SAN DIEGO, Calif., October 21, 2017 – Boxing is truly an international sport, with national rivalries and regional flavor adding to the sport’s attraction for many fans.
This weekend’s top fights make the case nicely, with action starting in Belfast, Northern Ireland and Stokke, Norway, then moving to the East Coast with action in New York and New Jersey, ending in the early hours Sunday with a live fight from Tokyo. So whether it’s happy hour, a late dinner, or your morning coffee, you’re all set.
Saturday’s HBO tripleheader starts at 10:05 pm ET/7:05 pm PT. The evening’s main event on HBO’s World Championship Boxing comes from the Turning Stone Casino in Verona, New York. Former WBA super featherweight champion Jezreel Corrales (22-1, 8 KOs) of Panama faces undefeated Puerto Rican rising start Alberto Machado (18-0, 15 KOs) in a 12-round bout.
“Former” isn’t a mistake. Corrales wasn’t anywhere close to making the 130-pound weight limit, stepping on the scale at 134 pounds, and failing to drop even a pound on two more attempts. He has been stripped of his title on the scale. The title is still in play for Machado, and he’s got a golden opportunity in front of him.
Both men are southpaws. Machado has a four-inch height advantage, practically a giant in this division. More important, he’s got some pop in those hands. This is his debut on television and his first fight outside Puerto Rico. It’s also his first 12-round fight. He’s been mowing down his opponents, only going past four rounds once, in his last fight. It can be hard to tell whether his record reflects real talent. If it does, bringing a title home to the boxing loving people of Puerto Rico will give Machado’s countrymen suffering the after effects of Hurricane Maria a reason to cheer.
Corrales barely hung onto his title in his American debut last July after a wild, messy fight with the ever-surprising Robinson “Robin Hood” Castellanos of Mexico. The fight was stopped 31 seconds into the tenth round by the ringside physician due to cuts suffered by Castellanos, the majority by accidental head butts. The tenth round was scored, resulting in a majority decision for Corrales by scores of 96-92 and 94-93, with the third card scored a draw, 94-94.
Castellanos knocked down Corrales twice, but he gave back a point for a low blow. It turned out to be the difference in the bout; it would have been a draw without the penalty. Corrales called it “probably the best fight that I’ve had in my career so far.”
Middleweights face off in the co-main event, with two-time world champion at 154 pound Demetrius Andrade (24-0, 16 KOs) of Rhode Island moving up to fight undefeated Alantez Fox (23-0-1, 8 KOs) of Maryland. Both should have plenty of fans in the seats. Andrade, 29, has only managed one fight a year from 2014 to 2016. It’s a smart move to come up to middleweight and see if he can get into the mix. Fox has no one of note on his resume. His main asset is his height at 6-foot-4, but most top middleweights have knockout power. Looking strictly at KO percentage, Andrade doesn’t have much to worry about, it’s simply a road test at the new weight.
In the opening bout from Belfast Ireland on tape delay, IBF bantamweight champion Ryan Burnett (17-0, 9 KOs) and WBA champion Zhanat Zhakiyanov (27-1, 18 KOs) of Kazakhstan fight in the first world unification fight ever to be held in Ireland. Burnett won his title in a dominant decision over Lee Haskins in June. Zhakiyanov won his title by defeateing American Rau’shee Warren in Ohio in February. The pair used to be stablemates under Ricky Hatton until Zhakiyanov made a change in 2014.
Burnett has an uphill fight on his hands to stay undefeated, but he’s full of confidence and his home town crowd will be squarely behind him. The Kazakh is no pushover though and he’s got enough power to made things rough.
Just a few miles away in Newark, New Jersey, Saturday’s final quarterfinal bout in the World Boxing Super Series cruiserweight tournament should live up to its billing when current IBF champion Murat Gassiev (24-0, 17 KOs) defends his title against former IBF champion Krzystof Wlodarczyk (53-3-1, 37 KOs) of Poland at The Prudential Center in Newark, New Jersey. The winner will face WBA champion Yunier Dorticos of Cuba in the semi-final. Dorticos scored an impressive second-round TKO victory over Dmitry Kudryashov of Russia in September.
