A 51-year-old man headlines the boxing schedule this weekend. Do a search for “51-year-old man” on Google Images and you’ll turn up something like the picture above, although you’ll also get — really? — Keanu Reeves. Anyway. Bernard Hopkins’ fight is noteworthy mainly because Bernard Hopkins is in it, but there are some interesting fights this weekend, perhaps more interesting, besides.
- Bernard Hopkins vs Joe Smith, Saturday, HBO, Inglewood Calif. Joe Smith, Jr. made a name for himself when he scored a shocking 1st round knockout of light heavyweight contender Andrzej Fonfara this year, and good for him. But he’d never beaten anyone with a pulse before then, and 1st round KOs can be fluky things, especially against shaky contenders like Fonfara. It’s hard to imagine him giving much of a hard time to living legend master boxer Hopkins, even a 51-year-old Hopkins, in his farewell fight, or else he wouldn’t be here. He poses just enough of a challenge in theory to get the gig, is all.
- Oleksandr Usyk vs Thabiso Mchunu, Saturday, HBO, Inglewood Calif. On the undercard of Bernard Hopkins vs Joe Smith, though, is highly-touted cruiserweight Oleksandr Usyk. He appears to be very much worth the hype he earned coming out of the Olympics, having beaten one of the two best men in the division, in his last fight, Krzystztof Glowacki. Thabiso Mchunu was an undisputed division contender until losing by knockout last year to Ilunga Makabu, and won a rebound fight. It’s more of a showcase than not, but definitively on the side of “defensible showcase” for an audience that hasn’t met Usyk yet. Also on the undercard: an appearance from featherweight contender Joseph Diaz against a not-quite-fearsome Horacio Garcia.
- Vyacheslav Shabranskyy vs Sullivan Barrera, Friday, HBO Latino, Indio Calif. Here, we have a light heavyweight in Vyacheslav Shabranskyy who is riding on the best win of his life last year against Yunieski Gonzalez, versus a light heavyweight in Sullivan Barrera who fared better than some might have expected against Andre Ward in his last fight. Shabranskyy brings it, although Barrera has that Cuban amateur thing that means he might be fun to watch one night or stink it out the next. From a competitive standpoint, it’s potentially better than from an action standpoint. Junior welterweight contender Antonio Orozco faces sometimes-troublesome gatekeeper Fidel Maldonado, Jr. on the undercard.
- Alexander Povetkin vs Bermane Stiverne, Saturday, Ekaterinburg Russia. Top heavyweight Alexander Povetkin ends a lengthy layoff, more than a year, against former contender Bermane Stiverne. Stiverne looks just about done, having crapped out somewhat against Deontay Wilder last year and struggling hard against (admittedly dangerous) journeyman Derric Rossy in his most recent bout. But Stiverne poses a moderate threat given Povetkin’s possible ring rust.
- The Rest. One of the world’s top strawweights, Knockout CP Freshmart, on Wednesday does the Thai thing of fighting someone who doesn’t have much of a chance that anyone can detect… Lightweight Yuriorkis Gamboa makes his return after a long layoff Saturday against either Frank De Alba (meh) or Malcolm Klassen (interesting!) depending on whether you believe ESPN or BoxRec… On that same card, middleweight Hassan N’Dam returns from a failed Olympic experiment to the pro ranks, facing 12-0 but untested Alfonso Blanco… beIN Sports Espanol and CBS Sports Net air shows Saturday.