Sherdog’s Weekend Boxing Preview

By James Kinneen Nov 8, 2019


WHAT: Jamel Herring vs. Lamont Roach Jr., Junior Lightweights
WHEN: Nov. 9
HOW TO WATCH: ESPN+, 10 p.m. ET
WHY YOU SHOULD CARE: Because Jamel Herring has lost fights he should have won before. Maybe he will again.

As Veterans Day approaches, Herring -- a Marine Corps sergeant, two-tour Iraq veteran and 2012 Olympian -- headlines a card on ESPN+. Fresh off a decision win over Masayuko “The Judge” Ito in May, the WBO junior lightweight champion wanted a unification bout with WBC titleholder Miguel Berchelt, but because Berchelt wanted a bigger name, likely Oscar Valdez, Herring will instead be facing an undefeated prospect in Roach.

Roach is 24 years old and owns a 19-0-1 record. The sole blemish on his ledger is a split draw with Orlando Cruz, but in that fight, he scored a clear knockdown in the ninth round that was ruled a slip, likely costing him what should have been a decision win. Outside of that performance, Roach’s most impressive victories came over Puerto Ricans Alberto Mercado and Jonathan Oquendo. In the ring, Roach is not a big puncher, as evidenced by the fact that he only stopped three of his first 11 opponents despite facing sub-.500 fighters and guys with less than 10 professional fights. Still, his success against Mercado and Cruz shows he can fight southpaws, which will help against Herring.

While he is a solid champion with a great story, Herring has endured some tough losses in his professional career. He was stopped by Russia’s Denis Shafikov and lost a decision to Ladarius Miller, two good but not great fighters. Herring is calling out the best of the best, but he has lost to opponents outside of that category.

Herring insists he is not looking past Roach, despite wanting to fight bigger names. Considering that he is fighting on Veterans Day weekend, after spending his week visiting wounded veterans, it is difficult to see him lacking motivation for his first title defense. However, Herring has lost to lesser fighters before, so he may well do so again.

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WHAT: Kubrat Pulev vs. Rydell Booker, Heavyweights
WHEN: Nov. 9
HOW TO WATCH: ESPN+, 10 p.m. ET
WHY YOU SHOULD CARE: Because Pulev would like you to remember him for another great performance, not a #MeToo moment; and Booker did not go to jail for 12 years to come out and lay down for anybody.

Fighters who are 38 years old should not take long breaks after a big win on American television thrusts them into the public eye. Unfortunately for Pulev, that is exactly what the Bulgarian -- whose sole loss came to Wladimir Klitschko in 2014 -- had to do this year when he was suspended by the California State Athletic Commission for kissing a female reporter without consent after his victory over Bogdan Dinu. Rather than the last image of Pulev boxing fans have in their head being his coming back from a fourth round cut to score a technical knockout, it was an extremely uncomfortable moment between him and the reporter. It resulted in the woman hiring Gloria Allred as her lawyer, taking legal action against him and fans on social media mockingly calling him #Metoolev.

His name is still being attached to fights with the Andy Ruiz-Anthony Joshua winner -- he is the mandatory opponent for the IBF title -- but we know that may not mean much if he cannot sell tickets, as overlooked mandatories like Dillian Whyte will tell you. Unfortunately, Pulev is probably going to need to look good against Booker or risk the Ruiz-Joshua winner opting for a possible rubber match or looking to more marketable opponents for his next bout, IBF title be damned.

Can Pulev look good against Booker? He has one of the more interesting backgrounds you will hear in boxing due to a long period of incarceration. The Detroit native claims to have been sparring guys like Tommy Hearns and Michael Moorer at the Kronk Gym as a teenager and ran out to a 20-0 record as a professional in the early 2000s -- his run included sending one-gloved UFC legend Art Jimmerson into retirement with his ninth knockout loss in 10 fights) -- until he ran into James Toney in 2004 and lost a unanimous decision. Booker claims he took the Toney fight to pay his legal dues before he went to prison on drug charges, so while Toney would likely have beaten him anyway, it is hard not to wonder what role facing over a decade in prison played in Booker’s performance. He was incarcerated for 12 years in a jail that had no boxing program and had to take 14 years off between the Toney loss and his comeback fight. Since returning to the ring, Booker is 4-1, with his sole loss coming to undefeated American Jermaine Franklin.

