It’s Chowtime!: The UCNLive weekend preview
Even though it just had a full course meal last weekend, the boxing world is still looking for more. The “Fight of the Century” had a delicious appetizer in the events leading up to it, followed by a main course that wasn’t filling at all and a dessert that was more sour than sweet. Floyd Mayweather Jr.-Manny Pacquiao was a major disappointment for those who aren’t severe Floyd devotees and while the seasoned viewers of the sport had the wherewithal to take their Tums beforehand by not expecting a brawl, the overwhelming majority of unsuspecting fans who tuned into the pay-per-view fight – probably watching their first of the year (if not ever) – were left sick to their stomachs.
Boxing moves on despite this dud and although this week’s follow-up feast doesn’t offer the most extravagant ingredients the sport has to offer, its flavors may still pack a decent punch. In fact, the busy schedule this week is somewhat of a potluck, with many fights to choose from on an array of channels. There are six televised cards starting from Tonight to Saturday evening and this piece will be your Zagats guide to finding the action-packed fights most were craving for this past weekend. First, the menu from which we have to choose:
FOX Sports 1 (10:00 p.m. ET/7 p.m. PT) – “LA Fight Club” from the Belasco Theatre in Los Angeles, Calif.: Manuel Avila vs. Erik Ruiz (junior featherweight), Diego De La Hoya vs. Ramiro Robles (featherweight), Oscar Negrete vs. Luis Maldonado Jr. (junior featherweight)
ESPN2 (9:00 p.m. ET/6 p.m. PT) – “Friday Night Fights” from the 2300 Arena in Philadelphia, Penn.: Amir Mansour vs. Joey Dawejko (heavyweight), DeCarlo Perez vs. Jessie Nicklow (middleweight), Ismael Garcia vs. Tommy Ayers Jr. (middleweight)
truTV (10:00 p.m. ET/7 p.m. PT) – “MetroPCS Friday Night Knockout” from the Prudential Center in Newark, NJ: Glen Tapia vs. Michael Soro (junior middleweight); Seanie Monaghan vs. Cleiton Conceicao (light heavyweight), Julian Rodriguez vs. Peter Oluoch (junior welterweight)
CBS (3:00 p.m. ET/12 noon PT) – “Premier Boxing Champions” from State Farm Arena in Hidalgo, Texas: Omar Figueroa vs. Ricky Burns (junior welterweight), Jamie McDonnell vs. Tomoki Kameda (bantamweight)
HBO (9:00 p.m. ET/6p.m. PT) – “World Championship Boxing” from Minute Maid Park in Houston, Texas: Saul “Canelo” Alvarez vs. James Kirkland (junior middleweight), Frankie Gomez vs. Humberto Soto (junior welterweight)
UniMas (11 p.m. ET/PT) – “Solo Boxeo” from Selland Arena in Fresno, Calif. – Jose Ramirez vs. Robert Frankel (junior welterweight), Irving Garcia vs. Oscar Valenzuela (junior welterweight)
Appetizer: Manuel Avila, 16-0 (7), vs. Erik Ruiz 13-2 (6), Tonight
Tonight’s main event on FOX Sports 1 will be a nice appetizer before the next two days of televised boxing and it will feature one of Golden Boy Promotions’ most heralded prospects, Manuel “Tino” Avila. The 23-year-old Mexican-American product out of Fairfield, Calif., is beginning to find his power as he matures. After turning pro at the ripe age of 18, his current KO percentage of 44% is increasing quickly after stopping five of his last eight opponents. That makes up for a bulk of the seven total knockouts in his young career, considering he hasn’t fought since last August.
Avila is itching to get back in the ring after a hand injury that was first thought to be broken. The scare came in his last fight after bludgeoning Sergio Frias en route to an eighth round knockout. Tino really let his hands go that night and it will be a fun evening if he continues to do so. Avila hopes to match the exciting three-knockdown performance he displayed that evening, tonight against Ruiz. A fellow Californian out of Oxnard, Ruiz (a late replacement for sidelined veteran Rolly Luna) is proving to be a tough out. Despite his two defeats, he hasn’t been knocked out – or down, for that matter – but Avila has shown a killer instinct as of late. As an added bonus in tonight’s broadcast, THE RING magazine editor and co-host of UCNLive’s “10 Count,” Douglass Fischer, will be on the call as boxing analyst during the fight (a personal favorite and underrated broadcaster who makes explaining the Sweet Science – a tough job in itself – seem so easy).
Main course: Amir Mansour, 21-1 (16), vs. Joey Dawejko, 14-3-2 (7), Friday
There’s nothing like an exciting heavyweight fight. Lately, they have been few and far between as the Klitschko era has suffocated the division with unspectacular dominance. One of the most recent heavyweight fights that has made fans jump off their collective couches involved 42-year old Amir Mansour, 21-1 (16). It was a candidate for “Fight of the Year” in 2014 after Mansour traded knockdowns with Steve Cunningham over 10 exciting rounds. He almost stopped Cunningham after knocking him down twice in the fifth but ultimately let him back in the fight, in turn suffering the first knockdown of his career in the process in the final stanza. Although he was at the wrong end of a decision, Mansour found himself back in action and on TV seven months later, despite suffering the first loss of a career that started much later than most fighters’.
