This week is a good week to a be a fan of people punching each other in the face. There’s more boxing on TV than any weekend in recent memory, and it’s not going to stop. There’s a good fight (or good fights) every weekend from now until the end of the year. This golden stretch kicks off with a bang, featuring no a whole heap of top rated fighters, and even top rated fighters fighting each other. Imagine that!
The two premium cable shows, on HBO and Showtime, are mouthwatering. Their undercards are interesting. I don’t see how Michael Katsidis and Ricky Burns don’t produce a Fight of the Year-worthy bout. Chris Arreola doesn’t know how to be un-fun.
The only thing to be upset about is that the aforementioned premium shows are going head to head. But that’s what DVR is for, dummy. Welcome to the future. Welcome to November/December 2011!
- James Kirkland vs. Alfredo Angulo and Peter Quillin vs. Craig McEwan, Saturday, HBO, Cancun Mexico. As usual, Señor Tim Starks will handle the in depth previews of the biggest shows of the week (he gets to be a Señor in honour of HBO going to Mexico). Briefly, the main event between two troubled potential junior middleweight stars on HBO is mouth-watering. Angulo (20-1) has had his issues, chiefly inactivity and having his immigration papers no arreglados (Norteño music is in his honour). Kirkland (29-1) has had even worse problems, though. The dude just loves guns, which tends to land him in jail a bit. Worse than that, he got knocked out by pitty pat-punching Nobuhiro Ishida in the 1st round of their April bout. Kirkland has always been a little chinny but that was just plain weird. Hopefully reuniting with his old trainer, Ann Wolfe, has fixed whatever was wrong. Basically, this will be as fun as long as it lasts. Angulo has an advantage in that his defence consists of more than just “hit me in the face and I’ll hit you twice as hard back,” so he’ll probably take this one before the 6th. On the televised undercard, middleweight super prospect Peter “Kid Chocolate” Quillin takes on southpaw Scotsman Craig McEwan. It’s a good fight, though it’s hard not to suspect it will be a little one-sided. McEwan (19-1) acquitted himself very well before getting stopped by Andy Lee on the undercard of Martinez/Dzinziruk earlier in the year. In fact, he was dominating before Lee caught up to him. Here we have the problem. McEwan is decent enough, but he can’t punch a lick. And he’s not as decent as Quillin (25-0), who is a very good boxer with a side of power. With all the breaks in his career due to injuries, it’s easy to forget that Quillin is quite experienced with middling to good opponents too, having taken care of Antwun Echols, Dionosio Miranda, Fernando Zuniga and Jesse Brinkley relatively easily. It’s possible that McEwan had stamina issues in the Andy Lee fight that he’ll try to address, but if Lee can stop him in ten, I’m guessing the Quillin can get the job done earlier.
- Lucian Bute vs. Glen Johnson and Steve Molitor vs. Sebastian Gauthier, Saturday, Showtime, Quebec City. It might be a bit of a first world problem, but it sucks that these two great boxing cards are on at the same time. Again, Monsieur Tim Starks will be handling the big preview. The super middleweight main event between Bute and Johnson will be interesting. Bute (29-0) has been sitting outside the Super Six (through no fault of his own) taking on less than stellar opposition. Gentleman Glen Johnson (51-15-2) will give us our first chance to see how he fares against someone serious. Tim will get to the details, but I reckon that Johnson is going to test Bute harder than he tested Froch. Bute is used to standing in front of guys and landing that sneaky uppercut. Standing in front of Glen Johnson probably isn’t the smartest course of action, as generations of pugilists have found out over the years. I’m going to wishfully call the Johnson upset by late KO. The undercard is a titanic battle between Quebec and Ontario. I always thought Canadians were super nice, but maybe in the boxing ring things change. Junior featherweight Steve Molitor is rebounding from a loss in his third bout against Takalani Ndlovu by taking on Sebastian Gauthier (guess which one is from which city). Molitor (33-2) hasn’t always been the most entertaining, but he’s decent. He should easily be better than Gauthier (21-2), who, though he hasn’t lost since 2009, has not fought anyone of note and whose two losses came against nondescript opponents. Also fighting is wasted talent Allan Green (30-3). His opponent is Sebastian Demers (31-4), coming off two early round KO losses. So that’s nice. (Ed.: Showtime will televise a fight on this card between junior welterweight prospect Pier Oliver-Cote — a prospect I quite like — and Jorge Luis Teron, whom Brandon Rios defeated in a prospect vs. prospect fight to begin his current excellent run. This is a ShoBox-level test for Cote and a worthy replacement for the postponed Mikkel Kessler-Robert Stieglitz super middleweigh bout.)
- Michael Katsidis vs. Ricky Burns and George Groves vs. Paul Smith, Saturday, London England. Just in case there weren’t going to be enough crazy action fights this weekend, Michael Katsidis decided to get involved. With Ricky Burns, no less! This has Fight of the Year written all over it. Lightweight contender Katsidis (28-4), in case you didn’t know, is probably the most consistent pure action fighter in the sport. Burns (32-2) has his own claim after being involved in some people’s FOTY in 2010 against Roman Martinez at junior lightweight. He’s moving up in weight after various fight organisation snafus. Katsidis should be a big ask for a first fight at the bigger weight, but there are questions about how much the Aussie has left after a career of brutal wars and two especially punishing, lengthy beatdowns against Robert Guerrero and Juan Manuel Marquez. The good news is that even if Katsidis is faded, it’ll still be a good show. Katsidis has power, and Burns was down early against Martinez. Burns wasn’t exactly a huge puncher at junior lightweight and Katsidis has never been properly knocked out. There was a stage there where Katsidis was being a bit more defensively astute, but that seems to have passed. All signs point to a brawl, even if Katsidis isn’t what he once was. But who’s going to win is anyone’s guess. The patriotic choice is Katsidis, so TQBR will go with that based on pure jingoism. On the undercard, George Groves backs up his minor upset victory over James DeGale with a defence of his British and Commonwealth super middleweight titles against Paul Smith. Smith (31-2) held the title before, but lost it to DeGale. He’s been around the block and fought a lot of quality British level fighters. Still, Groves (13-0) looks scarily complete for a guy with only 13 fights and should win based on his awkwardness, activity and power.
