August buzzkill (hopefully the fall schedule will deliver)
We got two witness two excellent performances from the two best pound-for-pound fighters in our sport with Terence Crawford’s and Naoya Inoue’s superfights against Errol Spence Jr. and Stephen Fulton in the final week of July.
August figured to follow on from that with the heavyweight rematch between long-time rivals Anthony Joshua and Dillian Whyte, the all-Mexican junior lightweight firefight of Emanuel Navarrete-Oscar Valdez, and the light heavyweight shootout pairing of unified titleholder Artur Beterbiev and former super middleweight champ Callum Smith.
However, over the past week we were hit with two buzzkills. Firstly, Beterbiev-Smith was postponed when the defending champion had to have surgery on a bone infection in his jaw and Joshua-Whyte was canceled altogether a week out when Whyte failed a pre-fight drug test. It is believed Matchroom are looking for a late replacement to face Joshua.
It leaves the boxing schedule a little light over the rest of the month though we will also see the return of unified Ring Magazine heavyweight champ Oleksandr Usyk against Daniel Dubois on August 26.
The promoters will be working hard behind the scenes to fill out their fall schedules. So, what’s already announced for the next couple of months to get excited, you may ask?
September 2 – Liam Smith vs. Chris Eubank 2, Manchester Arena, Manchester, England – Several months after Smith shocked Eubank Jr. with a fourth-round stoppage win, these two will run things back again. Eubank will have the celebrated Brian McIntyre, fresh off Crawford’s greatest triumph, in his corner. But will that matter? It looks like an interesting promotion and a fight both can ill-afford to lose.
September 15 – Luis Alberto Lopez vs. Joet Gonzalez, American Bank Center, Corpus Christi, Texas – The manner in which “El Venado” eviscerated Michael Conlan on the road in the spring sent shivers through the featherweight division. Now, he’ll be back against the teak-tough Gonzalez, who is something of his era’s Oba Carr (who lost title shots to Felix Trinidad, Ike Quartey and Oscar De La Hoya) Gonzalez has lost to Shakur Stevenson and Emanuel Navarrete in title fights. Will Lopez continue to shine or can Gonzalez finally get over the hump?
September 18 – Kenshiro Teraji vs. Hekkie Budler, Ariake Arena, Tokyo, Japan – The premier junior flyweight in the world puts his Ring Magazine, WBA and WBC titles on the line against his WBC mandatory challenger, who is a former two-weight world champion and unified 108-pounder. This appears to be the last throw of the dice for the South African but that makes him all the more dangerous. However, you have to favor Teraji, at home and having stepped things up since avenging his lone loss as a professional.
Junto Nakatani vs. Argi Cortes – Nakatani looks like the next big thing out of Japan. He was dynamite last time out against Andrew Moloney and is faced by a very sturdy challenge in Cortes, who gave Ring/WBC champ Juan Francisco Estrada a tough outing last year. The hunch is Nakatani makes a statement and gets a late stoppage or wins handily on the scorecards.
September 23 – Zhilei Zhang vs. Joe Joyce, Wembley Arena, London, England – “The Juggernaut” ran into a speedbump in April when he was derailed by the Chinese southpaw. It’s nothing new to see Joyce get hit and hit hard but the damage his right eye took resulted in his being stopped in six rounds. Joyce decided to roll the dice and go for a direct rematch. It will be interesting to see what he can do different against Zhang. Repeat or Revenge?
September 30 – Canelo Alvarez vs. Jermell Charlo, TBA, Las Vegas – Canelo signed a three-fight deal with PBC to fight on Showtime. However, what nobody saw coming was that he’d face Jermell Charlo, the undisputed junior middleweight champion and not bigger brother Jermall (the WBC middleweight beltholder). That said Charlo is very big for 154-pounds and is actually taller and has a longer reach than Canelo. The downside to this undisputed vs. undisputed matchup is Charlo is coming off a 16-month layoff. He’ll be the underdog and it’ll be tough but if he can find his best form (think Erickson Lubin or Brian Castano 2 and not Castano 1 or Tony Harrison 1) and he could present some problems for the Mexican great.
October 7 – Leigh Wood vs. Josh Warrington, Sheffield Arena, Sheffield, England – These two long-time rivals are both two-time featherweight titlists in the later stages of their careers. They’re both big soccer fans and will bring that energy and atmosphere into the fight on neutral territory. This looks well matched and figures to be close. At this stage of their respective careers it’s something of a crossroads fight.
Admittedly not a great schedule but things will fill up over the next couple of months.
It’s not been a banner year for the higher weights with activity sparse. While WBC heavyweight champion Tyson Fury will take on Francis Ngannou, we hope to see Deontay Wilder return, as well as Ring Magazine/IBF cruiserweight champ Jai Opetaia (it’s been mentioned he may face his IBF mandatory challenger Richard Riakporhe) and pound-for-pound entrant and WBA light heavyweight ruler Dmitry Bivol.
As always, we can rely on the lighter weights to keep us entertained. Tim Tszyu, Jaron Ennis, Teofimo Lopez, Shakur Stevenson, Gervonta Davis all primed to return.
And rising stars such as Jared Anderson, Diego Pacheco, Xander Zayas and Keyshawn Davis have or are close to breaking into The Ring’s top 10 in their respective divisions. They have bright futures and will see action in the final quarter of the year.
We will also likely see Devin Haney step up to junior welterweight and face WBC titlist Regis Prograis in a potentially mouthwatering encounter that is tabbed for October 28. WBC/WBO 122-pound titleholder Inoue has agreed to meet IBF/WBA kingpin Marlon Tapales for the vacant Ring Magazine and undisputed championship before the end of the year. And WBO flyweight beltholder Jesse Rodriguez and IBF counterpart Sunny Edwards have agreed to meet in a unification.
So, while this past week disappointed, we have plenty to look forward to in the coming months.
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