Welcome to July, ladies and gentleman. There’s boxing aplenty. It all starts off this week, with a decent enough HBO card and a potentially fun offering on ESPN2 on Friday. Wladimir Klitschko is also fighting, which is significant, if not particularly exciting. That’s all just an appetiser for what might be boxing’s best month this year, featuring Amir Khan (junior welterweight), David Haye (heavyweight) and Adrien Broner (junior lightweight). Let’s jump right in.
- Nonito Donaire vs. Jeffrey Mathebula, Saturday, HBO, Carson Calif. Earlier in the year it seemed like this was going to be one of the biggest weekends of 2012, with the names Nonito Donaire and junior welterweight Brandon Rios both in play. Sadly, we only ended up with one of them, junior featherweight sensation Donaire (28-1). Even sadder, the Filipino star is matched with the weakest of the titleholders at 122 lbs., South Africa’s Jeffrey Mathebula (26-3-2). That’s not to say that Mathebula is a pushover. He’s a huge junior feather at 5’10”, is very active and knows how to use his height to fight going backwards. He shares a fast, choppy punching style with many of his countrymen. All that said, he carries his hands quite low and will be wide open for Donaire’s vaunted left hook. In the end, it’ll likely be down to Donaire. If the Donaire who turned up in February 2011 to demolish Fernando Montiel turns up on Saturday night, he’ll demolish Mathebula even more easily. If it’s the bored, listless Donaire who fought Omar Narvaez and appeared for periods against Wilfredo Vazquez Jr., then it could go the distance and be quite unspectacular. Comeback kid and former great white hope Kelly Pavlik (39-2) may well steal the show with a super middleweight bout against Will Rosinsky (16-1) on the undercard. Pavlik has seemed solid in his two fights since moving to California under the tutelage of Robert Garcia, but it’s been very difficult tell for sure, given his level of opposition. Rosinsky figures to be his first real challenge. The Ozone Park, N.Y. native has proven in fights with fellow fringe contenders/prospects Aaron Pryor Jr. and Edwin Rodriguez that he comes to fight, win or lose. Pavlik is still probably much better than those two and certainly hits harder. Rosinsky’s defence isn’t the greatest but, having said that, neither is Pavlik’s. In my book, that’s a recipe for a great fight. Rosinsky is going to be up in the Ohioan’s grill all night. If Pavlik passes the test, his comeback is legit. At the very least, it’ll be a contest between two of the worst back tattoos you’ll ever see.
- Wladimir Klitschko vs. Tony Thompson II, Saturday, Epix, Berne Switzerland. Much like last week’s junior middleweight rematch between Cornelius Bundrage and Cory Spinks, this heavyweight do-over isn’t interesting because it was one sided the first time. Forty-year-old Thompson (36-2) was considered competitive by some back in 2008. Well, as competitive as you can be without winning a single round and getting stopped in the 11th. Wladimir (57-3) can’t really be blamed for fighting Thompson again — the guy hasn’t lost since their last waltz, he’s tall and a southpaw and it’s not like there’s a huge list of alternative opponents out there. Don’t expect it to be too different from the original, though. Maybe after this Wlad will give Cris Arreola a go, not that I’d wager on that being anything than the standard Klitschko beatdown, either.
- Javier Fortuna vs. Cristobal Cruz, Friday, ESPN2, Las Vegas. Fortuna is an exciting, hard-punching Dominican featherweight prospect, trained by middleweight champion Sergio Martinez’ trainer, Pablo Sarmiento. He’s exciting to watch and I’ve got a feeling he’s going to be an action star, if not a bone fide elite fighter. Fortuna (19-0) is in against Cristobal Cruz (39-13-3), a fighter for whom the euphemism “crafty veteran” was invented. Cruz is a dirty, mean, hard-headed mofo who’s been in with a who’s who of the featherweight division over the last 10 years. He’s not going to stand their and let the young Dominican steamroll him, he’s going to make him work. On the undercard there’s an intriguing fight between Philly heavyweight Maurice Byarm (13-1-1) and Russian, Pablo Sarmiento-trained Magomed Abdusalamov (14-0). Byarm is fairly athletic, if not polished and gave a fairly good account of himself in going down to Bryant Jennings on NBC Sports Net earlier in the year. Southpaw Abdusalamov hit very very hard and knows it, wading forward through oncoming fire to get his shots off. I have no doubt, however, that he can be outboxed and Byarm might just be able to do it if he keeps his cool.
- The Rest. TQBR’s man in Britain, Andrew Harrison, will have full previews of the various fights happening in Dear Old Blighty over the week, featuring Kell Brook, Tyson Fury (whose bout against Vinny Maddalone will be broadcast in the United States by WealthTV Saturday) and Chris Eubank, Jr… HBO will air one of its “2 Days” mini documentaries on Saturday night, this time focusing on Adrien Broner’s victory over Eloy Perez. So far they’ve all been very high quality behind-the-scenes packages, so I’d encourage you to have a look… Junior middleweight stalwart Jesus Soto Karass (25-7-3) faces Euri Gonzalez (20-2-1) on Fox Deportes from Costa Mesa, California on Saturday night… TeleFutura brings us a fight between Puerto Rican lightweight prospect Jose Gonzalez (19-0) and the dreaded TBA on the same night… There’s a gofightlive.tv card from Atlantic City as well.