Friday May 30
From Luzhniki, Moscow, Russia
Alexander Povetkin 26(18)-1 vs Manuel Charr 26(15)-1
vacant WBC international heavyweight title
This heavyweight fight has slid under the radar. If you’re turned off from ever watching Alexander Povetkin after his disappointing (both in performance and entertainment) fight with heavyweight champion Wladimir Klitschko, I don’t blame you. Povetkin came up short in every way imaginable. He was officially knocked down 4 times, though you could argue that half were simply the result of being outmatched in the power department.
Manuel Charr, on the other hand, has been one of the more exciting heavyweights of the past few years. He faced older brother Vitali Klitschko back in 2012. Charr was able to effectively play opossum at times and tagged Klitschko clean on the chin several times. Ultimately, Klitschko’s physical strength was too much for Charr. He was down in the 2nd from more of a push that was scored a knockdown. The fight ended in the 4th due to a nasty cut above Charr’s right eye, the result of a Klitschko left hook. The Klitschko loss stands as the only blemish on both of their careers.
Saturday, Charr and Povetkin meet in Moscow in an intriguing match-up. Povetkin will be facing someone closer to his size, and with the exception of the Marco Huck fight, has clearly beat every opponent he’s ever faced. Povetkin has a deep enough amateur experience to rely on to outbox Charr if he must, but I’m not sure he’s got the power to hurt him and be effective at keeping him on the outside. Vitali Klitschko, in my opinion is one of the hardest hitters we’ve seen in the past several years, never truly hurt Charr. Povetkin is nowhere near as big or strong at Vitali.
Charr is strong-willed and as tough as they come. Povetkin is a 5 to 1 favorite, but I’m taking Charr to pull off the upset.
Saturday May 31
From City Sogo Gym, Toyohashi, Aichi, Japan
Daiki Kaneko 19(12)-3-3 vs Shogo Ishikawa 10(3)-6
super featherweight division
In Kaneko’s last fight, he challenged super featherweight kingpin Takashi Uchiyama. While Uchiyama would ultimately win, Kaneko would get a sort-of moral victory after the fight. Kaneko made Uchiyama earn everything and even dropped the champion in the 10th round with a right hand that would have knocked 90% of the super featherweight division out.
Kaneko ate Uchiyama’s bombs all night, but ultimately his game plan was predictable enough that Uchiyama adjusted and pulled off a victory. Kaneko’s loss proved he could hang with the top contenders at 130 pounds and given his young age, I can see him growing into a champion as long as he learns from the Uchiyama fight.
From the Cotai Arena at the Venetian Resort, Macao, China
TV: HBO2 (USA) Boxnation (UK) ABS-CBN Channel 2 (Philippines) Sport 2 (Hungary) UniMas (USA/Mexico)
Simpiwe Vetyeka 26(16)-2 vs Nonito Donaire 32(21)-2
WBA super world featherweight title
Vetyeka launched himself onto the world scene by ending the 10 year reign of featherweight champion Chris John. Vetyeka not only beat John, but he battered him into retirement. (I want to point out that I accurately predicted) Vetyeka now faces the former lineal super bantamweight champion and left hook extraordinaire… Nonito Donaire.
Donaire is coming off 2 performances so disappointing that he’s gone from pound-for-pound darling of the lower weight classes to a fraud who never belonged on pound-for-pound lists to begin with. Because of the dramatic shift of public opinion (or personal disappointment) Donaire has made an adjustment that may make a load of difference. He has replaced trainer Robert Garcia. This move is relatively shocking given Garcia crafted Donaire into the knockout machine we fell in love with. In his place will be Donaire’s former trainer and father. Donaire feels it’s a move that will return him to his roots and rekindle his fire as a fighter.
Donaire’s struggles could probably be blamed on his lack of training with 2012’s Trainer of the Year winner Robert Garcia, instead choosing to train by himself while Garcia provided occasional instruction over the phone. His loss to Rigondeaux was shocking at the moment, but after learning about the type of training camp Donaire had (not to mention a shoulder injury) it seemed to all make sense. He followed up the loss to Rigondeaux with a desultory performance against Vic Darchinyan, a foe he disposed of with brutal ease years earlier.
