‘Boxing After Dark’ at the Forum
Contrary to popular belief, HBO Sports is still in the boxing business. This Saturday night from the Forum in Inglewood, California, they present “Boxing After Dark” (and the rumors of this series’ demise has been greatly exaggerated), featuring a tripleheader headlined by WBC super featherweight titlist Miguel Berchelt versus Takashi Miura.
On paper, this figures to be a fan-friendly, all-action affair. Back on January 28, at the Fantasy Springs Resort Casino in Indio, this pair co-headlined on HBO and Berchelt simply wore Francisco Vargas down over 11 fast-paced rounds, in which “El Alacran” just simply overwhelmed the defending champion with his size and his punch volume. Vargas, who was taken to the brink by Orlando Salido in his previous bout, was broken down by the 25-year-old Mexican.
Miura is your typical Japanese warrior, who is more than willing to go out on his shield and is no stranger to being involved in fire fights. Who can forget his involvement in the 2015 “Fight of the Year” against Vargas? His most recent bout against Miguel Roman back in January was another grinding affair. What’s troubling, however, is Roman is a fighter who is more tough than talented and Miura showed some visible mileage in that outing.
The sense here is, while Miura will certainly fight with honor and valor, youth shall ultimately be served.
The co-main event of the evening will feature WBA 130-pound Jezreel Corrales (who was recently signed to a deal by Golden Boy Promotions) defending his title against rugged Mexican spoiler Robinson Castellanos. The Panamanian burst onto the scene last year with a pair of victories in Japan over the respected Takashi Uchiyama (scoring a shocking second round KO in their first meeting and then a 12-round split decision in the rematch) and is now a player in a lively junior lightweight division (and yeah, it’s because of his WBA strap, example No. 10,567 that belts absolutely, positively matter). Looking across from him is a fighter who is probably better than his record.
While Castellanos has a rather mediocre ledger of 24-12 (14), upon further inspection of his BoxRec page, he went 3-7 in his first 10 bouts (and that included a five-bout losing streak) but has since steeled himself to a point in where he’s 14-2 in his last 16. Castellanos has victories over Celestino Caballero, Ronny Rios, Rocky Juarez and, in his most recent outing, he stopped Yuriorkis Gamboa on ESPN on May 6.
The opening bout of this broadcast is a showdown of streaking light heavyweights in Joe Smith Jr. and Sullivan “Sully B” Barrera. Smith, a union worker, was the breakout fighter of 2016. First, he came out of nowhere to knock Andrzej Fonfara out in Chicago on NBC, which he then parlayed into a shot against Bernard Hopkins in the first-ballot Hall-of-Famer’s retirement fight at the Forum on December 17.
Smith didn’t play by the script and act as a gold watch but instead sent Hopkins into retirement by literally knocking him out of the ring with his sledgehammers:
Barrera is a solid fighter, whose only loss came against Andre Ward last year. Since then, he has rebounded with a pair of wins versus Vyacheslav Shabranskyy (KO 7) and Paul Parker (TKO 5). The winner of Smith-Barrera places himself firmly as one of the top contenders in the 175-pound class and will possibly earn a shot at former champ Sergey Kovalev in the fall.
This figures to be a good night of action and the types of bouts that are worthy of the Boxing After Dark brand. There has been a lot of speculation over the short and long-term future of the sport on HBO, which, for years, was the standard bearer for televising boxing. Recently Top Rank – its main content provider for the past few decades – has entered a deal with ESPN and it’s not clear just where boxing stands on the Time Warner totem pole.
But on this particular night, HBO is hearkening back to a time when boxing did matter to the network and satisfied its viewership on a consistent basis. On August 26, they televise Miguel Cotto’s return to the ring against Yoshihiro Kamegai, which will serve as a shelter for the hardest of the hardcore fan who simply won’t pay any attention to the circus going on that same evening in Las Vegas. This match-up seems more like an opportunity for Cotto to pad his 401K than anything else.
There can certainly be no complaints about the “SuperFly” card on September 9, taking place at the StubHub Center, that will focus on the 115-pound division and feature the rematch between WBC titlist Srisaket Sor Rungvisai and Roman “Chocolatito” Gonzalez. It will be supported by the Mexican battle between Juan Francisco Estrada and Carlos Cuadras and the American debut of the highly-regarded WBO beltholder Naoya Inoue.
So yeah, for the time being, HBO is still in the boxing business.
Tickets are still available for this card on Saturday night ($25, $50, $75 and $125) and can be purchased on Ticketmaster and at the Forum box-office. Doors open at 3 p.m. on Saturday and first bell is at 3:05. RingTV.com starts its stream at 3:50…K2 Managing Director Tom Loeffler believes that the SuperFly card will eventually be sold out, so keep that in mind if you haven’t bought tickets for that event. And yes, I’ve told him they need more beer concessions set up for that evening…Beto Duran and I will be on the call this Friday night for RingTV.com for the “L.A. Fight Club” at Belasco Theater…Isn’t the “Home Run Derby” the “Slam Dunk Contest” without the creativity?…When does “College Football Live” return on ESPN?…Please tell me the Olympics isn’t coming back to Los Angeles ever again. Traffic is already bad enough…I can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and I tweet (a lot) at twitter.com/steveucnlive. I also share photos of stuff at instagram.com/steveucnlive and can also be found at tsu.co/steveucnlive.