Mansour followed up the Cunningham loss with a brutal seventh-round knockout of Fred Kassi last November and it wasn’t one for the faint of heart. Kassi scared everyone into thinking he would never get up after falling to the canvas unconscious and flat on his face (luckily, he turned out to be OK). If you’re wondering if Mansour might be a used-up journeyman, that couldn’t be further from the truth. He served a nine-year prison sentence (possession of a controlled substance) just has he was budding as a prospect. Mansour’s successful return to the ring in 2010 after serving his time was just another example of how boxing offers second chances to everyone. His opponent in the main event of the ESPN2 telecast, Joey Dawejko, is a Philadelphia product fighting in front of a home crowd and riding a four-fight KO streak, all coming in the first round. With time not necessarily on his side, Mansour needs to impress in order to get more fights on TV that produce solid paychecks – and possibly a world title shot. On the other hand, Dawejko, 24, is a young bruiser with a home crowd cheering him on. A recipe for a slugfest on paper.
Dessert: Saul “Canelo” Alvarez, 44-1-1 (31), vs. James Kirkland, 32-1 (28), Saturday
Without a doubt, the biggest fight of the weekend, Canelo Alvarez makes his return to the ring after a 10-month absence. It comes off the heels of a less-than-thrilling 2014 and begins a new chapter of the Mexican superstar’s young career after he signed an exclusive contract with HBO in December. Last year was a strange one for the 24-year-old; he made his debut headlining a Showtime pay-per-view in March against Alfredo “El Perro” Angulo but ironically Canelo was the only dog in the fight. Angulo was a shell of himself that evening and Canelo was seemingly the only one throwing punches the entire night. It turned out to be a one-sided shellacking, failing to live up to the expectations of a presumed war. No fault of Canelo’s but, overall, the 10th round stoppage wasn’t a good start for his new venture into the PPV model.
Alvarez followed the Angulo bout with another Showtime PPV fight four months later against the heavily-avoided Cuban boxing practitioner, Erislandy Lara. It was an unexpected match-up, one first applauded by the commonwealth of boxing because of Canelo’s urge to fight the best. He certainly didn’t have to face Lara but the fight was pretty much unanimously approved by everyone, though both had a contrast of styles. The fight turned out to be a dud and, to make matters worse, the result was controversial to many. Lara’s technical boxing style didn’t compliment Canelo’s at all and it left the Mexican looking for a fight by chasing the swift-footed Cuban all night. It’s not to say Lara didn’t fight well as he out-landed Canelo in the final punch stats, yet resulting in a controversial split-decision defeat. Regardless of the score, it was a disappointing night for both men and seemed to make all the trash-talking a waste of time – and money – for the fans.
An ankle injury nixed a proposed fight in December and kept Canelo out of the ring since but he and his promoter, Golden Boy Promotions, wanted to make splash in his return with a guaranteed action brawl. Enter James Kirkland, a flawed person outside of the ring but, when in one, produces fun fights. Troubles with the law have been littered throughout his career and it has, in effect, hindered much of his success or lack thereof. Kirkland just can’t seem to either stay out of trouble and, as a result, has trouble getting in the ring. His last run-in with the law was in June 2013 after allegedly assaulting his then-girlfriend. It was seemingly the last straw after a laundry list of other arrests but as boxing so graciously creates a plethora of second chances, Kirkland got his when he faced Glen Tapia in December of that year.
After a shaky first round, Kirkland destroyed the undefeated prospect in a manner that almost indeed looked criminal. It was ultimately the fault of the Tapia’s corner that evening and partly the sometimes-spectator of a referee, Steve Smoger. Kirkland seemed to have knocked Tapia out on his feet multiple times but the kid either refused to go down or just didn’t have the mental capacity to feel a punch after getting hit with so many. Although it was at first enjoyable to watch, by the fight’s end, there was fear for Tapia’s life. It shouldn’t have happened in such a cruel way but, nonetheless, Kirkland was seemingly back in the junior middleweight mix after such a performance. That was his most recent fight and his peculiar personality outside the ring came into play once more, resulting in an 17-month absence from the ring until this Saturday. Thankfully it wasn’t an arrest of any sort but either his promoter, 50 Cent of SMS, couldn’t get him a fight or Kirkland simply didn’t want one. As you can see, Kirkland’s a very peculiar guy, as is his moniker, the “Mandingo Warrior” (probably my favorite nickname in boxing but be careful Googling the term – you’ve been warned).
Time will tell how serious he is about boxing but once he has the gloves on, Kirkland is down to trade blows. That’s what makes this HBO main event one to look forward to because Canelo has been looking for someone to seriously tango with for a couple years now. Perhaps the Austin Trout two years ago was the last brawl in which Canelo took part; all the others since have either been against an action-less boxer (Canelo was out-boxed by Floyd Mayweather Jr. in Sept. 2013) or a guy in Angulo who just didn’t want to fight that night. This bout will also be hosted at Minute Maid Park in Houston, Texas, where the Astros play ball and there’s expected to be 30,000-plus fans cheering on both sluggers. No doubt a peculiar place for a boxing match but with Kirkland a Texas native and Canelo fighting near the Mexican border, there’s sure to be a great atmosphere. Styles make fights and these two match up perfectly in order to produce a home run. It’s perfect treat to get the sour taste of last weekend’s “meal” out of our mouths.