After a pretty prolonged stretch of top-notch boxing, this week the sport returns to being busy but not especially top-notch. It’s not that there aren’t some good fighters in action or some decent cards, it’s just that the matches themselves don’t add up to anything as significant as Yonnhy Perez-Abner Mares or even Victor Ortiz-Nate Campbell.
Obviously, Mr. Klitschko above and his opponent at right are the start of the televised/webcast schedule via Integrated Sports pay-per-view, but there’s also Friday Night Fights, Fight Night Club, Top Rank Live, Solo Boxeo and another Integrated Sports pay-per-view. That and more is all in need of hashing.
- Vitali Klitschko-Albert Sosnowski, Saturday, Integrated Sports pay-per-view, Germany. There’s part of me that wants to give Klitschko a break for taking an opponent as hopeless as Sosnowski and there’s a part of me that doesn’t. Klitschko’s schedule since returning in the fall of 2008 rivals anyone’s: four consecutive heavyweights ranked in the top 10 by Ring magazine, and he tried to make a fight with David Haye, too, before Haye pulled out. Also, Sosnowski is Polish, so he probably helps bring fans to the gate. But Sosnowski — an honest fighter who clearly gets himself in great condition and tries hard — is as bad an opponent for Klitschko as one can imagine. Yes, he beat a few decent heavyweights like Danny Williams, but in the fight just before the win over Williams, he got shut out by Zuri Lawrence, a journeyman with some skill who nonetheless had lost to every “name” he’d fought. Making matters worse, Sosnowski almost got knocked out by Lawrence, a heavyweight with zero knockouts in 44 fights. And Klitschko has said he might retire this year; why waste his time with bouts like this? I ultimately fall on the side of thinking Klitschko is entitled to a soft opponent, and won’t criticize his decision, although I wish he’d picked someone else. Klitschko should get rid of this guy in a few rounds. If you’re a hardcore Klitschko fan, it’s the typically somewhat low-priced $25 Integrated Sports show, so you won’t be wasting too much money. On the undercard, heavyweight Johnathon Banks fights Jason Gavern, not a terrible opponent but a step back from Banks’ win over Travis Walker (unless you think Walker’s overall resume is trumped by the fact that Gavern beat Manuel Quezada who beat Walker).
- Friday Night Fights, Friday, ESPN2, Canada. The main event figures to be a real brawl between super middleweights Librado Andrade and Eric Lucas, and I bet there’s the usual amped-up Montreal crowd. Lucas is in his second fight since his comeback after retiring in 2006, in a career where he’s lost to the biggest names he’s fought — Roy Jones, Mikkel Kessler, Danny Green, Markus Beyer — but he’s beaten a few noteworthy fighters, like a younger Omar Sheika and an older Vinny Pazienza. Andrade’s all-brawler and Lucas (remarkably, I’ve never seen him fight) is considered an action-oriented fighter, too, so it figures to be good while it lasts. But at 38, Lucas shouldn’t have enough for the 31-year-old Andrade unless what we saw in Andrade’s last fight, his first knockout loss, is a sign that his chin has gone from amazing to totally unreliable.
- Paulus Moses-Miguel Acosta, Saturday, Namibia. I like this fight. Moses is the #6 man at lightweight according to Ring and Acosta’s #7. Moses is a sharp boxer, as is Acosta, who last year showed his KO ratio wasn’t a total illusion in a knockout win over the more hyped Urbano Antillon. They’re fighting for some version of some title or the other, but the main thing is that I like the match-up. It may end up being a pose fest but both men are skilled.
- Wilfredo Vazquez, Jr./Rocky Martinez, Saturday, Integrated Sports pay-per-view, Puerto Rico. These are really just showcase fights for Vazquez, a junior featherweight who is both exciting and has matured into a very nice boxer, and Martinez, also exciting and one of the best in the thin junior lightweight division. Both men are Puerto Ricans, so there’s a constituency for this card. Vazquez fights Zsolt Bedak, a 15-0 Hungarian who hasn’t fought anyone of note, and Martinez fights Gonzalo Munguia, a Nicaraguan who hasn’t fought anyone of note. [UPDATED: BoxingScene’s Cliff Rold points out that Bedak fought at beat Abner Mares in the Olympics, so maybe this isn’t necessarily a showcase fight — we’ll see.] I look forward to Vazquez returning to fighting the likes of Marvin Sonsona, whom he beat to take his title in his most recent bout, and to Martinez returning to fighting the likes of Nicky Cook, whom he beat to take his title two bouts ago.