If Donaire’s struggles were merely the result of training, we could see a return of the Filipino Flash. If not, Vetyeka will expose him. Vetyeka’s a guy who’s willing to get some to give some and if Donaire comes in thinking he can left hook his way out, he’d better hope he lands first. Vetyeka’s a capable counter puncher who throws a lot of straight punches that will gland before Donaire’s wide shots.
This fight will be shown on delay on HBO prior to the Froch-Groves fight.
Nicholas Walters 23(19)-0 vs Vic Darchinyan 39(28)-6-1
WBA world featherweight title
2 things before we get into this fight.
1. The WBA has 2 titles in every division. The first being the regular old title that Walters has. The other is a super title. The super title is only given to guys who’ve unified 1 or more title. Since Vetyeka beat Chris John, who’d unified titles, he gets that belt while Walters earned the vacant regular one when he beat Alberto Garza.
2. Top Rank has quietly created a tournament and no one knows about it. What we have here are 3 featherweight fights on one card. The first, Vetyeka and Donaire. The second, this one. The third we’ll get to later.
Walters’s probably the 2nd best guy in this tournament. (The best will be saved for last.) Walters is 28 years old out of Jamaica and is coming off an impressive stoppage over Alberto Garza last November. It was one hell of a debut for Walters and there were rumors that he’d face Donaire as soon as Donaire moved up. Unfortunately for everyone, the plans were thrown out the window after they watched Donaire rematch Darchinyan. Instead, Donaire got what is perceived as the easier match-up (and title shot) while Walters gets Darchinyan.
Darchinyan is coming in with 6 losses and the only guy to ever stop him has been Donaire. Darchinyan, at 38, is ancient for the lower weight classes, but he continues to truck on. His style is impossible to fit into one category. He swarms, he throws punches at odd angles, and his timing is strange. He’s only scored 1 knockout in the past 4 years, but that hasn’t stopped him from upsetting prospects along the way.
If Walters is the real deal, Darchinyan will either be shutout or knocked out. If not, Darchinyan can make life difficult for anyone. I’m taking Walters by an early knockout in this one.
Evgeny Gradovich 18(9)-0 vs Alexander Miskirtchian 24(9)-2-1
IBF featherweight title
This fight is the 3rd fight in this little “Secret Super 6.” Since we now know it’s a mini-tournament, let’s rank the fighters going in. 1. Evgeny Gradovich, 2. Nicholas Walters, 3. Simpiwe Vetyeka, 4. Nonito Donaire, 5. Vic Darchinyan, 6. Alexander Miskirtchian. That was… predictable.
In case you’re wondering, Miskirtchian is from Belgium and he’s never left the domestic level. His losses came early in his career, but he hasn’t exactly lit up the domestic scene since the losses. I have a feeling he’ll be terribly overmatched against Gradovich.
On the level of aggression, where Edwin Valero is the absolute maximum level of aggressiveness, Ruslan Provodnikov is below him, and the bottom is Tor Hamer after 3 rounds. On that scale, I’d rate Gradovich just below Provodnikov. The guy is all-action, but he’s also very skilled at what he does and he’s capable of letting the pace slow down. He’s an excellent body puncher, he can work on the inside, and box from long range. Gradovich has the skills to be the top featherweight in the world and I feel his talent will win out in this little mini-tournament.
Gradovich is trained by former Donaire trainer Robert Garcia. Here’s a conspiracy theory I have: What if Bob Arum told Donaire to leave Garcia so he can pit him against Gradovich as a co-headliner for Pacquiao’s next pay-per-view? That’s one hell of a fight Pre-Rigondeaux. Another thought: how awkward is it going to be when Garcia and Donaire see each other in Macao? After all, it was Donaire that never called to tell Garcia anything about not training him. Surely there’s going to be some air of tension.
