Wednesday, September 11, 2019

Previewing A Big Stretch Of Boxing For Mexican Independence Day Weekend



Mexican Independence Day weekend has traditionally been one of the hottest in the sport of Boxing for many years. A weekend where some of the sport’s biggest stars have competed often in high-profile bouts that more often than not are some of the most-anticipated fights during a calendar year. While it was expected that the weekend this year would be headlined by Saul “Canelo” Alvarez, one of Boxing’s biggest draws, Alvarez will not be competing. The Boxing fan should not feel disappointed however, because two of the sport’s major television players, DAZN and ESPN+ will feature a buffet of Boxing over September 13th-14th that will likely leave the fan more than satisfied.

The action will kick off on Friday, September 13th with a card taking place at the Theater at Madison Square Garden in New York City, NY. The card, which will be broadcast on digital subscription sports streaming network DAZN will be promoted by Eddie Hearn’s Matchroom Boxing. Headlining this card will be undefeated Lightweight contender Devin Haney who will square off against fellow undefeated contender Zaur Abdullaev in a bout scheduled for twelve rounds.

Beyond this fight being an encounter between two undefeated Lightweight contenders, this bout will also be for interim championship status in the World Boxing Council’s (WBC) Lightweight ratings. As readers know, last week this observer discussed the strong likelihood of the Lightweight division heading towards full unification. What this means for the winner of the bout between Haney and Abdullaev is a position as the WBC’s number one contender for current WBC/WBA/WBO Lightweight world champion Vasyl Lomachenko.

While the winner of this fight will likely have to wait a period of time before getting that opportunity to fight for a world championship due to both the WBC championship currently being unified and the likely scenario of Lomachenko meeting the winner of the mandated IBF Lightweight world championship fight between champion Richard Commey and undefeated number one contender Teofimo Lopez to determine an undisputed Lightweight world champion. From a contender’s perspective it can be frustrating due to mandatory challengers getting their opportunities on an annual basis in circumstances where there is a unified or undisputed world champion, a fight like this could be used to generate interest in what will likely be a lucrative fight for the contender when that fight does take place.

Devin Haney has been a rising star and an impressive victory in this fight will generate the type of buzz that will build anticipation for a world championship fight. The obvious danger however, is the possibility of looking ahead towards that potential fight and not focusing on the opponent standing across the ring.

Haney will enter the fight with a record of 22-0, with 14 Knockouts. In his last fight, Haney scored a seventh round knockout over Antonio Moran. The native of San Francisco, CA has a solid mix of hand speed and punching power as was evident in his win over Moran and has worked his way into the number two position in the WBC ratings. Although Haney has an impressive record, a question that is often asked of unbeaten prospects/contenders is when will the fighter get a test.

In regard to this fight, there is an element of the unknown. Zaur Abdullaev will enter the fight with a record of 11-0, with 7 Knockouts. The native of Dydymkin, Russia is currently rated number four in the WBC Lightweight ratings. While some may describe Abdullaev’s record as impressive, but limited and also keeping in mind Abdullaev had a limited amateur career before briefly competing in the semi-professional World Series of Boxing, he does have a notable win in his career including over longtime contender Hank Lundy.

If one were to consider Abdullaev’s two World Series of Boxing bouts as amateur fights, he still has an overall limited resume when you factor in that he only had seven official amateur fights. What makes this an interesting comparison is Haney had twenty-nine fights as an amateur before he turned professional in December 2015.

While the overall experience is in Haney’s favor, it will be interesting to see what Abdullaev will bring into this fight. This will also be the first time Abdullaev will be fighting outside of Russia and it can be a shock for fighters competing in the United States for the first time and even more so fighting in Madison Square Garden. Although this fight will take place in the theater adjacent to Madison Square Garden’s main arena, the aura of fighting in The Garden is still real and will likely be a factor for both fighters as Haney will also be making his MSG debut.

Also on this card will be a battle for the Women’s WBO Featherweight world championship between undefeated champion Heather Hardy and former multi-division world champion Amanda Serrano. This in my view could be the fight of the night on this card.

