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Festival of fights: Lomachenko, Donaire, Taylor headline multiple events Saturday

Written By | Dec 10, 2021
Vasiliy Lomachenko (L) and Richard Commey (R) pose during the weigh-in at Madison Square Garden on Friday Photo: Mikey Williams/Top Rank Inc via Getty Images Festival of fights

Vasiliy Lomachenko (L) and Richard Commey (R) pose during the weigh-in at Madison Square Garden on Friday Photo: Mikey Williams/Top Rank Inc via Getty Images

SAN DIEGO, Calif., December 10, 2021 – The minute you finish reading this preview, be sure you’ve got fresh batteries in the remote control and all your electronic devices are fully charged. They’ve got to perform under pressure if you intend to watch all the boxing cards filling a heavy-duty fight calendar from around the world on Saturday.

Thanks to DAZN, ESPN, ESPN+, AXS TV, and Showtime, you can settle into your seat at breakfast time starting at 9 am ET/6 am PT, and watch nearly straight through until the start of the final card at the War Grounds In Carson, California at 10 pm ET/7 pm PT. Maybe you can sneak in a nap mid-afternoon.

Hat tip to our colleague Carlos Toro who took the time to lay out the menu.

A baker’s dozen of current and former champions plus legitimate rising stars all hope to roll into 2022 with wins. CommDigiNews runs down the highlights.

Lomachenko hopes for a Matrix Resurrection

Vasiliy Lomachenko manhandled Masayoshi Nakatani for nine rounds, handing him the first stoppage loss of his career. Photo: Mikey Williams/Top Rank Inc via Getty Images Lomachenko beats

Vasiliy Lomachenko manhandled Masayoshi Nakatani for nine rounds, handing him the first stoppage loss of his career. Photo: Mikey Williams/Top Rank Inc via Getty Images

In June, Vasiliy Lomachenko of Ukraine (14-2, 11 KOs) looked like his old self, demoralizing Masayoshi Nakatani of Japan as he has so many other opponents in his impressive career, making his unexpected loss to Teofimo Lopez Jr. fade away like a Matrix hallucination. Since then, the world watched in shock as George Kambosos Jr. became the new lightweight division Emperor, taking Lopez Jr. apart and taking all his belts in the process.

Now Lomachenko has one focus: to do it again and prove it wasn’t a mirage against Richard Commey of Ghana (30-3, 27 KOs). This card starts at ESPN at 9 pm ET/6 pm PT (assuming no delay due to the Heisman Trophy ceremony).

If Vasiliy Lomachenko can defeat Richard Commey with ease Saturday, he will be right back in the title and P4P hunt. Photo: Mikey Williams/Top Rank Inc via Getty Images Festival of fights

If Vasiliy Lomachenko can defeat Richard Commey with ease Saturday, he will be right back in the title and P4P hunt. Photo: Mikey Williams/Top Rank Inc via Getty Images

Lopez Jr. won a narrow decision over Lomachenko, but blew out Commey in two rounds. Now the two hope to put those losses even further in the rearview mirror and shine compared to Lopez Jr.’s poor performance against the Aussie.

Lomachenko appears to have regained his sure footing and confidence. “I think we are giving a very interesting fight to the fans,” calling Commey a strong fighter with power, reach, experience, and heart. “I’m very excited because this is the next step of my boxing career.”

Commey has never ducked a challenge. “This is my second time coming here (to Madison Square Garden). The last time didn’t work out well for me (Lopez Jr.), so I have the opportunity to right the wrong.”

“I’ve got all of the little children back home who want to be where I am, and I know it’s not an easy fight, but I’m coming. Losing is part of boxing, so regardless of how you lose, it’s all about coming back,” said Commey. A good message for many fighters coming off losses.

Commey is the hammer, and everyone in front of him is a nail. He’ll have to hit Lomachenko flush to hurt him and lead to a victory. It’s not impossible, but unlikely. Lomachenko’s impressive footwork, dexterity, and ring IQ should keep him out of trouble. A stoppage win isn’t the most likely outcome, but a solid win helps Lomachenko keep The Matrix Reboot in progress.



The heavyweights get it on: Jared Anderson (L) and Oleksandr Teslenko (R) pose during the weigh-in. Photo: Mikey Williams/Top Rank Inc via Getty Images

Heavy-hitting Jared “The Real Big Baby” Anderson (10-0, 10 KOs) faces Oleksandr Teslenko of Ukraine on the undercard. (17-1, 13 KOs). 2020 U.S. Olympic silver medalist Keyshawn Davis (3-0, 2 KOs) fights Mexican veteran Jose Zaragoza (8-3-1, 2 KOs). In the ESPN+ undercard (55:30 pmET/2:30 pm PT), don’t miss engaging junior middleweight prospect Xander Zayas of Puerto Rico (11-0, 8 KOs), who should have lots of fans at The Garden for his fight against Alessio Mastronunzio of Italy (9-1, 3 KOs).