Chris Avalos 23(17)-2 vs Yasutaka Ishimoto 24(7)-6
IBF super bantamweight title eliminator
This card is really good, I’m pretty blown away. Avalos is an entertaining fighter who’s had some bad luck. He’s 24 and there’s a ton of potential and upside for him. All he’s gotta do is start delivering on knockouts and he’ll make it to HBO in no time. It worked for Donaire.
The winner of this one is due for a shot at IBF title holder Kiko Martinez.
This fight will be shown on UniMas on delay at 11:30 PM EDT.
Rex Tso 12(8)-0 vs Ratchasak Kokietgym 22(10)-2-1
WBO Asia Pacific super flyweight title
This is a big step up for Rex Tso. Kokietgym has a ton of experience and has boxed a lot of rounds. Though it’s mostly been against weak opposition in Thailand, he’s at least shown he’s a capable winner. I think Tso will impress and knock Kokietgym out fairly easily. I like to compare Tso to Felix Verdejo. He certainly doesn’t have the skills that Verdejo does, but if you squint, it works out. Tso can be a little wide with his punches, but I’m sure once he fights a guy with a good jab, he’ll learn to straighten things out.
Ik Yang 14(9)-0 vs Geisler AP 5(3)-1
junior welterweight division
If this fight didn’t cause excitement as soon as you saw it, you probably don’t get it. Don’t worry, you will. Sticky Ik Yang may never challenge for a belt at junior welterweight, but it’s okay. He’s about to become your favorite fighter. Yang is trained by Freddie Roach and watching him is like watching a rough draft of Ruslan Provodnikov. He’s what you’d expect if Provodnikov came to the ring as a concept with a lot of bugs and poor physics. That’s Sticky Ik Yang. He’s all-action, loves to take a shot as long as he can give 3, and he appears to really enjoy it. Ik Yang is must watch TV.
Esquiva Falcao 2(1)-0 vs Eun-Chang Lee 7(3)-3
A seasoning fight for the Olympian.
From Sala de Armas Agustin Melgar, Ciudad Deportiva Magdalena Mixhuca, Iztacalco, Distrito Federal, Mexico
TV: Televisa (Mexico)
Srisaket Sor Rungvisai 27(25)-3-1 vs Carlos Cuadras 29(24)-0
WBC super flyweight title
Cuadras is a highly touted prospect from Mexico who’s finally getting a title shot. It’s a strange situation given Rungvisai is making his first real defense of the super flyweight title in what is his first fight out of Thailand.
Cuadras should win this big. He’s got a successful amateur background which includes a sort-of win against Guillermo Rigondeaux (Rigondeaux never showed up) and he’s transitioned nicely to the pro style. Cuadras’s power will be too much for Rungvisai. A win for Cuadras could put him in line to face long-time reigning, but sheltered champion, Omar Andres Narvaez.
From Sportpalace, Odessa, Ukraine
Oleksandr Usyk 3(3)-0 vs Cesar David Crenz 21(13)-8
Usyk is a decorated amateur who captured Gold at the 2012 Olympic Games. He’s looking to continue his quick rise by facing experienced Cesar Crenz. I don’t expect Usyk to have any trouble with the Argentine.
From the Tropicana Hotel & Casino, Las Vegas, Nevada
Time: 12:00 AM EDT, 9:00 PM PDT, 5:00 AM BST
TV: HBO Latino (USA) HBO2 (USA)
Luis Orlando Del Valle 18(13)-1 vs Luis Rosa 16(7)-0
While Rosa is untested, Del Valle has certainly been tested. It did not go well. In fall of 2012, Del Valle took on Vic Darchinyan in what appeared to be a showcase bout for what everyone saw as a future Puerto Rican star. His amateur background looked strong and many figured it’d be easy work. Darchinyan, always determined, simply outclassed him. Del Valle since been on the rebuild, scoring 2 stoppages and now he will meet his countryman, Luis Rosa. This will be the biggest test of Rosa’s career and we’ll find out if the regional fighters of New England have properly prepared him for Del Valle.
