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Thurman and Broner kick things off for PBC

Al Haymon’s Premier Boxing Champions organisation kicks off in style on Saturday, with a quality double-header featuring a world-class welterweight battle and also the return of the most controversial star in the sport.  More importantly, it sees big-time boxing back on terrestrial television in the U.S., as it features on NBC TV and is the first in a series of shows to be aired on the network during 2015.  The line-up for the first card is excellent and should get the series off to a flying start.  It all takes place at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas, which will be the venue for the upcoming superfight between Mayweather and Pacquiao.

Frampton goes terrestrial

At last, after many years in the wilderness, boxing is making a comeback to one of the two mainstream television channels in the UK.  ITV is dipping its toes back into the boxing water by showcasing Belfast’s Carl Frampton this Saturday night on its main channel.  Frampton is in action against American Chris Avalos and is defending his IBF super-bantamweight belt in the process.  Although Channel 5 has been showing boxing fairly regularly over the past couple of years, that channel is still considered subservient to the traditional main channels, BBC1 and ITV.  It is a crucial weekend then for our sport in Britain and who better to represent us than the brilliant Ulsterman Frampton.  The show takes place at the Odyssey Arena in Belfast and, as is always the case, the place will be jumping!

If Chris Avalos has his way, this will be a “one and done” return to the mainstream for us, as a win for the visitor will surely curtail further involvement from ITV.  He is certainly a live challenger for Frampton, who will have to be on his game in order to successfully defend his title.  Luckily for us, Frampton is always on his game.  With the ever popular Barry McGuigan running his camp and Barry’s son Shane in his corner, what could possibly go wrong?  Hang on, this is boxing, let us not count those chickens too soon.

About Boxing: Deontay Wilder, Willie Monroe Jr. and Amir Imam

So boxing got the result that almost all non-affiliates in the sport wanted, a Deontay Wilder victory on Saturday night at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas.  Not only that, the watching public got to see several questions answered as Wilder boxed like an accomplished veteran to easily defeat the overmatched Stiverne.  The fact that Wilder won a wide points decision actually proved more than had he blasted Stiverne out inside the first four rounds, as most of us expected him to.  He showed good stamina, patience and plenty of ring smarts in outboxing his plodding foe.  Some credit must go to Stiverne for forcing Wilder to display those qualities where none of his previous opponents had been able to.

Boxcino champions return to the ring

The second show of the new Friday Night Fights season on ESPN this week features the return of last year’s Boxcino tournament winners, Willie Monroe Jr at middleweight and Russian Petr Petrov at lightweight.  On last week’s show we were treated to a top class performance by Colombian Darleys Perez, who firmly established himself amongst the top lightweights in the world with his victory over Jonathan Maicelo.  This week sees an opportunity for the winners of the two main fights on the card to also stake their claim to be considered world class.  This Friday’s show is promoted by Artie Pelullo’s Banner Promotions and takes place at the Turning Stone Resort & Casino in New York state.

Both of the two successful tournament winners from last year have major tests in front of them, in fact it is not inconceivable that both could be defeated.  This really is a fine start to ESPN’s series and let us hope that this standard is retained throughout the season.

Friday Night Fights kicks off again

The boxing years kicks off with a busy weekend in the U.S., with no fewer than four televised shows, three on Friday and one on Saturday.  Our American armchair cousins are very lucky in having such a regular diet of televised boxing.  For fans in the U.K., only one of the shows will be available and, of course, it will be our staple diet of Friday Night Fights from ESPN (although televised on BT Sport in the U.K.).  The first show of the new series takes place at the Chumash Casino, Santa Ynez, California.

The event is promoted by Gary Shaw who, whilst he does not currently have any major stars in his stable, is still one of the most important promoters in the business, outside of the big two of Golden Boy and Top Rank.  He beats them both off the blocks this year with a very interesting main event, featuring his lightweight Darleys Perez defending something called the WBA Interim lightweight title.  I will not mention that spurious bauble again during this preview.  The Colombian’s opponent is a fellow South American, Jonathan Maicelo, from Peru.

