Sherdog’s Weekend Boxing Preview

By James Kinneen Aug 23, 2019


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WHAT: Vladimir Shishkin vs. DeAndre Ware, Super Middleweights
WHEN: Aug. 23
HOW TO WATCH: Showtime, 10 p.m. ET
WHY YOU SHOULD CARE: To see if a new foreigner and a new Steward can keep Kronk Gym relevant in 2019.

In the last decade, the stars of Kronk Gym have not been homegrown Detroit locals but foreigners coming to the United States to try and improve under Emanuel Steward. Decades removed from the gym’s 1980s glory days, established fighters like Andy Lee, Wladimir Klitschko and Adonis Stevenson became Steward’s greatest proteges and biggest success stories -- a far cry from the days when a young Thomas Hearns stepped into the gym for help with kids stealing his coat. While not as romantic as the stories of turning raw kids off the street into world champions, these foreign fighters kept the Kronk name alive as it became less and less relevant.

Sadly, Steward died in 2012, none of those fighters remain active, and the original Kronk Gym burned in a mysterious fire in 2017, years after it was abandoned. However, there is a fighter looking to keep the Kronk name alive, and he looks like he may be the next guy to win a championship sporting the red and yellow trunks, albeit under the guise of a different Steward. Vladimir Shishkin, an undefeated Russian now fighting at 168 pounds, trains out of the new Kronk Gym under Javan “Sugar Hill” Steward, Emanuel’s nephew. A former Russian amateur standout known for his jab and defense, he is 8-0 with five knockouts and will make his United States debut Friday on Showtime. In his last fight, he defeated Nadjib Mohammedi, a veteran Frenchman who had previously fought opponents like Sergey Kovalev and Oleksandr Gvozdyk.

Ware is a former University of Toledo football player and current firefighter who sports a 13-1 record, with his lone loss coming to Cem Kilic. In his last fight, he beat the then-undefeated Ronald Elllis by outworking him and applying consistent pressure, though Ellis would claim he hurt his hand early in the fight. It was an upset, though not a shocking one. Leading up to the fight, Ware made it abundantly clear that he was unfazed by his underdog status and put forth the belief that many opponents he fought thought he was a steppingstone until they realized what he could do in the ring.

Will Shishkin be the next fighter to keep the Kronk name alive under the tutelage of Steward’s nephew, or will Ware show that the Kronk Gym is another 80s property that does not need a reboot?

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WHAT: Sergey Kovalev vs. Anthony Yarde, Light Heavyweights
WHEN: Aug. 24
HOW TO WATCH: ESPN+, 12:30 p.m. ET
WHY YOU SHOULD CARE: To see if Yarde is the real deal in Kovalev’s hometown in a matchup that features 45 knockouts in 51 wins between the two fighters.

Yarde does not have a whole lot of believers. Despite being 18-0 with 17 knockouts and possessing the most intimidating physique in boxing outside of Anthony Joshua, people are convinced he has been protected -- he has only fought outside of the United Kingdom once -- and that all those muscles just mean he is an “Instagram fighter” or fitness model posing as a boxer. Compounding this belief: While he had limited amateur experience, reportedly only 12 fights, Yarde does not do much sparring, and when he does, it is not with other high-level professionals. He does much of his sparring with trainer Tunde Ajayi, who compares the idea to masters teaching students in Kung Fu movies. Yes, there are lots of ways you could criticize Yarde, but you cannot criticize his courage.

Yarde is going to Chelyabinsk, Russia, to try and take Kovalev’s WBO light heavyweight belt in the champion’s literal hometown. Kovalev supposedly turned down a big-money fight against Saul “Canelo” Alvarez to defend his title in his hometown, though he believes a win may still net the Canelo fight in November. Kovalev did not turn down Canelo fight money and is not throwing away potential Canelo money to lose his title in his hometown. However, Kovalev is 36 years old, and though it would be unfair to call him chinny, he has been knocked out twice as a professional, the latest such defeat coming a little over a year ago. The most likely outcome is Kovalev frustrating Yarde with the jab, landing the occasional jab or straight right to the body that gasses the muscular challenger by the middle rounds of the fight and stopping him late. However, with Yarde’s power, there is always the possibility he lands a huge shot and takes Kovalev’s title in his hometown, and if he does so, there will be nothing for anyone to criticize.

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WHAT: Filip Hrgovic vs. Mario Heredia, Heavyweights
WHEN: Aug. 24
HOW TO WATCH: Dazn, 7 p.m. ET
WHY YOU SHOULD CARE: To see if Heredia can pull of another upset, even if he gets dropped again.

