The sport marches onward. Although not without its flaws, it has moved from strength to increasingly frequent strength, and in doing so is bringing us another bumper weekend of action. Although most eyes will be on various main events, there are some interesting under-card match-ups that should serve very nicely as warm up bouts, and ones that may give pundits something to reflect on. Below is a breakdown of the key fights.
I never enjoy seeing guys in the “last chance saloon”, but there will be precious few options left for Paul Smith if he doesn’t look good here. He’s a great pundit, a nice guy and boasts some enviable achievements in the sport, but has come up short in his two world title fights. He is facing an opponent that (no disrespect) is several tiers below the elite level, and beating him won’t send Smith back there straight away. A confidence-building match-up, this fight will, if nothing else, reveal whether Smith has something to offer. If he does, he will need to win convincingly and look to move on quickly.
Prediction: Scheduled for 8, Smith should end this around halfway, earlier if possible.
Crolla’s journey to the world title has been something out of a Hollywood film, but he will have his work cut out for him on Saturday. Since coming back from injuries sustained when chasing thieves from a neighbor’s house, the Mancunian has won the world title in style, but he is facing a truly dangerous opponent who effectively ended the career of the equally-well-liked Kevin Mitchell the last time he was in Britain. Crolla can box exceptionally well and is no stranger to a scrap (his brawl with John Murray will live long in the memory). His undefeated opponent won’t pay much heed to such things however, having knocked all but one of his victims out. A big punching Venezuelan with a come-forward style, he will look to end things early, and he very much can.
Prediction: Crolla, with a home crowd behind him, will weather some tough storms in the mid rounds and take this on points.
Both have something to prove in this match-up. On paper, Glen Tapia has the odds running against him. He has operated at a decent level without managing to elevate himself to world title contender, having been knocked out twice in his only losses (first to James Kirkland, then to Michel Soro in his last outing). Given that he is now moving up in weight to challenge a former title holder with real punch power, it will be a tough task to prove the paper odds wrong. Lemieux, most famous for losing to Gennady Golovkin in a brave but one-sided unification fight, will look to re-introduce himself into the mix with a big win. Losing to Golovkin is nothing to be ashamed of, and a win here will convince him that he may yet be worthy of another shot, should he want it.
Prediction: Lemieux, out to make a statement, might force a stoppage in the late rounds.
A fight that no one was expecting, but thanks to huge media coverage and support, it has managed to gain interest (you can read my thoughts on this match-up in greater detail here). Alvarez without doubt can hit hard, and against Miguel Cotto he showed excellent shot selection and improved movement, making him the betting favorite in this match. That doesn’t mean that he has solved the problem, however. He has struggled with quick and clever fighters before, and Khan is renowned for his speed in the ring. He’s more than capable of stinging the Mexican with flurries of shots before moving out of range at will. However, weight could be an issue for the Brit. Carrying an extra half stone will no doubt feel different as the fight wears on, and the later rounds will likely be hard work. Khan will need the grit he displayed against Marcos Maidana, the speed he possessed at lightweight, and the ring intelligence he utilized against Devon Alexander if he is going to cause problems for Alvarez.
Prediction: An extremely focused Khan could take this on points. Anything other than that will result in a Canelo knockout.
A match that will unfairly go unnoticed thanks to the other action taking place this weekend. A shame, as it could be a cracker. There has been bad blood between the two in the buildup, with both needed separating at the weigh in. Chisora is on a comeback trail after losing to Tyson Fury in 2014. Since then he has racked up 5 wins, 4 of which were by KO. Pulev, however, is a different caliber of opponent to those he has faced recently. He was bullied by Wladimir Klitschko 2 years ago, but that remains his only loss. Previous to that, he was was European champion and holder of the IBF International heavyweight belt, defending them against the likes of Tony Thompson, Alexander Ustinov and Alexander Dimitrenko. A win for either man wouldn’t put the victor back into world title contention, but it would considerably add to his stock, with a host of interesting fights waiting to be made in the future.
Prediction: A pick ’em fight. Chisora has lost the big fights of his career, and is fighting in Pulev’s adopted backyard in Germany. Pulev is awkward and has looked impressive, but freezes at time when under pressure up close, where Chisora does his best work. It’s a case of who turns up on the night.