- Chris Arreola vs. Raphael Butler, Saturday, ESPN Deportes, Leon Mexico. Back to Mexico. Everyone’s favourite formerly chubby heavyweight nice guy, Chris Arreola, continues on his crusade to stay busy against relative no-hopers, this time against Minnesota’s Raphael Butler. Arreola (33-2) brings a loveable and business-like Mexican attitude to a division that’s sadly lacking it, and this will be his first fight in his family’s ancestral homeland. While I admire Arreola’s drive to stay busy and fit, which seems to be going rather well for him, it’s probably time he started fighting top ten heavyweights again. Butler (35-11), whose nickname is “The Silencer,” seems to be the one getting silenced these days, having lost three on the trot and two of those by KO. No one is clamouring to see Arreola get in with a Klitschko again, but he’s one of the few heavyweights that fans really want to see. A rematch with Tomasz Adamek would be tops, but Arreola makes a nice fight with anyone in the heavyweight top 10 not named Klitschko.
- Guillermo Jones vs. Mike Marrone, Saturday, WealthTV, Hollywood Fla. WealthTV you ask? “WealthTV is a 24/7 high definition cable television network devoted to taking viewers on a journey of how wealth is achieved, used and enjoyed.” At least that’s what their website says. Not sure what that has to do with broadcasting fights featuring Don King’s last few active boxers, but I ‘spose the old man should be commended on finding a new outlet for boxing. The fights themselves are nothing particularly special. Jones (37-3-2), like many King boxers, has had problems with inactivity. Still, he’s a big cruiserweight and he looked decent in stopping Valery Brudov in October last year. He was a real challenge for an up and coming Steve Cunningham when they met in 2005. His problem is that he’s not exactly dynamic, but he makes up for it with good punching technique, size and power. If Don can get it done, he can still be a serious player at cruiserweight. (Ed.: This fight, though, is at heavyweight, so Jones might not play at cruiserweight again if it works out.) Marrone (20-3) is not a serious threat. On the undercard, junior middleweight prospect Joey Hernandez (19-1-1) is up against Mexico’s Elco Garcia (25-7), whose record belies a six-fight winning streak against pretty good opponents. Hernandez’ nickname is “Twinkle Fingers.” Just thought you should know.
- Takahiro Ao vs. Devis Boschiero, Sunday, Tokyo Japan. A huge card from Japan! Everybody say Ao! The Ring’s number five rated junior lightweight, Japan’s Ao (21-2-1) is taking on Italian challenger Boscheiro (29-0-1) at the top of an internationally flavoured card from Tokyo. It’s difficult to gauge Boscheiro because he’s never fought outside Italy, but his last two opponents had a combined record of 11-52-1, so it’s unlikely that he’s going to become a divisional player. Ao gets in and out, lands his shots, works a strong southpaw jab and has been in with much better, so this shouldn’t be too tough. Also on the card, the Ring’s number 10 rated bantamweight, Christian Esquivel (24-2) and number nine rated flyweight, Wilbert Uicab (33-5-1), both of Mexico, are taking on Japanese prospects in the form of Shinsuke Yamanaka (14-0-1) and Toshiyuki Igarashi (14-1-1).
- Suriyan Sor Rungvisai vs. Nobuo Nashiro, Saturday, Bangkok Thailand. It’s a busy weekend in the junior bantamweight division. Number four contender Rungisvai is taking on Japan’s Nashiro (#6) at home in Thailand. The whole division is a bit of a confusing merry go round at this point, but in a good way. Nashiro (15-3-1) was beaten by Tomas Rojas, who Rungvisai (19-4-1) beat. But Rungsvisai is very different to the tall Rojas, so maybe styles make fights here. Rungvisai is quite good at picking his spots and getting to the inside, but lacks power. He gave the mighty Pongsaklek Wonjongkam all he could handle last year when he was fighting one division down. Nashiro has a pretty decent right hand and will find himself (unusually) with a height advantage in this fight, so it should be interesting to see if he can deter Rungvisai’s bullrushes.
- The Rest. Has been/never was heavyweight Oliver McCall (56-11) takes on Polish American heavyweight prospect Mariusz Wach (25-0) on Azteca America Saturday night… The Ring’s number five super flyweight, Tomas Rojas (36-13-1), looks to rebound from a loss to the aformentioned Suriyan Sor Rungvisai with a relatively easy fight on Fox Deportes against Feliciano Dario Azuaga (82-21-2), whose improbable record makes him some sort of super veteran… Sergio Mora (22-2-2) fights on TeleFutura Friday against Jose Flores (45-11), whose first fight was more than 20 years ago and once got KO’d by Fernando Vargas… A supposedly slimmed down James Toney (73-6-3) confronts the Ring’s number five cruiserweight, Denis Lebedev (22-1). That’s his business, I guess… Lightweight Victor Cayo fights in Puerto Rico on Sunday… (Ed.: Couple more — 24/7 Pacquiao/Marquez continues… #10 light heavyweight Ismayl Sillakh takes on Ali Ismailov on the Lebedev-Toney undercard… On Tuesday, Yota Sato, yet another top-10 junior bantam, beat Kenji Ohba.)