Boxing: Fight Week Preview
By Gary Kittilsen
With little boxing action the past few weeks, fight fans finally have some good news and that good news comes in threes. Three major cards all take place this coming Saturday, two in the US and the third in the UK.
The action-packed Saturday kicks off in the Wembley Arena as undefeated and former IBF featherweight champion Josh Warrington from Leeds, Yorkshire, steps back into the ring after nearly 16-months away.
He battles hard-nosed, rising Mexican prospect Mauricio Lara. Lara is just 22-years old and has already compiled 21 wins in 23 pro bouts. Lara last lost in 2018 when he was just 19 years old and has run off a 10-0 record with a no-contest since that loss, with eight of those wins coming by stoppage.
Lara is little known outside of his native Mexico but has decent pop and high punch output that could make for an intriguing test for the former champ. In the co-main event, Leigh Wood returns to the ring for the first time since his highly competitive and highly entertaining loss to Jazza Dickens nearly a year ago.
Wood battles undefeated prospect Reece Mould for the vacant BBB of C British featherweight Title. The card also features the highly touted super-featherweight prospect Zelfa Barrett he takes on former world champ Kiko Martinez in a major step-up bout.
Another young upstart will be stepping up the level of competition as the hard-hitting, fan-friendly, Dalton Smith looks to extend his undefeated streak to seven against Ishmael Smith.
World championship boxing returns to the US when fan-favourite slugger Joe Smith Jr of New York battles long-time contender Maxim Vlasov of Samara, Russia, for the vacant WBO light-heavyweight title.
The dream of capturing a world title will become a reality on Saturday night for one of these two veterans. Both men have long been in the title picture but unable to capture a world title.
Smith Jr had a sensational 2020, scoring two big wins one over Jesse Hart via decision and then absolutely destroying former world champ Eldier Alvarez over nine one-sided rounds on his way to the TKO victory.
Vlasov has fought three teams since moving back down to 175, after trying his hand at cruiserweight, winning all three bouts, including impressive decisions over Isaac Chelimeba, who had previously defeated Vlasov. He also decisoned undefeated prospect Emanuel Martey back in November of 2019.
The undercard features the return of former IBF lightweight champ Richard Commey in a very difficult comeback fight against Jackson Marinez.
Marinez last fought in August and dropped a very controversial decision to Rollie Romero in a fight nearly everyone thought he deserved the decision.
Commey has not fought since his second-round knockout loss to Teofimo Lopez in December of 2019. Commey turns 34 next month and absolutely needs an impressive victory to stay relevant in the world title picture in a loaded lightweight division.
Finally, in Indio California, a world championship double-header concludes a loaded day of boxing as Joseph “JoJo” Diaz makes the first defense of his IBF 130-pound belt after a year away from the ring. He defends his title against the undefeated Shavkatdzhon Rakhimov.
Diaz last fought in January of 2020 when he upset Tevin Farmer to capture the strap. He was scheduled to fight Farmer but that fell through due to the pandemic.
Rakhimov, however, is a worthy challenger, who at just 26-years-old has compiled a 15-0 record and blew out fellow unbeaten prospect Azinga Fuzile. Stopping Fuzile in eight rounds. He also has an impressive second-round TKO victory over rugged veteran Robinson Castellanos, back in 2018.
The co-main is an all-out slugfest as two offensive-minded fighters square off. Hard-hitting Brian Castano of Argentina, who is ranked number one, by the WBO steps in with reigning champ Patrick Teixeira of Brazil. Teixeira won the belt against Carlos Adames in a fight of the year type of affair back in November of 2019.This will be the Brazilian first defense of his belt.
The undercard features yet another all-action scrap between Irish Jason Quigley and Shane Mosley Jr, the son of the legendary ‘Sugar” Shane Mosley, in a fight between two once highly touted prospects looking to rejuvenate their careers and get themselves into the world title picture.