November: A Month of Fights to be Thankful For

      October has been a long month for fans of the sweet science. Whether you are a glass is half empty or a glass is half full type of guy, we are at the midway point of a month that offered nothing of pugilistic significance. But there is good news on the horizon fight fans! The wait is half way over and Christmas is coming early in the form of world title fights. We are primed to have a November worth remembering.

      There are literally great fights with serious implications on their respectful divisions every weekend. Some of these are match-ups that fans have been yearning for and, on paper at least, they promised to deliver the type of action that all fans love. Get ready to have your cable bills spike, and tell the women in your life that your Saturday nights for the month are booked with an amazing line up of fights that we all can be thankful for. Here is your run down of the biggest cards on every weekend this month:

 

November 5th:  Manny Pacquiao vs. Jesse Vargas PPV (Top Rank PPV)

      Lots of fans were disappointed by Manny’s choice of opponent for this fight. Fans would have much rather seen him in the ring with junior welterweight champion Terrance Crawford but given his track record of facing the best fighters available for more than a decade, the man is entitled to fight whoever he pleases and we should cut him a break.  After all, we are still getting to see Pac Man in a ring wearing trunks and gloves instead of in a suit talking Pilipino politics. This one will be for Vargas’ WBO welterweight title and is going down at a familiar venue that has been underutilized for fights in recent years, the Thomas and Mack Center in Las Vegas.

On paper Pacquiao is a heavy favorite at -800 and while calling Vargas a live dog at +500  is going a bit too far, Jesse does have a back story that makes this fight more interesting. Vargas, whose only professional loss is to Timothy Bradley, is coming off the biggest win of his career after stopping highly regarded prospect Sadam “World Kid” Ali in the 9th round back in March at the DC Armory to win his title. Vargas is ten years younger than Manny, he is fighting in his adopted hometown (he has lived in Las Vegas since he was 5 years old), and used to be trained by Erik Morales, whom Pacquiao knocked out twice. Manny has a long history of beating  high profile fighters of Mexican heritage but he has not fought one in close to four years. Getting a chance to fight the  guy who has been beating the idols of young Mexican fighters for 13 years should provide plenty of motivation for Vargas to leave everything in the ring which regardless of the outcome is a win for the fans.

      Vargas recently told Rappler.com’s Ryan Songalia that Manny “was able to defeat Morales and Barrera, and now it’s my time to defeat [him], give him that same taste.” In the same interview, Vargas said that he was having the best training camp of his life and that “never in any training camps have I taken down as many sparring partners as I have in this camp, and that says a lot…I’ve been sitting down on my punches because power is gonna be a definite change in this fight from my fights in the past.” That confidence has to be music to the ears of fans that were not as excited about this match up. if Vargas can deliver on his promised to knock Manny out a lot of doors will be open for him that would otherwise be shut. Of course Manny and he trainer Freddie Roach have other plans. Roach recently told the Manilla Times that while they do have a lot respect for Vargas, “Manny is his best shape ever” and the 8-division champion “will knock him out in the later rounds.”

       The card will also feature three other competitive world title bouts. Nonito Donaire vs. undefeated Jesse Magdaleno (for Donaire’s WBO junior featherweight title), undefeated knockout artist Oscar Valdez vs. Hiroshige Osawa (for Valdez’s WBO featherweight title) and Chinese Olympian Zou Shiming vs. Prasitsak Papoem, both with one loss a piece, for the vacant WBO flyweight title. With four titles on the line for this PPV card you are sure to get your money’s worth.

 

November 12th: Matchroom Boxing’s Monte Carlo Card

       Undefeated heavyweight contender Luis “King Kong” Ortiz recently left Golden Boy Promotions due to his frustrations of not getting matched with fighters at the top of the division and signed with Eddie’s Hern’s Matchroom Boxing. It could prove to be the smartest move of his career. In his first fight with his new promoter, he is already fighting for the vacant WBA Inter-Continental heavyweight title against long time title contender Malik Scott. It would be safe to say that he is looking past his opponent as he already has a fight scheduled for December that will be for the Interim WBA heavyweight title in Manchester against a to be named opponent on the Anthony Joshua undercard. It is hard to blame him for not taking Scott too seriously as he stopped all but one of his 25 opponents since defecting from Cuba and turning pro in order to provide better medical care for his four-year-old daughter in 2010. While Scott has a solid record at 38-2-1, his knockout loss to Derek Chisora and split draw against Vyacheslav Glazkov stick out like a sore thumb. On paper he should not be much of a match for Ortiz, but hey, who doesn’t like to see a heavyweight fight that is almost certain to end in a KO.

