.
Pensacola, Fla., March 28th
Roy Jones Jr. vs. Paul Vasquez, 10 rounds, cruiserweights
Not exactly a heavyweight in the technical sense of the word, but still a legendary fighter making a comeback in this peculiar week. Jones Jr (60-8, 43 KO), now 46 years old, will be facing Vasquez (10-6-1, 3 KO) in a homecoming bout, aiming for a 7-0 streak in his comeback trail against a fighter who would have not qualified to even spar with him in his prime. Whether this unbeaten streak lands Jones another crack at a major world title remains to be seen, but he seems determined to make it happen.
Montreal, Canada, March 28th
Donovan “Razor” Ruddock vs. Raymond Olubowale, 8 rounds, heavyweights
Look at us! We just traveled back to 1990! Or maybe Ruddock (38-5-1, 29 KO) is still living in a time in which his imposing frame and his punching power still meant something. At the ripe age of 51, and far removed from his best years, “The Razor” will attempt a comeback against a relatively young 44-year-old (?!?!) in Olubowale (10-6-1, 7 KO) in his adoptive Canada, about 14 years since his last fight. The Jamaica-born native aims to lure either Wladimir Klitschko or Deontay Wilder into a title bout before the year is over (yeah, you don’t want to wait ‘till you’re too old for that, y’know?), which could derail the younger Shannon Briggs plan to fight either one of those titlists, as was his plan. Maybe we need George Foreman to make a comeback and knock some sense into these guys once and for all.