As we all know, boxing was off the air completely for many weeks this past spring due to the ongoing pandemic, before returning thanks to Top Rank’s summer series, at the MGM Grand “Bubble” in Las Vegas. While those events were criticized by some for their dearth of big names and an emphasis on soft match-ups for many of Bob Arum’s star prospects, no such complaints are likely to be heard from fans over the new few months. The major event that was Lomachenko vs Lopez marks a turning point and heralds an exciting few months for boxing, a sport which is making up for lost time in the rest of October and the remainder of 2020. And we’re here to make sure you’re up-to-date on the major showdowns coming your way.
First on the docket, this coming Saturday, October 23rd, we have a major card in Mexico City courtesy of Matchroom and DAZN with three title fights scheduled. The opening act for this triple-header is Julio Cesar Martinez (16-1-1) defending his flyweight belt against Maximino Flores (25-4-2), the latter also a belt-holder, though in truth Flores barely qualifies as a top ten contender in the division. Still, it’s a chance to see Martinez in action as the young boxer they call “El Rey” is becoming a serious attraction for fans who like aggressive fighters with dynamite in their fists. Martinez can punch and he’s fun to watch.
The night’s main attraction features our “Fighter of the Decade,” Roman “Chocolatito” Gonzalez (49-2), against Israel Gonzalez (25-3). The latter should represent another victory in Chocolatito’s improbable comeback tour after back-to-back losses to Srisaket Sor Rungvisai, a year off, and then rehab for a torn meniscus. And a win will set Roman up nicely for a rematch, eight years in the making, with Juan Francisco Estrada, who just happens to be defending his junior bantamweight title against Carlos Cuadras on the same card.
But Cuadras is no one’s easy out and those who remember Estrada vs Cuadras I back in 2017 will recall a hard-fought, down-to-the-wire affair with all three scorecards giving “El Gallo” the victory by a single point. In short, Estrada vs Cuadras is, by itself, worth the price of admission and could easily steal the show. And who knows, maybe instead of Gonzalez vs Estrada II, we’ll be getting set for Gonzalez vs Cuadras II in 2021.
The following night, welterweight Sergey Lipinets (16-1) is in action, vying for an interim world title, whatever that is, and also, presumably, for a possible chance down the road to battle one of the top guys at 147. Lipinets was supposed to face undefeated Kudratillo Abdukakhorov of Uzbekistan, but the latter withdrew due to visa problems and has been replaced with Custio Clayton. This represents a possible — and some might say overdue — breakthrough fight for Clayton, who currently holds a North American title belt and an 18-0 record. This Showtime event also features Xavier Martínez vs Claudio “The Matrix” Marrero in a super featherweight showdown.
But the most jam-packed night of fisticuffs for October falls on Halloween, with a schedule that will no doubt have scores of fight fans jumping back and forth between broadcasts over the course of the afternoon and evening.
Oleksandr Usyk (17-0) vs Dereck Chisora (32-9) kicks things off, the heavyweight battle headlining a DAZN card broadcast from the United Kingdom. After clearing out and unifying the cruiserweight division, Usyk is in the early stages of his campaign to take over the big man division and the 36-year-old Dereck Chisora represents the “gatekeeper,” the man to show us if Usyk has the grit to battle and beat dangerous, full-sized heavyweights. Usyk, a tremendously talented southpaw technician, will look to put on a show against Chisora and prove that he belongs, with the prospect of positioning himself as the mandatory challenger for Anthony Joshua’s WBO belt. Joshua vs Usyk in 2021? Sounds good to us.
For North American audiences, the primetime slot features a duel of fight cards between Top Rank and ESPN in one corner, and PBC and Showtime in the other. The Top Rank event provides a showcase for 2016 Olympian Mikaela Mayer (13-0) whose last outing against a mauling Helen Joseph was a bit lackluster, but she’s a certified talent and getting a well-deserved title shot against Ewa Brodnicka (19-0), the latter fighting in the United States for the first time.
Headlining the Top Rank event is our Fighter of the Year for 2019, Naoya Inoue (19-0), in his long-overdue arrival in the United States, where he’ll face Australian Jason Moloney (21-1) for world title honors. Moloney rightly describes Inoue, the -1000 favorite, as “the ultimate challenge,” but if Moloney can withstand Inoue’s power and combination punching, this match has the potential to be the 2020 sequel to Inoue’s 2019 Fight of the Year against Nonito Donaire. But even if Inoue thoroughly outclasses Moloney, it will be a pleasure to watch him work, and if he can end the night early, you’re then free to flip over to watch the Showtime card.
One of the brightest stars in the talent-laden territory between super featherweight and welterweight is Baltimore’s Gervonta “Tank” Davis (23-0) who looks to extend his fourteen fight knockout streak against Leo Santa Cruz (37-1) on PBC’s Halloween card. If the southpaw can win in convincing fashion, he’ll add Santa Cruz’s name to the growing list of serious competition (currently including Jose Pedraza and Yuriorkis Gamboa) who he’s beaten handily. Wins like these go a long way to answering questions about a still-young fighter’s maturity and ability. It also could add to the pressure on all parties for a high-profile showdown against Vasiliy Lomachenko or Teofimo Lopez in 2021.
So there’s your rundown for the major action happening in the rest of this month. Enjoy the fights and stay tuned for my updates on what to watch in November and December as boxing looks to make up for lost time in this, the year of COVID-19.
— Harry Meyerson
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