Story lines: ‘Boxing After Dark’ returns tonight
Live from The Forum in Inglewood, California, HBO (10:00 p.m. ET/ 7 p.m. PT) will feature a tripleheader that encapsulates what its “Boxing After Dark” series was intended for. Here are some quick story lines to remember when viewing tonight and all quotes come from conversations at Wednesday’s open media workout in Los Angeles.
One big happy family
Officially, this is a Golden Boy Promotions card but there are four other promoters involved in making tonight’s match-ups. Miguel Berchelt (Zanfer Promotions) looks to defend his WBC junior lightweight title vs. Takashi Miura (Teiken Promotions) in the main event. WBA junior lightweight titleholder and new Golden Boy signee Jezreel Corrales faces a fellow team member in Robinson Castellanos. Kicking off the televised card, Sullivan Barrera (Main Events) and Joe Smith Jr. (Star Boxing) partake in an intriguing light heavyweight contest.
It’s a harmonious occasion to have all parties involved work together, take a risk and deliver a solid card. However, the only time that will truly get any recognition is when the hands extend across the street. There’s another HBO card on September 9 that will have countless promoters involved but, even then, boxing will always be fractured, as long as the well-known fighters aren’t risked against a rival promoter. Boxing still isn’t one big happy family just yet.
Berchelt-Miura is destined to be a war
The budding Mexican and the Japanese veteran first met on the fight week of an HBO card they shared in January. After the press conference on historic Olvera Street in downtown Los Angeles, Berchelt asked Miura to take a photo with him. When asked why he wanted to do so, Berchelt said Miura would be his next opponent. Days later, Berchelt bludgeoned Francisco Vargas to take the WBC 130-pound title and Miura stopped Miguel Roman with a vicious body shot that kept his chance of reclaiming a junior lightweight belt alive.
Six months later, Berchelt, 31-1 (28), remembered the occasion at Wednesday’s media workout leading up to his fight with Miura, in an “I told you so” moment. Miura, 31-3-2 (24), can sometimes be a slow starter but the 33-year-old is certain to let his hands go at some point and create tremendous action. Berchelt, 25, may be the fresher of the two but Miura will not lie down as he gets into the fight he has been looking for all along, since his loss to Vargas in 2015’s “Fight of the Year.”
It can be an emotional night for Sullivan Barrera
“I’m very lucky he’s here. Eight years is a long time. I’m very happy he’s coming to fight.”
Sullivan Barrera, 19-1 (14), is talking about his father Rafael, who recently defected from Cuba just in time for his son’s fight with Joe Smith Jr. The 35-year-old light heavyweight contender said it was a very emotional moment for him to see his father for the first time in eight years and they greeted each other with the biggest of hugs.
“He looks good,” said Barrera with his father sitting next to him. For the span of their separation, it was hard for Sullivan to even see his father but the telephone was always a way to communicate. On his son’s fight nights, Rafael would have to travel to a larger hotel chain to catch the fight live on television but he couldn’t make all of them. Sullivan would still ship videos of of his fights to his father but, tonight, he won’t need to ask around for a copy of the fight, as his dad will be ringside to see him live for the first time in his professional career.
“I think this is the best test for him,” said Barrera about his opponent. “Not Bernard Hopkins, not Andrzej Fonfara – Sullivan Barrera is the best test for him.”
Should he beat Smith, Barrera can inch himself closer to a world title shot or even help conjure up a match with Sergey Kovalev (both promoted by Main Events) but when asked if he can work at his best with his father at ringside, Barrera said, “Yeah, of course. That’s cool.”
Jezreel Corrales hopes to impress American fans
It will be the United States debut for the WBA junior lightweight titleholder from San Miguelito, Panama, and, after beating Takashi Uchiyama twice in Japan last year, the 26-year old hopes to captivate American fans. Nicknamed “El Invisible,” Corrales, 21-1 (8), is a bit of a showman in person and the bleached hair makes that a dead giveaway. Fight week marks his first time ever in the U.S., and he’s sure to be back after signing a promotional deal with Golden Boy Promotions last April. Within a quick conversation, he admitted that Yuriorkis Gamboa, Carlos Morales and Orlando Salido were all options, once that contract got signed, but his opponent tonight went on to thwart a plan by beating Gamboa.
Robinson Castellanos is just happy to be here
If you saw him upset Yuriorkis Gamboa this past Cinco de Mayo, then you saw Castellanos fall to his knees in jubilation once his Cuban counterpart called it off after seven rounds. In that moment, the 35-year-old Mexican was thinking about a conversation he had with his father well over eight years ago. They spoke about how great Gamboa looked once making his pro debut around that time and Castellanos broke down once realizing he had beaten that same man. His father Jesus passed away in 2009 but Robinson knew he was there in spirit. With that fight being a last-minute WBA junior lightweight eliminator, Castellanos, 24-12 (14), finds himself in what he calls a bigger fight and says he’s even happier now that his brother Balan is visiting the United States for the first time to see him fight for a world title.
Both are favored to win and, if the assumptions are correct, Berchelt (-320) and Corrales (-1125) may face each other to unify the WBC and WBA junior lightweight titles. Vasyl Lomachenko (WBO) and Gervonta Davis (IBF) round out the other two beltholders at 130-pounds. Lomachenko and Davis have defenses scheduled in August but the Ukrainian is already looking ahead to the lightweight division and Davis doesn’t box on the same promotional planet. If either Berchelt or Corrales have aspirations of unifying the championship, they may need each other. Of course, both were open to the idea but didn’t want too look far ahead and I didn’t see Berchelt ask for a pic with him.
Barrera-Smith is the best of the night on paper
…and there is no wait for it. Right out of the gate, on the HBO telecast, this contest between boxer and power-puncher has important significance in a light heavyweight division that is growing at a rapid pace. Smith, 23-1 (19), the slugger from Long Island, New York, knocked Bernard Hopkins out of the ring, the last time he was in Los Angeles, and he found himself back there with a tougher match-up ahead of him. The 27-year-old is coming off a seven-month layoff and has only fought 11 rounds in the past 17 months (eight of which against a 51-year-old). Yet his two most recent fights have been shocking knockout wins and sometimes that kind of drama lingers around a fighter. Both hold a few rankings within the various sanctioning bodies but share a highest ranking of No. 3. Neither Smith (WBC) or Barrera (WBA) have fought for a world title and the winner may find himself in the conversation.
This may not be the most watched card of the night
FOX (9:00 p.m. ET / 6 p.m. PT) will be televising a Premier Boxing Champions card from the Nassau Coliseum in Uniondale, New York and, given the lopsided amount of potential viewers, compared to HBO, it will probably draw more eyes (unless the new season of “Game of Thrones,” premiering tomorrow night, boosts their subscriptions). Omar Figueroa Jr. vs. Robert Guerrero (147), Marcus Browne vs. Seanie Monaghan (175) and Artur Szpilka vs. Adam Kownacki (200+) round out the prime-time card on regular cable and bonus coverage will follow on FS1.
The tripleheader isn’t bad at all but the level of importance of the card doesn’t exactly warrant such a big stage. It’s a forgetful slot of prime-time television that will go by the wayside by the end of the night – no matter how the fights play out. How nice it would’ve been if this really was one big happy family?