GARY RUSSELL JR. vs. MAURICIO PASTRANA
Rounds / weight class: Six rounds / featherweights
Location: Los Angeles
Television: Fox Sports Net (streamed live on RingTV.com and Ustream.com, 8 p.m. PT/ 11 p.m. ET)
The backdrop: Russell (10-0, 7 knockouts), a phenomenally talented southpaw from Washington, D.C., makes his second Fight Night Club appearance against 37-year-old veteran Pastrana (35-14-2, 23 KOs), by far the most-experienced opponent of his promising career.
Also fighting: Nestor Rocha vs. Benji Garcia, 6 rounds, bantamweights
Rating the card: B-. The card was originally headlined by Jose Navarro but the veteran bantamweight’s opponent fell out at the last minute. Russell, a 2008 Olympian, is a welcome substitute. The super-fast 22-year-old featherweight should handle Pastrana, who has gone 1-7 in his last eight bouts. Pastrana’s last significant win was an upset of Antonio Escalante in January of 2007. The old warrior should give Russell more rounds than the D.C. native’s last opponent, Rodrigo Aranda, who lasted 3 minutes and 34 seconds. Rocha (21-2, 7 KOs) will try to get his career back on track against the always-game Garcia (14-15-3, 1 KO). Rocha hasn’t fought since he was knocked out in one round by then-titleholder Hozumi Hasegawa one year ago.
BEIBUT SHUMENOV vs. VYACHESLAV UZELKOV
Rounds / weight class: 12 rounds / light heavyweights
Location: Lemoore, Calif.
The backdrop: Shumenov (9-1, 6 KOs), a 2008 Olympian from Kazakhstan who acted as his own promoter in a title-winning fight against Gabriel Campillo in January, makes his debut under the Goossen Tutor banner against Uzelkov (22-0, 14 KOs). The brutishly strong 26-year-old boxer-banger will have his heavy hands full with the undefeated Ukrainian challenger.
Also fighting: Rico Ramos vs. Cuauhtemoc Vargas, eight rounds, junior featherweights
Rating the card: B+. Although many fans believe Shumenov’s split-decision victory over Campillo was a gift, few can argue that the Las Vegas resident is an entertaining and gutsy fighter. Uzelkov looks like a tough first defense on paper. The Ukrainian has knocked out his last 10 opponents, including Campillo (KO 6), who owns a victory over Shumenov, Germany-based prospect Denis Simcic (TKO 3), and Polish standout Tomas Adamek (TKO 5) — (no, not that Tomasz Adamek). Ramos (16-0, 9 KOs), a talented Southern California-based prospect, continues his development against Vargas (15-3-1, 10 KOs), who returns from a three-year layoff following a sixth-round KO loss to Juan Manuel Lopez in January of 2007. Super middleweight prospect Shawn Estrada (6-0, 6 KOs) is also on the card but the 2008 U.S. Olympian, who has been inactive due to training injuries, is in very soft against Alex Armenta (7-1, 6 KOs). Don’t let Armenta’s record fool you; the L.A. native can’t fight and hasn’t fought since getting KO’d in one round by Jerson Ravelo back in 2001. This is a blowout waiting to happen. The Friday Night Fights audience will be better served with light heavyweight prospect Gayrat Ahmedov’s scheduled 10-rounder against veteran Dallas Vargas.
CRAIG McEWAN vs. DANNY PEREZ
Rounds / weight class: 10 rounds / middleweights
Location: Temecula, Calif.
The backdrop: Middleweight up-and-comer McEwan (18-0, 10 KOs) looks to kick his stagnating career in gear with a victory over seasoned veteran Perez (34-7, 17 KOs) .
Also fighting: Charles Huerta vs. Jonathan Arias, six rounds, junior featherweights
Rating the card: B. This week’s Solo Boxeo card is solid. Perez is coming off a one-sided decision loss to Erislandy Lara, but McEwan is not nearly as slick a lefty as the former Cuban amateur star. The 28-year-old Scotsman should mix it up more with the rugged former title challenger. Huerta (13-1, 7 KOs), an offense-minded prospect who has been off five months because of a hand injury suffered in his last fight, will be tested by Arias (10-6, 8 KOs), a strong-willed journeyman from the Dominican Republic who has gone the 12-round distance and has never been stopped. The eight-round welterweight bout between prospect Keith Thurman (12-0, 11 KOs) and Stalinn Lopez (7-0, 3 KOs) should be pretty good. Thurman, a rangy 21-year-old boxer-puncher from Florida, should receive a decent fight from the 32-year-old Miami-based former Cuban amateur standout.
At Mexico City (Telemundo): Alejandro Hernandez vs. Jesus Ceja, 12 rounds, bantamweights; Ulises Lara vs. Luis Ceja, 8 rounds, junior featherweights; Cesar Sanchez vs. Martin Rivas, 6 rounds, lightweights;
ALEJANDRO HERNANDEZ vs. JESUS CEJA
Rounds / weight class: 12 rounds / bantamweights
Location: Mexico City
The backdrop: Hernandez (23-7, 12 KOs), a former flyweight title challenger looking to get back into the 112- or 115-pound rankings, is merely staying busy against Ceja (13-6-1, 8 KOs), a journeyman from Guadalajara, Mexico.
Also fighting: Luis Ceja vs. Ulises Lara , eight rounds, junior featherweights
Rating the card: C-. Hernandez is only 24 years old, but the Mexico City resident is vastly more experienced and skilled than Ceja, who has lost five of his last seven bouts (four by way of knockout). In the co-featured bout, hard-punching strawweight prospect Ceja (16-1-2, 14 KOs), no relation to Jesus Ceja, should have little trouble with Lara (6-6-1, 3 KOs), a Mexico City journeyman who has won three in a row. Ceja has won his last 10 bouts, all by KO (eight of which ended before the second round).
Also Friday: Oleydong Sithsamerchai defends a 105-pound belt against countryman Pornsawan Porpramook in Chiang Mai, Thailand.
On Saturday: Talented 20-year-old Johnreil Casimero of the Philippines faces Mexico’s Ramon Garcia in a 12-round junior flyweight bout in Los Mochis, Mexico, on Saturday; former bantamweight titleholder Jhonny Gonzalez takes on Aristides Perez in a 12-round featherweight bout in Campeche, Mexico.
On Monday: Flyweight beltholder Daiki Kameda takes on Rosendo Vega in a 10-round junior bantamweight bout, while his older brother Koki Kameda, THE RING’s No. 1-rated 112 pounder, battles Cecilio Santos in a 10-round junior bantamweight co-feature in Osaka, Japan.