Ever since Andy Ruiz etched his name into heavyweight boxing history on that faithful night at Maddison Square Garden on June 1st, this weekend’s bout has become arguably the most anticipated sporting event of the year. From the very moment the referee raised his hands and waved off the first fight, the only thing people in boxing have been speaking of is the rematch. The dramatic manner in which Ruiz ripped the titles from Joshua shook the entire world, and paved the way for this weekend’s spectacle in Saudi.
The location of the rematch was long debated. Should Joshua take the home advantage and stage it at Cardiff? Alternatively, should he return to the scene of the crime and try and right that wrong? Should he even go to the lion’s den, and take on the champion in a venue of Ruiz’s choosing? One thing is certain, not many thought Saudi was an actual possibility.
However, following a last-minute and surely sizeable bid from a Saudi prince, the heads of Eddie Hearn and Anthony Joshua were turned, and thus, here we are. Granted, there have been bouts in Saudi before, with Amir Khan taking on Billy Dib a few months ago, and the unforgettable WWE event in which Tyson Fury took a starring role. However, this event is different. It is the Heavyweight Championship of The World, a monumental event, the like of which has yet to be seen in this part of the world.
Accordingly, a state-of-the-art custom-made arena was built. All the stops were thrown out to make this a truly extraordinary occasion, including a monster undercard. Originally there was talk of a scintillating Super-Welterweight tussle between ex-World Champions Liam Smith and Jessie Vargas, and also a great Super-Featherweight fight between Scott Quigg and Jono Carroll. Sadly, the first bout when quiet and fizzled out, and the second was postponed following a Quigg injury.
These cancellations paved the way for the Heavyweight centric card that we are presented with, which sadly feels a little thrown together, and is broken down below.
Alexander Povetkin 35,2,0 vs Michael Hunter 18,1,0
WBA World Heavyweight Title Eliminator
Former Anthony Joshua victim Alexander Povetkin locks horns with the ‘Bounty Hunter’. Hunter, whose only blemish is against the extremely talented and pound for pound star Oleksandr Usyk, fights Povetkin in an eliminator for the WBA World Title. It’s difficult to tell where the winner will go after this fight, as they will be way down the list of priorities for the victor in the main event. Perhaps a shot for the Regular WBA Title? An even more difficult predicament is where the loser will go, particularly if that loser transpires to be Povetkin.
Povetkin has lost twice against Joshua and Klitschko respectively. He was comfortably beaten on each occasion. In his last fight against Hughie Fury, he didn’t look outstanding with the brilliant hand speed we have seen from him previously. Given the fact time is not on his side at the age of 40, you would be forgiven for assuming a loss against Hunter may spell the end for Povetkin.
To this point he’s had a good career having made decent money, winning Olympic gold at Athens in 2004, and also taking the WBA Regular title. Losing against Hunter doesn’t leave him with many places to go, not unless he is prepared to drop down to the status of gatekeeper.
Hunter, on the other hand, is on the ascent. The surprise win against Bakole and victories over Ustinov and Maldonado, previously put Hunter into contention for the fight with Joshua, following the failed test embargo of ‘Big Baby’ Miller, which set into motion the crazy turn of events that saw Andy Ruiz win the Heavyweight crown.
He also looked very good in his victory against Sergeiy Kuzmin, and the slick Californian, a former Olympian himself, will want to add another Russian scalp to his collection.
At 31, age is on his side, and he looks to have improved for his loss to Uysk back in 2017. He is on a good run of form and is likely to be a lot hungrier to test himself against the elite of the division than Povetkin, who has already done so, and come up short.
If this fight was a year or two ago, Povetkin would have been a comfortable pick for the win, however, in this cross-road fight one man is on the ascension, the other, on the decline. This in mind, I believe Hunter will take a points victory home to Las Vegas. However, class is permanent, and Povetkin may pull off a victory and prove me wrong, in doing so demonstrating there to be life in the old dog yet.
Dillian Whyte returns Saturday following his controversial victory against Colombian, Oscar Rivas, back in July. Whyte takes on Wach, who he was previously scheduled to fight a few years ago before pulling out with injury.
Whyte’s victory against Rivas for the ‘Interim’ WBC World Title, was overshadowed by a mysterious positive UKAD test. Upon the breaking of the news, many moved to condemn Whyte without knowing the full story. Since, we have learned Whyte successfully passed all VADA tests, the rules of which the WBC conform to, and was cleared to fight following a hearing with the British Boxing Board of Control and UKAD.
One would both hope and trust, if Whyte was found to have violated any rules, he would have been banned by now. This has not been the case, and Whyte has mounted a serious legal case following this to get his name cleared following the infamous Boxing Scene article, which has him bound by confidentiality clauses.
I for one believe Whyte is guilty of no crime, particularly given the fact he passed all VADA tests, and believe this whole episode is another instalment in a series of unfortunate events for the Brixton man.
