So far, so good for 2017 in boxing, eh? Got us feeling like Scrooge McDuck this weekend.
- Carl Frampton vs Leo Santa Cruz II, Saturday, Showtime, Las Vegas. Showtime’s hot streak of great match-ups continues with a re-pairing of two men who shared the ring for a Fight of the Year-caliber bout. Frampton won the last featherweight smash-up clearly if not by a wide margin, and not without taking a lot of punishment. So what’s different this time? If anything, it’s that Santa Cruz has his trainer/father back, who was battling cancer last time around. That means something, but the fact remains that Frampton is the all-around more versatile fighter and he should win again. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t watch. You really should.
- Dejan Zlaticanin vs Mikey Garcia, Saturday, Showtime, Las Vegas. And as if the main event wasn’t enough, there’s this one on the undercard. Garcia isn’t taking an easy one in his second match since returning from a long layoff: Zlaticanin doesn’t look like much, but he’s a powerful little left-handed tank who doesn’t get hit much to the head, and he’s scored a couple upsets in the lightweight division to get where he got. Garcia, in his first time back in the ring in more than two years after a feud with former promoter Top Rank, looked rusty to start but shrugged it off to score a knockout. Garcia has the tools to dismantle an aggressive plugger, and probably will, but don’t count Zlaticanin out.
- Francisco Vargas vs Miguel Berchelt, Saturday, HBO, Indio Calif. On a slow weekend, we probably would be reasonably happy to see Vargas in action, even if it was via a well-deserved softer match-up like this one. As it is, it’s going up against a stellar Showtime card. But let’s also be clear: It’s only softer in theory because Berchelt hasn’t beaten anyone all that noteworthy at junior lightweight like Vargas has. With 27 knockouts in 30 fights, he could be a surprising test, and one that will make for yet another Vargas slugfest. He doesn’t appear to be quite as aggressive as Vargas, but tends to respond to aggression with more himself. Former Vargas dance partner makes his own well-deserved return to HBO against Miguel Roman, a tough journeyman who spent the earlier part of the decade losing to divisional contenders but hasn’t faced anyone like that since and hasn’t lost since 2012, either.
- Lee Selby vs Jonathan Victor Barros, Saturday, Showtime Extreme, Las Vegas. Selby wants a showdown with fellow U.K.-er Frampton, so this is his audition. Barros is another tough journeyman (he’s beaten Roman, in fact) and an impressive performance could build fan support for a Frampton-Selby showdown outside the U.K., where it would go over pretty well as-is. Super middleweight prospect David Benavidez also appears on the Showtime Extreme portion of the card.
- The Rest. Unimas has a show Friday night. On Sunday in China, junior bantamweight contender Jerwin Ancajas squares off against Jose Alfredo Rodriguez.