SAN DIEGO, Calif., February 16, 2018 – After its unofficial winter break, the 2018 spring boxing season gets underway with several boxing cards offering several contests as an alternative to the Winter Olympics from South Korea.
The most significant bout of the weekend takes place in Manchester, England as part of the super middleweight competition in the World Boxing Super Series. It’s a dandy 50-50 semi-final matchup between George Groves (27-3, 20 KOs) and Chris Eubanks Jr. (26-1, 20 KOs). The winner takes on the victor of next weekend’s semi-final between Callum Smith and Juergen Braehmer on the German’s home turf in Nuremberg.
Eubanks Jr.’s only loss came at the hands of Billy Joe Saunders in 2014, and given Saunders’ drubbing of David Lemieux, it doesn’t look so bad on the record. Groves lost twice to Carl Froch, and to Badou Jack, who’s also burnished his resume since then. Despite the knockout ratio on his record and despite telling Eubanks Jr. he’s going to make him pay for all the pre-fight trash talk, Groves isn’t a power puncher. He needs to be a volume puncher to beat Eubanks Jr.
Eubanks Jr. is still a riddle to fans. Son of one of Britain’s beloved champions in Chris Eubanks Sr., his father manages his career and reportedly turned down fights with Gennady Golovkin and a rematch with Saunders. Eubanks Jr. claims he trains himself, with advice from his father. It’s far from a traditional path and Eubanks Jr. needs a solid win to fend off criticism.
Learn a little more about this matchup and hear from the fighters in this pre-fight preview:
Showtime Boxing offers a bout between two veteran welterweights who present an interesting style matchup. Two-time champion Danny “Swift” Garcia (33-1, 19 KOs) of Philadelphia takes on Brandon “Bam Bam” Rios (34-3-1, 25 KOs) of Oxnard, California, in Las Vegas. This is a WBC title eliminator. Start time for the televised card is 10 p.m. ET/7 p.m. PT.
Garcia, 29, is coming off his loss to Keith Thurman last March in a split decision most saw as a clear win for Thurman. Rios is working hard to restart his career after briefly retiring following a loss to Timothy Bradley in 2015. He went back to trainer Robert Garcia, and scored a seventh-round knockout over Aaron Herrera in June.
Both men need a win, for different reasons. Garcia needs to prove the loss to Thurman was a fluke and he’s still relevant in the division. For Rios, he’s one loss away from becoming a gatekeeper several years after his trio of fights with Mike Alvarado.
Rios lives large in between fights, literally. But he swears he’s training in a disciplined way and won’t be drained after making weight with ease at 146.5 pounds; Garcia hit the scale at the same weight.
“I’m ready 100 percent. I’m ready to give the fans an exciting show and that’s what I’ve prepared for. That’s my style. I always come forward and I come to fight. We ain’t dancing, we’re going to be fighting … “I’m going to take advantage of every opportunity. This can make or break me,” said Rios.
It’s hard to believe Rios is only two years older than Garcia. They’ve fought nearly the same number of professional rounds: 212 for Rios, 218 for Garcia. But Rios is showing serious signs of wear and tear. Garcia is coming in the fresher fighter without the sort of hard mileage on him as Rios.
“It’s the Danny Garcia show so I’m going to go in there and do what I want to do. I’m going to dictate the pace. If we want to bang, we can bang. If we want to box, we can box.” Saying he’s prepared for anything, Garcia admitted “I need to get a victory on Saturday night. I can’t overlook anybody. I’ve seen some crazy things happen in boxing. One punch can change everything, so I’m just focused on Saturday night.”
Garcia prefers a fight heavy on boxing skills, starting slowly and gaining ground on his opponents using his still formidable speed. Rios is a brawler, a classic Mexican Style all action fighter who freely admits to being a little crazy. Rios is tailor made for Garcia, but he can take a punch and has a never say die attitude. He could keep things interesting for a while, but it’s hard to see him beating Garcia.
On the undercard, super middleweight David Benavidez can prove whether he’s a contender or a pretender in a rematch with Ronald Gavril. Benavidez beat Gavril for the vacant WBC title in September in a close split decision, despite being knocked down by Gavril in the 12th round. The 20-year-old Benavidez (19-0, 17 KOs) from Phoenix, Arizona is among boxing’s youngest world champions and a rare Mexican-American champion in a heavier weight division. Gavril (18-2, 14 KOs) 31, from Romania, believe he figured out the secret to Benavidez in their first bout and wants to start Saturday’s fight in round 13.
Benavidez says he got “careless” against Gavril and won’t make the same mistake twice. He made the most of sparring sessions with hard-hitting names like light heavyweights Dmitry Bivol and Oleksander Gvozdyk and his former opponent, Rogelio “Porky” Medina, and promises he’ll be ready for anything Gavril can being at him.
Benavidez is an exciting young talent, still learning on the job but with plenty of skills to see him through in the meantime. He could jump start a blockbuster 2018 with a more definitive stoppage win over Gavril. This one has the potential to be the best fight of the Las Vegas cards.
Premier Boxing Champions also offers a card on the Fox Network from El Paso, Texas, featuring Victor Ortiz vs Devon Alexander and at 8 p.m. ET/5 p.m. PT. Both are former welterweight champions whose best days are in the rear view mirror. Both are 31 years old and say they aren’t ready to walk away from boxing.
Ortiz (32-6-2, 25 KOs) has only fought six times since winning his title in 2011 over Andre Berto. In a remarch with Berto last April, he was knocked down twice on the way to a fourth round knockout. He won a tune-up fight in July. He is 3-4 in his past seven fights. But Ortiz says he’s been dismissed before and he’s focused on moving up.
“”I had a great training camp. I just made sure to listen to my coach every day and grind every day with my team. You really have to grind when people say this is your ‘last chance,’ because I’m not ready for that,” said Ortiz.
Alexander (27-4, 14 KOs) stepped away from boxing for two years to address problems outside the ring including addiction to painkillers. To his credit he’s been successful, and won a return fight in November against Walter Castillo. The St. Louis native and former former world champion would like a shot at Errol Spence Jr. if he can get back into good form.
”Victor Ortiz is a good fighter” said Alexander. “We’ve known each other for a long time. We used to fight in a lot of the same amateur tournaments. We go back a long way but this is business. We’re not friends in the ring. We’re not playing games.
”This fight is very important to me. This can catapult me back to title contention. If this doesn’t go my way, it’s very bad for my career. If I pull out the win, it could lead to tremendous opportunities for me. This is a do-or-die fight.”
Alexander got himself away from the streets and has a loyal supporter In coach Kevin Cunningham, who’s trained Alexander and stuck by him for his entire career. This is a true crossroads fight, and Alexander is in the stronger position to prevail.
Gayle Lynn Falkenthal, APR, is President/Owner of the Falcon Valley Group in San Diego, California. She is 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.
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