Sherdog’s Weekend Boxing Preview

By James Kinneen Nov 22, 2019


WHAT: Deontay Wilder vs. Luis Ortiz, Heavyweights
WHEN: Nov. 23
HOW TO WATCH: Fox PPV, 9 p.m. ET
WHY YOU SHOULD CARE: Because Ortiz came close to beating Wilder the first time and would not have to do much more to close the deal in the rematch.

Because of the excellence of Wilder-Tyson Fury, people do not seem to remember how close Ortiz came to stopping “The Bronze Bomber” in the seventh round of their March 2018 encounter. After he hurt Wilder with a right hook, “King Kong” poured on the punches and had the undefeated champion in serious trouble, and while there was no knockdown, all three judges ruled it a round for Ortiz. Wilder survived the round, and the doctor examined him after the bell rang. It bought Wilder extra time, despite his having no cut, injury or significant enough wooziness to warrant the examination. This spurred all sorts of theories on social media about Wilder and potential future earnings against guys like Fury and Anthony Joshua being protected by the commission. When Fox recapped the round on its countdown show, it conveniently left out that part in favor of a heroic Wilder-somehow-regained-his composure narrative.

Ortiz’s performance and the extra-time controversy were both widely forgotten after the excitement that Fury-Wilder provided and the highlight-reel footage Wilder-Dominic Breazeale supplied. However, while Fury has wasted his time appearing in World Wrestling Entertainment and fighting Swedish unknowns, Wilder has elected to take on a one-loss Cuban who almost defeated and could easily ruin a Wilder-Fury sequel. For that, he deserves loads of credit. Ortiz deserves credit for understanding he cannot expect to win a decision with that kind of money on the table: He was down on the official scorecards in the first fight, despite many believing he should have been ahead. As a result, now claims he will go out there with the knowledge that this is a case of knockout or bust. Meanwhile, Wilder says he is going to kill Ortiz, but in fairness, he gets himself in hot water for saying he is going to “kill” a lot of opponents. Ortiz also left his family for a training camp this time around, a welcome move considering he is now 40 years old -- and rumored to be far older -- and likely gassed going for the finish in the first meeting.

Wilder has decided to take a chance against an opponent who nearly beat him when Fury played it safe against a guy nobody knew. That courage deserves credit. However, if Ortiz catches the slightest break and can do just a little bit better than he did the first time, all the credit in the world will not keep Wilder from getting stopped and the Fury rematch from disintegrating.

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WHAT: Leo Santa Cruz vs. Miguel Flores, Junior Lightweights
WHEN: Nov. 23
HOW TO WATCH: Fox PPV, 9 p.m. ET
WHY YOU SHOULD CARE: To see if Santa Cruz is correct in his praises of Flores, or if he is just trying to justify not fighting Gary Russell or Gervonta Davis.

Ahead of his fight on the Wilder-Ortiz undercard, Santa Cruz was complimentary of his opponent: “Once the fans see how great the fight is, they’re going to see how amazing a fighter Miguel Flores is. We know what he’s capable of, and that’s why I trained so hard to get this win.” Talking about how great your opponent will look in a fight against you seems like an an extremely odd thing to say beforehand, but it shows how frustrated fans have become with Santa Cruz. Russell is threatening his father on videos he posts online, while Santa Cruz keeps talking about fighting Davis while never getting the fight signed. Santa Cruz instead faces Flores for the vacant WBA super featherweight title. Fans are not happy. Flores has two stoppage losses to Dat Nguyen and Ryan Kielczweski, and Santa Cruz will be a huge favorite in what has been deemed a mismatch. In fact, many boxing fans now claim Santa Cruz has not taken a chance since he fought Carl Frampton and that no matter how many weight classes he jumps, it will not matter if he does not face the best in those divisions.

All this puts Santa Cruz in an unenviable position. If he wins too easily, he will be accused of cherry-picking. If he struggles, fans will say he did not look good in the new weight class and that he has been feasting on subpar competition. Will Santa Cruz destroy Flores and prove himself wrong for boosting Flores, or will he struggle and prove himself right?

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WHAT: Luis Nery vs. Emmanuel Rodriguez, Bantamweights
WHEN: Nov. 23
HOW TO WATCH: Fox PPV, 9 p.m. ET
WHY YOU SHOULD CARE: To see if Nery can one-up Naoya Inoue’s performance against Rodriguez and if it provides any clues as to how a Nery-Inoue fight might look in the future.

