Saturday Night’s Alright for Fighting

Chavez Jr vs Fonfara
Haymon’s Premier Boxing Champions takes a break this week, but that doesn’t mean fight fans will have Saturday night off. In fact, boxing aficionados will have a chance to reacquaint themselves with the longstanding Cold War, since HBO and Showtime will go head-to-head with competing cards. On paper, Showtime’s offering is the weaker one: a catchweight (who doesn’t hate that word by now?) bout at 173 pounds between a returning Julio Cesar Chavez Jr.—boxing’s buffoon par excellence—and former light heavyweight challenger Andrzej Fonfara, who put up a pretty good fight against Adonis Stevenson about a year ago.

Might as well call this one Joker’s Revenge, since Julio is decidedly the A-side and expected to prevail over the tough Pole. While not strictly a PBC card, Haymon nevertheless holds the strings as Chavez Jr. is a client of his; we can be sure Al will be rooting hard for the Mexican to deliver. This is because the current lineal light heavyweight champ Adonis Stevenson is also part of Haymon’s stable, and since a fight between “Superman” and Sergey Kovalev is proving even more difficult to make than #MayPac, Haymon is in need of a credible opponent for the Haitian-Canadian, like, stat.

In his greatest test, Chavez Jr. was outmaneuvered by Martinez – until the twelfth.

Haymon’s plan to rehabilitate Chavez, who has only fought twice since he lost the WBC belt to Sergio Martinez, will be successful to the degree Chavez takes care of business against Fonfara. But if the goal was to reintroduce Chavez Jr. to a large number of fans, we can only speculate Haymon’s assistant got her dates mixed up. It’s undeniable Matthysse vs Provodnikov is sucking up all the buzz this weekend, and word on the street is the StubHub Center, usually a magnet for fight fans, will be nowhere near full for Chavez vs Fonfara. There’s even evidence that the promoter is slashing ticket prices in a last-ditch attempt to maximize revenue.

Had it been scheduled one week later, boxing fans would have paid a lot more attention to Chavez vs Fonfara, mainly because it has the potential to turn into a decent scrap. Chavez—as usual—is the bigger guy, and will be looking to play that advantage to the max, leveraging his power shots and looking for the KO under the tutelage of newly hired trainer Joe Goossen. But Fonfara—who already showed his gameness in his lively effort against Stevenson—could make it a rough night for the Mexican if the fight goes into the late rounds and Chavez gets fatigued. Still, the consensus is that Chavez will earn the victory, and with it the chance to face off against the aforementioned Stevenson, or another Haymon light heavyweight protégé in Artur Beterbiev, in the near future.

Crawford, seen here hammering Gamboa, should dispatch of Dulorme.

Crawford vs Dulorme
Despite being part of the HBO broadcast as an accompanying piece to Matthysse vs Provodnikov, Crawford vs Dulorme is flying completely under the radar of most fight fans. HBO will go through the trouble of broadcasting the first fight from Verona, NY, and the second one from Arlington, Texas on the same night because they’re interested in staging a future fight between the winners. That being said, there’s a very valid reason Crawford vs Dulorme is passing-by unnoticed.

Any way you look at it, Terence Crawford had a terrific 2014: he beat Ricky Burns for a lightweight title, successfully defended the belt against Yuriorkis Gamboa with a thrilling KO win, and then defeated the best possible challenger to his crown in Raymundo Beltran. However, his upcoming fight against Thomas Dulorme is little more than Crawford getting his feet wet before he takes the plunge into the shark-infested junior welterweight waters.

Even though Dulorme has shown he can take advantage of his long reach to keep opponents at a distance with a sharp jab, he’s not particularly powerful. Additionally, hard fisted Luis Carlos Abregu showed Dulorme can be hurt, something which moved him to box more cautiously in subsequent engagements, and which Crawford can take advantage of. Terrence will be coming up in weight to meet Dulorme, but if he carries with him his sharpness, accuracy and ringsmarts, that should be more than enough to dispose of the sound, but limited, Dulorme on his way to bigger fights at 140-pounds.

— Rafael Garcia

Will Provodnikov-Matthysse be as violent as Provodnikov-Bradley?

Let me have war, say I; it exceeds peace as far as day does night: it’s spritely waking, audible, and full of vent. Peace is a very apoplexy, lethargy; mull’d, deaf, sleepy, insensible; a getter of more bastard children than war’s a destroyer of men.

William Shakespeare, Coriolanus

Matthysse vs Provodnikov
There shan’t be peace on Saturday in Verona, New York, when Lucas Matthysse meets Ruslan Provodnikov in the year’s most anticipated action fight. Matthysse (36-3) might be the heaviest punching jr. welterweight in the world while Provodnikov (24-3) is surely among its most sturdy. They have been matched to mix violently.

While both are have earned the respect of the boxing world, each has experienced triumph and loss in recent years. For Matthysse, his highest profile fight came on the Mayweather-Canelo undercard when he was decisioned by Danny Garcia. It was a competitive bout in which Garcia turned the Argentine’s eye into a puffy slit and knocked him down. Matthysse’s fought twice since then, earning a wild stoppage over recent Adrien Broner opponent John Molina and a second round KO of Roberto Ortiz. (That fight came on the undercard of Broner-Taylor. Implausibly, Broner once told Steve Farhood that he would someday “fuck up” Matthysse. Then came Marcos Maidana.) Matthysse went down twice against Molina and it will be interesting to see whether Provodnikov’s swarm will send him to the mat.

Ruslan Provodnikov, dubbed the “Siberian Rocky”, has the respect of the pundits and the love of the fans. He’s spectacularly violent inside the ring and transparently honest outside of it. He doesn’t box with any caution, preferring to go to war if his opponent mobilizes in front of him, and he’s open about his desire for boxing fame, having said that he fights for the respect denied to him by birth and class. In this sense, his hardboiled story reads like something scripted by a writer with a ‘hero’s journey’ template: tough upbringing, farfetched dream, transatlantic voyage, failure, triumph, failure, unyielding spirit, etc. Provonidkov will swallow shots and continue to press forward, as he did in his unforgettable bout with Timothy Bradley. He is a fighter whose heart pays no heed to the remonstrations of his psyche.

Matthysse Garcia
Matthysse lands one of his power rights on Garcia.

Matching these two is like dropping a grenade into a barrel full of gasoline. Provodnikov doesn’t punch hard enough to stop Matthysse but his chin is sturdy enough to last the distance. He will walk towards the Argentine’s fists rather than turn away from them. And Provo will be tested. Matthysse is a far more dangerous than the powerless Chris Algieri and his cement hands should test the limits of Provo’s resolve. Unsurprisingly, violence is the hallmark of this fight’s promotion, which is either grotesque or exciting, depending on your perspective. Regardless, it will make for riveting television.

Peace, according to Shakespeare’s unflinching realism, is boring. So in the spirit of the Bard, may belligerence prevail on Saturday, lest the communal malaise and subsequent philandering of male boxing fans everywhere result in a tide of illegitimate children. If things work out as most believe, our testosterone will surge in front of the television, not in the bedroom.                     — Eliott McCormick

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