Heather Hardy will enter the fight unbeaten in twenty-two professional fights having scored knockouts in four of those bouts. In her last fight, Hardy won the WBO world championship with a ten round unanimous decision over Shelly Vincent in October of last year. Coincidentally, the venue of her last fight is the same for this fight. What makes this an interesting fight beyond it being an encounter between two world champions is in Amanda Serrano, Hardy will be facing a fighter who has shown an ability to move up and down in weight with relative ease winning world titles as high as the 140lb. Jr. Welterweight division and in her last fight, also in the Theater at Madison Square Garden, Serrano scored a first round knockout over Eva Voraberger to win a world championship in the 115lb. Jr. Bantamweight division in January of this year.

Serrano, who will enter the fight having won thirty-six of thirty-eight professional fights has also held the world championship that Hardy currently holds that will be on the line in this fight. While Serrano has an edge in terms of experience, this figures to be a well-matched encounter between two boxer/punchers.

What this bout may come down to is who can dictate the combat. It is important to remember particularly for the casual fan that Women’s fights have two minute rounds. Even though much as is the case in Men’s bouts knockouts do occur, Women’s bouts are usually fought at a fast-pace and it is not unusual to see fights end up being close on the scorecards if they do go the distance. With this in mind, it will be interesting to see who can stand out in this fight given both are similar in style and both have similar height and reach. Both women know how to win decisions and both can score a knockout should the opportunity present itself. Although yours truly does not like to give predictions, I would be surprised if this fight is not a close and competitive battle for however long it lasts.

Rounding out the card is an intriguing Heavyweight bout between top contenders Michael Hunter and Sergey Kuzmin. This fight pits two top Heavyweight contenders against each other in what has become one of the more interesting divisions in the sport. After a long period where the Heavyweights were dominated by the Klitschko brothers, the division has become one where arguably any top contender could give a reigning world champion a tough fight and in some cases, able to derail that champion. This was evident earlier this year when top contender Andy Ruiz stepped into a world championship fight on short notice and scored a knockout of previously undefeated unified world championship Anthony Joshua in the main arena of Madison Square Garden.

While the top of the division is set for the remainder of 2019, a fight such as Hunter-Kuzmin could well determine who might challenge for a world championship in 2020. Hunter, a former world title challenger in the Cruiserweight division has established himself as a top contender as a Heavyweight having gone unbeaten in five fights since moving up in weight after losing a twelve round unanimous decision to Oleksandr Usyk in April 2017 in his only career loss.

Hunter however, has scored knockouts in four of his five bouts as a Heavyweight including impressive wins over Alexander Ustinov and Fabio Maldonadoin his last two fights and will enter into this fight having won seventeen of eighteen professional fights overall. The opposition for Hunter on this card will come in the form of the unbeaten Sergey Kuzmin. Kuzmin, who will enter this bout undefeated in fifteen professional fights, has scored knockouts in eleven of those bouts including wins over the likes of David Price and Joey Dawejko. Kuzmin is coming off of a ten round majority decision over Dawejko in March of this year.


The story here in my eyes will come down to who will be able to control the pace. While the reader has already seen this observer use this line in this column, allow me to explain why this also fits in regard to this fight. Hunter is a fighter who has a good mix of hand speed and punching power. In his fight against Alexander Ustinov, a fighter who stands nearly 6’8 and weighed 279lbs. for the fight was out worked by the quicker Hunter and ultimately broken down as Hunter was able to stip him in the ninth round.

In contrast, Kuzmin has also scored knockouts by gradually wearing his opponents down as he did in his fights against David Price and LaRon Mitchell, but has a more methodical approach and at times this can result in fights being fought at a slow pace. Although I felt Joey Dawejko did enough to win the decision in Kuzmin’s last fight, Kuzmin is a fighter who knows how to make fighters fight his type of fight and it might come down to who is able to implement their fight plan that will determine who will get the upper hand in this fight. Whomever comes out on top will likely be in a position to secure a lucrative fight in 2020. Whether or not that fight will be a world championship fight remains to be seen.