Reverberations from the Excel – Billy Joe Saunders beats Chris Eubank Jr

After an all-day show at the Excel in London, which ridiculously finished at around 1.20 a.m. on Sunday morning, some thoughts and opinions were enhanced whilst others were refuted and yet more questions were raised than were answered.  This is always the way after a good show, and it was a good show despite a couple of major disappointments.  Here are some observations that I made following the marathon card.

I am even more convinced than ever that Billy Joe Saunders will never be an elite middleweight.  Neither will he ever beat an elite middleweight.  However, in our world of plenty (as far as alphabet belts are concerned), this will not preclude him from winning one of the same.  Even ordinary fighters are able to win these trinkets and call themselves world champion.  By the way, I am not describing Billy Joe as an ordinary fighter.  He showed tremendous skill, heart, will, and last but by no means least, chin, as he managed to stave off the desperate lunging attacks of Chris Eubank Jr. on Saturday night.

Saunders and Eubank Jr. set to steal the show

It has taken until the last week of November but we can safely say that the best domestic show of the year takes place on Saturday night, in London at the ExCel Arena in Dockland, London. The card, which is being billed as “Bad Blood”, features world ranked heavyweights Tyson Fury and Dereck Chisora in a rematch of their July 2011 clash, as the nominal main event. However, this fight has been usurped from its position by the real grudge match which is chief support, featuring undefeated middleweights Billy Joe Saunders and Chris Eubank Jr., which along with the Froch­Groves epic from earlier in the year, is the most anticipated trade fight of the year.

The heavyweight rematch has been marinating for some time now, originally scheduled to headline Frank Warren’s 26 July show, before Chisora suffered a broken hand just days before the fight, forcing a postponement. This must have been heartbreaking for Tyson Fury as he had spent the best part of 2013 waiting on David Haye and his fragile body. Of course, that particular blockbuster never happened, Haye firstly suffering a cut eye in sparring just one week prior to the initial date and then undergoing shoulder surgery prior to the revised scheduled date, bringing that proposed match to a dead­end.

Can Bernard Hopkins defy Father Time again?

Following the thrills and spills of 2013, which boxing sage Al Bernstein described as the best year in the sport for 25 years, 2014 has been nothing but a damp squib.  It has been a year characterised by in-fighting behind the scenes involving the major players in the sport, i.e., Oscar De La Hoya, Al Haymon, Richard Schaefer and the two big cable networks, HBO and Showtime.  For people who follow the sport closely, all that is fascinating, but what we really want to see is action and big fights inside the ring. 

At last this Saturday we have what is almost certainly the biggest and most intriguing fight of 2014, as WBO light-heavyweight champion and the number one in the division, Sergey Kovalev, takes on the challenge of Bernard Hopkins who, at nearly 50 years of age, is the crotchety old fogey of the sport.  Hopkins holds both the WBA and IBF belts and all three trinkets will be on the line on Saturday night.  The fight takes place at Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City and is to be televised live on HBO in the U.S. and BoxNation in the U.K.  The only fight this year which comes even close to rivalling this one as far as impact and importance goes, was the rematch between Pacquiao and Bradley in April. 

This week’s highlights: Randy Caballero vs Stuart Hall

British armchair boxing fans got a mixed bag this weekend but the undoubted highlight was the outstanding fight in Monte Carlo, between Nicaraguan-American Randy Caballero and Darlington’s own Stuart Hall, for one of the main alphabet belts at bantamweight.  On paper beforehand, this always looked like the fight of the weekend, and so it proved.  Both boxers are ranked high in the bantamweight division and although Caballero was quite a hot favourite to win, it was felt that the experience and sheer size of Hall might be enough to counteract his opponent’s advantages in youth and skill. 

Unfortunately for Stuey, he came up short, with the second round knockdown he suffered putting him at a deficit on the cards which he could never claw back.  Both fought tooth and nail through to the final bell and it was a truly superb contest.  Not only that but two of the judges were absolutely spot on with their scores of 116-111 for Caballero.  This fight showed everything that is good about boxing and, in fact, the whole card was excellent with another major world title fight and also a crossroads match between two hot prospects at light-heavyweight featuring on what proved to be easily the best card of the weekend.  Credit to Rodney Berman and his Golden Gloves outfit for continually putting on these excellent shows. 

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