Nonito Donaire still dares to dream big

Nonito Donaire (L) and Reymart Gaballo are all smiles before their showdown Saturday in Carson. Photo: Esther Lin, Showtime Boxing

The seemingly ageless 39-year-old WBC Bantamweight World Champion and future Hall of Famer Nonito “Filipino Flash” Donaire (41-6, 27 KOs) intends to keep his reign going against unbeaten Interim WBC Bantamweight Champion and Filipino countryman Reymart Gaballo (24-0, 20 KOs) in Carson, California in a Premier Boxing Champions event from Dignity Health Sports Park (AKA the War Grounds), starting at 10 pm ET/7 pm PT.

Leading off the broadcast will be a replay of last Saturday’s title fight between Gervonta Davis and Issac Cruz.

Donaire seemed to be heading out the door until his inspiring performance against pound-for-pound opponent Naoya Inoue. Although he lost, he broke Inoue’s orbital bone and gave him the fiercest challenge of his career. He then took the WBC title from Nordine Oubaali and hasn’t looked back.

“For me, after the Naoya Inoue fight, I saw that I still had a purpose in this sport,” said Donaire. I came in strong against Nordine Oubaali in my last fight because I have that purpose. That purpose is to become undisputed champion of the world.”

Nonito Donaire (left) became a world banntamweight champion for the third time with his defeat of Nordine Oubaali. Photo: Esther LIn, Showtime Boxing

Nonito Donaire (left) became a world banntamweight champion for the third time with his defeat of Nordine Oubaali. Photo: Esther LIn, Showtime Boxing

Donaire and his little-known opponent Gaballo have been nothing but cordial in the leadup to the fight. No surprise, as those who know Donaire know him to be one of the finest gentlemen in a less than gentle sport.

“I’m proud that there is another Filipino fighting at this level. I’m happy to be sharing the ring with Reymart. I know he’s very hungry and that he has a big dream, just like everyone in the Philippines. I know that he’s going to be at his best, so I made sure that I’m prepared and at my best as well,” said Donaire. But Donaire assured anyone listening that his experience and mental fortitude will be no match for Gaballo despite his power.

“I’m here enjoying this moment and every moment I have left in my career. In the gym, I feel like I can do this for another ten years. I just take it one fight at a time, and I’m grateful for every moment of it,” said Donaire.

Nonito Donaire (L) and Reymart Gaballo both made the 118 pound limit with room to spare. Photo: Esther Lin, Showtime Boxing

Gaballo is in the “nothing to lose” category, and fans have seen how dangerous this can be however unlikely a win. “Every time we train in the gym, everyone is throwing me the same punches that Nonito throws. We know that he’s not only going to throw that left hook, so we made sure I’ll be ready for everything,” said Gaballo, who isn’t thinking about age even though he is 14 years younger than Donaire. “I know that Donaire’s movement is still there, just like it’s always been. We’re not going to rely on my youth as the only thing I need in this fight.”

Donaire will be on familiar turf in front of passionate Filipino fans in Southern California and should be able to take anything Gaballo throws his way after Inoue and Oubaali.

Boxing matinee: Benn vs. Algieri, Taylor vs. Sharipova, DAZN 2 pm ET/11 am PT

festival of fights Benn vs Algieri

Conor Benn (L) and Chris Algieri pose at their weigh-in Friday in Liverpool, England. Photo: Mark Robinson, Matchroom Boxing

Welterweight Conor Benn of Essex (19-0, 12 KOs) hopes to prove he’s among the elite of this competitive division with a test against 37-year-old veteran Chris Algieri of Huntington, New York (25-3, 9 KOs) in Liverpool. Benn, son of former two-division champion Nigel Benn, must fight the comparisons with his accomplished father as well as his opponent.

Algieri has lost just three times, to Amir Khan, Manny Pacquiao, and by stoppage to Errol Spence. He proved his toughness against the human battering ram Ruslan Provodikov. It’s hard to decipher how much of a test Benn will get from Algieri, who won a shutout decision in August, his first fight in two years. Algieri is smart, skilled, and tall for Benn.

