Line ’em up, knock ’em down. They had the right idea back in the day. The big fight this week features Bernard Hopkins, who’s about as old as the footage in that GIF, re-doing his abortive and “controversial” bout with Chad Dawson. Fox Deportes has the best potential action fights of the week with a double header from Cancun headlined by Jhonny Gonzalez. There are a few other titbits too, so let’s get to it.
- Bernard Hopkins vs. Chad Dawson and Seth Mitchell vs. Chazz Witherspoon, Saturday, HBO, Atlantic City. The light heavyweight rematch between the ageless Hopkins and personality-free Dawson is a lot more popular the second time round. It might have something to do with the the “controversy” or maybe the fact that it’s not on pay-per-view, it’s on the East Coast and tickets are apparently selling well. TQBR founder Tim will have more in-depth analysis of the fight, though I have no idea what he’s going to say. Their first bout ended with body slam and a shoulder injury after less than two full rounds, giving us no real clues as to how the rest of the fight would have gone. Dawson (30-1) has all the natural advantages, but you hate to bet against Hopkins (52-5-2). Who knows what’s going on behind the old man’s beady little eyes? We can only guess, as TQBR’s Jeff Pryor did rather eloquently here. On the televised undercard, much-touted American heavyweight prospect Seth Mitchell (24-0-1) faces fringe contender/former prospect Chazz Witherspoon (30-2), who’s won four on the trot against pretty average opposition since being stopped by Tony Thompson in 2009. HBO is investing heavily in Mitchell as the hope of the heavyweights in America, meaning that we’re seeing him in fights that would usually be a bit below premium cable level. It’s hard to hate too much, though, because Mitchell is pretty fun to watch, with decent skills and a big helping of power. Maybe Witherspoon can box him a little or get to him early, but I suspect it’s going to look a lot like Mitchell’s December victory over Timur Ibragimov – short and painful.
- Jhonny Gonzalez vs. Elio Rojas, Saturday, Fox Deportes, Cancun Mexico. This is highly likely to be the funnest card of the weekend. Gonzalez (51-7) is a fan favourite, a Mexican featherweight veteran with nine lives and a dynamite right hand and Rojas (23-1) is a slick Dominican boxer. It’s likely to be a high stakes game of cat and mouse. Apart from a strangely spelt first name, Gonzalez also has underrated boxing skills, a good jab and the patience to set things up, so I suspect he’ll eventually get to Rojas, who can carry his hands low at times. Late stoppage or unanimous decision to Gonzalez. On the undercard, The Ring’s number two man at junior lightweight, Juan Carlos Salgado (24-1-1), faces fellow chilango Martin Honorio (24-1-1). I don’t see how this can be a bad fight. Salgado can box a bit, but has had stamina issues and tends to get sloppy. Honorio always comes to fight. He held Argenis Mendez, who beat Salgado in everyone’s eyes but the judges’ last year, to a majority decision in 2010. Expect fireworks.
- Thomas Ooisthuizen vs. Marcus Johnson, Friday, Showtime, Miami Oklahoma. I hope that none of the fighters on this card got too excited about fighting under the bright lights in Miami Florida, because this Shobox card is actually taking place in Miami’s little known country cousin. Southpaw Ooishthuizen (18-0-1) is a much-fancied white South African prospect/contender who’s beaten an impressive run of other prospects and fringe contenders in the last two years. He’s a boxer-puncher and a real pleasure to watch. Johnson (21-1) is one fight removed from an upset decision loss to Dyah Davis on ShoBox. In that fight he never really got warmed up and got outworked by Davis. He could suffer the same fate against his South African foe this time ’round or he could learn from his mistakes. Ooisthuizen isn’t going to make it easy for him. On the televised undercard, junior featherweight prospect Luis Orlando Del Valle (15-0) takes on Christopher Martin (23-1-3), who held Teon Kennedy to an entertaining draw last year.
- Vyacheslav Senchenko vs. Paulie Malignaggi, Sunday, Integrated Sports PPV/gofightlive.tv, Donetsk Ukraine. Say what you like about motor mouthed “Magic Man” Paulie Malignaggi, the guy puts his money where his mouth is. This time that means travelling to the Ukraine, despite being robbed on the road before, to fight The Ring’s number six welterweight in order to get his alphabet gang belt. Senchenko (32-0) is a pretty typical Eastern European pro (I hate using these easy descriptors, but they’re so accurate!), sheltering behind a high guard and pumping a consistent jab. Malignaggi (30-4-2) has always relied on his speed and reflexes, which is a tough bet against a guy as closed up as Senchenko. That’s even before you take into account the New Yorker’s slowing in recent years after beatings at the hands of Amir Khan, Miguel Cotto and the like. Malignaggi is easily the best opponent of Senchenko’s career but you can’t help but get the feeling that for a pillow-fisted guy like Paulie at this stage in his career, going to Eastern Europe and bringing home a title is a bridge too far.
- The Rest. Ukrainian light heavyweight Ismayl Sillakh (17-0) has a titanic Eastern European grudge match against Russian Denis Grachev (11-0) on ESPN2/ESPN3 Friday in… Florida? OK, ours is not to wonder why…. Tony Bellew (16-1) fights for the British light heavyweight title on Friday at home in Liverpool… Junior flyweight banger Roman Gonzalez (31-0) fights Ramon Hirales (16-3-1) in Pomona California on Azteca America Saturday night… Polished-looking prospect Billy Joe Saunders (12-0) fights for the Commonwealth middleweight title against Tony Hill (8-2) at the Royal Albert Hall on Saturday night… Episode 3 of 24/7 Mayweather/Cotto airs on HBO on Saturday night.