Many people see Nery as the only fighter who can beat Inoue anywhere near the bantamweight limit. His trainer, Freddie Roach, thinks he could knock out the Japanese star, and Leonard Ellerbe has already talked about how well he thinks Nery would handle the matchup. Nery-Rodriguez may provide the biggest clues as to whether those guys are right, or if they are way off-base. Now 30-0 with 24 knockouts, the 24-year-old Mexican southpaw is on an 11-fight stoppage streak against opponents like McJoe Arroyo (who had never been stopped as a professional) and Juan Carlos Payano (who Inoue stopped in one round before Rodriguez stopped him in nine). Now, we get to see Nery against another fighter who has already taken on Inoue. Can he do better?

Unfortunately for Nery, he has his work cut out for him. Rodriguez faced Inoue as the undefeated IBF bantamweight champion and could not make it past the second round. The Inoue loss was the only time Rodriguez has been defeated, and he had an extensive and impressive amateur background. Nery needs to be focused on winning this fight far more than he should focus on outperforming Inoue.

However, in boxing, the mutual opponent will always lead to unfair comparisons. If Nery wants fans clamoring for him to face Inoue, he has to make them believe, and tight 12-round decisions just are not going to do the trick.

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WHAT: Callum Smith vs. John Ryder, Super Middleweights
WHEN: Nov. 23
HOW TO WATCH: Dazn, 2 p.m. ET
WHY YOU SHOULD CARE: To see if Ryder can catch Smith looking ahead to a possible Canelo Alvarez fight.

Across his last four fights, Ryder is 4-0 with four stoppage victories against four opponents with a combined 89-2 record. While John Ryder has four losses in his career to Billy Joe Saunders, Rocky Fielding, Nick Blackwell and Jack Arnfield, he has been on an absolute tear since April 2017. As a result, he gets a shot at Smith’s WBA 168-pound title in Liverpool, England. Meanwhile, Smith has reportedly been lobbying for Alvarez to face him for the “real” WBA title at 168, as the Mexican superstar owns a lesser WBA 168-pound belt he won from Fielding. While Smith claims he is not looking ahead to a possible Alvarez showdown, Ryder cleverly pointed out in the prefight talks that people naturally start thinking about what they will buy with the money they win from the lottery well before they have won anything.

It would not be hard for Smith to look past Ryder, figuratively and literally, as he holds a significant size advantage. Smith stands 6-foot-3, while Ryder is listed -- generously -- at 5-foot-9. Smith has been photographed alongside Oleksandr Usyk looking every bit as big as the heavyweight contender, though Ryder has gone on record saying his short stature will just give him an easy path to the champion’s body. One of the few advantages Ryder has is his southpaw stance, as Smith almost never faces them.

With a possible Alvarez fight in the distance, will Smith overlook and underestimate a surging southpaw to his own demise?

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WHAT: Andrew Cancio vs. Rene Alvarado, Junior Lightweights
WHEN: Nov. 23
HOW TO WATCH: Dazn, 7:30 p.m. ET
WHY YOU SHOULD CARE: To see if Cancio can steal the spotlight on a lesser card to show why he -- not the aforementioned Santa Cruz -- should be the WBA champion at 130 pounds about which everybody talks.

Cancio, everyone’s favorite fulltime gas worker turned WBA “regular” super featherweight Champion, returns to the ring for the first time since he proved that his first win over heavily hyped Dazn signee Alberto Machado was no fluke. When Cancio defeated the Puerto Rican live on the streaming platform the first time, despite working a fulltime job and having already lost four fights, everyone assumed something weird had happened. When Cancio did even better in the rematch, people realized he was the superior fighter and that there was nothing fluky about it. If you beat a guy twice, you are simply the better man.

Which brings us to Cancio-Alvorado 2. We have already seen Cancio knock out Alvarado in the eighth round of a 2015 fight. After losses to Yuriorkis Gamboa and Manuel Avila, Alvorado salvaged his career by going on a seven-fight winning streak, which led to his becoming the mandatory opponent for Cancio’s belt. While most people expect Cancio to win based in large part on his victory in their first meeting, he also has some extra motivation to look good. Remember, Santa Cruz is fighting for the WBA 130-pound “super” belt on the bigger card. That upset Cancio because he owns the WBA belt at 130 pounds, thinks he should be the “super” champion and believes he is getting screwed because Santa Cruz the more well-known commodity. For his part, Santa Cruz has avoided the drama and effectively said he just fights who his promoters tell him to fight.

Still, it is impossible not to think Cancio wants to kill two birds with one stone -- to definitively prove he is better than Alvorado and to show that he is the real WBA 130-pound champion, no matter what kind of belt they give Santa Cruz on pay-per-view. Can he do so against the streaking Nicaraguan, or will Alvorado show he is not the same fighter Cancio faced the first time.
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