In the immortal words of Slim Shady; “Guess what's back, back again, boxing’s back, tell a friend!” Granted, I somewhat paraphrased that, but boxing is indeed back, with a Top Rank doubleheader from Las Vegas on Tuesday and Thursday night.
It seems an age since we last saw boxing in America or the UK, but this week’s shows are a most welcome sign, that things are ever so slowly creeping back to normal. Similarly to the UFC, either show will be taking place with no crowd in attendance, and each fighter, coach, official and crew member working at the event will be subject to rigorous testing.
Andre Ward’s protege Shakur Stevenson (13-0) will headline Tuesday’s event when he battles one Felix Caraballo (13-1-2). Rio 2016 Olympic silver-medallist Stevenson is the current WBO 126lbs champion; however, the American's world title will not be on the line in this ten-round contest. Stevenson was due to go into battle and defend his title on March 14th; however, the New Jersey man saw that card cancelled due to the COVID-19 outbreak.
Caraballo looks to be a tough and game competitor, and the Puerto Rican's only blemish is a UD loss at the hands of fellow country-man Pedro Marquez Medina (12-1). However, there is a reason why Stevenson is one of the most highly touted young men in boxing, and so far, he hasn’t put a foot wrong in the ring as a professional. The 22-year old is one of the slickest and silkiest boxers around, and he will hope his fight will substantiate to be a routine victory as he looks to revert to fighting for world titles.
Stevenson was slated for a unification match with Leeds favourite Josh Warrington (30-0) however, given Warrington’s departure from the Top Rank-friendly Frank Warren stable to return to Matchroom and Eddie Hearn, that contest fell through. Warrington has now agreed to a unification battle with Chinese WBA champ, Can Xu (18-2) with the Ring Magazine title also likely to be on the line. However, it remains to be seen when that fight will happen in a world of COVID induced social distancing.
It would be good to see Stevenson face the winner of Warrington vs Xu at a later date, but how long Stevenson will remain at featherweight remains to be seen given that this fight with Caraballo is at 130lbs. The man from Newark is rather big at the featherweight limit, and as a young man, one would expect him to attempt greatness and be the kind of pugilist to fly up the game’s weight divisions.
Also featuring on the card are heavyweight prospects Jared Anderson (3-0), and the promising Sam Jones managed Italian and sparring partner to Tyson Fury (30-0-1), Guido Vianello (6-0). Both will look to extend their respective undefeated records in impressive fashion giventhe boxing world’s eyes will be on this event which marks boxing’s return.
There was disappointment over the weekend when unbeaten American Mikaela Mayer (12-0) who is labelled boxing’s answer to Ronda Rousey, was removed from the card due to a positive COVID-19 test, despite being asymptomatic.
The two low key contests complete the five-fight card comes in the form of Robsey Ramirez (2-1) vs Yeuri Andujar (5-3) at featherweight, and Quatavious Cash (11-2) vs Calvin Metcalf (10-3-1) at middleweight.
Former Super-Bantamweight world champion Jessie Magdaleno (27-1) will headline Thursday's card at the MGM. The Nevada native faces off against Dominican Yenifel Vicente (36-4-2) as he looks to put himself back in the running for a world title.
Despite having a decent record, many of Yenifel’s wins came in his homeland of the Dominican Republic. Of the two, Magdaleno certainly has the better resume with victories over the likes of legendary Nonito Donaire (40-6).
The only blotch on Magdaleno’s record was his 2018 fall at the hands of Isaac Dogboe (20-2) when the American lost his WBO title. Given Dogboe’s successive losses to Emmanuel Navarrete (31-1), it would make sense for Magdaleno to seek a rematch against Dogboe when things return to normal, whenever that may be.
The other most notable name that will fight on Thursday is Adam Lopez (13-2-0), who dropped Oscar Valdez (27-0) when he stepped in as a late replacement back in November of last year when Valdez’s opponent failed to make weight. It appears the gutsy Lopez’s performance caught the eye of Top Rank supremo Bob Arum. Lopez's other loss was an MD loss that came at the hands of former IBO Super Bantamweight champion and sparring partner to Carl Frampton (27-2), Stephen Fulton (18-0). Lopez fights 21-year old Luis Coria (12-2). Coria hasn’t fought anyone of note thus far but will look to make a name for himself by defeating Lopez, who is the son of the late Hector Lopez.
Lopez Snr was himself a boxer who won the Olympic silver at the LA games back in 1984. He had a good career as a pro and had world title fights at lightweight against Miguel Angel Gonzalez for the WBC title and Randall Bailey and Sammy Fuentes, each for the WBO light-welterweight title. Lopez also fought and lost to Kostya Tszyu and amassed a record of 41-7-1 before retiring in 2000. Sadly Hector passed in 2011, and Adam fights in his honour.
The other three slots on the card are filled by; lightweight Bryan Lua (6-0) vs Dan Murray (5-3-0), an unbeaten lightweight clash as Eric Mondrago (3-0) takes on Mike Danny Sanchez (6-0), and a bantamweight bout as Gabril Muratalla will hope to extend his record to 3-0 over Fernando Robles (2-2-0).
While I’m sure neither card will transpire to be an all-time classical night of boxing, they are small glimmers of hope for boxing in what has been a dark and miserable time for the human race. Hopefully, the shows, which are available on https://www.fite.tv for £5.00, will go ahead with no issues and we can begin looking forward to boxing returning to the UK, with Matchroom slated to return in July, live from Eddie Hearn’s garden of all places.
Elsewhere, on Friday night American veteran Kevin Johnson (34-16-1) will travel to Poland to take on (35-6-0) Mariusz Wach who lost last time to Dillian Whyte (27-1) in Saudi on the AJ vs Ruiz II undercard. Granted, it will certainly not be a revered contest akin to the likes of Joshua vs Klitschko or Fury vs Wilder I or II, but it could be fun. If the Top Rank cards whet your appetite for some supplementary boxing, that is an avenue for you to turn toon PPV if you so wish.
By Aaron Ludford of SimBoxx
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