Boxing finishes a busy September with a flourish, highlighted by a pair of headlining bouts from the Charlo brothers on a unique split pay-per-view card from Mohegan Sun Casino & Resort in Uncasville, Connecticut.
It might not reach the level of “Revenge: The Rematches,” the Don King-promoted pay-per-view headlined by Julio Cesar Chavez Sr. in 1994 that in my view is still the best lineup ever put together for a boxing pay-per-view card. But it’s a deep roster of quality fights from top to bottom.
The boxing week really kicks off on Wednesday, when Premier Boxing Champions highlights some of its most promising prospects on an FS1 broadcast from the Microsoft Theater in Los Angeles. On Friday in Tijuana, ironically enough, the aforementioned Chavez will be in action, as will his son. The legendary “Lion of Culiacan” will face Jorge Arce in an exhibition bout, while Junior attempts to start rehabilitating his career against Mario Abel Cazares in a 10-round light heavyweight contest. Truth be told, there’s probably more interest in Chavez Sr.’s bout.
Saturday will offer the conclusion of the World Boxing Super Series cruiserweight tournament, the return of unified titleholder Josh Taylor and then the stacked card on PPV.
If you’re a boxing fan, this week offers plenty to get excited about. Let’s break down the bouts.
How Taylor and Davison are setting up for Ramirez and title unification
Unified junior welterweight champion Josh Taylor opens up on a potential mega-fight with Jose Ramirez. Don’t miss the full interview on Max on Boxing at 4:30 PM on ESPN2.
Before WBA/IBF junior welterweight champion Josh Taylor can move forward with a unification showdown against Jose Ramirez (who has possession of the WBC and WBO belts at 140), he has to get past his mandatory IBF challenger, Apinun Khongsong (16-0, 13 KOs), at York Hall in London (2:30 p.m. ET on ESPN+).
Taylor has made a major change in his corner as he enters a crucial stage of his career. He’s now under the direction of trainer Ben Davison, who has previously worked with a number of top fighters, including Tyson Fury. Davison said that he has delivered a key overarching message to Taylor — take things one fight at a time.
Davison also explained that his main concern going into this fight is making sure he and his boxer are acclimated to the unusual circumstances that fights are now forced to adhere to with no live audiences.
“Josh isn’t the type of fighter who’s used to fighting in small halls, or as chief support, where nobody is there to see him,” Davison said. “He’s used to selling the arena out, having 16 [thousand], 20,000 fans screaming. Not having that is more so an important thing in this fight.”
Davison said he and former two-division world titlist Carl Frampton attended a recent event staged by promoter Frank Warren “just to get a feel for the atmosphere, to get a feel for what we’re walking into, and get comfortable with the surroundings, and just make ourselves familiar with it. So on that night, it’s not a shock to the system.
“When I walked in, it was a real big shock to the system, and it was a bit overwhelming,” Davison continued. “But as soon as a decent fight got flowing, it was almost like we forgot that there was no crowd there. And that’s something that we took from it because we found ourselves comfortable with it, familiar with it, and that was important. That was definitely a positive to leave the venue with.”
In many ways, what Taylor will experience is what Ramirez went through as he edged Viktor Postol a few weeks ago inside the Top Rank bubble at the MGM Grand Conference Center in Las Vegas.
While many were critical of Ramirez’s performance, Davison wasn’t.
“I expected a really tough fight for Ramirez stylistically — I always thought it was going to be a tough fight,” he said. “And people saying they weren’t very impressed, I thought it was always going to be a difficult fight. The fact he came out with a win, that was a good performance within itself.”
For Davison, who rose to prominence by helping to revive the career of Fury, the initial challenge is to help Taylor push past Khongsong. If he can get the job done on Saturday, then it’s full speed ahead toward Ramirez.
The full card
Josh Taylor vs. Apinun Khongsong (for Taylor’s IBF/WBA junior welterweight title)
Charlie Edwards vs. Kyle Williams (bantamweights)
David Oliver Joyce vs. Ionut Baluta (junior featherweights)
George Davey vs. Jeff Thomas (junior middleweights)
Eithan James vs. TBA (junior welterweights)
World Boxing Super Series finally set to crown fifth winner
Like Taylor-Khongsong, the matchup between Yunier Dorticos (24-1, 22 KOs) and Mairis Briedis (26-1, 19 KOs) was originally scheduled for the spring but was delayed because of the coronavirus pandemic. Now it lands in Munich, Germany, which can be considered much more neutral territory than Latvia, the home country of Briedis and the original site of this bout.
While this fight might get lost in the shuffle on a busy day of fights, it’s one that certainly should be spotlighted, given that it matches the top two fighters in the division, according to ESPN. Dorticos, the reigning IBF cruiserweight titlist, is rated first, and Briedis is right behind him.
Both boxers participated in the first season of the WBSS, when Oleksandr Usyk captured the Muhammad Ali Trophy on his way to fully unifying the division. While Dorticos was stopped in that tourney by Murat Gassiev (who eventually lost to Usyk in the finals in 2018) in 12 rounds, Briedis gave Usyk his toughest bout in the WBSS, losing a razor-thin majority decision.