“Algieri is a better version of all my last opponents, and he beats everything they do in my opinion in terms of boxing IQ, cuteness, knowing his way around the ring. People say he can’t punch, but anyone with eight-ounce gloves can punch. I’m well prepared. I’m not concerned about what he brings to the table because I know what I can do,” said Benn. “Algieri is going to come, he’s going to throw and try to win, which him and his team believe he can. I’ll exploit holes in his armor. He’s up against a young lion, up against someone who’s on the come up.”

The veteran Algieri has seen boxing from nearly every aspect. He’s worked plenty of corners as a second and supported champions with his skills as a registered dietician. He’s also building a solid resume as a broadcast commentator. Formerly known as the “Fighting Collegian,” he’s too intelligent to take anyone’s bait.

“I’ve been around this game a long time, and I’ve been in with the elite of the elite, I’ve been on both sides of the table,” said Algieri. “At the end of the day, skills pay the bills, and experience kills, so we’re coming in here with our experience, our skills, and we’re going to utilize that plan to find a victory.’

festival of fights Katie Taylor

Firuza Sharipova (R) presents Katie Taylor with a soccer ball after their weigh-in Saturday. Photo: Mark Robinson, Matchroom Boxing

Undisputed women’s lightweight champion Katie Taylor (19-0, 6 KOs) stays busy against Firuza Sharipova of Kazakhstan (14-1, 8 KOs). Sharipova is taking a significant step up in opposition. Fans will learn whether her recent knockouts mean anything against one of the most skilled fighters in the world, gender aside. After the recent string of upsets, Taylor isn’t taking the fight for granted.

“You’ve seen so many upsets so far this year in the boxing world when people have maybe gone into the ring underprepared or overlooking certain opponents. I know that obviously can’t happen. I’ve made that mistake before as an amateur fighter where I have overlooked opponents – being beaten and learning the hard way,” said Taylor.

Sharipova is in the ‘happy to be here’ frame of mind. “I feel very confident and welcomed here in this city. I have a great respect for Katie Taylor. She’s been my idol all the time, but I’m coming here to win.”

Dmitry Bivol, welcome back to boxing

festival of fights Dmitry Bivol

Dmitry Bivol’s talent is undeniable, but he needs to remind everyone Saturday. Photo: World of Boxing

WBA World Super Light Heavyweight champion Dmitry Bivol (18-0, 11 KOs) needs to remind everyone why he received so much acclaim earlier in his career against Umar Salamov, a Russian fighting out of Las Vegas (26-1, 19 KOs). The card airs on DAZN starting at 11 am ET/8 am PT.

Dmitry Bivol (L) and Omar Salamov easily make the 175 pound limit Friday in Ekaterinberg, Russia. Photo: World of Boxing

Bivol defends his title for the eighth time since 2017 in one of boxing’s most competitive divisions – and that was before Canelo Alvarez entered the picture. Currently, Joe Smith Jr. and Artur Beterbiev hold the other titles. Bivol is a tricky tactician with enough power to easily keep opponents at bay. But his absence and less than inspiring performances in recent bouts have allowed Canelo to take all the air out of the room. Bivol is everyone’s toughest out, and like many avoided fighters throughout boxing, he needs to make some noise on Saturday.

Daybreak boxing from Dubai: Sonny Edwards, Donnie Nietes defend titles

The day gets starts from Dubai with Britain’s Sonny Edwards and Filipino veteran Donnie Nietes defending their flyweight and super flyweight titles respectively from Dubai on DAZN airing at 9 am ET/6 am PT in the U.S. Joel Riel Casimero has withdrawn from the card due to illness, but the WBO wants to see some sort of medical confirmation in writing before deciding the status of his world flyweight title. Casimero has been on shaky ground since Nonito Donaire rejected him as an opponent due to some sketchy behavior both in and out of the ring.

Gayle Falkenthal is an award-winning boxing journalist covering the Sweet Science for Communities Digital News based in San Diego, California. Read more Ringside Seat in Communities Digital News. Follow Gayle on Facebook and on Twitter @PRProSanDiego.

Please credit “Gayle Falkenthal for Communities Digital News” when quoting from or linking to this story.

Copyright © 2021 by Falcon Valley Group

 

 

Gayle Falkenthal

Gayle Lynn Falkenthal, MS, APR, is President of the Falcon Valley Group, a San Diego based communications consulting firm. Falkenthal is a veteran award-winning broadcast and print journalist, editor, producer, talk host and commentator. She is an instructor at National University in San Diego, and previously taught in the School of Journalism & Media Studies at San Diego State University.