Boxing News January 2021

I must apologize for the space in between posts. I am working on the formatting for this site for the new year and am trying to have a schedule in place for content. I am also working on bringing in new content for 2021 as long as COVID limitations don’t create issues. We approach the one year anniversary on Jersey George’s Boxing Blog and I appreciate the feedback and following.

I’ll close this first month with two new blog posts, a news segment and a preview of Caleb Plant vs Caleb Truax for the IBF 168 lb. title taking place this upcoming Saturday on Fox from Los Angeles. The key pieces of the news cycle include the upcoming boxing schedule, some side show boxing, some rumors, and lastly a recap of this weekend’s action which saw American Stephen Fulton claim a title in the super bantamweight class.

The Schedule

The boxing calendar is starting to fill up with new events, beginning this weekend and going all the way to April there is an interesting start to this year.

Friday January 29: WBA Regular Heavyweight Title on the line as titleholder Manuel Charr of Syrian descent fighting out of Germany defends against American Trevor Bryan. This is a sideshow fight for a meaningless title but Charr and the WBA Regular title charade has created laughs among many hardcore boxing fans and disdain from many other insiders and pundits. This is also quite possibly Don King’s final fight card given his age, 89 going on 90, and his small grip on the sport. Also on the card is a return for cruiserweight Beibut Shumenov and possible return for former WBC Heavyweight Champion Bermaine Stiverne. Stiverne is waiting on clearance from the commission in Florida to be added to the card. The bout will be put on by Fite and Don King’s own website with a fee of $19.99.

Saturday January 30th: Caleb Plant defends his IBF 168 lb. for the third time against former titleholder Caleb Truax in LA. I won’t dive too much into the details here since I want to preview the card in a separate post. Plant is on the verge of a potential unification match with Canelo Alvarez and coming off a near full year lay off. Truax is the highest rated contender in the IBF and briefly held their title when he upset James DeGale on Showtime in a Ring Magazine finalist for 2017 Upset of the Year.

February 13th: ESPN and DAZN have dueling cards with Joe Smith Jr. facing Maxim Vlasov for the vacated WBO light heavyweight title and Joseph Diaz defending his IBF 130 lb. title for the first time against Shavkatdzhon Rakhimov. Canelo vacated the WBO title he won from Sergey Kovalev setting the stage for Smith Jr. and Vlasov to meet in an interesting fight. Smith is the known commodity for most US fans as he got a major push on HBO during the mid 2010’s and has been a staple of Top Rank Boxing on ESPN. He had a very good year last year with two stoppage victories including over former champion Eleider Alvarez. Vlasov is a sleeper here with 45 wins against only 3 losses he has fought at the highest levels of super middleweight, light heavyweight, and cruiserweight. He has never been stopped and has faced an array of styles. He was also very competitive with former champion Zurdo Ramirez and avenged one of his losses to Isaac Chilemba. Diaz makes his first defense of his IBF belt against lightly touted undefeated Russian in Rakhimov. Diaz is my favorite US Olympian turned pro from the 2012 class and I expected his style to suit him well in the professional ranks. He held his own against Gary Russell Jr. in his first career title shot and won handily against Tevin Farmer back in January of 2020 to pick up his current title (my first article on this blog site). It was a breakout performance but ultimately his career has stalled due to COVID. Despite a rematch clause, Diaz was able to bypass the Farmer rematch and this has created some drama between the two. Both appeared on DAZN’s Ak & Barak Show to tell their side of the collapsed negotiations and there seems to be some bad blood. Might Diaz be over looking a dangerous contender? Rakhimov may not have fought in 2020 but he is 15-0 with 12 KO’s and has 10 KO’s in his last 11 fights. He knocked out former world titlist Malcom Klassen of South Africa and finished off long time contender Robinson Castallenos of Mexico in just two rounds. This has the making of being an interesting battle. Supporting the main event is a WBO Junior Middleweight Title tilt with Brian Castano defending against Brazilian Challenger Patrick Texiera.

February 20th: Miguel Berchelt defends his WBC 130 lb. title against former featherweight title holder Oscar Valdez in an exciting contest. Both men have championship pedigrees and a dangerous punch. This fight has been brewing since the fall when both men scored stoppage victories on ESPN to set up this bout. This is a do not miss fight with a long reigning champion on a strong streak taking on a hard punching but also vulnerable challenger in Oscar Valdez.

February 27th: DAZN and ESPN once again go toe to toe with the return of superstar Canelo Alvarez and the 130 lb. title bout between champion Jamel Herring and UK multiple weight titlist Carl Frampton going for his third title in as many weight classes. Canelo returns to DAZN against Turkish contender Avni Yildirim which was a fight that I covered back in September amid Alvarez’s legal battle with the streaming service and Oscar De La Hoya’s Golden Boy Promotions. Oddly enough, DAZN has continued to win by getting Alvarez’s previous contest against Smith back in December 2020 and his upcoming February bout despite the ending of their record contract. Many have shown displeasure with this fight but having just fought unified champion Callum Smith this is an acceptable fight. It is even more forgivable in the event that Alvarez fights two more times this year as he claims he will and the result is four Alvarez fights from December to December. I wish more of the money maker type of fighters engaged this frequently. Herring returns to ESPN to defend against Frampton. This is an arrangement I wrote on back in September when Herring appeared to quit against Johnathan Oquendo to preserve a win and a date with Frampton. Frampton seeks a third division title and a chance to face rising American Olympian Shakur Stevenson of Newark, New Jersey.