Trained by Abel Sanchez in California, who also trains middleweight champion Gennady Golovkin, Sanchez believes Gassiev will eventually become as good as Golovkin, and it’s not hard to see why. Gassiev has adopted the same aggressive “Mexican Style” and heavy handed punching as his famous stablemate. He is 12 years younger than his opponent Saturday. Gassiev is 24, while the veteran Wlodarczyk is 36.
“I worked hard with Abel Sanchez all camp to put on a great performance on Saturday night. To be a champion and defend my belt is something I always dreamed of. I want to stay in this position for a long time,” said Gassiev.“When we faced-off I looked inside his eyes and saw that he is very serious. He’s ready for a big fight and I will make sure this is a great fight on Saturday.”
Wlodarczyk is also a hard-hitting combination puncher, but he’s meeting Gassiev on the rise as his own career is winding down. Wlodarczyk has to fight smarter and be relentless, especially in the early rounds before Gassiev settles in. “What I can say is, we are going to find out who is better in the ring on Saturday … I think I can take advantage of my experience by staying smart and making the better adjustments,” said the Pole.
As long as Gassiev doesn’t make any early mistakes, he should outlast Wlodarcyzk and may earn a late round TKO. It’s going to be a fun fight to watch. Our compliments to the tournament organizers for putting together great fights in a division that doesn’t get much attention in the U.S. The fight airs on AT&T’s Audience Network in the U.S. at 10 p.m. ET/7 p.m. PT, available via many of the satellite systems.
If you care to sweeten your morning coffee with a little boxing action, set your alarm or your DVR for 7 a.m. ET/4 a.m. Sunday morning to watch the world title rematch between WBA middleweight champion Hassan N’Dam (36-2, 21 KOs) of France and number one contender Ryōta Murata (12-1, 9 KOs) of Japan, televised live from Tokyo on ESPN2 and ESPN Deportes thanks to the network deal with Top Rank Boxing. Thank you, Bob Arum.
The pair fought in May with N’Dam claiming the title via a controversial split decision, despite Murata knocking him down in the fourth round and clearly outboxing N’Dam through all 12 rounds. The WBA suspended two of the three judges, Gustavo Padilla of Panama and Hubert Earle of Canada, for six months and ordered the immediate rematch. Short of overruling the results, it’s the best they could do.
Murata, a rare middleweight in a country full of smaller weight division stars, won the Olympic gold medal as a middleweight at the 2012 London Olympics. It was the first gold medal won by a Japanese boxer since 1964, and the nation’s first-ever boxing medal in a weight class other than bantamweight or flyweight. Murata has knocked out five of his opponents prior to N’Dam.
N’Dam is never say die brawler who’s been in wars with David Lemieux and Peter Quillin. He should be motivated to prove he deserves the title, while Murata is out for revenge. If you’ve never watched a live bout from Japan, it will make the NFL games you watch later in the day seem tame.
Earlier in the day from Norway, the undisputed top pound for pound women’s professional boxer in the world today, welterweight Cecelia Braekhus of Norway (31-0, 8 KOs) will fight a rematch with an old foe, Mikaela Lauren of Sweden (29-4, 13 KOs). Braekhus wiped the floor with Lauren in their first match seven years ago in Germany. Lauren, a former competitive swimmer, should not put Braekhus’s WBA, WBC, IBF, IBO and WBO titles at much risk. But Lauren is having her moment and playing some mind games, planting a kiss on Braekhus’ lips at their final news conference earlier in the week. The fight is not being televised in the U.S., but should hit YouTube quickly on Saturday afternoon. Braekhus is worth seeing while you’re waiting for the rest of the night’s action to start.
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.
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