One Heavyweight that will also see action during the weekend will be undefeated former unified Heavyweight world champion Tyson Fury, who will face undefeated contender Otto Wallin in a fight that can be seen on digital sports streaming network ESPN+ on Saturday, September 14th from the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, NV that will be promoted by Bob Arum’s Top Rank, Inc.

Fury, who will enter the fight unbeaten in twenty-nine professional fights appears to be heading towards a rematch with undefeated WBC Heavyweight world championship Deontay Wilder at some point next year in what would be a return encounter of their draw in December of last year. Before that can come to fruition however, both Fury and Wilder will face other opposition. For Fury, who is coming off of a second round knockout over previously undefeated Tom Schwarz three months ago, that fight will come against another unbeaten, but untested fighter in the form of Otto Wallin.

Wallin will go into this fight having won all twenty of his professional fights and to his credit is the current European Heavyweight champion. As was the case with Fury’s fight against Tom Schwarz in June, an argument some have stated is that this will be a mis-match that is likely to favor the former world champion. While Fury has faced a higher level of competition, you simply do not know what to expect when two unbeaten fighters enter the ring to do battle. Wallin has scored knockouts in thirteen of his twenty career wins and this is similar to Fury’s having scored knockouts in twenty of his twenty-eight career victories.

The challenge for the European Heavyweight champion will be to find a way to combat Fury’s awkwardness and elusive style. Despite his 6’9 frame and 85” reach. Fury is not necessarily a knockout puncher and has shown that he can be difficult to hit cleanly at times. Wallin must find a way to get Fury’s respect from the outset to have a chance in this fight. Wallin stands nearly 6’6 and will be at a seven inch reach disadvantage. Whether or not Wallin will be able to apply the type of pressure on Fury on a consistent basis that one would think could lead to success in this fight remains to be seen.

If Fury is successful in this fight he will likely wait to see what happens with Deontay Wilder who is expected to next defend his portion of the World Heavyweight championship in a rematch against top contender Luis Ortiz later this year, before deciding who he will fight next. Fury must first tend to business this weekend against Otto Wallin.

Finally, the weekend of Boxing action will conclude with a card also on September 14th from the Dignity Health Sports Park in Carson, CA, which can be seen on DAZN that will be promoted by Oscar De La Hoya’s Golden Boy Promotions. This card will be headlined by undefeated WBO Jr. Middleweight world champion Jaime Munguia, who will be making the fifth defense of his world championship against WBO number thirteen rated contender Patrick Allotey. Unbeaten in thirty-three professional fights, Munguia has scored knockouts in twenty-six of those bouts registering a career knockout percentage of nearly 80%.

Recently however, Munguia has appeared to have difficulty making the 154lb. Jr. Middleweight limit, which has fueled speculation as to how much longer he will remain in the weight class before opting to move up in weight. There was also speculation that Munguia was a potential opponent for current unified Middleweight world champion Saul Alvarez. While nothing to date has come of the possibility of Munguia facing Alvarez down the line, this fight against Patrick Allotey does have an interesting storyline that accompanies it.

Following a close twelve round majority decision in his last fight against top contender Dennis Hogan, an addition was made to the champion’s camp. The addition came in the form of former multi-division world champion and Hall of Famer Erik Morales. Morales won world championships in four weigh classes ranging from the 122lb. Jr. Featherweight division to the 140lb. Jr. Welterweight division was one of the top fighters of the last twenty-five years in the entire sport. A man who could knock an opponent out with either hand, but also a fighter who had a complete arsenal of skills can do nothing, but add to Munguia’s already intimidating skill set.

The thing that interests me about the addition of Morales to Munguia’s team is to see what tactical adjustments Morales might be able to implement into Munguia’s fight plan. Although Morales was capable of scoring knockouts and did have an entertaining style, over time Morales evolved into a complete boxer who was also capable of out Boxing his opponents.