Javier Fortuna 24(18)-0-1 vs Juan Antonio Rodriguez 26(23)-4
This is another mini-tournament. This time it’s a 4-man tournament in the featherweight division. Regarding Fortuna, I thought this kid was the next big thing a couple of years ago. His left hand seemed absolutely devastating. His style was inspired by Sergio Martinez’s (it makes sense given they had the same trainer.) I thought there was potential for him to face Yuriorkis Gamboa (then a super featherweight) and beat him.
What has actually happened is that Fortuna has since been disappointing. In fact, a comparison to Gamboa is appropriate. He’s got a ton of talent, yet he refuses to step on the gas when there are lulls in the fight to truly separate himself. His split draw with Luis Franco was a stinker. A big win here could remind everyone how just explosive he could be. He’s only 24. There’s tons of time for him to change the trajectory of his career. All he has to do is get past this tough Mexican. If Fortuna overlooks him, Fortuna could find himself knocked out.
From König Palast, Krefeld, Nordrhein-Westfalen, Germany
Time: 7:00 PM GMT, 12:00 PM PDT, 3:00 PM EDT
TV: SAT1 (Germany) Main Event (Australia)
Felix Sturm 39(18)-3-2 vs Sam Soliman 43(18)-11
IBF middleweight title
Sturm gets a raw deal from plenty of fans who criticize the champion for staying in Germany and getting gift after gift. What many are forgetting (or overlooking) is that Sturm is consistently in good fights. Here, he’s gotta pushed aside and it seems this fight has gotten no attention by the boxing media. Perhaps it’s the weak undercard or the fact that Soliman has 11 losses.
This fight is a rematch. Their first fight was in February of 2013. It was initially a unanimous decision for Soliman. Soliman, at 39 years old, was able to outwork a very active fighter like Sturm and make him look old. It was a big win for the Aussie. That is until the drug test results came back and Soliman’s came up dirty. He tested positive for methylsynephrine, a stimulant used for weight loss. The win was turned into a no contest and allowed Sturm to get a title shot against Darren Barker and regain the IBF title he’d lost a year earlier to Daniel Geale.
Sans illegal substance, it will be interesting to see how Sturm handles Soliman. A win over Sturm all but erases the loss, but a Sturm loss could spell the end for him. I think Sturm gets the job done. I find it hard to believe that a guys willing to use illegal substances will be able to still compete at an elite level without the help of drugs at the age of 40.
From Wembley Stadium, Wembley, London, United Kingdom
Time: 6:00 PM BST, 10:00 AM PDT, 1:00 PM EDT
TV: Sky Box Office (UK) HBO (USA) Sport 2 (Hungary) TV 3 Sport 1 (Denmark) Main Event (Australia) TV 10 (Sweden) Viasat Sport (Norway)
Carl Froch 32(23)-2 vs George Groves 19(15)-1
IBF super middleweight title
WBA super world super middleweight title
Froch and Groves are made for each other. Watching them interact has been akin to watching Heath Ledger and Christian Bale in The Dark Knight. If Froch wasn’t such a heel himself, Groves would be one of the most villainous characters in the sport. In the lead-up to this fight, Groves has been a pest in every sense of the word. He’s frustrated, he’s outwitted, and he’s tried every way possible to get into Carl Froch’s head. While Froch may have lost his cool a couple of times in the lead-up to Saturday’s rematch, Saturday we’ll find out if Groves’s mind games have had any effect on Froch.
Their 1st fight was one of the most unbelievable things I’d seen last year. George Groves, an overlooked prospect who’d showed grit and speed, appeared to talk his way into a fight with one of the top 10 pound-for-pound fighters in the world. I thought, there was no way it would be competitive. Froch had experience, proven power, and his record showed there wasn’t a better super middleweight other than Andre Ward. Froch had wins over Mikkel Kessler, Lucian Bute, Andre Dirrell, Jean Pascal, and Jermain Taylor. How did Groves compare? His best win was a prospect, James DeGale.
Coming into the 1st fight, the one thing Groves didn’t need to work on was his mouth. He said a lot of things in the lead-up, most of which seemed outlandish. There was one in particular that really stuck with me. He said he’d jab Froch and hit him with 2 right hands. He said the second would drop him. I laughed. Froch ate Andre Ward’s best shots. There was no way Groves was serious. I thought the kid was truly delusional.
