What: Vasyl Lomachenko vs. Jose Pedraza, LightweightsWhen: Dec. 8
How to Watch: ESPN 9 p.m. ET
Why You Should Care: To see Vasyl Lomachenko.
That’s it. You should watch the fight to see Vasyl Lomachenko. There’s nothing more to say. That’s how good Lomachenko is. I mean, it’s not a bad matchup and I could try to sell you on Jose Pedraza’s chances. I could tell you how he had a storied amateur career that included representing Puerto Rico in the 2008 Olympics and winning silver at the 2009 World Amateur Championships. I could tell you that he’s the WBO lightweight champion of the world, that he’s 25-1 with his one loss coming to Gervonta Davis, and that he’s fresh off of a win over Ray Beltran. I could tell you all sorts of stuff like that, and I could even try to convince you that Lomachenko looked small for a lightweight in his fight against Jorge Linares and might be too small for the division. But, there’s no point in pretending Pedraza is going to beat Lomachenko. He won’t. That should have no bearing on why you should watch the fight., you should watch to see Vasyl Lomachenko.
In a sport that dates back to the first Olympics, Lomachenko does things in the boxing ring that people have never seen before, at least not the way he does them (okay hipster boxing fans Canizales was similar). In a sport whose fighters have trained basically the same way since the 1940’s, he does drills that nobody has ever seen before. Lomacheno is different, so while the standards for encouraging you to watch other fights may be that they’re going to be close, back and forth matchups, for somebody different like Lomachenko, the standards are different.
So find a friend, your dad, your brother, whoever you think might want to see greatness, sit them down and make them watch Vasyl Lomachenko unify the WBO and WBA titles.
What: Isaac Dogboe vs Emanuel Navarrete, 12 rounds, for Dogboe's WBO junior featherweight titleWhen: Dec. 8
How to Watch: ESPN 9 p.m. ET
Why You Should Care: To see who can use the ultimate star-making platform to advance his career.
Emanuel Navarrete is 25-1, hasn’t lost since 2012 (a four round decision when he was 17), and has knocked out 22 opponents. Isaac Dogboe is 20-0 with 14 knockouts, including a first round stoppage of the previously un-knockoutable Hidenori Otake. With a fight live on an ESPN broadcast, from Madison Square Garden, with the leadup being a surprisingly hard to pick Heisman Trophy presentation, this fight will create a star. The question is, which fighter will it be?
Isaac Dogboe is the more obvious choice. He’s undefeated, exciting, and speaks perfect English as a result of having been educated in England. He’s smart (he plans to study at Penn State after the fight). He hails from Ghana, where he is legitimate royalty. And he is growing in popularity at a time when “Black Panther” has made African culture and African warrior history more popular than it has ever been before. Isaac Dogboe should become a star, as long as Emanuel Navarrete doesn’t knock him out.
Which may well happen. Mexico’s Navarrete is five inches taller than Dogboe and is only 23 years old. While he has never fought outside of Mexico, he is riding an eight-fight knockout streak over eight opponents with a combined 182-58 record, far from tomato cans and Tijuana cab drivers. And although he doesn’t have the star material Dogboe is made out of, he has knockout power, which can make a star out of even the least interesting fighter.
On Saturday night we’ll watch somebody become a star. Tune in to see whom.
What: Kell Brook vs. Michael Zerafa, 12 rounds, WBA junior middleweight eliminatorWhen: Dec. 8
How to Watch: DAZN 2 p.m. ET
Why You Should Care: Because Kell Brook needs to do something to draw out Amir Khan, and that could be his demise.
Kell Brook just cannot get Amir Khan to fight him. Although they are both from the UK, and although the fight would sell incredibly well overseas, no matter what he says Kell Brook just cannot get Amir Khan in the ring with him. Yet, he still talks and talks and talks about making that fight happen. Since all that talking is getting him nowhere fast, he will have to use his in-ring prowess to make the fight happen.
Which means taking risks. Kell Brook is far too good a boxer for Michael Zerafa. If he was only concerned with beating the Australian, he would likely cruise to an uneventful unanimous decision win. However, when you factor in the fact that he wants to look great doing so, and to entertain the fans beyond the normal parameters of a Kell Brook fight, then this fight becomes a dangerous one for the man from the UK.
What: Juan Francisco Estrada vs. Victor Mendez, 10 rounds, junior bantamweightsWhen: Dec. 8
How to Watch: HBO 10:20 p.m. ET
Why You Should Care: Because it is the last men’s boxing match ever on HBO.
As much as we’d like to believe that the gentlemen of HBO will treat female boxing exactly the same as they have treated men’s boxing for over 45 years, that’s highly unlikely. HBO didn’t start airing female boxing until this year, and the HBO boxing team consists of a Southern gentleman from Pensacola, Florida, a 69-year-old and an admitted onetime domestic abuser, so it’s probably safe to assume this is a group that’s careful with its criticism of females.
Because of that unfortunate truth, if you’re looking to watch the men of HBO -- including Larry Merchant who will return for one night only -- do what they have always done best, you’re probably going to have to watch the Estrada-Mendez fight. Luckily for you, the all-Mexico battle should be a good one.
Juan Fransisco Estrada has lost three times in his career, with two of those losses coming to Chocalatito and Sor Rungvisai, in a gritty back-and-forth battle that Estrada is desperate to avenge. Victor Mendez is 28-3, riding a four-fight win streak since a loss to Artur Villanueva. Estrada should win this, but Mendez is a good fighter with good power, so it should be a decent scrap.
Watch for the Roy Jones “The reason he’s not doing that Jeeym is because,” the Jim Lampley tears, the Max Kellerman history lessons and the Larry Merchant old-man snark. You’ll never get another chance.
What: Cecilia Braekhus vs. Aleksandra Magdziak-Lopes, Welterweights
When: Dec. 8 How to Watch: HBO
10:20 p.m. ET Why You Should Care: So you’ll know
why Braekhus and Shields need to fight each other.
What:Claressa Shields vs. Femke Hermans, Middleweights
Cecilia Braekhus weighs 147 pounds, and is 34-0 over an 11-year career. On Saturday, she fights Aleksandra Magdziak-Lopes. Claressa “T-Rex” Shields weighs 160 pounds, is undefeated at 7-0 and is the most famous American female boxer in the world. On Saturday, she fights Fenke Hermans.
If more people cared about female boxing, the call for Shields to fight Braekhus at 154 would be overwhelming. This card would be getting panned, people would be boycotting it and declaring that they won’t watch any Braekhus or Shields fight unless its against each other, and suggestions like Braekhus’ idea that she fight MMA star Cris Cyborg in a boxing match would be treated with the same vitriol as every time Floyd Mayweather starts talking about fighting Khabib, but far worse -- Mayweather is not in his athletic prime and unlikely to beat the top welterweights in the world at this point in his career. But because people don’t seem to care about female boxing, nobody cares. Which is why you have to watch these fights.
HBO is done with boxing after the match, so they will not be able to provide any great pressure on the two. The only pressure can come from boxing fans, and for that to happen you have to understand why these two need to fight. Watching the two best female boxers in the world destroy a couple of hapless opponents will make you understand why the only reasonable opponent for each is the other. So do what boxing fans do best: watch, then complain about the fights that aren’t happening.