Pulev is going to want to look good in this fight to make sure the Ruiz-Joshua winner faces him and to get the focus back on his performances in the ring instead of his issues outside of it. However, Booker has gone through far worse and does not figure to go down quietly.

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WHAT: Billy Joe Saunders vs. Marcelo Esteban Coceres, Super Middleweights
WHEN: Nov. 9
HOW TO WATCH: Dazn, 7 p.m. ET
WHY YOU SHOULD CARE: Because Saunders could easily cruise to a decision win in his American debut, but that will not get anyone who does not care about boxing excited about him.

The theory is that putting Saunders on the undercard of the big YouTuber battle between KSI and Logan Paul is going to make him a major star. He has never fought in the USA before -- his last attempt to do so was stopped due to a failed PED test in Massachusetts -- and his last big fight was against David Lemieux two years ago. While he won the WBO 168-pound title over Shefat Isufi, people seem to have stopped talking about him. Putting him on this card should alleviate that to some extent. Besides, Saunders is known for his own wacky YouTube antics. Remember the time he filmed himself offering a homeless woman crack for assaulting a random bystander? How about when he threw a piece of chicken at Deontay Wilder, or when he pestered some old man after he saw his profile on a gay dating website? A crowd that thinks Logan Paul’s racist Japanese shenanigans are hilarious is going to love this guy, right? Maybe, maybe not. The major issue with this card is that the YouTube content fans are not boxing fans. While Saunders should walk through Coceres, a solid 12 rounds of slick boxing punctuated with the occasional moment of showboating is not going to please fans with attention spans too short for a half-hour TV show.

Argentina’s Coceres is 28-0 with 15 knockouts. However, he fights almost exclusively in Argentina -- his only non-Argentina bout was in Uruguay -- and his opponents have been lacking, as his last bout came against a fighter with a 7-5 record. Still, the fact that he has never lost means he could well go the distance with Saunders, development which would annoy the fans more than anything else.

Boxing fans could watch Saunders outbox Maceres, come away pleased with what they saw and remain perturbed at the choice of opponent. However, the non-boxing fans who are going to flood the Staples Center are not going to be happy with anything but a quick knockout. That is not how Saunders operates, so if he wants to use this platform to launch his American stardom, he is going to have to become a different guy. If he tries something a little different, he may open himself up to a shocking loss.

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WHAT: Devin Haney vs. Alfredo Santiago, Lightweights
WHEN: Nov. 9
HOW TO WATCH: Dazn, 7 p.m. ET
WHY YOU SHOULD CARE: To see Haney enjoy his championship moment, which he did not get to experience in the ring.

Haney is going to defend his WBC lightweight title for the first time on the Logan Paul-KSI undercard. You may not remember him winning that title. Why? Because the WBC gave it to him -- he beat Zaur Abdullaev for the interim belt -- when the organization elevated Vasiliy Lomachenko to lightweight Franchise champion. Haney never actually fought for the title he now holds, which is emblematic of how boxing is run these days. He will now defend his championship for the first time when he takes on Santiago. The undefeated Dominican is 12-0 with four knockouts, with wins over decent opponents like Jonathan Victor Barros and Cristian Ruben Mino. However, this will be his first bout outside of the Dominican Republic, and he will be a huge underdog.

Haney did not get to have his big moment in the ring, where he beats a guy and is told he is the legitimate world champion. We will see if he can have that big moment in his first title defense, or if Santiago can pull off an upset the YouTube crowd would not recognize as huge.

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