Our resident boxing writer Diego Morilla previews the most relevant fights you need to follow every week around the world.
Verona, N.Y., April 18
Ruslan Provodonikov vs. Lucas Matthysse, 12 rounds, junior welterweights
If you’re a true boxing fan, it doesn’t get any better than this. Matthysse (36-3, 34 KO) and Provodnikov (24-3, 17 KO) are two of boxing’s truest warriors who should probably still have an undefeated record if justice had been done in most of their defeats. Matthysse is the quintessential power puncher, and he holds the rare distinction of having sent every single one of his opponents to the canvas (with the exception of Danny Garcia), win or lose. Provodnikov is a ferocious fighter who summons the wild energy of the barren Siberian steppe of his youth in every outing to produce memorable and emotional performances. The anticipation among the fans is sky-high for this one, and with good reason. In only a very few occasions every year we sit down to watch a fight knowing that we’ll be watching one of the best fights of the year before the first punch is thrown – and maybe even a historic bout. It may be a short one or it may go the distance, but what we’ll see between the first and the final bell will definitely be worth watching – and definitely memorable.
What to look for in this fight: Matthysse is reaching his absolute peak and maturity as a fighter, and he will be the controlled aggressor in a fight in which Provodnikov will start with a bang only to start feeling the pain by the middle rounds and succumbing under a barrage of demolishing punches anytime after the eighth round.
Arlington, Texas, April 18
Terence Crawford vs. Thomas Dulorme, 12 rounds, vacant WBO junior welterweight title
In any other week, this would be the best fight on TV. In any other year, it would be one of the best fights you could expect. The current quality of competition for both of those titles, however, is pretty high, but don’t rule out the possibility of this fight becoming the hidden gem of what is shaping up as a historic year for boxing. Crawford (25-0, 17 KO) is the undefeated WBO lightweight champion and 2014 Fighter of the Year moving up in weight to fight for a vacant belt against a man who already was in his position and is finally trying to claw back into the big picture. Indeed, Dulorme (22-1, 14 KO) was seen as one of boxing’s next big champions to come out of Puerto Rico in 2011, but he suffered a defeat at the hands of Luis Abregu in 2012 and has been trying to get back in the mix ever since. If he manages to beat Crawford, he would have achieved just that – and then some. And it may not be as implausible as some people think, as both fighters are uber motivated to make this a career-defining fight for them.
What to look for in this fight: Dulorme promised a “technical fight” against Crawford, and it may be just that for a while. But if Crawford piles up enough points in the early going, the second half will feature Dulorme trying to impose his natural strength down the stretch and turn the chess match into a slugfest. All signs, however, point to Crawford dominating by a comfortable margin on points.
Carson, Calif., April 18
Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. vs. Andrzej Fonfara, 12 rounds, light heavyweights
Not a bad fight at all, but it will indeed lose some attention to the two monstrous bouts that HBO will be showing in the same time slot. Still, Chavez, Jr. (48-1-1, 32 KO), former middleweight world champion and son of the homonymous Mexican legend, will be making his debut at 175 lbs against a very live opponent in an upset-minded Fonfara (26-3, 15 KO) in a fight that should help us answer a lot of questions about Chavez. Does he have what it takes to make it at this weight? Is he committed enough to stay in the game at this level and make a splash in the light-heavyweight division? Fonfara may not be the best opponent to answer all that, but it will be a good start. It could turn into a terrific fight.
Oscar Escandon vs. Moises Flores, 12 rounds, WBA interim junior featherweight title
Nice little scrap, indeed. Escandon (24-1, 16 KO), a former Olympian for Colombia, will be attempting the first defense of his title against a tough customer in Mexico’s Flores (22-0, 1 NC, 16 KO) an unbeaten challenger with the power and the skills to score an upset.
Liverpool, England, April 18
Derry Mathews vs. Tony Luis, 12 rounds, lightweights
Tough luck for Matthews (37-9-2, 20 KO), who prepared for a completely different fighter and a world title fight, and ended up having to settle with Canada’s Luis (19-2, 7 KO) after his original opponent (Ismael Barroso of Venezuela) was denied a visa. Sure, the winner will be lifting a title, but it will be one of the WBA’s most dubious belts out there, as Colombia’s Darley Perez is still the organization’s current champion. Even in this discouraging scenario, both fighters seem inspired to put on a great performance, and that always helps.
Liam Smith vs. David Ezequiel Romero, 12 rounds, junior middleweights
A fight between Argentina and the UK is always fun, as long as the combatants wear gloves and not machine guns. This time, Romero (11-5-0, 5 KO) is the one who will be stepping into enemy territory with the dangerous and not at all impossible mission of upsetting local hero Smith (10-0-1, 9 KO) as he approaches his long-awaited world title shot.
Pennsauken, N.J., April 18
Chazz Witherpsoon vs. Galen Brown, 10 rounds, heavyweights
What would be a weekend of boxing without a relatively washed-up heavyweight staging a tepid comeback in hopes of grabbing a ticket in the imminent post-Klitschko era? This time it’s the turn of Witherspoon (son of Tim, former heavyweight titlist, and with a record of 32-3, 24 KO) to try to put his name in the mix for a new opportunity at the top of the division. He will be facing a very experienced Brown (43-29-1, 25 KO), a 15-year veteran of the game who has served honorably as gatekeeper in the division against virtually everyone. But Witherspoon’s record (which features three losses to title contenders such as Chris Arreola and Tony Thompson) and his pedigree should be more than enough to earn him an easy victory. Getting his wish of re-launching his career into world championship territory, however, will prove a lot more complicated than that.