March 5th: Claressa Shields takes on Canadian titleholder in a total unification at 154 lbs. in a PPV event on Fite. There are two historic milestones in play here: the first all female PPV card and if Shields prevails she will become the first fighter to become undisputed in two divisions during the four title era. Also, it is the first female headlined PPV card since Laila Ali and Jacqui Frazier met in 2001.

March 6: Heavyweight veteran Alexander Povetkin attempts to repeat the KO he scored over Dillian Whyte as Whyte seeks revenge in a DAZN rematch. Povetkin scored a leading contender for KO of the Year in 2020 with a fifth round shocker over WBC leading contender Dillian Whyte in the UK this past fall. Whyte had the aging Russian down twice in the fourth round of a good fight when the tables turned early in the fifth round. Whyte saw his hopes of forcing a mandatory challenge of Tyson Fury fall through as Povetkin scored a massive knockout. Povetkin did not steal Whyte’s title shot with the victory as Whyte has enforced a rematch clause. The fight was supposed to take place last year in a quick turn around given the severity of the knockout. Whyte was eager to get back in but the wait is probably better for him. Povetkin was hospitalized with COVID and it will be interesting to see if he can do it again.

March 13th has the highest profile fight of the year so far. Juan Francisco Estrada and Roman Gonzalez will go to war for a second time on DAZN. Eight years ago the two men fought a sensational match and they meet in a long overdue rematch at junior flyweight with multiple titles at stake. Estrada comes in off a thrilling victory in a fight of the year contender going against Gonzalez who was elected the Comeback Fighter of the Year by Ring in 2020. Estrada has run a gauntlet of experienced great fighters while Gonzalez forged a new path of greatness knocking off two younger rising fighters in great performances. When Gonzalez was knocked senseless by Rungvisai I thought his career was over. It was a devastating blow that left him down for an extended period of time. It was not the type of punch many aging fighters rebound from. Estrada lived in Gonzalez’s shadow for a while but over the last few years he has become the lead dog in the division and aims to keep it that way in their rematch. Expect action, high levels of skill, and a close intriguing fight. In support of the main event is Jessica McCaskill’s first defense of her undisputed welterweight championship when she faces Celia Brakehus in a rematch of McCaskill’s massive upset victory. Brakehus was on the verge of a successful 25th title defense when McCaskill claimed a close decision to take the title away.

March 20th: Golden Boy’s red hot welterweight prospect Virgil Ortiz goes against world class Maurice Hooker who is coming up in weight in a DAZN main event. Ortiz is 22, has never been past the sixth round and is an all out aggression type of fighter. Hooker who missed all of 2020 and at 31 is moving up in weight looks to revive a career redirected by Jose Ramirez. Ramirez stopped Hooker in six brutal rounds in a 2019 title fight. Ramirez looks to get back on track but faces yet another bruising puncher in Ortiz. Hooker has much more experience but has some obstacles here against Ramirez. This is another good fight for 2021.

Rumors:

Tyson Fury vs Anthony Joshua in April: Eddie Hearn has stated it is a done deal though no papers have been signed. If this is the case this is the biggest fight in boxing and perhaps the most significant since Pacquiao vs Mayweather. This also would likely be the most lucrative fight in UK history if not for the pandemic. Nothing is set in stone as Deontay Wilder still wants to block the fight and Oleksandr Usyk continues to press for his WBO shot whether or not this goes forward.

Oleksandr Usyk vs Joe Joyce for the interim WBO title: I don’t like interim belts but this may keep the 4 titles intact heading into the rumored Joshua vs Fury fight making this the first total unification at heavyweight in the 4 belt era. Lennox Lewis never did it and neither did Wladimir Klitschko. I have no interest in seeing the titles splinter and would prefer Joyce and Usyk to prove themselves before being able to block a fight of such magnitude.

Pacquiao vs Garcia: Ryan Garcia has been boasting and calling out a lot of fighters but since the Tank Davis heat cooled down this is being thrown around as a possibility. With McGregor being defeated over the weekend it looks like Manny’s big money route might be with Garcia. I would expect Manny to run through Garcia without much trouble in a real fight but he E word, exhibition is being used in relation to this possible bout.

Recap

Stephen Fulton Jr won a title for Philadelphia by claiming the WBO Super Bantamweight Title this past Saturday vs young titlist Angelo Leo. The two were originally scheduled to meet in August in Connecticut for the vacant title. Fulton tested positive for COVID the week of the fight and Tremaine Williams was bumped into the main event to face Leo. Oddly, the title was still on the line despite the events surrounding the main event which to me muddies the waters as to the validity of Leo’s title. Fulton won an action packed fight that was very close for six rounds. Fulton pulled away in the second half of the fight and won a unanimous decision by wide scores of 119-109 and 118-110. The fight featured grueling in fighting and both men digging to the body. Fulton scored impressively with his right uppercut to the head in an entertaining showing. Fulton has interesting options in Luis Nery the WBC titleholder and Brandon Figueroa who both fight on PBC. Raeese Aleem scored a seventh consecutive KO on the undercard and Fulton has been facing undefeated fighters as of late. This could be another good one. Fulton is one to keep an eye on.

Up Next: Previewing Caleb Plant vs Caleb Truax

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