Whyte, despite being WBC number one for over two years, has been deprived of a shot at the World Title, and of all other fighters in the division, he is surely the most deserving. He was offered the fight against AJ; however it was on short notice. This led Dillian to turn down the offer and led Joshua to seek the doomed fight against Miller, which led to the nightmare introduction of Andy Ruiz.
One would hope, providing he is victorious Saturday, Whyte receives some form of a resolution from UKAD, and will be pushed closer to a bout against either the victor of the main event, or the winner of the Wilder-Fury rematch, though neither is likely.
But how likely is Whyte to overcome Wach?
Whyte should overcome Wach with relative ease. He has an already impressive resume of wins against Chisora (twice), Lucas Browne, Joseph Parker, Robert Helenius and Oscar Rivas, whereas Wach’s stand out wins have come against Christian Hammer and Travis Walker. Each time he has stepped up he has lost, and has been defeated by Wladimir Klitschko, Povetkin, Miller, Szpilka and Bakole.
To his credit, Wach is strong and has yet to be put down in his professional career. He should provide rounds for Whyte, who hasn’t fought since July, but ultimately, the Pole should not provide much of a test. I imagine Whyte will either win a comfortable twelve round decision or stop Wach late on. I for one hope Whyte takes the win and can then build to a more positive and fruitful 2020.
World Boxing Council International Heavyweight Title
Undefeated Hrgovic continues his journey with another step-up fight against two-time world title challenger Eric Molina. Many have predicted Hrgovic has the potential to compete at the highest level of the Heavyweight division. A comfortable win over Molina would certainly provide further weight behind those claims.
Hrgovic is not a slick counter puncher, but also not a one-punch knock-out artist. He is a big strong bull and will look to walk forward and take the fight to Molina. Molina, at age 37 and having tasted defeated 5 times, is not likely to be able to keep the Croatian off for very long and will surely succumb.
Molina has been in with the best at that weight class in Anthony Joshua and Deontay Wilder. He can certainly try and make it hard for Hrgovic, but ultimately, he is past his sell-by date by some way, and I would imagine this will show come Saturday night.
If Hrgovic is victorious as I predict, it could set up a mouth-watering bout between himself and Brit Joe Joyce, who previously beat Hrgovic in the WSB.
Majidov, who famously beat Anthony Joshua as an amateur, makes his second professional appearance in Saudi. He takes on the colourful and enigmatic Tom Little, who comically became stranded in Istanbul on his way to Saudi this week.
In his first pro fight back in September on the GGG undercard, Majidov was surprisingly dropped against veteran Ed Fountain, however, recovered well to stop Fountain in the forth. Majidov can make a statement by defeating Little this weekend. He will look to introduce himself to the wider boxing world, who may not yet be aware of his talents. He will hope to do so and try and fast track himself towards the big names in the division.
Tom Little will hope to upset the applecart, but despite being tough and a better boxer than his record suggests, there is little to suggest Little can beat the Azerbaijani. Majidov has had countless fights, testing himself against the best in the world sometimes weekly. He had a short, sharp introduction to the professional ranks, but should be better equipped for that, and I fancy him to stop Little late on, although as a Brit, I truly hope I am wrong.
Hopey Price 1,0,0 vs Swedi Mohamed 12,6,2
Super Bantamweight Bout
Dave Coldwell’s charge, Ivan ‘Hopey’ Price makes his professional debut on the biggest of stages this weekend, when he takes on Tanzanian Mohamed. Price is a standout amateur and has won medals in pretty much every competition there is. The 19-year-old from Leeds will want to make an impression, and kick start his professional journey with a good win Saturday night.
Diego Pacheco 7,0,0 vs Selemani Saidi 20,15,5
Like Ruiz, Diego Pacheco is a proud Mexican-American, and the lanky 18-year-old will want to impress on his eighth appearance in the space of twelve months. At six-foot-four, he’s massive for the weight, and will surely move up as he continues to grow. A big win on Saturday could pave the way for him to be the next superstar in Matchroom USA’s already remarkable stable of young stateside fighters.
Although not linked to this card, there are some fantastic figths happening on the other side of the pond that must be mentioned.
Firstly, Chris Eubank JR makes his US debut when he fights skilled Russian, Matt Korobov. Korobov, who has only been beaten by Andy Lee and Charlo, is a far better boxer than Eubank. However, he has been inactive and is getting on a bit. I feel it is a great piece of matchmaking by Eubank’s team, and he will stop Korobov late on.
Jermall Charlo, defends his WBC Middleweight Title, (despite not being the champion because of the WBC’s stupid Franchise situation), against Irishman Dennis Hogan. The Aussie based Hogan was last seen in April after being robbed against Jamie Munguia. He will hope to rectify that when he takes on the unbeaten Charlo.
Also, In Spain the man who bested our own Ted Cheeseman, M Sergio Garcia, defends his European title, and the man who twice defeated Isaac Dogboe, Narravatte, defends his WBO Super Bantamweight World Title.
By Aaron Ludford for SimBoxx 🥊
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