Looks like meat’s back on the menu boys! And by meat, I mean big time boxing. The main meal is the juicy HBO doubleheader headlined by a light heavyweight fight between Bernard Hopkins and Tavoris Cloud. There are other interesting titbits here and there that can serve as appetisers, and an excellent fight on HBO Latino that can be dessert.
- Bernard Hopkins vs. Tavoris Cloud, Saturday, HBO, New York. Tim will have the full preview of the week’s biggest fight. I just get the undercard scraps. Suffice to say that it’s a hugely intriguing clash between Hopkins’ guile and Cloud’s physicality. The televised undercard offers an interesting, if not fully HBO-worthy, welterweight fight between Florida’s Keith Thurman (19-0, 18 KO) and Slovenia’s Jan Zaveck (32-2, 18 KO). Zaveck earned a legion of fans in a gritty 2011 brawl with Andre Berto, a in which a cut and swollen Zaveck was let down by his skin. Thurman is a sharp, hard hitting prospect, though many wonder whether he would be on HBO at all where it not for his manager, notorious Svengali Al Haymon. Zaveck mixes the best of European style, high-handed boxing with tenacious pressure fighting and will offer Thurman something he’s never seen before. Unusually patient for such a heavy hitter, the taller Floridian won’t have the charging Zaveck on the ends of his punches for long, where he’d like him to be. That said, I think he’ll find him eventually, with Zaveck putting on a great show beforehand.
- Juan Carlos Salgado vs. Argenis Mendez, Saturday, HBO Latino, Costa Mesa Calif. Here we have a juicy junior lightweight rematch that could easily have been on the premium network’s main channel. Mexico’s Salgado (26-1-1, 16 KO) beat the Dominican Republic’s Mendez (20-2, 10 KO) in September 2011, in a fight that even Mexican commentators called a robbery. That said, it was a great brawl. If both boxers have worked to correct their flaws – Mendez was a bit of a waiter, Salgado had conditioning problems – then this fight could be even better than the first. I’ll go with Mendez somewhat sentimentally, since he deserved it last time. He certainly has the tools.
- Darren Barker vs. Simone Rotolo, Saturday, London. Sergio Martinez victim Darren Barker (24-1, 15 KO) faces Italy’s Simone Rotolo (35-3, 15 KO) in a slightly uninspiring middleweight bout in England. I think he’ll get the job done against the rather immobile Italian, who has only done a little bit of fighting outside Italy. The main attraction here was the supporting bout, pitting Oklahoma tough man Carson Jones against the similarly action-minded welterweight Lee Purdy (19-3-1, 12 KO). Unfortunately Jones was forced to withdraw sick, so Mexico's Cosme Rivera (35-15-3, 24 KO) stepped up. It's a good fight for Purdy, whose name belies his style. In fact, he'll have a much better chance against the aging Rivera than he would have against the tough-as-nails Jones. The fight isn't without danger for Purdy, though, and could be a classic brawl. Rivera will be hoping to repeat history — in 2003 he traveled to Yorkshire and knocked out English prospect James Hare. I reckon it's 10 years too late for "Chino" to get the win, but just in time for him to make a ruckus.
- Archie Solis vs. Edgar Sosa, Saturday, Guadalajara. Guadalajara, Guadalajara, you have the flyweights most Mexicana! I’m well aware that that doesn’t make sense in English or Spanish, but Guadalajara is playing host to a third rematch between Mexican flyweight veterans Ulysses “Archie” Solis (35-2-3, 22 KO) and Edgar Sosa (47-7, 28 KO). Both men turned pro in 2000 and have fought an absolute who’s who of the division – it’s amazing they’re still around. Not sure if I could guess who will win – I might have to give Sosa the final one in this trilogy, if for nothing more than his greater activity in recent years.
- The Rest. Dominican junior welterweight fringe contender Victor Cayo (31-3, 22 KO) faces the hilariously nicknamed Emmanuel “Tranzformer” Taylor (16-1, 11 KO) on ESPN2 Friday night. Taylor is coming off a good KO victory over Ray Serrano and I expect him to do the same to Cayo, who is patchy at best… Junior middleweight Hugo Centeno, Jr. (17-0, 9 KO) will fight KeAndrae Leatherwood (12-1, 8 KO) on ShoBox the same night… Junior bantamweight Johnny Garcia (16-4-1, 8 KO) has a date on Telemundo with prospect Matthew Villanueva (9-0-1, 8 KO), also Friday.