SAN DIEGO, Calif., May 18, 2018 – The royal wedding between Prince Harry and Meghan Markle isn’t the only show with crowns on display and in play this Saturday.
Boxing champions defend their titles in two solid matchups for fans featuring the light heavyweight division from Toronto and the featherweight division from the greater Washington D.C. area.
Stevenson’s toughest challenge to date against Jack
WBC and lineal light heavyweight and champion Adonis Stevenson (29-1, 24 KOs) returns to the ring in an intriguing fight against Las Vegas based Swedish native Badou Jack (22-1-2, 13 KOs) at the Air Center in Toronto. It is Stevenson’s ninth title defense. It is only the second fight at light heavyweight for Jack after taking out Nathan Cleverly last summer.
Stevenson’s tremendous knockout win over Chad Dawson to take the title in 2013 won him Fighter of the Year honors. Fans couldn’t wait to watch the Canadian with Haitian roots mow down the challengers in the division. But it never happened. For various reasons including his own bad choices and promotional disputes, Stevenson never faced the top talent like Andre Ward or Sergey Kovalev. His last bout a year ago was a TKO win in a rematch with Andrzej Fonfara, a fight no one asked for.
Finally thought, Stevenson will take on someone truly dangerous in the Swedish-born Badou Jack, training in Las Vegas. Where Stevenson’s career has essentially flatlined for the last five years, Jack has slowly, steadily, and quietly ascended. He put himself on the map with a solid decision victory over James DeGale in 2017 at super middleweight.
Criticize Stevenson all you like for not having many weapons and not being able to go 12 rounds. When you possess a left hook like the powerful southpaw does, you don’t need anything else. It can be a gamechanger.
Eat your heart out, Prince Harry
Wearing his own crown at the final news conference, (eat your heart out, Prince Harry) Stevenson said, “I’m always going for the knockout. I’m still ready for 12 rounds, but I want the stoppage every time. I’m hungry for knockouts. If Badou comes in aggressive, this could end very quickly. You have to step in the ring with me to understand my power. If I connect right just one time, that’s it — lights out. We train specifically for knockouts. You’ll have to wait and see how I do it on May 19.”
It takes someone versatile with plenty of technical skills to beat a man like Stevenson. Badou Jack could be that man, and it’s the reason fans are enthusiastic about this fight.
Jack is fighting on Stevenson’s turf in Toronto, and he knows it’s a risk to leave the fight in the hands of the judges. “I asked for the Adonis Stevenson fight a long time ago and the Cleverly fight got me there,” Jack said. “We’ve been talking to [promoter] Floyd [Mayweather] a long time about this fight. He’s a man of his word and he always said that I was going to fight Stevenson. I’m grateful for what he’s done and now I just have to take advantage of the opportunity.”
“Adonis is definitely my toughest opponent on paper, but that doesn’t really mean he will be the toughest on fight night,” Jack said. “Adonis has always fought everyone put in front of him and I respect that. He’s definitely a good fighter, but I’m a better fighter.”
Prediction: The king is dead, long live the king
Jack shares some of the best assets of his promoter, Floyd Mayweather. He is an intelligent fighter who can size up a situation in progress, and adjust. He has power, but he can box when necessary. His best weapon is his body attack. He will need to find a way to get to Stevenson without risking exposure to the left hook.
Stevenson takes criticism for a lack of stamina. If Jack can stay disciplined, box the smaller Stevenson at a distance for the first half of the fight and tire him out, it could produce the set-up he needs to stop the champion by getting to the body without getting hit by something he can’t survive.
At age 40, the clock is ticking for Stevenson. Jack is a fresher 34 years old, and this could come into play. While Wladimir Klitschko fought one of the best bouts of his life at age 41, Father Time will catch up with Stevenson.
Stevenson remains confident. “I’m the king at light heavyweight,” Stevenson said. “I beat the king to become the king. I know that I’ve accomplished some great things, and me and my team plan to continue to do everything we can to stay on top. I’m the best fighter in the division — period. When I win on May 19, I’ll just be doing my job. People might still talk trash, but I’ll still be the champ.”
We’re calling this one close for Badou Jack. He should be able to avoid the lights out punch, and do enough damage to win even with hometown judges by decision. Jack weighed in at the 175 pound limit; Stevenson at 173.4 pounds.
Featherweight title fight: Gary Russell Jr. gets hometown show against Joseph Diaz
From the MGM National Harbor in Oxon Hill Maryland, featherweight WBC world featherweight champion Gary Russell Jr. (28-1, 17 KOs) makes his own hometown defense against mandatory challenger Joseph “Jo Jo” Diaz Jr. (26-0, 14 KOs) of Los Angeles.
Like Stevenson, Russell Jr. has been relatively inactive. He’s only been in the ring once a year since 2015. This will be his third title defense of the WBC title. His only loss came in 2014 to Vasyl Lomachenko in what was only his third professional fight, a surprising result at the time after Lomachenko lost to Orlando Salido.
Russell Jr. has all the talent in the world, foremost his impressive speed. But inactivity is not a fighter’s friend. Russell Jr. has been in 11 fights in the time it’s taken Diaz to win 26 bouts. They aren’t all that far apart in age. Russell Jr. is 29, Diaz Jr. 25 years old. Credit Diaz’s promoter, Oscar De La Hoya, and matchmaker Roberto Diaz (no relation) for keeping Diaz active, visible, and challenged as his career progresses.
Prediction for Russell Jr. vs. Diaz Jr.: Upset for the fresher fighter
Diaz and Russell are polar opposites in personality. The outgoing Diaz has a lot to say, while Russell is a quiet man of few words. Both are confident in their abilities.
After weighing in at the 126 pound limit, Diaz said, “Saturday night I’m going to be the bigger man in there … Training went well, my condition is good, my strength’s there. I’m going to walk down Gary Russell, and I’m going to break him down physically and mentally. I’ll be the new champion come Saturday night, baby.
Diaz says he respects Russell’s speed, “but at the end of the day, speed’s not going to be there. You have to have the right timing. I have the ability to adapt to any speed and any style. Gary Russell is fast, I respect that. We’re going to give the fans a hell of a fight.”
Russell hit the scale at 125.5 pounds. Saying he is the best fighter in the division, Russell promised to end things early. “I don’t plan on going the distance.” Russell says it is his supporters who continue to motivate him. “My family, my friends, my true fans, they come out to support me. I get my energy from them. When my true fans see me in the street and shake my hand, and genuinely acknowledge me, I bring that into the ring with me.”
Russell Jr. has the hometown advantage with a friendly crowd and judges who know him. Diaz Jr. does take a risk letting the fight go to the cards. He doesn’t have one punch power, so he will need to fight nearly the perfect fight against Russell Jr. to get a stoppage, or roll up any points from knockdowns. But if Russell’s speed has lost anything, Diaz could use his experience against a wide variety of opponents and his freshness in the ring to counteract anything Russell can throw at him. We’re going to take a risk and call the slight upset for the well-prepared Joseph Diaz Junior by decision.
Opening bout from Leeds: Selby vs. Warrington
The evening opens with a fight from Leeds, England at featherweight. Lee Selby (26-1, 9 KOs) defends his IBF title against Josh Warrington (26-0, 6 KOs), with the winner likely getting a shot against popular Belfast fighter Carl Frampton. Selby is the overwhelming favorite to retain the title and give Warrington his first loss. Warrington should give Selby a challenge, good preparation should he face Frampton next.
Gayle Lynn Falkenthal 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.
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