       History repeats itself from a week earlier as this card also has three other world title fights on the undercard as well. Jason Sosa will attempt to defend his WBA World super featherweight title against Liverpool’s Stephen Smith. Sosa lucked out with a majority draw against Nicholas Walters in December in a fight that virtually all who watched it had Walters winning comfortably. In his most recent outing, he got off the canvas in the fifth round to stop the undefeated Javier Fortuna in the 11th round to capture the title. Smith is a formidable opponent for his first defense. His record stands at 24-2, his only losses are to Jose Pedraza and Lee Selby.

    Two other familiar names will clash for the second time as Arthur Abraham will attempt to defend his WBO International super middleweight title in a rematch with Marting Murray. The first meeting ended in a split decision win for Abraham. The first world title fight on the card features Jamie McDonnell, only one fight removed from his two consecutive wins over Tomoki Kameda, attempting the fifth defense of his WBA World bantamweight title against Venezuela’s Liborio Olis.

Danny Garcia vs. Samuel Vargas (PBC on Spike)

       On the same night Danny “Swift” Garcia is also fighting Samuel Vargas in a 10 round welterweight affair broadcast on Spike TV from Philadelphia if you are into that sort of thing. To be fair there are a few good fights on that card. Javier Fortuna (30-1-1) who moving up to lightweight to face undefeated prospect Omar “Super O” Douglas (17-0) will be interesting, as will the middleweight contest between another undefeated prospect Jarrett “Swift” Hurd (18-0), who is moving up from junior middleweight to face Mexico’s Jorge Cota (25-1) who will pretty much fight at any weight from welter all the way up to super middle.

 

November 19: Andre Ward vs. Sergei Kovalev (HBO PPV)

       Besides the long awaited Gennady Golovkin vs. Saul “Canelo” Alvarez that has yet to be booked, this is the big match that most fans have been waiting for, thanks in part to HBO showcasing Kovalev’s mostly one sided fights for the last several years, and it will be the biggest boxing match to take place at the new T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas. Any pound for pound list that has any credibility has both men in top ten, if not the top five. This fight has a lot of historical significance behind it.

       As the CEO of Main Events, Kathy Duva recently eloquently put it at a press conference: “Finally. There was a time when fighters didn’t consider preserving their undefeated records to be paramount to engaging in actual competition. There was a time when undefeated fighters who were heading to the Hall of Fame actually sought out greater and greater challenges as their careers progressed. There was a time when fighters were courageous athletes and not simply cynical businessmen…Since Ring Magazine began to keep records of the pound-for-pound fighters there have only been two occasions when two unbeaten top five fighters have competed in the ring for pound-for-pound supremacy. The first was Meldrick Taylor vs. Julio Caesar Chavez Sr. in 1994, the second time was Oscar De La Hoya vs Felix Trinidad in 1999. That means that on November 19th, this will be the very first time in the 21st century that such an event will occur in our sport.

    Most fans are picking Kovalev to win, while many pundits, fighters and the bookmakers in Vegas slightly favor Ward. As of this writing, the line sits with Ward a -135 favorite and Kovalev coming back +105. It is a classic match-up of boxer versus brawler. Both men are undefeated with the only blemish on Kovalev’s record being a draw due to an accidental foul back in 2011. Both men did not look great in their last fights but that has done little to deter fans from being excited about this bout.    

       Ward has more than his share of detractors in part due to a few lengthy layoffs involving litigations with promoters, but mainly due to a defensive counter punching style that many fans deem as borderline unwatchable. Ward has never faced anyone that took him out of his comfort zone and forced him to show another wrinkle to his game. His defense-first style has lead him to an Olympic gold medal, a four-year run as the Ring super middleweight world champion and seven title defenses.

