Sherdog’s Weekend Boxing Preview

By James Kinneen Aug 2, 2019
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WHAT: Anthony Fowler vs. Brian Rose, Junior Middleweights
WHEN: Aug. 2
HOW TO WATCH: Dazn, 2 p.m. ET
WHY YOU SHOULD CARE: Because Fowler got way too cocky way too quickly, and even with a renewed focus after his first loss, a bout with a grizzled veteran could humble him for good.

When you hear fighters talking about getting cocky, complacent and finding a new hunger after a loss, they are usually former world champions with multiple title defenses and millions of dollars in the bank. That is not the case with Fowler. Only nine fights into his professional career, the 28-year-old from Liverpool, England, lost to Scott Fitzgerald because, by his own admission, “I got a little bit cocky last time. I thought it would be an easy fight and I got proved wrong, so I’ve been brought down to earth a bit. I completely underestimated him, and that’s my own fault.” While his new focus and hunger are promising, the fact that he got cocky and lazy so young into his professional career makes it hard to believe he is not just an incredibly cocky individual. Now we get to see how he bounces back from his first loss.

Rose is 29-5 but with only eight knockouts. However, he has fought a significantly higher level of competition than Fowler. He has fought for world titles and faced opponents like Demetrius Andrade and Matthew Macklin, though he has consistently come up short in title shots. At 34 years old and 14 years into a professional career, he has been around the block and is not going to be nervous facing a guy like Fowler fresh off his first professional loss.

This should be a boxer-versus-puncher matchup, with Fowler coming forward to attack a moving, boxing Rose. Fowler claims he has learned from his mistakes and that he has found a new hunger, but it is hard to believe you can go from that cocky to that humble so quickly, especially when you talk so much about your own performance and not that of your opponent. Time will tell if Fowler can get his mojo back or if Rose can humble him for good.

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WHAT: Michael Conlan vs. Diego Alberto Ruiz, Featherweights
WHEN: Aug. 3
HOW TO WATCH: ESPN+, 3 p.m. ET
WHY YOU SHOULD CARE: To see if Conlan’s step up in competition but step down in personal animosity is enough to trip up the Irishman in his hometown.

Conlan was supposed to face an opponent with only three professional fights who would have done essentially nothing to move the former Olympic bronze medalist up the featherweight ranks. That fight fell through, so now Conlan will face an opponent with a 21-2 record who will do more for his professional career than his original opponent could.

That jump in professional competition would normally come with a serious jump in motivation, but in this case, it is likely the opposite. Conlan was originally supposed to fight Vladimir Nikitin, the Russian boxer to whom the judges awarded a victory at the 2016 Olympics, a decision that led to Conlan’s infamous and instantly-viral middle-finger-to-the-judges incident. Nikitin suffered a torn biceps, so he was replaced by Ruiz, who has never fought outside of his native Argentina. Conlan claimed that he does not care about the change in opponent, that the storyline was good but the fight would have been a step back in competition and that he thinks he will be ready to face IBF champion Josh Warrington within a year. No matter what he says publicly, Conlan wanted to erase the Nikitin loss from his memory and avenge an ugly incident that marred an otherwise impressive amateur career. Depending on how Nikitin fares as a professional, the potential for a rematch may now be gone forever.

Ruiz is on a 10-fight winning streak -- albeit against mediocre competition -- and won a split decision over Luis Emanuel Cusolito in his most recent appearance. With only 10 knockouts among his 21 wins, he is not a big puncher and will probably need to outbox Conlan. While Ruiz will have more than twice as much professional experience, Conlan’s amateur background should close that gap, and it is difficult to imagine him losing a close decision in Belfast if the fight is anything but a rout. This should be a successful return home for the 28-year-old Conlan, as long as he can stay motivated against an opponent for whom he does not have any personal animosity.

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WHAT: Adam Kownacki vs. Chris Arreola, Heavyweights
WHEN: Aug. 3
HOW TO WATCH: Fox, 8 p.m. ET
WHY YOU SHOULD CARE: To see if Arreola can shut down Kownacki’s attempt to become the new him, or an even better version of himself.

Does Kownacki view Arreola as an aspirational figure or a cautionary tale? That is the question for the undefeated 30-year-old from Brooklyn, New York, who holds a 19-0 record with 15 knockouts. Kownacki is a young, chubby American knockout artist who had a chance to fight Anthony Joshua but turned it down because he was out of shape. Apparently, he ballooned in weight with no fight to prepare for. Fresh off of a dominant second-round knockout of former USC football player Gerald Washington, Kownacki is on the brink of stardom due to his Polish background, everyman looks and nostalgia-inducing Gleason’s Gym training ground.

Arreola was once just like him. A chubby American knockout artist with a chance at stardom because of his knockout power, attitude and Mexican background, Arreola consistently came up short against elite heavyweights, as he was stopped by Vitali Klitschko, Bermane Stiverne and Deontay Wilder. Now 38-5 with 33 knockouts, Arreola has spent his career being criticized for his weight -- a failure he himself has noted when he admitted that ballooning in weight between fights led to his camps being more about weight loss than training or strategy. Arreola is now 38, but his title shot against Wilder was only three years ago.

When Kownacki looks across the ring, he will be facing an opponent with a story similar to his. Will he get past the veteran fighter, devote himself to better conditioning and become what Arreola could never be, or will Arreola blow through him and remind the world that while was never among the best of the best at heavyweight, he was always more than a chubby guy with power?

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WHAT: Marcus Browne vs. Jean Pascal, Light Heavyweights
WHEN: Aug. 3
HOW TO WATCH: Fox, 8 p.m. ET
WHY YOU SHOULD CARE: To see if Pascal can justify being put in these big fights or see if Brown can back up his early knockout talk. They will be fighting for the interim WBA light heavyweight title.

Why does Pascal keep getting big fights? Now 36 years old and not having held a world title in nearly a decade, his only win since a brief two-year retirement came over a hockey enforcer turned MMA fighter making his professional boxing debut. In his most recent fight, Pascal was dominated by Dmitry Bivol, winning only five rounds on three judges’ scorecards. Worse yet, in his last eight fights going back to 2015, he is 4-4. Outside of name recognition, there is no reason Pascal should be fighting on an elite level. However, he does have one thing going for him: He has never lost to a southpaw.

Browne is an undefeated, 28-year-old Southpaw. Holding a 23-0 record with 16 knockouts, he is not known as a monster puncher and failed to stop Lenin Castillo and Badou Jack, despite putting a massive cut on the latter’s forehead. Yet for this fight, he predicts he will stop Pascal faster than Sergey Kovalev did in seventh- and eighth-round TKOs, which were Pascal’s only career losses via stoppage. While this version of Pascal is obviously lightyears away from the one who fought Bernard Hopkins nine years ago, the fighters who have beaten him are all elite: Kovalev, Storm Alvarez and Carl Froch. Browne not only thinks he can join that list but thinks he can best them all. Pascal managed to inject some real vitriol into the matchup when he wore a wig to a press conference and noted Browne’s recent history of domestic violence. Browne did not seem to take the bait, but it had to bother him.

Can Pascal stay undefeated against southpaws and justify getting these big fights despite not having beaten a good fighter in years? Will Browne make good on his early knockout promise and remind Pascal that at this point in his career he should be fighting washed-up hockey players, not rising young contenders? We will soon find out.

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