Like a surfboard with five dogs on it, this weekend’s boxing schedule is packed! Yeah, that’s a stretch – but you’ve gotta find something to head these schedules with. Anyway, to the fights, which are rather good.
Sergio Martinez is taking on Darren Barker on HBO in a mismatch than nobody really cares about because we all love Sizzlin’ Serge so much. On top of that, Juan Manuel Lopez is comebackin’ against Mike Oliver at featherweight, Rafael Marquez is challenging top-rated junior feather Toshiaki Nishioka, Steve Cunninhgham has a decent fight in Europe and much, much more.
- Sergio Martinez vs. Darren Barker/Brian Vera vs. Andy Lee, Saturday, HBO, Atlantic City N.J. Sergio Martinez returns! Everyone’s favourite handsome Argentine boxer-puncher (Marcos Maidana doesn’t even qualify, on several counts) takes on England’s Darren Barker (23-0) in Jersey. Tim will have a full writeup, but suffice to say that unless Barker has come along a whole lot since beating Domenico Spada in April, then it’s going to be a very short/long night for him (depending on which boxing cliché you prefer). Martinez (47-2-2-) is no Spada, and will likely punch a hole in the brave Brit. In the opening bout, HBO will air a fight between middleweights Brian Vera (19-5) and Andy Lee (26-1) in a rematch of their 2008 bout, which Vera won via a controversial stoppage in the 7th, a big upset. That fight rather tarnished the Emanuel Steward-trained Irishman’s status as a blue chip prospect. Knocking out undefeated Scotsman Craig McEwan on the undercard of Martinez’ last fight didn’t do much to revive it. That’d be because Lee allowed the light-punching McEwan to pressure him around the ring for half the fight before finally waking up and taking care of business in the last two rounds. Vera’s gone through his own tribulations, recovering from a string of losses by beating Sergio Mora in a big upset in February. Unless Lee has added some new features to his game (like anything resembling skill on the inside) then he too might be in for a long/short night against the high pressure Vera.
- Toshiaki Nishioka vs. Rafael Marquez, Saturday, Fox Deportes, Las Vegas. This should be fun. Nishioka, The Ring’s number one-rated junior featherweight, is taking on former champ Rafael Marquez, coming back down from featherweight. Nonito Donaire is rumoured to be looking at the winner for his first fight at junior featherweight. It will be a tough test of how much Marquez (40-6) has left, after a career of gruelling fights. He’s one fight removed from retiring on his stool against Juan Manuel Lopez and his only win in the meantime was against Eduardo Becerril, recently sighted getting pancaked in four rounds on a Jorge Arce undercard. Nishioka, on the other hand, has never been beaten at 122 lbs. and is widely recognised as the world’s best at that weight. He’s skilled, a southpaw, slightly taller than Marquez and pretty powerful. Nishioka certainly has the advantages, but I’d never count Marquez out. In short, it sucks that this is on at the same time as Martinez-Barker. On the card, The Ring’s number six junior flyweight Roman Gonzalez (29-0) faces Mexico’s Omar Soto (22-7-2). Soto’s been stopped every time he’s stepped up in class and Gonzalez can punch. Not a great recipe for poor old Omar.
- Steve Cunningham vs. Yoan Pablo Hernandez/Sebastian Sylvester vs. Grzegorz Proksa, Saturday, Neubrandenburg Germany. Cunningham-Hernandez is actually the supporting bout on this card, but it’s a better fight so we’ll get to it first. Cunningham (24-2) has been dominant at cruiserweight for a long time, but doesn’t get any love in the USA. So now he’s with Sauerland promotions and fights in Germany. Hernandez (24-1) is in a similar position, but is a former Cuban amateur. He looked very impressive last time out, defeating Steve Herelius with his powerful, straight southpaw punching. Cunningham has looked just OK in his last two bouts, against prospect Enad Licina and contender Troy Ross. If he’s on the slide, then Hernandez might be the one to take advantage. Hernandez, however, is trained by Uli Wegner, whose fighters tend to do too much standing around – something that might hurt him against the active Cunningham. The main event features former longtime middleweight titleholder Sylvester (34-4-1) against Polish prospect Grzegorz Proska (25-0). Sylvester is trying to come back from a loss against Australia’s Daniel Geale (Yay! Gealey!) in May. The German certainly isn’t as good as he once was, so this will probably come down to whether Proska is ready for the step up. The Pole hasn’t beaten anyone of note, but some are high on him; he’s a southpaw and has done most of his fighting on the road. Could be an upset.
- Juan Manuel Lopez vs. Mike Oliver, Saturday, Bayamon Puerto Rico. Juan Manuel Lopez is taking a fairly easy comeback fight at home, after being knocked out by Orlando Salido in a massive upset earlier in the year. Lopez (30-1) was once one of the top guys in the sport, let alone the featherweight division, and the loss saw fans hopes of a showdown with fellow sensation Yuriorkis Gamboa evaporate. Oliver (25-2), will never be confused for one of the top guys in the division. He’s been knocked out by Reynaldo Lopez and Antonio Escalante, neither of whom is as good as Lopez. It might be worth watching, just to see if Lopez has cleaned up his technique, which seemed to be slipping at the time of the loss. (Ed. note: Top Rank’s Twitter feed said the fight can be viewed on “DirecTV Mas” and “Dish Network PPV,” but DirecTV Mas isn’t a channel — it’s a package you can order from the satellite provider. Meanwhile, some have reported it as an Integrated Sports pay-per-view, but it’s not on Integrated Sports’ website as an upcoming feature. We’ll update where you can watch this one when we find out.) [UPDATED: Per another Top Rank official on Twitter, DirecTV will not carry the fight. It’s only available on Dish. –Ed.]
- Luis Ramos Jr. vs. David Rodela, Friday, TeleFutura, Costa Mesa Calif. This junior lightweight fight was meant to be in August, but got delayed because Ramos got mugged by cholos. Seriously, if there’s one advantage of being a boxer, even a small one, wouldn’t it be that you don’t get fucked with by cholos? The fight itself is pretty standard TeleFutura fare, Rodela (15-4-3) is a one-time prospect turned honest journeyman, coming of a draw and a loss. Cruz Jr. (19-0) is a fun up-and-comer with a few questions still to be answered. Two fights ago he came away with a close, lucky decision over TQBR favourite and high-pressure banger Jose “El Loco” Hernandez. Ramos showed in that fight that he’s gritty, has a good chin and more powerful than his eight knoc-outs indicate. Rodela can be fun, by he’s not a challenge on the same level as “El Loco.”
- The Rest. ShoBox features the American debut of British-Nigeria junior welterweight prospect Ajose Olusegen (29-0) on Friday. He’s up against Frenchman Ali Chebah (35-1), who fights a lot of no-hopers and knocks them out. Also on the card is Colombian lightweight puncher Darley Perez (22-0). You’d be a puncher too if your name was Darley… Liam Walsh (11-0) and Paul Appleby (17-2) fight in London for Walsh’s commonwealth junior lightweight title.