A Look Into This Weekend’s Boxing
Boxing has multiple high level cards this weekend that should excite hardcore fans. There are two cards that will be picked up by ESPN+, along with one provided by FITE TV, and the last one is a highly anticipated Showtime Championship Boxing telecast. There is an abundance of highly ranked fighters in action this week across numerous weight classes; you won’t want to miss any of the action.
Friday night we have an ESPN+ card that will take place at Centre Gervais Auto, Quebec, Canada. There will be three main fights televised on ESPN+, with three rising contenders who have been getting more attention recently.
The main event features world ranked heavyweight Arslanbek Makhmudov (15-0, 14 KOs) in a ten round contest against Michael Wallisch (23-5, 16 KOs) of Germany. Makhmudov was last in the ring in September, when he underwhelmed in a unanimous decision victory over Carlos Takam (39-7-1, 28 KOs). I’m still unsure of Makhmudov’s ceiling and if he will ever be an elite heavyweight, but this is the perfect opportunity for him to bounce back strong and pick up another knockout victory.
Middleweight contender Steven Butler (31-3-1, 26 KOs) will be opposite Joshua Conley (17-4-1, 11 KOs) in a ten round co-feature bout. Butler was also the co-feature on the card in September that Makhmudov headlined, and he scored his best victory to date, a second round stoppage over Mark DeLuca (28-4, 16 KOs). Conley is coming off of a unanimous decision loss to Sergiy Derevyanchenko (14-4, 10 KOs), and has previously matched up against top talents Carlos Adames (22-1, 17 KOs) and Julian “J Rock” Williams (28-3-1, 16 KOs). This should be a competitive affair, but I see Butler being too much in the end and coming out victorious.
The last fight on this card that I will be covering includes a rising women’s boxing star who could find herself matching up against some of the best in the world in the near future. Mary Spencer (7-0, 5 KOs) will be squaring off against former world champion and multiple time title challenger Femke Hermans (13-4, 5 KOs). Though Hermans has the professional experience on her side, she was brutally knocked out against Savannah Marshall (12-1, 10 KOs), and it is tough to gauge how much she has left to offer at the elite level. Spencer is heavy-handed like Marshall was, and I expect her to pick up a stoppage victory of her own as she hopes to get a marquee fight in 2023.
There is another ESPN+ card that is scheduled for this weekend. This one will take place at the Parc des expositions, in Nantes, France. The bill is headlined by rising super middleweight contender Christian Mbilli (22-0, 20 KOs) as he takes on the widely known veteran Vaughn Alexander (17-6-1, 10 KOs). Alexander has won two fights in a row, with the first being an impressive victory over Luis Arias (20-3-1, 9 KOs) who was fresh off of his upset win over former unified 154lb champion Jarret “Swift” Hurd (24-2, 16 KOs). Alexander also provided a stiff test to the now WBO Middleweight Champion Janibek Alimkhanuly (13-0, 8 KOs) in a close fight that Janibek was awarded the split decision victory. Though Alexander is always game and can never be counted out, I have to favor the youth and size of Mbilli to get the job done.
FITE TV is offering a quality British card this weekend which will be at the Bournemouth International Centre in the United Kingdom. British Cruiserweight Chris Billam-Smith (16-1, 11 KOs) headlines against Armend Xhoxhaj (14-2, 7 KOs). Billam-Smith has won seven in a row following his only pro defeat, and I anticipate that he will make that eight in a row Saturday night in decisive fashion.
Welterweight contender Michael McKinson (22-1, 2 KOs) returns after being defeated for the first time as a professional against rising superstar Vergil Ortiz Jr (19-0, 19 KOs). He will compete in a six round bout against Roberto Arriaza (19-4, 14 KOs) and he should be able to box his way to a clear victory and get some rounds in before he looks toward another potential big fight at 147lbs.
The very popular Viddal Riley (7-0, 4 KOs) is also included on this card. He has a lot of eyes fixated on him due to his social media presence (1.21 million YouTube subscribers, 620 thousand Instagram followers), but do not let that fool you into thinking he isn’t a quality pugilist. He vastly improves with each fight, and he is as much of a legit boxer as he is an entertainer at this point. He will be featured in an eight round bout against Amine Boucetta, and should be able to pick up a clear victory whether it be by decision or stoppage.
