Sherdog’s Weekend Boxing Preview

By James Kinneen Jul 20, 2018


This is a great weekend for boxing, full of intriguing matchups for fighters who could be future superstars, complete unknowns who could make a name for themselves and a pair of matchups to determine the best fighters in the world at cruiserweight and junior middleweight.

What: Lamont Roach Jr. vs. Deivis Julio Bassa, Junior Lightweights

When: July 20
How to Watch: ESPN 7PM ET
Why You Should Care: Because this is a trap fight for the young, undefeated Lamont Roach Jr.

Washington DC’s Roach Jr. is 16-0-1, with the sole blemish on his record being a draw with Orlando Cruz Jr. in his last fight. He wanted the rematch with Cruz but could not get it, so he will fight Bassa instead. Bassa is a 37-year-old Colombian who has lost four of his last eight fights, last fought against a guy with an 0-26 record and did not start boxing as a professional until he was 32 years old. This fight is 100% intended to showcase Roach, but Bassa might be better than his record appears. He won a silver medal in the 2010 South American games as an amateur and has faced a couple of decent professionals in his career, like Joet Gonzalez. Roach should win easily, but if he is overlooking this opponent he may face some unexpected trouble.

What: Jaron Ennis vs. Armando Alvarez, Welterweights

When: July 20
How to Watch: Showtime, 10PM
Why You Should Care: It’s a battle between two undefeated American welterweights, but Ennis is the one to know.

Jaron Ennis is 20-0 with 18 knockouts as a professional. He won the 2015 National Golden Gloves Tournament, but lost to Gary Antuane Russell, the younger brother of Gary Russell Jr., in a box-off, which cost him a spot on the 2016 Olympic team. Boxing Insider has called him "the best looking prospect in Philly since 1984 Olympic Gold Medalist Meldrick Taylor." Simply put, he is a legitimate threat in an already stacked welterweight division. Armando Alvarez, on the other hand has padded his record with subpar opponents but is still 18-0 with 12 knockouts. This should be the coming-out party for Ennis, but undefeated fighters always carry a certain stubborn pride with them, so Alvarez should at least be game.

What: Jaime Munguia vs. Liam Smith, Junior Middleweights

When: July 21
How to Watch: HBO 10 PM
Why You Should Care: Because Jaime Munguia is either the next big thing for HBO, or another one of their one-hit wonders.

Jaime Munguia could be the next big thing for HBO. The WBO 154-pound champion is young, explosive and fights with the type of seek-and-destroy style that everybody likes to watch. He has spoken about wanting to stop Liam Smith before Round 9 to better Canelo Alvarez’s performance against Smith, and will likely be throwing bombs from the opening bell. But Liverpool’s Liam Smith is no pushover. He has only lost once in his career, to “Canelo,” and in that fight caused the great Mexican champion to struggle at times. HBO has had plenty of guys that looked like killers in one fight, only to get embarrassed in what was supposed to be their big showcase fight. I’m looking at you, Dominick “The Southern Disaster” Guinn. This is a huge test for Munguia, but if he gets through it, and especially if he looks great doing it, he may well carry boxing on the premium service facing many new digital competitors, for years to come.

What: Alberto Machado vs. Rafael Mensah, Junior Lightweights

When: July 21
How to Watch: HBO 10PM (undercard fight)
Why You Should Care: Because Machado -- the WBA “Regular” Junior Lightweight Champion -- is Definitely Legit, but is Mensah?

Going into the famous fight between Azumah Nelson and Salvador Sanchez, nobody knew anything about Nelson. Salvador Sanchez was being heavily promoted, while Nelson had been brought in as a replacement for Mario Miranda. Fans and pundits assumed the fighter, from Ghana of all places, would be destroyed, a mere bump in the road of Sanchez’s greatness. What happened instead was a fierce battle that Sanchez ultimately won, but established that Nelson was not only good, but potentially great. Now, I’m not saying Rafael Mensah is Azumah Nelson or that Alberto Machado is Salvador Sanchez, but the parallels in this fight are clear. Alberto Machado is a proven champion, an undefeated knockout artist who has stopped 16 of his 19 opponents, while Rafael Mensah is an undefeated unknown who has never fought outside of Ghana. We know Ghana has produced very good boxers before, like Ike Quartey and Joshua Clottey, so who knows if Mensah is one of them? Maybe this fight is a mismatch, maybe Mensah is the product of a padded African record, maybe Machado walks through him or maybe the crafty Southpaw who calls himself “Sweet Pea” (boo to nickname stealing!) is a lot better than we think. Either way, this Mensah will either make his critics seem smart, or his believers seem like geniuses.

What: Oleksandr Usyk vs. Murat Gassiev, Cruiserweights

When: July 21
How to Watch: Klowd TV (Streaming at a onetime cost of 10 dollars) 3PM ET
Why You Should Care: Because every boxing journalist there is thinks it’s going to be great.

I hate to use, or see other journalists resort to using over-the-top hyperbole, so I know you’re thinking that not everybody can think this fight, which is the final of the World Boxing Super Series at cruiserweight, is going to be great. But it’s true, they really are. Barry Jones says “if you can’t get excited about the Usyk-Gassiev fight this Saturday, then boxing is just not your sport” while Ring Magazine believes “On paper, Usyk-Gassiev looks can’t-miss and appears to have the makings of a potential Fight of the Year” and thefightcity.com believes the fight “promises to be a dramatic 12 round struggle.” So why is everyone so excited? Well, Ukraine’s Oleksandr Usyk is undefeated, 14-0 with 11 knockouts, a 2012 Olympic Gold Medalist, and trained by Vasyl Lomachenko’s dad. He is slick, quick and very difficult to hit cleanly. Murat Gassiev is also undefeated with a record of 26-0 with 19 knockouts. He is a come-forward fighter, descended from the Russian “Iron” people so he’s got to be tough. Gassiev is going to march forward, eat shots and bang away at Usyk’s body, while Usyk is going to box on the outside and try to show some of that Lomachenko footwork on a 50 pound heavier frame. Who will win? I don’t know, but whoever it is will have proven they’re the best cruiserweight in the world.

And One You Shouldn’t…

This weekend is also the Steve Bosse-Jean Pascal fight that was almost cancelled after allegations connecting Bosse to organized crime. After seeing what happened to Bin Lu, who was a far better boxer than Bosse is, and knowing what happened when MMA fighter Tim Hague entered the boxing world against a far inferior opponent than Pascal, this fight really does not need to happen. At first, I thought it was fun, but now I see no best-case scenario and plenty of worst-case scenarios for the matchup. We don’t need to watch a former hockey enforcer turned MMA fighter with one professional boxing match in the ring with a former light heavyweight champion. There are plenty of great boxing matches this weekend, let’s skip this bad one.

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