What: Anthony Joshua vs. Andy Ruiz Jr., HeavyweightsWhen: June 1
How to Watch: Dazn 5:30 p.m. ET
Why You Should Care: Because a signature knockout over Andy Ruiz would really solidify the idea that Wilder is ducking Joshua, while an ugly fight against a pasty, pudgy replacement fighter would quash it in the public’s eye.
Is Deontay Wilder dodging Anthony Joshua? This week, “The Bronze Bomber” announced he’d be giving Luis Ortiz a rematch, which most people found baffling considering he didn’t even wait until after the Joshua-Ruiz fight, and do the prerequisite pretend negotiations that inevitably fall through. This came after he rejected $100 million from Dazn, in an offer that included two fights with Joshua. Considering not long ago when Wilder and Fury were facing off, Joshua was considered the heavyweight being protected by his people, that’s a big change of events.
But Wilder had a monster knockout a few weeks ago, and it’s hard to sell someone as scared or ducking anyone when they’re one-punch KO-ing opponents in less than a round.
If Anthony Joshua wants to get the public to really turn up the heat on Deontay Wilder, a big stoppage win over Andy Ruiz in his first trip to the USA would definitely help. But that’s much easier said than done. Andy Ruiz is 32-1, with his sole loss a decision to Joseph Parker in 2016. A slick boxer with a body that belies his abilities, Ruiz was the replacement fighter chosen after Jarrell Miller tested positive for PEDs, and enters the fight as a 12:1 underdog. Even if he doesn’t end up winning, he could outbox Joshua for a decent number of rounds.
That would be a disaster for the English superstar, because the public won’t understand how slick Ruiz is. They’ll simply see a guy who looks like this, boxing up a guy that looks like this, and say, “This is the guy you think Wilder is ducking?”
Anthony Joshua has stopped every opponent in his 22 professional fights except for Joseph Parker. If he can come to NYC and add another highlight reel knockout to his resume, he can get the mainstream sports world to start shaming Wilder the way they shamed Canelo for dodging GGG. But if he lets the pudgy Mexican boxer make him look bad, just a few weeks after Wilder picked up the heavy favorite for “knockout of the year,” no matter what kinds of offers he turns down, “Wilder is ducking me” will become a tough sell.
What: Callum Smith vs. Hassan N'Dam, Super MiddleweightsWhen: June 1
How to Watch: Dazn 5:30 p.m. ET
Why You Should Care: Because both fighters, including the one that is a major underdog, are looking ahead to a fight with Saul “Canelo” Alvarez after they win.
Hassan N’Dam was in the running to fight GGG, but that opportunity ultimately went to unknown Canadien Steve Rolls, in part to boost the streaming site’s sagging Canadian numbers. According to N’Dam, it’s because Golovkin keeps avoiding him. He told Ring Magazine this week, “I don’t know why Golovkin avoids me. This is the second time he could have fought me and said no. It’s okay because he wants to fight Canelo, but if I beat Callum Smith, I will fight Canelo.”
WBA (Super) Super Middleweight champion Callum Smith is also convinced he is going to fight Canelo if he beats N’Dam. He told ESPN this week, "The fact is, with Canelo, is that if I slip up on Saturday night, that fight doesn't happen, that's gone. So that's what keeps me motivated -- that I have to come here this Saturday and win to keep those massive fights alive.”
It's unclear why both N’Dam and Smith are so sure a win will make them Canelo’s next opponent. Canelo may well stay at 160, and as much as he’s been harassing GGG about needing a belt before he fights him for a third time, Dazn might step in, remind him how much money they paid for him, and make that fight happen.
Although their comments are virtually identical, N’Dam’s are more troubling. He will enter the fight with a four-inch height disadvantage; Smith is 25-0 with 18 knockouts while N’Dam is 37-3 with losses to Peter Quillin, David Lemieux, and a seventh round stoppage loss to Ryota Murata just two fights ago. And, while Smith has been fighting at 168 forever, N’Dam has been at 160 until this bout.
In the same interview with Ring Magazine, N’Dam was asked how he would handle Smith’s power at 168 and said, “I won’t know how I will take the power until he hits me.” At 160, Quillin knocked N’Dam down six times, while Lemieux put him on the canvas four times. We know how he will take the power, and it’s not good.
Both these guys are convinced a win gets them a shot at Canelo and all the fame and fortune that would entail, but only one man should be looking toward a fight with the Mexican superstar and that’s the taller betting favorite, that’s a champion with an undefeated record. Either N’Dam knows something we don’t, or there will be disastrous results.
What: Katie Taylor vs. Delfine Persoon, LightweightsWhen: June 1
How to Watch: Dazn 5:30 p.m. ET
Why You Should Care: Because their wildly different backgrounds, levels of fame, and professions won’t matter one bit as soon as the opening bell rings.
