There’s a feel-good factor in boxing right now. Sure, we’re not getting everything we want, but there’s clearly cause for optimism, plus enough to keep both the casual and the hardcore element interested.
February went out with a bit of a bang. Gennady Golovkin overwhelmed Martin Murray, who happens to be a very good middleweight, despite what Teddy Atlas seems to think. Arthur Abraham rolled back what many thought was a worn out clock to increase the mileage on his career. And Messrs Frampton, Fury and Eubank Jr made different parts of the boxing world stand up and take notice with three high profile wins.
Oh, yeah, and there was also an announcement of some kind. What was it again? Something about a fight in the spring …
All this has only stoked the fires for what’s to come. And what I see heating up is a lively month of March. In the next four weeks we have world titles, reputations and some burgeoning prospects’ records on the line. Just how we like it. So let’s Mark Your Calendar, shall we?
Friday, March 6: Paul “Babyface” Butler vs Zolani Tete for the IBF super-flyweight title. Butler comes down to his natural weight of 115 lbs, bidding to be a two-weight world champion inside a year. This isn’t a foregone conclusion. Tete brings enough to the party to warrant Butler’s full respect. A solid undercard features rising stars Jack Catterall, Liam Smith and Kevin Satchell. Plus, if he wants to fulfill the potential many believe he has, Jazza Dickens must take the British super-bantamweight title from the never dull Josh Wale.
Friday, March 6: Tony Harrison vs Antwone Smith This is a showcase fight for Harrison and while he may top the bill, to be honest he could be easily outshone by Ievgen Khytrov (another middleweight wrecking ball from Eastern Europe), or Erickson Lubin, a 19-year-old 154 pounder with 150 amateur fights who appears to just ooze class.
Saturday, March 7: Amnat Ruenoroeng vs Zou Shiming for the IBF flyweight championship. Top Rank ventures to Macau, China once again, where Shiming will attempt to win a world title with only seven fights under his belt. China vs Thailand where a happy ending for Shiming, Bob Arum and the fans will suffice. Forgive me for thinking Ruenoroeng might spoil the party. Keep an eye out for Rex Tso on the undercard.
Saturday, March 7: Tommy Coyle vs Martin Gethin The honest, hard-working former fruit and veg seller has seen his profile cleverly marketed by Eddie Hearn and Matchroom Sport, and all roads appear to lead to Olympic golden boy Luke Campbell in the summers. Coyle’s an honest pro who gives entertainment in abundance but the hype train needs to slow down. Gethin, a solid pro who’s seen better days, won’t be the brakes. Campbell appears on the undercard himself. Shayne Singleton vs Sam Eggington is the chief supporting bout.
Saturday, March 7: Keith Thurman vs Robert Guerrero, on NBC, for the WBA world welterweight title, assisted with a high profile undercard featuring the likes of Adrien Broner and Abner Mares. Thurman, Mr One Time, continues on his path to Floyd or Manny with, on paper, his biggest test to date. Everyone is expecting fireworks with this being the launch show for Al Haymon’s Premier Boxing Champions series. The pressure is on everyone, particularly Thurman, to deliver. I foresee a rather comfortable and occasionally exciting win for Thurman.
Friday, March 13: Andre Berto vs Josesito Lopez The PBC series continues, this time on Spike TV, with Lopez, a man rarely in a dull fight. Berto? Well he’s been talking about ‘beast mode’ a lot. With three defeats in his last five outings, he best get this opportunity right or the only talking he’ll be doing in the future is about how he was once HBO’s golden boy. Shawn Porter looks to regain credibility on the undercard, while Chris Arreloa tries to delay the inevitable.
Saturday, March 14: Sergey Kovalev vs Jean Pacal for the WBA/IBF/WBO light-heavyweight titles. Pascal has let himself down in the build-up by comparing this match to the Rocky IV movie and stupidly bringing up Kovalev’s fight with Roman Simakov where the latter died in hospital three days after. I do hope this isn’t his idea of mind games. Kovalev will be all business; Pascal will be on a 32-year-old bike with not as many gears as it once had. All-round good guy Steve Cunningham returns on the undercard against undefeated Russian Vyacheslav Glazkov. Also keep an eye out for undefeated Russian prospect Vasily Lepikhin who may have his hands full with Isaac Chilemba and Montrealer Dierry Jean returns with a stay-busy match.
Saturday, March 14: Thomas Oosthuizen vs Ryno Liebenberg for the IBO light-heavyweight title. Speaking of 175 lbs, this South African grudge match shouldn’t fail to deliver. It has the potential to be one of those sleeper fights that becomes a hot topic on social media the next day.
Saturday, March 14: Ovill McKenzie vs Matty Askin for the British and Commonwealth Cruiserweight titles. If you haven’t watched Ovill fight before, he can easily be found on YouTube. He’s attempting to lead a crusade to Marco Huck’s doorstep. Ya gotta love Ovill.
Friday, March 27: Renan St Juste vs Janks Trotter, ten rounds, middleweight. A match to see if veteran St Juste, riding a two fight win streak after a loss to Allan Green, can maintain his standing as one of the top Canadian middleweights. Nice to see the Grant Brothers continuing to grow their own series of fight cards in Montreal.
Saturday, March 28: Kell Brook vs Ionut Dan Ion for the IBF welterweight crown. Brook conquered America by defeating Shawn Porter to win an overdue world title and then had to recover after a horrific knife injury to his leg. Game Jo Jo Dan shouldn’t present too much difficulty as Brook looks ahead to a showdown against Amir Khan later in the year. Adam Etches vs Sergey Khomitsky, a 12-round middleweight contest on the undercard, could well be worth your time.
Saturday, March 28: Jhonny Gonzalez vs. Gary Russell Jr for the WBC featherweight championship. Once upon a time Russell Jr was supposed be America’s next best thing, no? Veteran Gonzalez, 33-years-old and with 65 fights to his credit, can be inconsistent; you just don’t know which Jhonny G. is going to turn up. Definite high stakes on this fight for Russell Jr. Where would he go after a defeat? Gonzalez? He’ll live to have a gunfight another day.
So how’s your month of March? Enough to get your teeth into? I should say so.
If I’ve missed anything send me a shout on twitter: @sbrown2pt0.