        Kovalev’s style is basically the polar opposite of Ward’s. With 26 KOs in 30 wins and every major title at light heavyweight except Adonis Stevenson’s WBC belt, the “Krusher” is a come forward fighter who has made his living pressuring fighters into the ropes until they succumb to his never-ending onslaught of power shots. It is the type of style that every boxing fan loves and it is easy to see why most fans around the globe are pulling for him to upset Ward.

       The question that looms is if Ward’s defensive mastery of the pugilistic arts will be able to overcome the multiple power punching volleys from the Russian for all twelve rounds, or will Kovalev succeed in what 30 other men have failed to do and make Ward uncomfortable in a boxing ring. The jury is virtually split down the middle. Two undefeated fighters close to their primes, check. A matchup of clashing styles, check. World titles on the line, check. East vs. West, check. With a main event like this, does the undercard even matter? If you are interested the co-main event is Kovalev’s last victim, Isaac Chilemba, versus a 29-year-old undefeated Ukrainian prospect with 11 wins and 9 KOs named Oleksandr Gvozdyk.

 

November 26: Vasyl Lomachenko vs. Nicholas Walters (HBO)    

       Historically it has been hard to make most fans pay much attention to any division south of 135 lbs. Back in the 2000s Pacquiao, Morales, Barrera and Marquez changed that notion. Now it would appear that we are poised for a second golden age at the lighter weights and some see this bout as the beginning of that. This is a fight that was supposed to have already happened back in 2015 , but the “Axe Man” decided to  pass on a career high payday because he felt the fight was worth more money. HBO disagreed, the fight fell apart and Walters has not fought since December. Many fans felt that he was ducking Lomachenko but Walters turned out to be right. After more viewers tuned in to watch Lomachenko’s capture his second title in two weight classes when he won the WBO World super featherweight in a 5 round destruction of Roman Martinez. Now according to Bob Arum per fighthype.com, HBO is now offering “slightly more than [they] did last time, but not what he was demanding when the fight couldn’t be made.” In any case the fight is back on.

    This fight will be much closer than the betting line indicates (currently Walters +375, Lomachenko -550). Walters is an extremely skillful boxing with the pop to match as his 26-0 (22) record indicates. He has been a world champion since 2012, but really came to the main streams attention after he knocked out Nonito Donaire in 2014. No one else had before or since has stopped the “Philipino Flash”. He is one fight behind Lomachenko in moving up to super featherweight but that should not play a factor. It is safe to say that he will be the best opponent Lomachenko has faced.

    Vasyl, a two-time Olympic gold medalist, is the most accurate of punchers with equal power in both hands and a ridiculous 396-1 amateur record. He lost his second professional fight to Orlando Salido by split-decision for the vacant WBO World featherweight title only to win that same title in his next fight against Gary Russell Jr by majority decision. To make things more complicated for Walters, Lomachenko is a southpaw, and the only other left-handed fighter Walters has faced on a world class level was a well past his prime and close forty-years-old Vic Darchinyan. He will need to stay a distance and box “Hi-Tech” without taking damage as the fight goes on. Lomachenko has appeared to get stronger as fights progress so that is a tall order for the Jamaican.

    Walters appears to be up for the challenge. In an interview with Edward Chaykovsky from boxingscene.com he was quoted as saying: “Any fighter can be knocked out no matter who he is…look at what happened when I fought a great technical fighter like Nonito Donaire. Lomachenko is great, he knows what he is doing in the ring. But I always look for the knock out against whomever I fight. If I can do it quick, I will. This is the best fight out there in boxing today. It will be Fight of the Year.”

    Even though this fight is far less talked about in the mainstream media and by HBO than the Kovalev vs. Ward matchup, it has all the makings to be the most exciting one in a month that is the most stacked month of fights that we have seen in years.


About the author: Kevin Jones is the Host of The Main Event on Double T 97.3 FM in Lubbock, TX . His opinions are sometimes controversial, always entertaining and backed up with facts. Listen to his Show Live from 8-9am CST Sundays or check out the show’s podcast on http://Doublet973.com ‘s podcast page or the pinned tweet on his twitter page @TheMainEventLBK