BOXING: THIS WEEKEND’S ACTION
By Rachel Aylett
MTK Global run their weekly show in Belfast on Friday (17th May) evening, headlining this week with former unified world bantamweight champion Ryan Burnett. The local fighter is, of course, making his return to the ring following his unfortunate injury defeat in the WBSS quarter-final against Nonito Donaire last November. His opponent on Friday is Filpino Jelbirt Gomera, a 14-5 regional fighter.
Gomera has suffered a couple of inside the distance defeats and Burnett will be hoping to make that three. The fight is made at super-bantamweight, but Burnett says he will be willing to return to bantamweight for the right fight.
Chief support on the card is an absolute cracker, pitting Belfast boy Marco McCullough against Dublin’s Declan Geraghty. There is much talk in boxing of 50/50 fights, which usually aren’t. This one truly is and even the bookmakers cannot decide on a winner. Both have had chequered careers and desperately need to win here.
Geraghty is the more talented of the two but has disappointed in his biggest fights. McCullough has momentum on his side and might just snatch the victory. The card is televised on ESPN+ in the U.S. and on the YouTube channel of iFL TV.
Saturday provides a huge day of boxing on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean. The best card takes place in Glasgow, as the World Boxing Super Series semi-finals continue.
Two outstanding matches feature on this card with local fighter Josh Taylor facing Ivan Baranchyk at super-lightweight and pound-for-pounder Naoya Inoue facing the challenge of Emmanual Rodriguez at bantamweight. A full preview of this show will appear separately on the site. It will be televised on DAZN in the U.S. and on Sky Sports in the U.K.
Going up against it on BT Sport in the U.K. is Frank Warren’s outdoor small stadium show at Stevenage, which is headlined by Billy Joe Saunders’ debut at super-middleweight against Shefat Isufi.
The WBO has decided to bestow the winner as their champion at the weight, with Gilberto Ramirez recently having vacated the belt to move up in weight. The fact that Saunders is currently 1/100 favourite to win tells you everything you need to know about the quality of Isufi. The less said about this match the better, other than shame on the WBO.
The fighter of real interest in the supporting cast is upwardly mobile heavyweight Joe Joyce. The Juggernaut is currently 8-0 (8 kos) and his latest sacrificial lamb opponent is giant Belarussian Alexander Ustinov.
Ustinov has been a decent European-level fighter throughout his career but at 42 is very much on the slide with two defeats in a row. Joe’s knockout percentage will not be reduced here. He then goes on to fight on Warren’s heavyweight blockbuster show in July. The opposition on that night should be significantly tougher.
A few hours later in the Barclays Centre in Brooklyn, New York, WBC heavyweight champ Deontay Wilder makes the ninth defence of his belt against former Olympian Dominic Breazeale. That Wilder has made so many successful defences says more about the quality of his opposition than his own abilities. Wilder is 1/8 favourite to defend again, and on the basis of Breazeale’s last performance that is amazingly generous.
I have defended Breazeale in the past but against Carlos Negron in December he was dire. He will perform better on Saturday but will still get knocked out.
Gary Russell Jr. also features, making the fourth defence of his WBC featherweight belt against stalwart European Kiko Martinez of Spain. These days Kiko is the go-to guy if you want an opponent with a recognised name but who now carries little threat. It has taken Russell four years to make these defences – a ridiculous waste of a hugely talented boxer. He is 1/50 favourite to win but does anybody care any more?
More exciting is the fact that his two younger brothers are on the undercard. Both are undefeated, fast-rising prospects in the sport and both fight on a regular basis. This PBC show is televised in the U.S. on Showtime and in the U.K. on Sky Sports.
Worth a quick mention is a championship fight in Japan on Sunday, when Nicaragua’s Felix Alvarado defends his IBF light-flyweight title against home fighter Reiya Konishi. Alvarado won a world title at the third time of asking last time out, when he went to the Philippines and stopped Randy Petalcorin to win the vacant belt.
All of Alvarado’s title fights have been on away soil so he is used to being the away fighter. It helps that he has an 83% knockout ratio. Konishi makes his second challenge for a world title, losing closely to Carlos Canizales for the WBA belt last year. Expect this one to also go to the wire.
Prospect watch: My fighter to watch last week unfortunately lost his undefeated record – I hope this piece does not become the kiss of death to young fighters!
This week’s prospect is 24 year old Ukrainian, Serhii Bohachuk. The super-welterweight is 13-0 (13 kos), and trains at Big Bear in California under Abel Sanchez. Insiders are getting very excited by this young man who faces his best opponent to date on Sunday at The Avalon in Hollywood, in veteran Freddy Hernandez. Although Hernandez is way past his best, he still gave Irishman Jason Quigley his toughest fight last time out.
British fans get a chance to see Bohachuk as the show is televised live in the U.K. on BoxNation.