What: Vasyl Lomachenko vs. Anthony Crolla, LightweightsWhen: April 12
How to Watch: ESPN+ 11 p.m. ET
Why You Should Care: To see Vasyl Lomachenko’s incomparable skills, and apparently incomparable robe.
Vasyl Lomachenko was supposed to fight Richard Commey, but Commey hurt his hand in a second-round TKO victory over Isa Chaniev. So, rather than see Lomachenko against the hard hitting Ghanaian, we get Lomachenko against the 32-year-old veteran from Manchester England. Which is… underwhelming.
Anthony Crolla isn’t going to win this one. That’s just a fact. And this week, proof of that reality was everywhere in boxing media.
On Twitter, Bob Arum has been trying to sell fans the fight not by hyping up Anthony Crolla’s chances against the pound for pound best fighter in the world, but by teasing Lomachenko’s robe choice for Friday night’s fight, declaring “There has never been anything comparable in the history of boxing.”
Unless Lomachenko comes out in Katniss Everdeen’s spontaneously combusting dress, this is a sad attempt to hype the fight. Unfortunately, there’s not much you can do to promote such a mismatch. Crolla has six losses as a professional, including a 2008 loss to a then 3-8 fighter. He can’t do roadwork anymore, because he got his ankle destroyed stopping a robbery in 2014. He will be a +1600 underdog going into the bout. And this week, in an article that asked boxing trainers how to beat Lomachenko, almost every trainer said you need to have big size advantage over him. Crolla doesn’t. Then ESPN asked for picks from their boxing experts. None picked Crolla.
But you should still watch the fight to see Lomachenko. Yes, I have made this argument before, but it remains true. Lomachenko is a once in a generation talent, and any chance you have to see him is one you cannot miss, no matter how weak the opposition.
Plus, the robe.
What: Gilberto "Zurdo" Ramirez vs. Tommy Karpency, Light HeavyweightsWhen: April 12
How to Watch: ESPN+ 11 p.m. ET
Why You Should Care: To see if Gilberto Ramirez should’ve stuck to the “if it ain’t broke” doctrine.
At 27 years old, Gilberto Ramirez was 39-0 with 25 knockouts and held the WBO Super Middleweight title. While he wasn’t well known to the casual sports fan, there seemed to be little impetus for him to change anything in his career, especially with well-known guys like Canelo Alvarez and Billy Joe Saunders all of a sudden looking to fight for titles at 168.
Yet, Ramirez decided to move to light heavyweight, move to LA, and dump both his manager and trainer. While he hasn’t ruled out returning to 168 (and has not relinquished his belt yet), Ramirez is spitting in the face of the famous adage, “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”
Tommy Karpency is 29-6, with losses to guys like Adonis Stevenson, Oleksandr Gvozdyk, Nathan Cleverley and Andrzej Fonfara. But, Karpency beat Chad Dawson in 2014 and knocked down Oleksandr Gvozdyk in the first round of their fight. Ramirez should be better than Karpency, and with Karpency having been stopped three times as a professional he should be a good test of whether Ramirez’s power carries from 168.
Gilberto Ramirez should be able to beat his fellow Southpaw who hails from Pennsylvania. Or, the Gilberto Ramirez who lived in Mexico, fought at 168 and was trained by Hector Zapari should have been able to. On Friday, we’ll see about the new guy.
What: Claressa Shields vs. Christina Hammer, MiddleweightsWhen: April 13
How to Watch: Showtime 9 p.m. ET
Why You Should Care: Because it’s a huge unification fight that may have a larger cultural impact.
In a fight that will unify the WBA, IBF, WBC, and WBO middleweight titles, the only American boxer to win two gold medals, the 8-0 Claressa “T-Rex” Shields, will face Germany’s Christina Hammer who is 24-0 as a professional.
From a sheer boxing perspective, this fight should fascinate everyone as the level of skill and accomplishment is so high. Including their amateur careers, the two fighters will have a combined record of 133-2. But beyond the in-ring accomplishments, the fight represents an interesting clash in marketing styles that may have larger ramifications in regard to women in combat sports.
