Boxing: Fight Week Preview
By Gary Kittilsen
Fight fans will continue to be fed a healthy diet of the sweet science this weekend. The action kicks off with a great appetizer in Russia and then the main course will be served in the Lone Star State when the biggest star in the sport returns to the ring for the third time in 140-days.
The boxing action kicks off in Ekaterinburg, Russia as the highly touted undefeated 154-pound Russian prospect 25-year-old Magomed Kurbanov takes the biggest challenge of his young career and puts his 21-0 record on the line against former world titleholder Liam “Beefy” Smith.
Smith held the WBO version of the super-welterweight title from 2015 to 2016 and successfully defended it twice, each time be stoppage, before losing the belt to Canelo Alvaers in Arlington, Texas, in September of 2016.
Smith lost his bid to regain that belt in a highly competitive scrap with Jaime Munguia in July of 2018. Beefy followed up that loss by running off three consecutive victories in 2019, including a fifth-round destruction of countrymen Sam Egginton.
Kurbanov, scored the best victory of his career in 2019 when he outlasted Diego Chavez. He also has a victory over Ismail Iliev and most recently blew out rugged veteran Dmitry Mikhaylenko in just two rounds.
The co-main event features another unbeaten prospect Eduard Skavynskyi of Ukraine, who battles former world-title challenger Joel Julio in a 10 round welterweight affair. Skavynskyi sports a perfect 13-0 record and most recently scored a unanimous decision victory over Dzmitry Atrokhau back in September of last year in a 154-pound matchup. He moves down to his more natural weight to battle Julio.
Julio has a win over Ishe Smith and has been in the ring with the likes of James Kirkland, Alfredo Angulo, Cornelius Bundrage, and challenged Serhiy Dzinziruk for the WBO title, a decision he narrowly lost in a high-level boxing match.
The fighting action moves over to Arlington, Texas as Canelo Alvarez and Billy Joe Saunders fight to unify three-quarters of the super-middleweight division. Despite some drama in regards to the ring size, it looks like all systems are a go and that this fight will happen on Saturday night.
Canelo is fighting for the third time in five months. He previously dominated Callum Smith over 12 one-sided rounds to capture by the WBA & WBC belts. He then defended both belts against Avni Yildirim in a three-round lop-sided beatdown in what was a complete mismatch back in late February.
Billy Joe Saunders sports a perfect 30-0 record and holds the WBO strap. A strap he won back in May of 2019 by outpointing Shefat Isufi. Saunders has twice defended once in 2019 when he rallied to stop a tougher than expected Marcelo Esteban Coceres of Argentina and defended it again in 2020 when he put on a masterful performance against long-time contender and world title challenger Martin Murray.
If Canelo wins he is expected to fight IBF champion, Caleb Plant, in September.
The co-main features another world title fight as the all-action Elwin Soto defends his WBO light-flyweight title against former world titleholder Katsunari Takayama.
Takayama has fought just once since 2016 a six-round decision over Reiya Konishi in Japan back in December. Soto captured the WBO belt when he scored a massive upset by stopping Angel Acota in the final round of their 2019 battle. He has defended the belt three times since including his most recent outing when he took a competitive decision over Carlos Buitrago in Indio, California this past October.
The card also features the return of standout American prospect Keyshawn Davis as well as an intriguing 154-pound scrap between Kieron Conway who battles the undefeated Souleymane Cissokho for the WBA Inter-Continental super-welterweight title.