Sherdog's resident boxing expert, James Kinneen, breaks down an upcoming weekend with plenty of can't-miss fights.
What: Christopher Diaz vs. Masayuki Ito, Junior LightweightsWhen: July 28
How to Watch: ESPN+, 9:30 PM ET
Why You Should Care: Because Christopher “Pitufo” Diaz lost his house and most of his possessions after Hurricane Maria, but a world title can’t be swept away.
Almost every boxer has a hard luck story in their background, be it a rough childhood, abject poverty, or a manager cheating them out of all their prize money. But, Christopher Diaz’s hardships are a little different. He lost his house, and almost all of his possessions when Hurricane Maria destroyed his town in Puerto Rico. While nationalism is a mainstay in boxing, this connected tragedy gives his Puerto Rican fanbase a much realer sense of pride in him. So, while the search for the next Puerto Rican superstar is becoming a farcical cliché as more and more names fail to live up to the hype, the idea of an undefeated world champion (the fight is for the 130-pound belt Lomachenko vacated) who has suffered alongside his countrymen could make Christopher Diaz beloved in a way we may have never seen before.
But Masayuko Ito doesn’t care. He’s fighting outside of Japan for the first time ever, he’s lost only once to an 20-2 Japanese fighter named Rikki Naito, and he’s most definitely not coming all the way from Tokyo to lay down for a feel-good story. For Christopher Diaz, a win means no hurricane, flood or any other natural disaster can take away the fact that he was a world champion. But Ito can.
What: Mikey Garcia vs. Robert Easter Jr., LightweightsWhen: July 28
How to Watch: Showtime, 10PM ET
Why You Should Care: Because it’s a lightweight unification bout between two undefeated champions in their prime.
Mikey Garcia, who everyone wants to see fight Lomachenko but keeps talking about fighting Errol Spence Jr., was recently praised as the best pound-for-pound fighter in the world by George Foreman. ESPN, on the other hand, devoted an entire article to why Garcia isn’t embraced by fans like other Mexican American superstars have been. All this focus on Garcia’s stardom, his place in the P4P rankings and his potential future opponents has left out one big issue: he has a serious fight on his hands this weekend. Robert Easter Jr. is undefeated in 21 fights and confident enough to have told ESPN he thinks beating Garcia will be easy. He left his hometown to train full time with Kevin Cunningham, the former trainer of Devon Alexander and Cory Spinks, and will walk into the ring with five-inch height, and eight-inch reach advantages over Garcia. This entire week has been dedicated to how weird it is that Garcia isn’t a huge star. On Sunday morning, we might be having the same conversation about Easter Jr.
What: Luis Ortiz vs. Razvan Cojanu, HeavyweightsWhen: July 28
How to Watch: Showtime, 10PM ET
Why You Should Care: Because Luis Ortiz has one loss in a fight where he almost knocked out Deontay Wilder and is still a threat to every heavyweight in the world.
Maybe it’s because he is so old at 39, because he’s saying things like that he’ll fight MMA, or because HBO was hyping him for so long as he faced substandard competition, but the boxing world seems to have forgotten about Luis “King Kong” Ortiz. Bare in mind, this is a man who has lost one fight in his entire career, a vicious back and forth with Deontay Wilder in which he had Wilder out on his feet in the seventh, which earned him a 10-8 round from all three judges. As Tyson Fury loses weight, and we salivate at the idea of Oleksandr Usyk moving up, we should all remember this man is still very much a threat to every heavyweight in the world. He gets a chance to prove it against Razvan Cojanu, a 6-foot-7 Romanian who has lost three times and been stopped once. With a statement win, Ortiz can remind the world that he is back or more accurately, that he never left.
What: Dillian Whyte vs. Joseph Parker, HeavyweightsWhen: July 28
How to Watch: You Can’t (yet)
Why You Should Care: Because both men want another shot at the only man to ever beat them, Anthony Joshua, and the loser will probably never get that chance.
Dillian Whyte and Joseph Parker have both lost once in their career, to Anthony Joshua. Whyte was stopped back in 2015, while Parker lost a decision in March of this year. Both men’s intentions in this fight are clear, they want to win in impressive fashion then call out Joshua for a rematch. Parker will point out that he was doing well in the fight, and that Joshua couldn’t knock him out, while Whyte will point to a string of seven straight wins since being stopped. The winner will have a good argument; the loser will likely be out of the running forever.
For the first time in a long time, there are just too many good heavyweights for mediocre ones to get title shots. With guys like Joshua, Wilder, Fury, and possibly Usyk circling each other to say nothing of guys like Ortiz, Andy Ruiz and Jarrell Miller still waiting for their chances at another huge name. losing this fight would really set either Parker or Whyte back in a major way. With this matchup the stakes are clear, win the fight and you’ll get to pick a big name, lose it and you’ll be on the bottom of the ladder for a very long time.
What: Conor Benn vs. Cedric Peynaud, WelterweightsWhen: July 28
How to Watch: You Can’t (yet)
Why You Should Care: Because eventually we’ll find out if Conor Benn is more Floyd Mayweather Jr or Marvis Frazier, but until then we have to watch him destroy weak competition.
Being the child of a successful boxer is always tricky. We’ve seen it work out well, as in the case of Mayweather Jr. and Laila Ali, but more often than not the kin cannot live up to the name, as was the case with guys like Marvis Frazier and Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. Next up to try is Nigel “The Dark Destroyer” Benn’s son Conor (who due to his light skin calls himself simply “the destroyer”), who has faced very light competition but has still signed endorsement deals with Reebok and taken pictures with flashy cars on Instagram. Cedric Peynaud is 6-foot-5 and will not be the one to test how good Benn is or isn’t. But, you should still watch to decide for yourself whether he’ll be great like his dad, or great in name only.
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