SAN DIEGO, Calif., April 20, 2018 – From Ireland to New York with some stops in between, an international lineup of boxing action has something to make any fight fan happy on Saturday. Several former champions look to resurrect their careers, while several young lions will roar.
Amir Khan ditches reality TV to come back to the ring
Former title holder and Olympic medalist Amir Khan of Great Britain returns to the ring for the first time since his knockout loss to Canelo Alvarez in 2015 in Liverpool, facing Phil Lo Greco of Canada. It is Khan’s first fight back in the UK since 2013. No titles at stake in the 12 round welterweight fight, but the stakes are plenty high.
Khan (31-4, 19 KOs), who’s been messing around as a reality TV show star among other things, is working his way toward a British super fight with welterweight Kell Brook. It’s a perfect match for Khan and Brook at this stage of their careers, but Lo Greco (28-3, 15 KOs) would love to spoil their plans. Lo Greco has fought much of his career at super welterweight, and this is only his second 12 round fight, the last one in 2010. Two of his losses were to Shawn Porter and Errol Spence. Count on Lo Greco to hang tough, but to give Khan the win he needs to launch him toward Brook.
Carl Frampton and Nonito Donaire look for a career reboot
To the north in Belfast, Carl Frampton (24-1, 14 KOs) and Nonito Donaire (38-4, 24 KOs) fight to determine the direction of what remains of their boxing careers. Both are former champions who have enjoyed plenty of success. Donaire was the consensus “Fighter of the Year” in 2012; Frampton won the same honor in 2016.
Now the question is who has something left with career time counting down. Fortunately for American fans, Showtime Boxing will livestream the fight via its Facebook page for free starting at 5:15 pm ET/2:15 pm PT. No need to be a subscriber to watch it here. Bravo to Stephen Espinoza and Showtime for making it happen. Link to the stream: https://www.facebook.com/ShoBoxing/
It’s a vital fight for Frampton, age 31. A win puts him in position to fight the winner of the rematch between Leo Santa Cruz and Abner Mares on June 9, although Frampton also has his eye on Oscar Valdez.
Donaire says at age 35 his skill set is still solid, and promises to deliver. Donaire is moving up in weight and he needs to prove he is still a relevant player. Among the cleanest fighters in boxing, Donaire is four-division champion with a career anyone could be proud of. But he isn’t done yet. Fire up your feed on Saturday and enjoy what’s going to be a no-holds barred contest.
The winner picks up a vacant WBO interim featherweight title. Both comfortably made the featherweight limit on Friday.
Zolani Tete returns after setting a world record
Also on this card of interest, South African phenom Zolani Tete (26-3, 21 KOs) takes on Omar Narvaez of Argentina (48-2-2, 25 KOs) with Tete’s WBO bantamweight title on the line. Forget those three losses, the 30 year old Tete is a sizzling performer to watch, and scored the fastest knockout in boxing history in his last fight at 11 seconds. In the event you need a refresher, take a look.
It would have been faster if not for the referee’s brief count. Tete and Narvaez are ranked in the top five of the division. Tete is developing a significant fan base in Great Britain, where his talents are appreciated by the knowledgeable UK fans. Narvaez should put up a good fight and has a puncher’s chance.
Brooklyn boxing produces a Showtime tripleheader
Several hours later at the Barclays Center, Showtime offers a TV tripleheader with plenty of entertainment value.
In the main event, welterweights Adrien Broner (33-3, 24 KOs) and Jessie Vargas (28-2, 10 KOs) started the show with their pre-fight festivities. Neither fighter is shy and each had his say, including Broner’s profane tirade against Mayweather Promotions CEO Leonard Ellerbe, co-promoter of the card.
“I’m on a different level than him,” Broner said of Vargas. “I’m going to prove it on Saturday. I don’t worry about any negativity that surrounds my name. I’m just ready to put on a show.”