There are two other fights of note on this FITE TV card. Former Canelo opponent Rocky Fielding (30-2, 18 KOs) will compete in a twelve rounder against Dan Azeez (17-0, 11 KOs). Azeez is defending his British 175lb title, and I expect him to still be the champion at the conclusion of this one. Former Olympian and brother of WBA “Regular” Heavyweight Champion Daniel Dubois, Caroline Dubois will also be featured. She will be in a six rounder against Sofia Rodriguez (5-7, 1 KO), in a fight that she will be heavily favored to win, but may be forced to go the distance which she has not done since her pro debut.
Fighters included are Vincent Astrolabio (far left), Jose Uzcategui (middle left), Michel Rivera (close left), Frank Martin (close right), Vladimir Shishkin (middle left) and Nikolai Potapov (far right)
The last card that I will address is without a doubt the card that the boxing community is most excited for this weekend. Showtime Championship Boxing brings us their last card of the year, and they are certainly going out with a bang. The main event is a WBA lightweight title eliminator between Michel Rivera (24-0, 14 KOs) and Frank “The Ghost” Martin (16-0, 12 KOs). This is the type of fight that boxing needs more of- two undefeated guys on the rise who are willing to put their perfect records on the line.
This is a true 50/50 fight that both guys have a path to victory. Rivera has the advantage when it pertains to boxing ability, and his jab can give Martin a lot of problems early. Rivera has the edge in his “Plan A”, but I feel that Martin has the edge in his “Plan B”. Martin is the lesser experienced of the two. He started boxing at 22 and has eight fewer pro fights than Rivera. Where he can win the fight is his counterpunching and the adjustments he can make down the stretch. Martin is the heavier handed of the two, and if he is able to drag Rivera into a firefight, then that would most likely favor him.
There are two other title eliminators on the Showtime broadcast, with the co-feature being an IBF super middleweight title eliminator. Included in this eliminator are former 168lb champion Jose Uzcategui (32-4, 27 KOs) and undefeated contender Vladimir Shishkin (13-0, 8 KOs). This should be a back and forth affair, and I favor Shishkin to get the job done. Even though they are the same age, Shishkin is currently in his prime while Uzcategui’s best days are probably behind him.
The opener of the telecast is an IBF bantamweight title eliminator between Vincent Astrolabio (17-3, 12 KOs) and Nikolai Potapov (23-2-1, 11 KOs). Astrolabio upset one of the most talented fighters of this generation, Guillermo Rigondeaux (20-3, 13 KOs), in February which set him up for this opportunity. I lean towards Astrolabio getting the nod and move closer to a world title shot. Though Rigondeaux is in his 40s and far past his peak, Astrolabio showed he is a rugged boxer than can give anyone problems.
One of the most underappreciated talents in the sport is on the Showtime undercard. 140lb contender Kenneth Sims Jr (18-2-1, 6 KOs) takes part in an eight round showdown against Rock Dodler Myrthil (17-1, 13 KOs). Sims should be able to take care of business, and has some lucrative opportunities ahead of him being a legit contender in what may very well be the deepest weight class in the sport.
Bakhram Murtazaliev (20-0, 15 KOs) will be opposite of Roberto Valenzuela Jr (20-3, 19 KOs). Murtazaliev is the top-rated contender in the IBF 154lb rankings, and hopes to hold on to his mandatory position as a challenger for Jermell Charlo’s undisputed titles with a win.
There are many other intriguing fights on the undercard. Christian Baez (18-2, 17 KOs) will meet Kevin Johnson (12-2, 8 KOs) in a ten round lightweight bout. Omar Juarez (13-1, 5 KOs) will face Austin Dulay (15-3, 11 KOs) in a ten round 140lb showdown. Highly touted Mayweather Promotions prospect Jalil Hackett (4-0) is also back in action against Nelson Morales (3-1, 0 KO).
All in all, if you are a boxing fan there are a number of quality matches available to watch this weekend. I hope you enjoyed this preview of the last major week of boxing in 2022, and the whole ITR Boxing team is excited for what we have in store for you guys in 2023.