Christina Hammer is an underwear model who takes pictures of herself in bikinis and whose Instagram is full of high fashion photos and who idolizes Jennifer Lopez and Heidi Klum. Claressa Shields, on the other hand has a matter-of-fact to the point of standoffish personality, was unafraid to call out Serena Williams for being mean to people, and mocked Hammer for her modeling ahead of the fight.
Claressa Shields would be a huge star if she was a man. Her bravado, brutal honesty and sheer IDGAF-ness would have the world fascinated. But we tend to like female athletes to still be dainty, ladylike and humble. Christina Hammer can fit that bill perfectly. Claressa Shields can’t. On Saturday we’ll see if Hammer can follow the template to becoming a female star, or if Shields can rewrite it.
What: Jaime Munguia vs. Dennis Hogan, Junior MiddleweightsWhen: April 13
How to Watch: DAZN 7 p.m. ET
Why You Should Care: To see if Jaime Munguia can make people believe he can compete with the middleweight elite, when people aren’t sure he’s that good at 154.
According to Jaime Munguia’s manager he will be moving up to middleweight this year, likely after his fifth defense of the WBO 154 lb belt (the fight with Hogan will be his fourth defense). The idea is, with 154 lbs not having many stars, Munguia will move up to 160 where huge names like Canelo, GGG, and Daniel Jacobs all fight on DAZN. While his action style and iffy defense will have people excited about those matchups, few would make him the favorite in any of those fights. Because, people aren’t sure he’s that good.
Munguia first as rejected as a GGG opponent, only to destroy Sadam Ali. But Ali was deemed too small for 154 and Munguia’s performance was undercut by that idea. Then, when Munguia struggled against Liam Smith everyone decided a good enough boxer would box circles around the 22-year-old from Tijuana Mexico. Wins over Takeshi Inoue and Brandon Cook were viewed as easy wins over subpar opponents designed to enhance his prestige for DAZN.
People doubt Munguia could beat Erislandy Lara, Jarrett Hurd, or Jermall Charlo at 154, yet we are supposed to buy the idea of him beating Canelo or GGG? To make more believers, he’ll need to show something special against Dennis Hogan.
Hogan is 28-1 with only seven knockouts. His only loss came to Jack Culcay via decision, so while his level of competition hasn’t been great it would mean something for Munguia to be the first person ever to stop him. Munguia should be able to walk down Hogan, punish him to the body and get a late stoppage.
If he can’t, there’s no need to see him at 160.
What: Caleb Truax vs. Peter Quillin, Super MiddleweightsWhen: April 13
How to Watch: FS1 10 p.m. ET
Why You Should Care: To see if the new “Cinderella Man” can manufacture another moment of triumph.
The PBC website had a story this week that called Caleb Truax “Boxing’s Real Life Cinderella Man”, which is incredibly stupid considering “Cinderella Man” is about James Braddock, a very real guy. Still, Truax’s story is an interesting one. He was a college football player at Virginia State University, but a knee injury ended his career.
With nothing to do later in life, he fought in a Toughman contest thinking he would be a better athlete than everybody else. He wasn’t, so he lost. But he stuck with boxing and did well enough that he thought he could make the Olympics. Except, he wasn’t eligible to compete in the Olympics because of the Toughman Contest. So, he became a professional.
At 35 years old, Truax is now 30-4, with a win over James Degale in which he was a 50-1 underdog. Still, Truax doesn’t have any bad losses in his career; he has only lost to Jermain Taylor, Daniel Jacobs, Anthony Dirrell, and Degale.
Also 35 years old, Peter “Kid Chocolate” Quillin (who I once again feel the need to point out should go by “Starlord” instead) has only lost to Daniel Jacobs, but that fight put him into such a depression that he didn’t fight for almost two years after. Coming off an August victory over J’Leon Love, Quillin will have to go to Truax’s home state of Minnesota for the fight, though he is the favorite.
Both guys are 35 years old, so the loser is pretty much done, but Truax has the added pressure of fighting in his hometown. The Braddock movie ended with him becoming champion, it didn’t show him getting killed by Joe Louis. The Truax movie needs a triumphant moment beyond his fight with Degale two years ago.
On Saturday, we’ll see if he can make one.
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