- Kassim Ouma/DeMarcus Corley, Saturday, Washington, D.C. I’m not at all sure this card is happening. BoxRec lists it as canceled, but local boxing guru Gary “Digital” Williams doesn’t have anything on his blog about it being off; the venue’s website is agnostic; and the promoter doesn’t have a website I can find. Let’s assume it’s on for now — and if it is, I just might find a way to stop by. Like Lucas picking Andrade, the comebacking 40-year-old middleweight Keith Holmes isn’t taking it easy on his aging bones by going after Ouma, who showed renewed vitality in a questionable loss in his last fight to prospect Vanes Martirosyan. Corley, meanwhile, is coming off his first definitive loss in a while, a division-too-high KO at welterweight, to fight Jermaine White, who lost his last bout to Paul Spadafora.
- Top Rank Live, Saturday, Fox Sports Net/Fox Sports en Espanol, Illinois. Welterweight punching machine Jesus Soto Karass returns from his ugly loss to Alfonzo Gomez to face a 23-year-old who once went 12 rounds with top prospect Saul Alvarez before being stopped due to a swollen eye. This headliner has the sound of a potentially competitive match-up for the Chicagoans in attendance and for the television audience. On the undercard are a series of prospects with a fair amount of hype to them. Light heavyweight Mike Lee is being sold for his unusual story, and he makes his pro debut; Salvador Sanchez III is a featherweight prospect whose name is his story; Omar Henry is a junior middleweight prospect who gets as much love on Twitter as any boxer there is; and Jose Benavidez is the junior welterweight prodigy being trained by Freddie Roach. Which of those fights appear on television, I cannot know. [UPDATED: Henry’s opponent pulled out, so he’s off the card.]
- Solo Boxeo, Friday, Telefutura, Argentina. Sebastian Lujan, the welterweight famous for getting his ear ripped off in a fight against Antonio Margarito but who also beat Jose Luis Castillo and Walter Matthysse, is an entertaining brawler who can’t get over the hump to fringe contender. Emilio Julio Julio (that’s not a typo) hasn’t fought anyone of note, so he won’t help him in that regard. That’s the headlining fight.
- Fight Night Club, Thursday, Fox Sports Net/RingTV.com, California. Fight Night Club staple junior lightweight David Rodela headlines despite losing two straight, the second by knockout. I’m all for guys getting second and third chances, but Rodela never proved anything to begin with — his losses come to lesser foes — so I dunno if he’s worthy of this kind of status, even on a club show. His opponent this week is the undistinguished Eric Cruz. On the undercard is someone getting a fourth chance who had proved something. Jose Navarro — once a top junior bantamweight slugger prior to three straight losses — moves up to bantamweight to take on 14-14 (with two KO losses) Benjamin Garcia, who’s lost to the likes of Brian Viloria and some lesser lights. Also on the undercard: junior welterweight Frankie Gomez, a prospect who once beat Benavidez — but with just two pro fights under Gomez’ belt, don’t expect much from his opponent, the 0-2 Akeem Akinbode.
- Carlos Tamara-Luis Lazarte, Saturday, Argentina. Tamara made some fans after showing some real grit to knock out Viloria and take his junior flyweight title in one of the year’s top upsets. Lazarte will be making his fifth shot at a title, so he counts as the obligatory soft first title defense.
- The Rest. Prizefighter. Heavyweight Shannon Briggs returns to the ring Saturday after scoring his second 30-second KO in a row last weekend, against the slightly more credible Rob Calloway… Juan Carlos Burgos fights in a featherweight title eliminator Saturday against Ricardo Castillo, who’s fought and lost to just about everybody near the featherweight division… Antonin Decarie is a light-punching Canadian welterweight who’s beaten a few journeymen of note, and Friday, he steps up some to take on Souleymane M’baye… The latest edition of the U.K. Prizefighter tournament turns to the junior featherweight division, but fortunately the biggest name in the tournament, the over-the-hill but serially-comebacking Wayne McCullough, pulled out.