SAN DIEGO, May 19. 2017 – While boxing observers have debated recent shifts in the pound for pound rankings after appearances in 2017 by most of the ten top fighters, one of the best awaits his first fight in 2017. Terence “Bud” Crawford of Omaha, Nebraska steps into the ring Saturday in “the big room” at New York’s Madison Square Garden looking to solidify his status against Felix Diaz of the Dominican Republic. The lightweight title fight takes place on HBO Boxing at 9:50 pm ET/PT.
Omaha’s hometown hero should get a warm welcome on the road. Crawford (30-0, 21 KOs) isn’t making noise like some of the bigger men are, and he doesn’t have the “newness” still clinging to him like Ukrainian sensation Vasyl Lomachenko. Bud quietly goes about his business and does most of his talking in the ring.
In December, Crawford overwhelmed an overweight John Molina, whose age seemed to catch up with him. Diaz (19-1, 9 KOs), the 2008 Olympic gold medalist, has faced decent opposition but no one up to Crawford’s level. He dealt then undefeated Sammy Vasquez a loss last July. His sole loss came to Adrian Peterson, a competitive majority decision in 2015.
Crawford is the lineal, unified WBO and WBC 140-pound champion and this shouldn’t change. Watch for Crawford to switch from orthodox to southpaw and dance around Diaz before he closes out the bout. It should put him one fight closer to a matchup with the surging Mikey Garcia everyone wants to see.
Mexican veteran Ray Beltran (32-7-1, 20 KOs), who put on one of the best performances of his career with a seventh round knockout of Mason Menard on the Crawford undercard in December joins the lineup again against Jonathan Maicelo of Peru (25-2, 12 KOs) in an IBF title elimination contest. Since he lost to Crawford in 2014, Beltran, 35, has three impressive knockout wins, and he’d like to keep the streak going for a shot at IBF champion Robert Easter, Jr., or perhaps WBA champion Jorge Linares.
American Olympic silver medalist Shakur Stevenson (1-0) opens the HBO show in his second professional fight against Carlos Suarez (6-3-2, 1 KO) of Argentina. The Newark, New Jersey native is fighting a hometown bout for the first time in many years; Suarez is appearing outside Argentina for the first time as a professional.
Stevenson showed some nerves in his first bout, a decision over Edgar Brito in April. He wants to pull off a knockout for his local fans. Suarez isn’t much of a threat, so Stevenson is set up to succeed in his goal.
It’s a smart move by Top Rank’s Bob Arum and Stevenson to get him back in front of the public and keep him active to build his confidence and his fan base. Arum knows he’s got a star in the making in Stevenson.
The boxing binge fest begins in England where American IBF junior lightweight champion Gervonta Davis (17-0, 16 KOs) faces his number one contender, Great Britain’s Liam Walsh (21-0, 14 KOs), on Smith’s turf at Copper Box Arena in London. The fight will air on Showtime at 6 p.m. ET/3 p.m ET. Davis, who is the youngest U.S. champion at age 22, struggled to make the 130-pound limit.
Davis is a flashy protégé of undefeated and retired (for now) P4P great Floyd Mayweather. His crowd-pleasing ways coupled with his impressive personal story surviving the mean streets of Baltimore are the right ingredients to make it happen, as long as he can back it all up in the ring. Walsh is ranked in the top 20, but hasn’t fought a significant level of opposition and doesn’t possess the power of his fellow southpaw Davis. It should be fun to watch but a Walsh win would be an upset.
Showtime is airing four bouts on its telecast, jumping back to the U.S for a card at the MGM National Harbor Theater featuring a main event between featherweight champion Gary Russell, Jr. in a hometown bout against his mandatory challenger Oscar Escandon at the MGM National Harbor Theater. It’s Russell Jr.’s first hometown bout in his pro career.
“I never overlook my opponents, but after this I want a unification bout. If that doesn’t happen I’ll move up in weight,” said Russell Jr.
Super middleweight contenders Jose Uzcategui (26-1, 22 KOs) of Venezuela via Mexico and Andre Dirrell (25-2, 16 KOs) of Flint, Michigan fight for the vacant interim IBF title in the co-main event. The winner will become the mandatory challenger for world titleholder James DeGale.
DeGale handed Dirrell one of his two losses in 2015, so he’d love to get his revenge. But it’s possible DeGale will move up a division after recovering from injuries in his last fight. If so, whoever wins becomes the full titleholder.
“I’ve always managed to climb back on top,” says Dirrell. “The hard work I’ve put in will make Saturday night easy work … It’s time for Andre to get on top and stay on top.” Nevertheless, this is far from an easy assignment for Dirrell. Uzcategui is on a four-fight stoppage win streak since losing to Matt Korobox in 2014.
Rounding out the Showtime lineup is a junior welterweight title elimination bout between Rances Barthelemy (25-0, 13 KOs) of Cuba via Las Vegas, who is moving up for his first fight in the division, and former world title challenger Kiryl Relikh (21-1, 19 KOs) of Belarus in his first fight on American soil. Barthelemy hasn’t been in the ring for nearly a year since his sole successful lightweight title defense against Mickey Bey. Relikh lost a split decision to Ricky Burns in Scotland last fall. The winner of this bout becomes the mandatory challenger for surprise star Julius Indongo of Namibia, who scored our knockout of the year in 2016 against Eduard Troyanovsky and who defeated Burns in a decision last month.
Flying under the radar is the super middleweight bout between undefeated David Benavidez of Phoenix (17-0, 16 KOs) and Rogelio “Porky” Medina of Mexico (37-7, 31 KOs). The fight takes place in Laredo, Texas and airs on PBC on Fox Sports 1 at 10 p.m. ET/7 p.m. PT.
Benavidez played sparring partner to middleweight champion Gennady Golovkin, which gives you some serious bragging rights. Medina is one of the rare bigger division fighters from Mexico. He might not be slick but Medina always puts out a tremendous effort. Medina lost a narrow decision to James DeGale, a fight many (including me) felt he won. He flattened the previously undefeated J’Leon Love in 2014. Medina would like to get himself back into the super middleweight mix with a win.
Benavidez will try and continue his quiet rise. He has a nine-fight knockout streak going, and he’s only gone past round six twice in his career. This is his first 12-round bout, but who are we kidding. This fight won’t see double digits. Trust me, don’t let it get by you, and you can thank me later.
Gayle Lynn Falkenthal, APR, Fellow PRSA, is an award-winning boxing journalist covering the Sweet Science for Communities and for boxing fans worldwide. Read more Ringside Seat in Communities Digital News. She is owner of the Falcon Valley Group based in San Diego, California. Follow Gayle on Facebook and on Twitter @PRProSanDiego. Gayle can be reached via Google +
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