Fighting for Croatia, Filip Hrgovic won the bronze medal in the super heavyweight division at the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro. The man who beat him and went on to the gold medal was France’s Tony Yaka. However, Yaka has been dealing with a ban from the French Anti-Doping Agency for missing three drug tests as a professional boxer.

Now 8-0 with six knockouts, Hrgovic fights in Mexico for the first time on Saturday, as he takes on Mexican Mario Heredia. The 26-year-old Heredia is 16-6, but has gone 4-5-1 across his last 10 appearances and has already been knocked out five times as a professional.

Most consider this an easy fight for Hrgovic, but Heredia shocked the boxing world by beating former title contender Samuel Peter in his last outing. Even more shocking, his decision win came after he was dropped by a huge right hand in the third round that had him stumbling around the ring. The point? Hrgovic will probably come to Mexico and walk through Heredia. However, even if Heredia gets dropped and stumbles around the ring, he has already proven he can come back and take a hugely unexpected decision.

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WHAT: Juan Francisco Estrada vs. Dewayne Beamon, Junior Bantamweights
WHEN: Aug. 24
HOW TO WATCH: Dazn, 7 p.m. ET
WHY YOU SHOULD CARE: Because Beamon has spent his career complaining about guys running from him, and Estrada will not be running anywhere.

Beamon is an interesting guy. A college basketball player at Southern Virginia University, he loved boxing but knew the school would pull his scholarship if it found out he was doing something so dangerous. While playing basketball, he would sneak away at night to train. When his college career was over, he turned to boxing on a full-time basis. Despite a solid amateur career, he found that he could not get the fights for which he was angling and was open about it -- a fact which led to his nickname “Mr. Stop Running.”

Now 16-1 with 11 knockouts, Beamon will not have to chase his next opponent. Fresh off a win over Sor Rungvisai, the WBC junior bantamweight champion finds himself on a three-fight winning streak and remains so confident in a victory over Beamon that he is trying to secure a unification bout with Kal Yafai on the Andy Ruiz-Anthony Joshua 2 undercard.

Ironically, Beamon appears to be the one who needs to run. Estrada is a good offensive fighter and will likely try to walk down Beamon, using body work to slow his movement. Whether Beamon can use his hand speed to keep Estrada off of him for 12 rounds will be the question. Either way, Beamon has spent his career complaining that he cannot get the fights he wants because people keep running from him. Now we will see how he handles a fight he really does not deserve against a fighter who will only run while chasing after him.

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WHAT: Brandon Figueroa vs. Javier Nicholas Chacon, Junior Featherweights
WHEN: Aug. 24
HOW TO WATCH: Fox Sports 1, 10 p.m. ET
WHY YOU SHOULD CARE: To see if after spending a lifetime in his brother’s shadow, Figueroa can handle the unique pressure that comes when your family turns to you and says, “You’re the guy.”

No matter how many wins Figueroa compiled, he was always going to be the little brother until Omar Figueroa Jr. lost. Remember, Omar came out scorching in his career, winning a world title at 24 years old and running his record to 26-0 by age 25. Unfortunately, it was also Omar who ran into all sorts of legal and discipline struggles and lost his title when the WBC opted to strip him. Fighting only once between July 2015 and February 2019, Omar returned to big-time competition against Yordenis Ugas in July. He got dominated at 147 pounds, and all the talk about whether or not he was still the fighter he used to be was squashed. Omar is officially old news. Brandon’s time has come.

The 22-year-old owns a 19-0 record with 14 knockouts and discussed seeing his brother lose for the first time: “It obviously sucked to watch my brother suffer his first loss, but now, it’s my turn to carry on the family name. All eyes are on me. After his loss, I told Omar, ‘Pick your head up and get back to work. You live and learn.’ It was weird. I kind of felt like I became the older brother, but we are always there for one another.”

Argentina’s Chacon has never fought in the United States but believes Figueroa faces the added pressure of fighting in his home state of Texas. Chacon is 29-4 with nine knockouts and has rattled off four straight wins since he was stopped by Isaac Dogboe in Ghana in 2017.

One of the most visceral scenes in Broadway history is the scene in “Gypsy” where the boisterous older sister bails and Louise, the shy background player, realizes her mom is going to force her into the spotlight. It is difficult to watch, knowing the pressure that is being placed upon her. For the first time in his life, Brandon is the star of the Figueroa family show. Will he wilt under that unique pressure, or will everything come up roses against Chacon?

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