SAN DIEGO, Calif., January 29, 2020 – News flash, it’s Super Bowl Week in America. Competing sports have a tough time getting traction, so this week’s major boxing card is scheduled on Thursday night at the Meridian at Island Gardens in Miami for fans and VIPs, and for the rest of us live on DAZN in the U.S. and Sky Sports in the UK. Preliminary fights air at 7 pm ET/4 pm PT, with the main event fights at 9 pm ET/6 pm PT. It is a school night after all.
Andrade vs Keeler: No lightsabers needed
So let’s get this out of the way so we can discuss the more intriguing undercard fights. Headliner Demetrius “Boo Boo” Andrade of Philadelphia (28-0, 17 KOs) puts his WBO World Middleweight Title and record up against Luke Keeler of Ireland (17-2-1, 5 KOs) in his third title defense. Credit to Keeler for taking on Andrade when so many other middleweights avoid him. But expectations for anything but an Andrade victory are low.
Credit to Andrade for staying busy, and for his sense of humor, needling Keeler at the final pre-fight news conference by wearing a Star Wars themed t-shirt. “Luke, I am your father! Miami, let’s get jiggy with it.
“Like everyone else, they have the game plan. They say they can beat me, and then they can’t … Let’s put on a show.”
Keeler is happily playing along. “He stepped up to middleweight and he hasn’t been performing … I labeled him delusional and I think it got under his skin. I am 32, but I am fresh … He’s not entertaining, he’s struggling. He talks like he’s the greatest, but he isn’t.”
The talented southpaw won’t be tested against Keeler. It’s a sparring session. Relax and enjoy watching a superb boxing technician in action.
Farmer vs Diaz Jr: Thursday’s true main event
It’s not even the co-main event on your program, but the undercard fight worth watching is between IBF world super featherweight champion Tevin Farmer of Philadelphia (30-4-1, 6 KOs) defending his title against Joseph Diaz Jr. of South El Monte, California (30-1, 15 KOs).
There’s more than one online feud in this lineup. Farmer and Diaz Jr. and their squads tangled with each other last May outside the ring in a Las Vegas casino. The trash talk escalated between them as only a cyber squabble can, and Diaz Jr. demanded Golden Boy matchmaker Robert Diaz (no relation) make the fight. They get to settle their differences Thursday, and we’re the real winners.
Thanks to quick thinking by announcer David Diamante who had his mike handy, fans got to hear the entire face-off dialogue at Wednesday’s weigh-in, seen live on DAZN.
— DAZN USA (@DAZN_USA) January 29, 2020
“I am going to be JoJo’s ass – flat out,” said Farmer, who pointed out in an earlier interview Diaz came looking for him, not the other way around. But “I wanted to fight him and gave him this opportunity. I am tired of sweeping everyone out and kicking everyone’s ass, so I hope he brings it. He better bring it. I’ll probably sweep him though, but we will see on Thursday.”
Credit to Farmer for agreeing to the fight, which will not be a pushover for the talented world champion. Diaz is moving up to super featherweight after losing a title bid against Gary Russell Jr. in 2018. He is riding a four-fight win stream since then and believes he’s better equipped now to take a title away from Farmer.
“I know Tevin Farmer is a slick boxer, I know he is tough, but I am coming to take that title,” said Diaz Jr. “I’ve talked a lot of shit; he has talked a lot of shit. We are going to back it up. This is history in the making, and I am just happy to be alive and be a part of it. I know he’s making his fifth and his last defense. Tevin, I hope you are sleeping with that belt because it is going to be mine,” said Diaz Jr.
When sincere dislike for your opponent meets the opportunity to back up your trash talk and prove yourself, expect both fighters to engage willingly. Neither Farmer or Diaz Jr. are blessed with a lot of power. This could manifest in a complete lack of respect by one for the other, and fans wouldn’t want to see this end early, necessarily. It’s crazy to bet against Farmer, but Diaz Jr. has more than a chance and will give him all he can handle.
Rock on: Roman vs Akmadaliev an early FOTY contender
WBA and IBF World Super Bantamweight champion Daniel “The Baby Faced Assassin” Roman of Los Angeles (27-2-1, 10 KOs) delivered one of 2019’s “Fight of the Year” candidates against TJ Doheny of Ireland last April, a wild bout with swings of fortune both ways before Roman prevailed by majority decision.
Roman returns against Murodjon “MJ” Akmadaliev of Uzbekistan (7-0, 6 KOs), part of a squad of talented Uzbek boxers who relocated to Indio, California to work with trainer Joel Diaz.
“I am going to make this the fight of the night again. I became the unified champion last year, and I am going to keep it like that,” declared Roman.
This is a fight where looking at BoxRec tells you nothing. Forget Akmadaliev’s record. This is no tune-up fight for Roman. Akmadaliev, age 25, is a skilled amateur and the 2016 Olympic silver medalist, losing to Robeisy Ramirez of Cuba. The southpaw has power, speed, and fleet feet. He likes to showboat, and he can deliver from odd angles. Akmadaliev stopped Isaac Zarate for the first time in Zarate’s career, and he’s only made it past four rounds twice.
Roman will need to temper his aggressive style with good defense, so he isn’t caught by surprise by Akmadaliev, who, like Doheny is also a southpaw. The Uzbek is in the position of having nothing to lose and everything to gain with a great showing. Be sure you get home from work in time for this one.
YouTube smackdown: Jake Paul vs Ali Eson Gib
Refusing to let his brother Logan Paul get all the attention, Jake Paul of Cleveland makes his professional light heavyweight “debut” against Ali Eson Gib, a native of Saudi Arabia now calling London home. The pair of 23-year-olds have the millions of online followers and smack-talking ways to merit the payday. DAZN is all in, having added 190,000 YouTube followers to its channel in November 2019 because of the Logan Paul vs. KSI 2 rematch, although this doesn’t necessarily translate to subscriptions.
The younger Paul says he’d like to fight KSI next to avenge big bro’s loss. Adding some intrigue is Paul’s trainer, recent Boxing Hall of Fame inductee Sugar “Shane” Mosley. I didn’t make it easy for him during camp,” said Mosley, who trained Paul in Big Bear, California. “He has no quit. I put him against guys at 154. Boxing is entertainment, and this brings a lot of fans and followers to the sport. It’s great for the fight game. It will only grow the sport.” This is scheduled for six rounds. Don’t take it too seriously and enjoy the insanity.
Undercard cheat sheet: Anthony Sims Jr., Amanda Serrano, Austin Williams
Also on the undercard, super middleweight Anthony Sims Jr. (20-0, 18 KOs) faces Roamer Alexis Angulo (25-1, 22 KOs) of Columbia, now based in Miami; unified world featherweight champion Amanda Serrano (37-1, 27 KOS) fights an eight-round non-title fight against Simone da Silva of Brazil (17-14, 6 KOs); and promising middleweight prospect Austin “Ammo” Williams (4-0, 3 KOs) fights Donald Sanchez (5-2, 3 KOs) of Albuquerque, New Mexico.
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. Follow Gayle on Instagram and Twitter @PRProSanDiego.
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