There have been many questions about the long-term future of the WBSS, but there’s no denying its impact on the sport. It has created memorable bouts — last year’s finals featured Josh Taylor-Regis Prograis and Naoya Inoue-Nonito Donaire, both lauded as 2019 Fight of the Year candidates — and helped raise the profile of its key participants.
Dorticos-Briedis should continue this tradition, and the winner will be the clear No. 1 in the division.
The Charlos take center stage
While a typical pay-per-view event tends to build up to the biggest fights at the end of the night’s action, Saturday’s Showtime card happens in two acts. The first batch of three fights culminates with Jermall Charlo defending his WBC middleweight crown against Sergiy Derevyanchenko. After a 30-minute intermission, there will be three more fights, with the second set headlined by Jermell Charlo putting up his WBC 154-pound title against unified champion Jeison Rosario.
With victories, one Charlo could legitimize his claim as a middleweight champion, while the other would clearly become the top junior middleweight in the world.
While Jermall has the WBC belt, he received it because of the organization elevating Canelo Alvarez as its franchise champion. To date, his most notable victory came at 154 against Julian Williams, whom he stopped in 2016 in five rounds. In Derevyanchenko, he’s facing a hard-nosed, rugged fighter who has shown in fights against Daniel Jacobs and Gennadiy Golovkin that he can compete with world-class middleweights. Charlo is rated fourth by ESPN at middleweight, with Derevyanchenko right behind him at No. 5.
As for Jermell, he is rated No. 1 by ESPN at junior middleweight, but it is Rosario who comes in with two belts (IBF and WBA) after upsetting the aforementioned Williams in January. The puncher from the Dominican Republic has come a long way from the guy who was stopped by Nathaniel Gallimore in 2017 and then held to a draw the following year by Mark Hernandez. Did he just happen to have one really good night? If this bout is fought in close quarters, it could get interesting.
These two fights are also supported by quality co-feature bouts (as they are billing all four other fights) that include a plethora of recognizable names, including Brandon Figueroa, John Riel Casimero and Daniel Roman.
Roman looks to start his comeback trail
Roman (27-3-1 10 KOs), who is featured on the first set of fights (which begin at 7 p.m. ET/4 p.m. PT), faces Juan Carlos Payano (21-3, 9 KOs) in a WBC title eliminator at junior featherweight. When we last saw Roman during Super Bowl week, he lost his WBA and IBF titles in a razor-thin split decision to Murodjon Akhmadaliev in Miami.
“Honestly, I thought I won that fight,” Roman told ESPN. “I knew it was a close fight, but I thought I took the fight. But we’ve got to respect the judges’ decision. They saw a different fight that night, so I’m going to use that as a motivation, and I learned I can’t leave it with the judges anymore.”
Roman said he hasn’t watched the fight much because, quite frankly, he simply can’t enjoy his own fights because of how self-critical he is.
Adding insult to injury that night is that despite going into the contest as a unified champion, his fight was put on before a pair of YouTubers flailing away at one another. Several months later, Roman was released from his contract by Matchroom, which had previously entered into an agreement to co-promote him with Thompson Boxing and put him on DAZN.
“I was really, really upset; I made myself known about that,” said Eddie Gonzalez, who trains and manages Roman. “I was very discontent with the way things happened in the event, having those YouTube guys ahead of us.”
Given that Roman-Akhmadaliev took place before the pandemic, many forget just how good of a fight it was for 12 rounds. Roman could’ve retained his titles and no one would have batted an eye.
Gonzalez — who admittedly has a biased view of things — said that the first three rounds were difficult for his man but the rest of the fight was far better for making Roman’s case,
“We made the adjustments from the third round on; if you notice, Danny was counterpunching to the body and I don’t think the judges really gave Danny credit for all the work he was doing,” Gonzalez said. “From the third, fourth round on, Danny started diminishing his condition to the point where Danny was the stronger fighter at the end.”
Looking ahead, Roman said he would welcome a rematch with Akmadaliev, but he added, “One step at a time.” A victory could also mean a showdown with Luis Nery, who faces Aaron Alameda in another WBC eliminator (with Rey Vargas out with a broken leg, he is a “champion in recess.”)
Roman, who is rated fourth in the WBO, third in the WBA and sixth by the IBF, should have a lot of options down the line.
The full card
Main event: Jermall Charlo vs. Sergiy Derevyanchenko, for Charlo’s WBC middleweight title
Co-feature: Brandon Figueroa vs. Damien Vazquez, for Figueroa’s WBA “regular” junior featherweight title
Co-feature: John Riel Casimero vs. Duke Micah, for Casimero’s WBO bantamweight title
Main event: Jermell Charlo vs. Jeison Rosario in a WBC, WBA and IBF junior middleweight unification fight
Co-feature: Luis Nery vs. Aaron Alameda, for the vacant WBC junior featherweight title
Co-feature: Daniel Roman vs. Juan Carlos Payano