Sherdog’s Weekend Boxing Preview

By James Kinneen Nov 1, 2019


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WHAT: Sergey Kovalev vs. Canelo Alvarez, Light Heavyweights
WHEN: Nov. 2
HOW TO WATCH: Dazn, 9 p.m. ET
WHY YOU SHOULD CARE: Because this is an insane matchup and an absurdly risky move for Alvarez, but the craziest part is how little attention people are paying to it.

Imagine going back to 2015 and telling a boxing fan that Alvarez was going to fight Kovalev at 175 pounds. “Kovalev?” You’d get asked. “The guy who just knocked out Jean Pascal is going to face Alvarez, who needed to invent his own weight class to avoid fighting middleweights at 160? Is Kovalev shot? Is Alvarez desperate for a paycheck?” Even wilder, imagine telling the fan that none of those reasonable assumptions are the case, and yet, people do not seem to care about the fight.

For whatever reason, the public does not seem all that interested in perhaps the most intriguing fight of the year. Whether it is because Dazn’s marketing is not as good as the networks that depend on pay-per-view, because people are still upset about not getting Alvarez-Gennady Golovkin 3 or because football season has taken hold and left little room for any sport other than the occasional World Series story, this fight is not getting the hype it should. That is a shame, because the 2015 boxing fan’s feelings are correct.

Even though he is 36 years old, Kovalev is not completely shot. After a surprise knockout loss to Eleider Alvarez cost him his WBO belt, Kovalev started training with Buddy McGirt and won his title back via a 12-round decision. He was in trouble in his most recent fight against British knockout artist Anthony Yarde, but he came back to win via stoppage.

If you watched Golovkin land jab after jab against Alvarez, why would you not think Kovalev can do the same? Kovalev still has great power -- he dropped an exhausted Yarde with a jab -- and no matter what height at which they end up listed, he is significantly bigger than Alvarez. So, even if you think Canelo’s chin can hold up to the 2019 edition of Kovalev, how sure are you that he can get inside of his jabs to the head and body?

As for Alvarez, people need to appreciate the risk he is taking here. Alvarez fought Floyd Mayweather at 152 pounds. Now, he is fighting Kovalev at 175, not a catchweight, despite never having fought at the weight class before. As anyone who followed Roy Jones’ career will tell you, even if he looks great and destroys Kovalev, there is still the risk that his body never recovers from moving up in weight when he moves back down to 160 or 168.

Maybe Alvarez will box circles around Kovalev, and the critics who said he was tailor-made for Canelo and too old to give him trouble will be proven right; or maybe Alvarez will be too small, Kovalev will still be too strong and McGirt will be too savvy to lose to someone whose best opponent above 160 pounds was Rocky Fielding. Whatever happens, it is a crazy risk from Alvarez and a crazy fight on paper. You knew it would be in 2015. You should still know it today.

* * *

WHAT: Ryan Garcia vs. Romero Duno, Lightweights
WHEN: Nov. 2
HOW TO WATCH: Dazn, 9 p.m. ET
WHY YOU SHOULD CARE: Because Garcia wanted big money to face Duno on short notice, and we might see why.

When Garcia’s opponent, Avery Sparrow, was arrested before the weigh-in back in September, Golden Boy Promotions scrambled to book a replacement. One of the names that was tossed around for the social media star to face was Duno, a 21-1 Filipino who has not lost since he dropped a decision to Mikhail Alexeev in 2016 in Russia. Garcia wanted more money to face a tougher opponent, the fight never happened and Duno went on to stop Ivan Delgado on the same card. Garcia and Golden Boy had a falling out, which was saved when the promotion threw a ton of money at him and booked the Duno fight for the Kovalev-Alvarez undercard. Garcia was smart to demand more money to fight Duno than Sparrow. While Sparrow was not dangerous, the same cannot be said for Duno.

Duno has stopped 16 of his 22 opponents, because he has excellent power. While he can get wild -- it will be interesting to see if Garcia turns southpaw to slip in a straight left hand while Duno launches an overhand right or right hook -- and is hittable, he will have chance to land a fight-ending punch for the entire duration of his fight with Garcia. Garcia has faced opponents with impressive records padded by wins over local competition, while Duno has faced good competition inside the United States.

There are only two ways this fight plays out. Either Garcia is too slick for the wild Duno and outboxes him for a decision win; or Duno catches Garcia with a huge shot and stops him, knowing a decision is out of the question against someone with as much earning potential as Garcia. Garcia was not willing to face Duno on short notice unless the pot was sweetened significantly. Now, we might just see why.

* * *

WHAT: Miguel Berchelt vs. Jason Sosa, Junior Lightweights
WHEN: Nov. 2
HOW TO WATCH: ESPN, 10:30 p.m. ET
WHY YOU SHOULD CARE: To see if Sosa can win another world title and prove the first one was no fluke, or if Berchelt will show him that -- much like Vasiliy Lomachenko did -- he is just not on his level.

