Boxing’s first quarter in 2018
This Saturday, from the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York, Showtime televises its first card of 2018. The year gets off to an unprecedented start, as, from this point forward, American viewers will have a “major” card scheduled, on every weekend, till late March.
(Now, by “major,” I mean broadcasts on Showtime’s “Championship Boxing,” HBO’s “World Championship Boxing”/”Boxing After Dark” or ESPN’s “Top Rank Boxing on ESPN.”)
Here’s a look ahead at what’s on the ledger:
– January 20 (Showtime) – Errol Spence Jr., vs. Lamont Peterson, Robert Easter Jr., vs. Javier Fortuna: Spence won his IBF welterweight title, last year, in the U.K., by stopping Kell Brook in 11 rounds, in his only outing of 2017. Spence is still thought of as a blue-chip talent and an elite welterweight. Peterson is a solid fighter but, like many of his other “PBColleagues,” has been beset by inactivity. This will be just his fourth outing since the start of 2015.
Easter, the defending IBF lightweight champion, thought he would be unifying his belt against WBC counterpart Mikey Garcia but instead has to settle for facing Fortuna.
– January 27 (HBO) – Jorge Linares vs. Mercito Gesta, Lucas Matthysse vs. Tewa Kiram: This Golden Boy Promotions doubleheader takes place from the Forum in Inglewood, California, and sees Linares taking on Gesta after struggling mightily with his WBA (lightweight) mandatory Luke Campbell in this very same building back in September. Matthysse faces Kiram for the vacant WBA “regular” welterweight title, in hopes of lining up bigger fights at 147 down the line. Kiram, who hails from Thailand, has a big record, 38-0 (28), but his record is devoid of any real recognizable names.
– February 3 (ESPN) – Gilberto Ramirez vs. Habib Ahmed, Jerwin Ancajas vs. Israel Gonzalez: This broadcast takes place from the Bank of America Center in Corpus Christi, Texas and “Zurdo” Ramirez faces the unknown Ahmed, who hails from Accra, Ghana. With most of the better known super middleweights participating in the World Boxing Super Series tournament, there wasn’t much to choose from, at the moment. Ancajas, the IBF 115-pound titlist, who has been described as “Mini’ Pacquiao, makes his Top Rank debut on this show.
– February 10 (Showtime) – Sergey Lipinets vs. Mikey Garcia, Rances Barthelemy vs. Kiryl Relikh: Garcia goes for this fourth major world title in as many weight classes (having won belts at 126, 130 and 135 thus far) by taking on Lipinets, who just recently won the vacant IBF 140-pound belt. It’s not a bad fight, Lipinets is a solid fighter but far from the type of “big” fights Garcia had been promising, coming into 2018.
– February 16 (ESPN) – Ray Beltran vs. Paulus Moses, Egidijus Kavaliauskas vs. David Avanesyan: This Friday night’s card takes place from Reno, Nevada, and Beltran faces the veteran Moses (who is 39 years old) for the vacant WBO lightweight title and the “Mean Machine” finally gets a televised slot after years of getting buried on Top Rank undercards.
– February 17 (Showtime) – Danny Garcia vs. Brandon Rios, David Benavidez vs. Ronald Gavril II: Garcia has not fought since losing to Keith Thurman early last year and will face the well-worn Rios. Benavidez and Gavril fought to a pretty competitive fight in September for the vacant WBC super middleweight title.
Also on this day, Premier Boxing Champions on FOX returns from El Paso, Texas, as Devon Alexander takes on Victor Ortiz and Caleb Plant faces Rogelio “Porky” Medina.
– February 24 (HBO) – Srisaket Sor Rungvisai vs. Juan Francisco Estrada, Carlos Cuadras vs. McWilliams Arroyo: The second installment of “SuperFly” takes place at the Forum, in Inglewood, California, and the main event is one of the best pure match-ups consummated for the 115-pound line-up. The plan is for HBO to make this broadcast a tripleheader and Tom Loeffler, the head of 360 Promotions, is looking for another 115-pound fight to round this card out.
– March 3 (Showtime) – Deontay Wilder vs. Luis Ortiz: They were supposed to meet back in November but Ortiz ran into problems with VADA. However with the WBC clearing Ortiz’s name, this fight was once again green-lighted. Rumors are that a rematch between super middleweights Andre Dirrell and Jose Uzcategui will be a part of this card.
– March 3 (HBO) – Sergey Kovalev vs. Igor Mikhalkin, Dmitry Bivol vs. Sullivan Barrera: Yes, there will be two cards in New York on this evening. While Wilder-Ortiz takes place at the Barclays Center, in Brooklyn. Bivol-Sully B. is a real litmus test for the highly-regarded Bivol, who is now the WBA light heavyweight champion.
– March 10 (ESPN) – Oscar Valdez vs. Scott Quigg, Andy Vences vs. Erick De Leon, Arnold Barboza vs. Mike Reed: Valdez has held the WBO featherweight title for awhile now and, in Quigg, he faces his biggest name to date. This card is solid from top-to-bottom and it should be an electric night at the StubHub Center in Carson, California.
– March 17 (ESPN) – Jose Ramirez vs. Amir Imam: These two will duke it out for the vacant WBC junior welterweight title and it could be the last time Bob Arum and Don King go against one another. This figures to be an entertaining fight and, also, on this St. Patrick Day card, will be Michael Conlan (who made his pro debut a year ago on this date) and the Puerto Rican duo of Christopher Diaz and Felix Verdejo. (Remember him?)
OK, not included in this roster of fights are the semifinals of the World Boxing Super Series, which, as of now, still do not have a major television outlet in the States.
Also, it’s expected to be announced, early this week, that IBF/WBA heavyweight champion Anthony Joshua will face WBO beltholder Joseph Parker, on March 31, in a bout most assume will end up on Showtime.
Like almost everyone else, I was saddened to hear about the passing of the legendary Keith Jackson at the age of 89. For me and many others, he was THE definitive voice of college football and, if he was calling a game, you know it was a big one.
His calls of the Miami-Florida State games of 1991 and 1992 (Wide Right I and II) were every bit as much a part of those memorable contests as the missed field goals at the end.
But while he’s best known for college football, Jackson was the consummate broadcaster, who called a wide array of sporting events for ABC, at a high level. While Howard Cosell did most of the big bouts for ABC in that era, Jackson himself was more than a capable blow-by-blow announcer. Case in point was the memorable 1982 battle between Bobby Chacon and Rafael “Bazooka” Limon.
Speaking of the WBSS, the Callum Smith- Jurgen Braehmer semifinal bout will take place on February 24, in Nuremberg, Germany…Jesse Hernandez and Ernesto Garza put on a really good fight on Friday night, on “ShoBox” with Hernandez winning an action-packed split decision…Shohjahon Ergashev, who bludgeoned Sonny Fredrickson, over three, is a guy to watch…How bout that Blake Bortles, huh?…Break up the Lakers!…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.