If you want to know how tough it is to make it as a female boxer without Olympic fame, consider this. Delfine Persoon is the WBC female lightweight champion, with a record of 43-1 as a professional. She is a full-time police officer in her native Belgium and had to work overtime to get enough leave to fight Taylor at Madison Square Garden. Perhaps that’s why she has only fought once outside of Belgium, a 2015 bout in Switzerland. Unsurprisingly, she is -- at best -- a 6:1 underdog.
Taylor, on the other hand is the WBO, IBF and WBA women’s lightweight champion and became well known in her home nation of Ireland after taking gold at the 2012 Olympics. Just thirteen fights into her professional career, she has already fought in Manchester, London, New York, Philadelphia and Boston. Some people consider her the greatest female boxer of all time already.
Persoon started boxing after an injury ender her judo career. Katie Taylor was born into a boxing family. Persoon is a cop who boxes as a hobby, Katie Taylor scoffed at a 130,000 Euro offer to fight Persoon. The Irish Times called Katie Taylor "the closest thing Ireland has to royalty." Delfine Persoon does not inspire anywhere near that level of fandom.
In a match that will unify all the female lightweight belts, we have a battle between two women whose lives and backgrounds are tremendously different. But none of that will matter on Saturday, when the two face off in the ring. That’s what makes boxing so compelling. And that’s what makes this fight so fascinating.
What: Devon Alexander vs. Ivan Redkach, WelterweightsWhen: June 1
How to Watch: Fox Sports 1 8 p.m. ET
Why You Should Care: To see which fighter can save his fledgling career by bringing in a legend of 90s boxing.
Devon Alexander is 2-4-1 in his last seven fights. Ivan Redkach is 4-4-1 in his last nine. The loser of this fight needs to retire. It’s that simple.
Alexander has the far more prestigious career. He simultaneously held the WBC and IBF light welterweight titles in 2011, and has beaten guys like Marcos Maidana, Lucas Matthysse, and Demarcus “Chop Chop” Corley. In his last fight, he dropped Andre Berto, and won the fight on one judge’s scorecard 114-113 (though he lost on the other two, 115-112).
So, what happened to Alexander? A lifelong non-drinker and drug avoider, he got nose surgery and became addicted to the painkillers his surgeons gave him to recover. Did Devon Alexander throw away his prime to this addiction, left to forever wonder how good he could have been? It’s very possible.
It’s also very likely most people reading this are unfamiliar with his addiction story and have completely forgotten about Alexander. Luckily, he has the mastermind behind “Y’all Musta Forgot” in his corner. Yes, going into this fight Alexander has begun training with Roy Jones Jr., who he claims is both teaching him how to have fun again and helping him balance his mental and physical game.
Ivan Redkach is a 33-year-old Ukranian Southpaw, who left the Ukraine to train in Mexico when he began his professional career. There, he developed an all action, come forward style which may have been a horrible decision considering how well slick Ukranian boxers like Lomachenko and Usyk are translating their amateur skills as professionals. But, he’s got his own legendary boxer in his corner for the first time going into the fight: he’s getting help from “Sugar” Shane Mosley. As a result, he’s claimed he will box more, and try to be slicker.
Both men have enlisted the help of a hall-of-fame boxer and 90s boxing legend to try and help them get their careers back on track, because both men need to win or give up the game entirely. On Saturday, we’ll see which one does.
What: Hugo Centeno Jr. vs. Willie Monroe Jr., MiddleweightsWhen: June 1
How to Watch: Fox Sports 1 8 p.m. ET
Why You Should Care: Because these are the more important boxers on the FS1 card, and they’re stuck on the undercard.
Willie Monroe Jr. has three losses: GGG, Billy Joe Saunders, and Darnell Boone (a journeyman who knocked down both Andre Ward and Sergey Kovalev). Hugo Centeno Jr. has two losses: undefeated Jermall Charlo and Maciej Sulecki, a one-loss fighter (lost to Daniel Jacobs) who will be challenging Demetrius Andrade for the WBO middleweight title in late June.
The point being: these are two solid middleweights to be fighting on the undercard of a couple guys who have been either under or right at .500 in their last couple of fights. So, while Devon Alexander is the biggest name on the card, these two guys may well be the most important fighters when it comes to boxing’s future.
Monroe was supposed to fight Jermall Charlo but tested positive for PED’s and lost his title shot in December. He needs to keep winning to get another chance. Hugo Centeno Jr. is trying to bounce back from a second round KO loss to Charlo. He needs to win to keep himself relevant.
On Saturday, on the undercard of a far less relevant fight, we’ll see what happens.
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