Broner is one of boxing’s modern cautionary tales. He claims he is more focused working with new trainer Kevin Cunningham, and that’s what he needs at this point of his career. Broner needs to extend his focus outside the ring and knock off the bad behavior. No one would be surprised to see Broner end up in prison or getting himself killed being in the wrong place at the wrong time. He wasted a lot of his athletic talent trying to hard to be Floyd Mayweather.
Vargas is fighting in his hometown, where he’s a well-liked personality. He’s been in the ring with world class talents like Manny Pacquiao and Tim Bradley and survived both. His biggest challenge is Broner’s hand speed, still extremely good. Vargas needs to fight behind a jab and avoid the Broner left hook. He can easily outbox him. Even with a mistake, Vargas has a better than average chin.
We see this fight going the distance, and the nod narrowly going to Vargas. The fight takes place at a catch-weight of 144 pounds, a little bit of a headscratcher. Broner barely made the limit Friday on the scale, having to strip down to get to 144 pounds.
Middleweight matchup on the undercard: Charlo vs. Centeno Jr.
On the undercard, Jermall Charlo (26-0, 20 KOs) and Hugo Centeno Jr. (26-1, 14 KOs) fight for the vacant WBC interim middleweight title in 12 rounds. The winner in theory becomes a mandatory challenger for the unified middleweight champion Gennady Golovkin.
Charlo and his brother Jermell, both from the growing Houston boxing scene, are both serious talents, and it was smart for him to move up a division and avoid fighting his brother – at least for now. But he faces a bigger challenge in the middleweight division, among the toughest in boxing today. He hopes to advance his cause with a powerful performance against Centeno.
“I’m not overlooking anybody in my division. Once you step in front of me, it’s a fight,” declared Charlo at the final news conference. “I put my life on the line each time. I’m just looking forward to even bigger things that are in front of me. I’m giving the fans something special to take home from my performance.”
Centeno, 27 and a native of Oxnard, California, faces by far his toughest opponent in Charlo. But he bristles about being overlooked. “Even just being in this position shows people that I’ve earned my way here,” insists Centeno. “No one has handed me anything. This is one of the hardest divisions in the world and I’m here for a reason. This fight means the world to me. It’s been 20 years of hard work coming together Saturday.
“I know Charlo is coming to fight, and I’m definitely coming to fight. No matter what the strategy or style is, I’m going to be ready for whatever comes my way,” promised Centeno. This is the attitude you want from a challenger. It should be fun to watch for as long as it lasts.
Can Gervonta Davis clean up his act?
Gervonta Davis is another talented fighter like Adrien Broner who has let his mouth and immaturity derail his career. He’s Broner 2.0. Davis needs to back up his braggadocio with his boxing in a 12 round bout with Jesus Cuellar. The winner takes the vacant WBA regular junior lightweight title. Consider this a title from a Cracker Jack box. Cuellar is coming up in weight, and lost his last fight to Abner Mares over a year ago. All it does is put the winner in line as a mandatory challenger against the legitimate title holder, Alberto Machado of Puerto Rico.
Cuellar has solid power and is an aggressive, come-forward competitor. Davis has to be on his toes and wield good speed to land his punches and beat Cuellar. Davis also has the power to end the fight, so don’t expect this one to go the distance. It’s a must-win fight for Davis, or he risks getting kicked to the curb (or fed to Vasyl Lomachenko as his promoter Floyd Mayweather threatened to do).
On the non-televised portion of the card, former U.S. Olympian Rau’shee Warren tries to get back on track against Juan Medina in an eight round bantamweight bout; Heather Hardy looks to make a statement against Paola Torres in an eight round featherweight bout; and Fabian Maidana, younger brother of former champion Marcos Maidana of Argentine, fights Hevinson Herrera in an eight round junior welterweight bout.
Gayle Lynn Falkenthal, APR, is President/Owner of the Falcon Valley Group in San Diego, California. She is also a veteran boxing observer covering the Sweet Science for Communities. Read more Ringside Seat in Communities Digital News. Follow Gayle on Facebook and on Twitter @PRProSanDiego. Gayle can be reached via Google +
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