Covid-19 put all sports back on hold in March of this year. It ended the XFL permanently though its future looked grim anyway, it killed a baseball season, killed March Madness, killed the NBA and NHL championships and worst of all our beloved boxing. This upcoming Tuesday on ESPN boxing comes back to life at MGM Grand in Las Vegas to showcase Shakur Stevenson in a non title bout at super featherweight. This is not a star studded card by any means but there are a couple of good showcase fights at heavyweight and some possible sleepers on the card.
Main Event: Shakur Stevenson vs Felix Caraballo 130 non title 10 rounds
Caraballo is an unranked featherweight getting the chance to climb in the ring with Shakur Stevenson, the WBO featherweight champion and Olympic Silver Medalist from the last Olympic Games. Caraballo is undefeated in his last five after suffering his first defeat at the hands of 8-1 Pedro Marquez Medina. Caraballo leaves the comforts of home as he fights outside of Puerto Rico for the first time in his career and leaves his hometown of Mayaguez, Puerto Rico for the first time in eight fights. Felix Caraballo has very limited footage of his sixteen fights and no amateur record listed on Boxrec. From what I do see he has power in his hands but has a tendency to load up and leave his chin exposed. The opponents he has fought have mostly elected to trade with him and be there to absorb his power punches.
Shakur Stevenson is young at 22 years old but is coming off a seven month layoff and has changed opponents twice. He was originally supposed to make his first title defense against Miguel Marriaga in March but Covid-19 scrapped that and then his first opponent for Tuesday had visa problems that prevented him from getting to Las Vegas. Sometimes a late substitute in a less significant fight can lead to a young fighter overlooking a puncher and being surprised. I do not feel this scenario is really in play for Tuesday as the gap in class is pretty wide here. Shakur Stevenson is not a world class puncher but he is a very sharp boxer who can move pretty well and counter very effectively. I expect Caraballo to start off very aggressively but become neutralized in a matter of two or three rounds. I don’t think Shakur Stevenson gets him out of there early but favor a dominant decision or maybe a late stoppage if Caraballo gasses and gets worn down.
Co-Main Event: Mikaela Mayer vs Helen Joseph 10 rounds 130
This fight appears to be the most competitive on the card. Mayer is a rising American prospect that has had Top Rank and ESPN’s backing for her career but is stepping up in class to face Nigerian born Helen Joseph who fights out of Connecticut. Mayer is taller at five foot nine inches versus five foot five inches and fights in a style that imposes her size on her opponents. She is a pretty hard puncher despite only knocking out five of her twelve opponents. She has an aggressive come forward style with a hard jab and right hand and kind of reminds me a little of Kelly Pavlik (I hate making comparisons but the stance and punch selection jumped out). Mayer has been taken the distance in the majority of her recent fights but has hardly lost a round. Her two most recent stoppages came in the corner after hammering Edina Kiss and Alejandra Soledad Zamora.
Helen Joseph has more professional fights than Mayer and has the better name on her record with a recent ten round fight with Delfine Persoon. I thought Persoon beat Katie Taylor in New York City last year and Joseph went the full distance and won three rounds on two cards and two rounds on another. She came up against weak opposition but has faced some very tough opponents in her more recent bouts. Does putting up a good performance versus a top fighter equal being elite, not always but is it a sign of a pretty good threat for a contender? I think so and expect a very closely contested ten round fight. I pick Mayer by a 96-94 or 97-93 type of decision. Incidentally they both have faced Edina Kiss with Mayer stopping her in three rounds and Joseph winning a six round shutout decision.
Jared Anderson vs Johnnie Langston 6 rounds at heavyweight
Jared Anderson is a bright prospect picked up by Top Rank. He is twenty years old, six foot four, is undefeated in three fights, all three have ended in the first round and has an amateur Junior World Title and two US National Championship titles. He has dropped two of his opponents with hard left hooks to the body which is promising. He also fights effectively out of the southpaw stance and throws a sharp left toward the liver reminiscent of Lucian Bute. In his last bout Anderson fought exclusively out of the southpaw stance and scored a knockout though he was a little more open.
Johnnie Langston is a thirty year old southpaw who bounces between crusierweight and heavyweight. He moves pretty well and has a sharp jab that he can throw a right hook off of. Langston has a sharp left hand counter that he throws well when settling his weight back on his left foot. His only two losses are a majority decision at cruiserweight and a split decision at heavyweight. While Langston seems like a good fighter I think Anderson might be too big, weighing in the 230’s for all three fights and having a solid pedigree. I expect a knockout in round one or two for Anderson but that left hand counter might provide a scary moment.
Guido Vianello vs Don Haynesworth 6 rounds heavyweight
This is pure and simple a showcase fight. Haynesworth is 37 and stopped by the two known fighters on his record. Zhilei Zhang and Bryant Jennings got him out of there early so I expect Vianello to do it and early. Vianello has a lot of guys with winning records on his list of wins but a few had been knocked out early before facing him. I guess the jury is still out on Vianello but I expect a knockout in the first few rounds here.
Robeisy Ramirez vs Yeuri Andujar 6 rounds 126
Robeisy Ramirez is a two time Olympc Gold Medalist from Cuba who is only three fights into his professional career. He began his career in Philadelphia by dropping a four round decision in his debut after touching the canvas in the opening round. Was this the sign of things to come or an anomaly? Ramirez has bounced back to win two consecutive fights by stoppage in the fourth and sixth rounds. It would seem like Top Rank is probably trying to get a professional rematch of the Olympic Final by getting Shakur Stevenson and Robeisy Ramirez back in the ring together at some point. They are both on ESPN and both are under the Top Rank banner so it would seem like they are being maneuvered toward each other especially given they are on the same card. Andujar is a scrappy orthodox fighter with a three inch height advantage and one year younger. He is a pretty aggressive come forward fighter who likes to mix it up along the ropes. Ramirez got sucked into a brawl in his debut. This might be the sleeper of the card. I predict a fight with exciting exchanges before a late TKO for Ramirez. I expect this one to be entertaining.
Quatavious Cash vs Calvin Metcalf 6 rounds 160
Cash of Contender fame is the opener on Tuesday. Cash is coming off a lay off that started in August of 2019 but has been training in the Mayweather Gym. Picking Cash by unanimous decision.