Besides this and this and this, there’s yet more boxing this week in what amounts to as the craziest boxing weekend of the year so far. Just about the craziest weekend in recent memory, really. I will show you.
But first, I will greedily complain that it could have been even MORE crazy, in a good way. ESPN2 was going to air a show Friday worthy of a small HBO or Showtime bout, led by Steve Cunningham vs. Matt Godfrey at cruiserweight. There’s been a lot of reporting about how that card fell apart, but most signs point to the lion’s share of the blame going to Don King, the original promoter of the event, not recognizing a standard ESPN2 contract and turning his nose up at it.
Then, quickly last week, Main Events began to salvage Cunningham-Godfrey. But Godfrey’s camp suddenly wasn’t interested. He’d busted camp for two days, and now wasn’t going to be prepared to fight. I know that boxers are finely-tuned machines and all. But this was major television exposure, a decent payday and a bid at a vacant title. There’s been some he-said/she-said about whether the IBF, Main Events, promoter Jimmy Burchfield or Godfrey’s manager were to blame for Godfrey not being aware the fight could be salvaged (Burchfield’s side was never reported, and he was rightfully angry to put out a news release today), but it ultimately doesn’t matter. It’s hard to understand why Godfrey didn’t still want the fight, even if his team let him down. Fighters of his stature dream of being on Friday Night Fights and doing battle for a title strap — some regularly take fights on extremely short notice for the honor — and two days out of camp is enough for him to reject all of that? Unwise.
I don’t doubt Godfrey’s a good kid, as Burchfield says, but I know for sure Cunningham’s good people, one of boxing’s purest class acts, and he’s been hard-luck for more than a year. Cunningham was ready to go, and how he’ll have to wait until this summer for his shot, likely against Troy Ross — which is a better fight, truthfully, but one that puts Cunningham back on the shelf just when it looked like he was about to end his long layoff. So Godfrey’s screwed more than himself.
Now, on to the fights we WILL get this weekend:
- Abner Mares on Fight Night Club, Fox Sports Net/RingTV, Thursday, California. The exciting and talented Mares is doing a tune-up in advance of his spine-tinglingly awesome showdown with Yonnhy Perez in May. His opponent for the night, Felipe Almanza, has been in the ring with the likes of Wilfredo Vazquez, Jr. and Eric Morel without getting totally steamrolled, so he might give Mares some decent rounds. It’s not the worst tune-up opponent they could find, in other words. Junior featherweight prospect Ronny Rios highlights the undercard, and he’s in pretty tough for only his 10th fight against Andres Ledesma, who recently gave some trouble to touted prospect Archie Ray Marquez in a decision loss, lost a decision to also-touted prospect Dat Nguyen and fought Charles Huerta to a split decision in 2009. I’d complained about how some recent Fight Night Club shows looked on paper only to find the results better than expected, but this one looks better on paper than some recent showings.
- Raul Garcia-Nkosinathi Joyi, Friday, South Africa. Garcia is ranked #3 by Ring magazine at strawweight and Joyi is ranked #4, so this is a pretty top-notch bout. It’s in Joyi’s homeland, even though the Mexican Garcia is the titleholder. What is up with the strawweights this weekend? Four of the division’s top 10 are fighting each other, as you’ll soon see.
- YURIORKIS GAMBOA!, Saturday, Germany. Every day GAMBOA! fights is a good day in the world. The magical fantastical featherweight is co-promoted by Arena Box in Germany, so they get to borrow him from us for the weekend. His opponent is Jonathan Victor Barros, an undefeated Argentian who can – from what video I’ve seen – fight a little. But if you’re an undefeated South American and you don’t have a ridiculous knockout percentage, I worry about your chances against GAMBOA!, who I’m pretty sure exists in several different dimensions simultaneously, chess-boxing numerous opponents at once and winning either by 1st round knockout or checkmate on the first move.
