What: Srisaket Sor Rungvisai vs. Juan Francisco Estrada, Junior BantamweightsWhen: April 26
How to Watch: DAZN 7:30 p.m. ET
Why You Should Care: Because the first fight was great, and recent events could make this one even better.
Rungvisai-Estrada 1 was a great fight. The majority decision win for Rungvisai would make most 2018 “fight of the year” lists, and the 12th round would make most “round of the year” lists. While it was rarely chosen as the winner of that honor, the level of skill on display was extremely high and the closeness of the fight warranted an immediate rematch.
But that’s not what happened. And that may be a good thing.
Instead of an immediate rematch, Rungvisai signed with ONE Championship and began collecting huge paychecks by beating up stiffs in Thailand, to the delight of fans in his home nation. Estrada, on the other hand went through a couple of tough fights against Felipe Orucuta and Victor “Spock” Mendez. That means that Estrada has been in the tougher fights lately, while Rungvisai hasn’t fought a legitimate challenger since the first Estrada bout.
The consensus, even after the first fight was so competitive, is that Estrada fought well and is all heart but Rungvisai is too good for him. On Friday night, that may well be the case again. But with Rungvisai, who is now 32, having been cruising against easy competition in his home nation, and Estrada having been in some tough fights in California where the fight will take place (he also claims he was dealing with injuries going into the first bout), that gap may be closer than most people realize. And when the first fight was such a tight back and forth affair, it could mean this one will be even closer.
What: Daniel Roman vs. TJ Doheny, Junior FeatherweightsWhen: April 26
How to Watch: DAZN 7:30 p.m. ET
Why You Should Care: To see whose story of perseverance has another great moment, and whose great moment is already behind them.
TJ Doheny has a fascinating story. The 21-0 Irish 122-pound IBF champion never won any big amateur titles in Ireland, so when he became a pro boxer, he moved to Australia to fight while working as a full-time scaffolder. There, he was making so little money that when a title shot elimination fight fell through, he had lost so much money training that he was ready to fly home and quit boxing altogether. But, he didn’t have enough money to fly home, so he stayed and kept fighting. Eventually, he would beat Ryosuke Isawa in Japan to win the IBF title.
WBA champion Daniel Roman has also been through rough times. He will be fighting in his hometown of Inglewood, California for the first time ever, and has spoken at length about how dangerous it was growing up in that city. He started his careera pedestrian 2-1-1 but hasn’t lost since 2013. Like Doheny, he won his title in Japan, beating Shun Kubo by ninth round stoppage in 2017. He is already talking about moving down to 118 and fighting Naoya “The Monster” Inoue after he unifies the titles.
Doheny and Roman have great stories about perseverance that culminated in a title win in Japan. One guy will get an even greater moment. On Friday night, we’ll see which it is.
What: Kiryl Relikh vs. Regis Prograis, Junior WelterweightsWhen: April 27
How to Watch: DAZN 8 p.m. ET
Why You Should Care: Because this should be Rougarou’s anointment to word champion, as long as Relikh’s power doesn’t get to him.
This should be Regis Prograis’ first world title victory. He is projected as a possible star at both 140 and 147, he is fighting in his home state of Louisiana, and he is a heavy favorite according to oddsmakers. If everything goes according to plan, the biggest star in the WBSS 140 pound tournament will stop Relikh, move to 24-0 with 20 knockouts, and move on to vie for the IBF title against the winner of Baranchyk-Taylor (which is back on, since Baranchyk came back to the tournament last week).
The one thing that could derail those plans is Relikh’s power. Relikh is 23-2 with 19 knockouts. When Prograis was asked about the 29-year-old from Belarus, Prograis noted that while he hadn’t studied him what stuck out was his power. As he explained, “He must have power because Barthelemey just ran around for 12 rounds. It was a horrible match. He didn’t try and fight. He ran and ran. Relikh won easy. But it wasn’t too much to take away because his opponent.”
Rances Barthelemey is a good Cuban fighter that had already beaten Relikh once before. If he was running in fear of Relikh’s power, then Relikh must have some serious pop.
This should be Regis Progais’ anointment as a world title holder in his home state. But if Kiryl Relikh can use his punching power to make some things happen, then “Rougarou” may be on the bad end of a plot twist he didn’t see coming.
What: Nonito Donaire vs Stephon YoungWhen: April 27
How to Watch: DAZN 8 p.m. ET
Why You Should Care: To see if Donaire can stop a late replacement fighter, and show he’s not lucking his way through the WBSS.
Nonito Donaire was supposed to fight Zolani Tete in the second round of the WBSS bantamweight tournament, but Tete injured his shoulder and had to be replaced on a days’ notice. This came after Donaire defeated the tournament’s top seed Ryan Burnett, because Burnett injured his back in the fourth round of the fight.
So in a tournament he entered to prove he wasn’t shot at 36 years old, and to show he could rejuvenate his career by dropping down two weight classes and fighting in a division he hadn’t seen since 2011 Donaire has only proven that luck is on The Filipino Flash’s side.
Which is why this late replacement fighter offers Donaire such a great opportunity. A 30-year-old from St. Louis, Stephon Young’s level of opponent hasn’t been great. His record is 18-1-3, and he has never been stopped as a professional, but he’s never faced anyone close to as good as Donaire was. But Donaire hasn’t had a legitimate stoppage win since 2016.
Nonito Donaire was once very good and is doing everything he can to prove he could be that guy again. The fates have aligned and given him a great opportunity to show flashes of his old self before facing a huge challenge in the WBSS finals. We’ll see if he can capitalize on it.
What: Robert Easter Jr. vs. Rances Barthelemy, LightweightsWhen: April 27
How to Watch: Showtime 10 p.m. ET
Why You Should Care: To see if Easter Jr. or Barthelemy can capitalize on the small opening created by Mikey Garcia abandoning 135 pounds.
In an effort to promote his fight on Showtime, Robert Easter Jr. got in the ring with the Easter bunny and threw some playful punches. Easter was lucky that the bunny didn’t start swinging for real or he could have found himself in some trouble. Nonetheless.
Easter was rolling as a professional and held the IBF title, until he challenged Mikey Garcia in a unification bout and lost a wide decision. Luckily for Easter, Garcia has decided he doesn’t want to fight at lightweight any more, and will now compete at 140. Unfortunately for both Easter and Barthelemy, the lightweight division is still stacked.
Right now at 135 there is Lomachenko, Richard Commey, Teofimo Lopez, Luke Campbell, and a couple of other guys poised to break through. So, while Garcia’s departure certainly presents an opportunity, a loss in this fight would send them tumbling down the 135 pound ladder.
So, Easter and his one loss to Mikey Garcia will face off against Barthelemy and his one loss to Relikh, hoping to carve themselves a spot at the slightly more open table.
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