Sosa held a world title once. In 2016, he traveled to China and beat Javier Fortuna for the WBA super featherweight championship. Sosa even defended the belt against Stephen Smith. However, that is probably not why you remember him. You remember Sosa for being the former pizza maker Lomachenko taunted, embarrassed and ultimately stopped. Yes, Sosa lost his belt when he faced the Ukrainian pound-for-pound king in what was only Lomachenko’s ninth professional fight. Sosa was mocked for being the bull to Lomachenko’s matador and taunted about how painful the body shots he was absorbing must have been before he eventually wilted after the ninth round. Just like that, Sosa lost his WBA belt. However, Sosa had another big fight against another Olympic gold medalist soon after. In his next fight, he faced Yuriorkis Gamboa and dropped a controversial decision. Since then, Sosa has been on the grind while hunting another opportunity to become a world champion once more, beating guys like Haskell Rhodes and Reynaldo Blanco. Now, in a Mexico-versus-Puerto Rico showdown, he gets his chance.

The five-time defending WBC super featherweight champion, Berchelt has stopped 14 of his last 15 opponents, including Francisco Vargas (twice) and Miguel Roman. Takashi Miura was the only Berchelt opponent since 2015 to see the final bell, and even he got dropped in the first round. Now 36-1 with 32 knockouts, Berchelt’s sole loss came to Luis Eduardo Florez in 2014, when he was caught flush on the chin by a left hook in the first round. Berchelt has dedicated this fight to his late grandmother, noting that it takes place on Mexico’s Day of the Dead. Meanwhile, promoter Bob Arum claims this will be a great action fight and the best fight of a stacked boxing weekend.

This could be a great action fight, or it could be an easy Berchelt knockout. It all depends on Sosa. Will he rise to the occasion and win another world title after Lomachenko made a fool out of him, or will Berchelt pick up another knockout and show that Sosa does not belong in the ring with him?

* * *

WHAT: Jerwin Ancajas vs. Jonathan Rodriguez, Junior Bantamweights
WHEN: Nov. 2
HOW TO WATCH: ESPN, 10:30 p.m. ET
WHY YOU SHOULD CARE: Because Ancajas is clearly bored and looking past Rodriguez. He will either get caught in a complacency trap or show us why he is sick of facing anyone but the best.

Ancajas has not lost in seven years. Now 31-1 with 21 knockouts, he is facing a little-known Mexican standout in Rodriguez, but he has his eyes set on far bigger opponents. See, Ancajas has held the IBF junior bantamweight title since 2016 and has already successfully defended it seven times. Apparently, Ancajas is itching to get a fight with a big-name opponent and is openly talking about facing somebody like Sor Rungvisai, Roman Gonzalez, Carlos Cuadras or Juan Francisco Estrada. Obviously, a champion essentially admitting he is bored with his most recent crop of opponents is not a good sign. The question is whether Rodriguez can do anything about it.

Rodriguez has never fought outside of Mexico before, and of his 22 professional opponents, less than half held winning records at the time of their fight. Plus, his only loss came to Jose Martin Estrada Garcia, who lost to a debuting fighter not long after. However, in his last fight, he stopped Felipe Orucuta, who had just gone the distance with Juan Francisco Estrada.

Ancajas is a champion who is getting bored defending his title against lesser fighters and wants a big-name opponent. That could be the recipe for a huge upset, or it could be a chance for him to show he is wasting his time rolling over guys like Rodriguez.

* * *

WHAT: Brian Castano vs. Wale Omotoso, Junior Middleweights
WHEN: Nov. 2
HOW TO WATCH: Fox Sports 1, 10:30 p.m. ET
WHY YOU SHOULD CARE: To see if Castano can back up his amateur pedigree and become a star in the United States by ruining a good story on Fox Sports 1.

Argentina’s Castano owns amateur wins over Errol Spence Jr. and Sergiy Derevyanchenko and is now 15-0 with 11 knockouts as a professional. In his last fight, he fought Erislandy Lara to a split draw, with one judge on ESPN and a bunch of people on Twitter thinking Castano deserved the nod. The 29-year-old held a lesser WBA title but had it stripped for not wanting to go to France to fight Michael Soro, a man he had already beaten.

Omotso grew up in the impoverished city of Lagos, Nigeria, and grew up around violent gangs. Eventually turning to boxing, Omotoso started training at the Wild Card Gym after moving to Los Angeles. As a professional, he is 28-4 with 22 knockouts, with losses to fighters like Jamal James, Jessie Vargas and Chordale Booker. In his last bout, he stopped Curtis Stevens, though Stevens went down from some light shots that should make us question if his chin is gone at this point in his career.

Castano has the amateur pedigree, but a win over Lara likely would have catapulted him to stardom. With a fight on Fox Sports 1 against a guy with a great chin and an even better story, can he take advantage of his opportunity?

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