Munguia’s last fight against Dennis Hogan created some doubt as some felt that Hogan deserved the decision. The fight, which was a mandatory defense for Munguia, now allows him an elective defense against a top twenty contender. Enter Patrick Allotay.

Allotey will enter this fight, his first opportunity at a world championship having won forty of his forty-three professional fights. Although Allotey does have an impressive record, he has faced several fighters that are not well-known particularly to Boxing fans here in the United States. Allotay has also been knocked out in two of his three losses including against his best known opponent to date Patrick Teixeira in April 2015.

Since his last loss, a twelve round unanimous decision to undefeated prospect Kanat Islam in October 2016, Allotey has won six straight fights. Even though this fight has all the appearance of what most in the sport refer to as a “Stay Busy” fight for Munguia, the question of this fight will be whether or not Allotey will be able to get the respect of the champion and pose a challenge to Munguia.

With signs appearing to indicate a move up in weight for Munguia both due to physical reasons as well as to seek potentially more lucrative fights down the line, the question of whether Munguia is taking Allotey lightly will be asked by at least a few people as this fight approaches. Boxing however, as this observer has said often over the is a sport of opportunity and this is clearly the biggest opportunity in the career of Patrick Allotay and if he can pose a challenge to Munguia, this could be an interesting fight to watch.

The undercard of Munguia-Allotey features three bouts in Boxing’s Super-Middleweight and Lightweight divisions. In a battle for the Women’s WBC Super-Middleweight world championship champion Franchon Dezurn will make the first defense of her world title against undefeated Women’s WBC Heavyweight world champion Aljandra Jimenz.

This may be only the second time in the history of the sport that yours truly can remember a current Heavyweight world champion moving down to challenge for a world title in a lower weight class. The first was future Hall of Famer Roy Jones, who successfully moved up from the 175lb. Light-Heavyweight division to defeat WBA Heavyweight world champion John Ruiz in March 2003 before opting to move back down to the Light-Heavyweight division to challenge then WBC world champion Antonio Tarver later that year.

While yours truly has always maintained the stance that Jones moving back down in weight was ultimately a mistake as he was never the same fighter after that, in Jimenz’s case, she has not defended her Heavyweight world championship in nearly two years and gradually moved back down in weight having competed in both the Light-Heavyweight and the 168lb. Super-Middleweight division in her last three fights. The challenger will enter the fight unbeaten with a record of 12-0-1, with 9 Knockouts, which gives her an experience edge over the champion who will enter with a record of 5-1, with 2 Knockouts.

Although some might be critical of this being a world championship fight with two fighters with limited records, it is important to remember that Women’s Boxing is still a growing sport and thanks to digital networks like DAZN, ESPN+,  Fite TV, and cable network Showtime is finally receiving long overdue exposure and recognition, which over time will help grow the sport. It should also be pointed out that in the case of Dezurn, she has far more experience overall than her current professional record would suggest having competed in sixty-seven amateur fights including against multi-division world champion Claressa Shields, who she also fought as a professional. Shields is one of the biggest stars in the sport currently and that is Dezurn’s only defeat thus far as a professional.

What this fight will come down to in my eyes is whether or not the champion will be able to deal with the taller and longer Jimenz. Although Dezurn will be at a three-inch height disadvantage, she will have a near five-inch reach advantage over the challenger. Despite this, it will be a matter of whether Dezurn will be able to get on the inside where theoretically she will have an advantage. She must be aware of Jimenz’ power as the challenger has scored knockouts of nearly 70% of her opponents. The winner of this fight could be in line to face Claressa Shields, if Shields is successful in her upcoming defense of her unified Jr. Middleweight world championship against Ivana Habazin on October 5th in her hometown of Flint, MI.

A pair of Lightweight bouts will round out the card. First in the co. main event of the evening undefeated rising prospect Ryan Garcia returns to the ring to face Avery Sparrow. Garcia is a rising star in Golden Boy Promotions’ stable of fighters having already headlined one card broadcast by DAZN and being featured on the undercard of Saul Alvarez’ fight against Rocky Fielding in December of last year.