The bell rang and in the 1st round, in front of everyone who doubted him, Groves was good on his word. Froch was on the canvas for the 1st time in 4 years. It was exactly what Groves had said. Jab and a straight right hand. Twice.
Now realizing that Groves was telling the truth, it all came together. Groves was quicker, stronger, and more fluid than Froch. Just as Groves had said. Froch was getting beat to the punch round after round. When the 9th round came along, Groves was on his way to a victory. Then Froch hurt Groves. Groves recoiled into his guard. Referee Howard Foster stopped the fight. Groves protested. The crowd booed. Froch breathed a sigh of relief.
That controversy has placed this rematch on hallowed ground. There is no comparison to it in America. Wembley stadium is reserved for champions and those who perform at the pinnacle of their sport. (There’s also the couple of times a year the NFL hosts games there, but the Brit’s don’t know any better.) Eddie Hearn has said there will be roughly 80,000 fans packing the stadium and if you’ve seen Hatton-Lazcano at City of Manchester stadium, you’ll know that we’re in for a treat.
I’d like to think that Froch will have no trouble in the rematch. That the result of the 1st fight could be explained by the fact that Froch simply took Groves lightly. All logic points to that explanation, but there’s a part of me that can’t do it. I just don’t trust Groves. All of his mind games, all of his talking, one thing he’s done is proven he can back it up. If he did it once, I think he can do it again. Most betting sites see this close to even with Froch being a small favorite. It’s because nobody trusts Groves. Saturday we find out.
James DeGale 18(12)-1 vs Brandon Gonzalez 18(10)-0-1
IBF super middleweight title final eliminator
This preview is dedicated to a guy on Reddit Boxing who believes James DeGale can and will beat Andre Ward. If this guy is right, we’ll see shades of it on Saturday. Brandon Gonzalez is like the diet version of Andre Ward. Gonzalez should be an undefeated fighter, but questionable judging in his fight with Thomas Oosthuizen has created the only blemish on his record. Gonzalez is a former amateur standout who now trains under Virgil Hunter alongside Andre Ward. You’ll immediately notice the similarities between the pound-for-pound contender and Gonzalez immediately. This should be a chess match. Both are excellent boxers and DeGale just might be the heavier-handed of the 2.
If Gonzalez has learned anything from being around Ward, his game plan will be to neutralize and take away whatever Virgil Hunter has distinguished as DeGale’s best weapon. If Gonzalez does that, this will be an easy win and will set-up a nice pay day fight with the winner of the 2 in the main event. Should DeGale win, the guy from Reddit Boxing’s case will get a little stronger.
Kevin Mitchell 37(27)-2 vs Ghislain Maduma 16(10)-0
IBF lightweight title final eliminator
The winner should get getting a shot at Miguel Vazquez, though if I were either of these guys I wouldn’t necessarily want that. Mitchell is a good, but limited. He’s definitely as good as it gets on the domestic scene, but when you put a guy who’s capable of competing at the world level in front of him, Mitchell has come up short. Maduma on paper doesn’t look like a tough opponent. In fact, he looks like more of the same kind of opposition that has given Mitchell a 4 fight winning streak, but beware of thinking it’s easy work. Maduma is a solid counter-puncher with very nice timing. Mitchell had better not overlook Maduma or he’ll find himself on the canvas.
Jamie McDonnell 23(10)-2-1 vs Tabtimdaeng Na Rachawat 52(34)-2
vacant WBA world bantamweight title
Don’t be fooled by Rachawat’s record. McDonnell should take this easily.
Anthony Joshua 5(5)-0 vs Matt Legg 7(3)-2
The big guy returns and let’s just say this. Legg participated in the heavyweight Prizefighter tournament that was absolutely dreadful to watch. Legg got stopped in the third round by James Toney. If Joshua doesn’t win this, it would be astounding. Joshua is the future of the British heavyweight division and he will show why this Saturday.