Boxing is back in the Midwest in a big way this weekend, with two televised shows coming from the Great Plains. In case you were wondering about the history of boxing in that part of the US, there’s plenty — the image above is of Joe Louis sparring with Private First Class Booker T. Laster at Fort Crowder, Mo. in 1943. The larger of the two, between lightweights Yuriorkis Gamboa and Terence Crawford, is the biggest show off the week and will get the full preview treatment later in the week. In not-an-actual-fight but boxing schedule related news, the docu-mercial “All Access” series for Saul “Canelo” Alvarez and Erislandy Lara’s July 12 fight premieres on Friday night on Showtime (at nine o’clock, no matter your timezone). Let’s get to the rest of it.
- Terence Crawford Vs. Yuriorkis Gamboa, Saturday, HBO, Omaha Neb. As I wrote, this’ll get the full preview treatment from TQBR’s Tim Starks later in the week. I can’t really resist throwing my $0.02 in, though. And that $0.02 is that this is not going to be a fun night for Cuba’s Gamboa (23-0, 16 KO). We used to spell his name all in caps round these parts, but the shine has really come off, and he’s only fought three times in the last three years. There were allegations of performance enhancing drug use last year, along with the standard Cuban rumour that he’s been living it up and not taking his boxing seriously. Crawford (23-0, 16 KO) is not the kind of opponent you want to take lightly. His fast hands and counterpunching style are going to put Gamboa, never the most balanced fighter, down a few times on the way to a surprisingly wide decision.
- Ivan Redkach Vs. Sergey Gulyakevich, Friday, ESPN2, St Charles Mo. Friday Night Fights’ Midwestern card doesn’t quite have the star power that HBO is offering, but it does offer further evidence of Eastern Europes boxing takeover, with a California-based Ukrainian and a Belorussian in the lightweight main event. Redkach (16-0, 13 KO), the aforementioned Ukrainian, is being showcased here. Gulyakevich (41-2, 17 KO) is a nine-year veteran of the Minsk and Riga club circuits (I wish I was joking), but at least comes to fight, has never been stopped and throws a lot of punches. Redkach, something of a boxer-puncher, should be able to shine with a guy like that coming right for him.
- Errol Spence, Jr. Vs. Ronald Cruz, Friday, Showtime, Las Vegas. Quite a cool ShoBox card on Friday night, with 2012 Olympians Spence and Marcus Browne taking steps up. Spence (12-0, 10 KO), a welterweight, has so far been the class of the class of 2012 (see what I did there?). There was a rumour floating around for a while there that he knocked out Adrien Broner in sparring. Cruz (20-3, 15 KO) will be by far the best opponent of his career, but I don’t think he’s fast or nuanced enough to give Spence trouble, he will give him rounds, though. On the undercard, light heavyweight Olympian Marcus Browne (10-0, 7 KO) takes on vet Yusaf Mack (31-7-2, 17 KO), which is sadly more an indication of how far the chinny and stamina issue-plagued Mack is than how good Browne is. Still, best opponent so far etc. Finally, there’s a middleweight fight between Dominic “The Blade” Wade (15-0, 11 KO) and Nick Brinson (16-1-2, 6 KO), which should also be good.
- The Rest. Not a heap. Lightweight Ricky Burns (36-3-1, 11 KO) is fighting in Glasgow, rather charitably offering Dejan Zlaticanin (18-0, 13 KO) his first trip outside of the former Yugoslavia (the Scotsman is taking a light touch in his first fight since his loss to Terence Crawford). Inspirational story/British junior welterweight titleholder Curtis Woodhouse (22-6, 13 KO) fights Willie Limond (37-4, 10 KO) on the undercard in a bid to win his Commonwealth title.