In his last fight in March of this year, Garcia scored a second round knockout of Jose Lopez. Garcia is unbeaten in eighteen professional fights and has scored knockouts of fifteen of his opponents registering a career knockout percentage of 83%. A natural question that will be asked of a young fighter with such a resume will be when will that fighter step up in the caliber of their opposition.

Thus far in his career, Garcia has not faced much resistance and it will be interesting to see what Avery Sparrow will be able to bring to the table in this fight. Sparrow will enter the fight with a record of 10-1, with 3 Knockouts. He has never been stopped and does have an edge in terms of caliber of opposition having defeated longtime Lightweight contender Hank Lundy in his last fight in March of this year.

While this may give the appearance as being what is known as a “Showcase Fight” for Garcia, Sparrow does have Boxing skill and has shown in his career that he can go into the deep waters of a fight. Even though Garcia has gone as far as ten rounds twice in his career, logic would suggest that Sparrow’s fight plan could be to weather an early storm of Garcia’s punching power and look to extend him into the middle and late rounds of this fight.

Whether or not Garcia will be pitted against a fighter who is ranked in the top twenty-to fifteen range in his next fight will likely depend on what happens in this encounter. One fighter who Garcia could face down the line is current WBO number ten rated contender Romero Duno.

Duno will also be in action on this card as he will face Ivan Delgado. Duno has also been on the rise and will enter into this fight with a record of 20-1, with 15 Knockouts. In his last fight, Duno scored a nine round technical decision over Juan Rodriguez in a fight that was shortened due to an accidental clash of heads where Rodriguez could not continue due to cuts.

With a top ten ranking, it is not hard to envision Duno possibly getting an opportunity to face current unified world champion Vasyl Lomachenko at some point in the near future. The key in this fight will be whether or not Delgado will be able to upset any plans for a potential title shot for Duno down the line.

Delgado will enter this fight with a record of 13-2-2, with 7 Knockouts. Delgado however, will be coming into this fight off of a loss in his last outing, ironically coming in a technical decision in a fight that was also halted by cuts against Hector Tanajara in February of this year. Keeping the narrative that Boxing is a sport of opportunity, Delgado now gets an opportunity to bounce back against a top ten contender in Romero Duno.

Three separate events over two days and a plethora of Boxing action that will surely leave the Boxing fan both satisfied and entertained. The best part of all for the Boxing fan? All three cards will be broadcast on digital subscription-based streaming networks where the fan does not have to choose what they will watch, but will be able to access all the content when they wish. This in addition to both DAZN and ESPN+ being economically reasonably priced as both offer annual and monthly subscription plans as compared to the overpriced and increasingly undervalued Pay-Per-View model, the Boxing fan should be ecstatic not only over what will be offered over what is traditionally one of the biggest weekends of the calendar year in the sport, but also what will come in the future as both networks continue to grow and expand their offerings not just in regard to Boxing, but for all of Sports.

“And That’s The Boxing Truth.”

Haney vs. Abdullaev takes place on Friday, September 13th at the Theater at Madison Square Garden in New York City, NY. The card can be seen on digital sports streaming network DAZN in the United States and several international countries beginning at 7PM ET/4PM PT (U.S. Time.)

Fury vs. Wallin takes place on Saturday, September 14th at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, NV. The fight as well as it’s undercard can be seen in the United States on digital sports streaming network ESPN+ beginning at 7:30PM ET/4:30PM PT. (U.S. Time.)

Munguia vs. Allotey takes place Saturday, September 14th at Dignity Health Sports Park in Carson, CA. The card can be seen on digital sports streaming network DAZN in the United States and several international countries beginning at 7PM ET/4PM PT. (U.S. Time)

For more information about DAZN including schedules, compatible streaming devices/platforms/smart TV’s, availability around the world, and to subscribe please visit: www.DAZN.com.

ESPN+ is available in the United States through the ESPN app on Mobile, Tablet, connected streaming devices, and smart TV’s for $4.99 a month or $49.99 per year. For more information including schedules and to subscribe please visit: www.watch.espnplus.com

Check your local listings internationally.

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