- Anselmo Moreno-Nehomar Cermeno/Jorge Linares-Francisco Lorenzo, Saturday, Venezuela. Moreno-Cermeno is for Moreno’s title in the stacked bantamweight division. This is another of those top-notch divisional bouts; Moreno is ranked #2, and Cermeno #6, with Moreno having previously beaten the likes of Wladimir Sidorenko twice and Mahyar Monshipour and Cermeno twice beating Cristian Mijares then Alejandro Valdez. Linares, meanwhile is bouncing back from that shocking upset 1st round KO loss last year against Juan Carlos Salgado. Despite reports he was having trouble making weight, Linares is sticking to junior lightweight. I still suspect Linares is legit, but beating Lorenzo (most famous for his controversial DQ win over Humberto Soto) won’t prove the Salgado loss was a fluke by itself. It’s about the right fight for him for now, though.
- Steve Molitor-Takalani Ndlovu II, GoFightLive, Saturday, Canada. If you’re from the United States, you can buy this for $9.99 on GFL. Molitor reportedly didn’t have much trouble stopping Ndlovu back in 2007, but Molitor’s career has gone off the rails a bit since then – a knockout loss to Celestino Caballero where he wasn’t in the fight at all, and a shaky win or so since. Caballero’s departure to featherweight means that this rematch is for Caballero’s junior featherweight belt. Ndlovu beat the credible Kiko Martinez to become ranked #1 by the IBF, while Molitor got the #2 spot with a split decision over Heriberto Ruiz.
- Erik Morales-Jose Alfaro/Hugo Hernan Garay-Chris Henry, Integrated Sports Pay Per View, Saturday, Mexico. I really can only shake my head at the legendary Morales’ comeback, because it’s already upon us and it is what it is. He says he’s feeling fantastic at welterweight, two divisions above the lightweight division where he looked like a lesser fighter, and wants Manny Pacquiao. Distrurbing. Alfaro is a lightweight himself, and depending on how shot Morales is, maybe he gives him a run. The undercard fight is meaningful, though. Henry and Garay are both poised on the outskirts of the light heavyweight division, and their bout is an eliminator for the belt held by Beibut Shumenov. Shumenov may be ordered into a trilogy fight against Gabriel Campillo, who beat Garay to get the belt then beat Shumenov then lost a bunk decision to Shumenov in the rematch. If you must order this PPV, do it for Garay-Henry.
- Oleydong Sithsamerchai-Yasutaka Kuroki , Saturday, Japan. On the undercard of the major flyweight bout between Koki Kameda and Pongsaklek Wonjongkam, we get #2-ranked strawweight Oleydong and #10-ranked Kuroki fighting for Oleydong’s title belt. I’m rooting for Oleydong because his nickname is “The Deadly Candy.”
- Giovanni Segura-Ronald Ramos/Ulises Solis-Bert Batawang II, Fox Sports Net, Saturday, Mexico. More little guys going at it, another theme for the weekend. Segura-Ramos looks like another Segura steamrolling. There’s some good talent at junior flyweight so I’m not sure why Segura, who’s quite exciting, keeps ending up with these kind of bouts. The Solis-Batawang rematch – an eliminator for Carlos Tamara’s belt – might have had more intrigue since Solis is still rebounding from last year’s knockout loss to Brian Viloria when Solis was considered a pound-for-pound top-20 guy, if not for a couple things. One, Batawang is 38 now, going on three years older than the first time they fought, and Solis is a mere 28. Two, Batawang had a root canal last week. On the other hand, Batawang’s nickname is “Ninja.” P.S. Good luck as always finding this FSN card on the dial; I didn’t offer the same luck for Fight Night Club tonight because it’s available on Ring’s website if you can’t find it.
- The Rest. Demetrius Hopkins – remember him? – fights at welterweight this evening, taking on gatekeeper Jesse Feliciano… HBO Plus on Friday is airing one of those shows that nobody can watch but whomever the mystery people are who get HBO Plus, featuring lightweight Vicente Escobedo in Mexico… Cuban heavyweight Juan Carlos Gomez, last seen getting knocked out by Vitali Klitschko (“last seen getting knocked out by Klitschko” or “expected to be knocked out by Klitschko soon” being the only two states of existence in the division these days), fights on the German card. He still factors into the non-Klitschko heavyweight picture, I think… Welterweight Matthew Hatton fights Saturday in England, and his opponent is Gianluca Branco, who’s not done a lot with himself since Miguel Cotto knocked him out back in 2006… And there are a couple other GoFightLive cards.