CLEVELAND—Don King returns to Cleveland with a boxing card on Saturday at Gund Arena that is loaded with world title implications in the heavyweight and cruiserweight divisions.
Former World Boxing Council cruiserweight champion Wayne “Big Truck” Braithwaite and Guillermo “El Felino” Jones will meet one another in a WBC and IBF (International Boxing Federation) cruiserweight elimination bout. The winner of this match will become the WBC and WBA No. 1-ranked contender, as well as the No. 2-ranked IBF contender.
WBC No. 6-ranked heavyweight contender Owen “What the Heck” Beck will square off against Cleveland’s Ray “The Rainman” Austin for the USNBC and Fedelatin heavyweight championship that will also earn the winner the IBF No. 2 heavyweight ranking.
These co-featured main events will also be broadcast on SHOWTIME at 9 p.m. ET/PT (delayed on the West Coast). Eight scheduled bouts will be featured on the card beginning at 4:30 p.m., including undefeated IBF No. 5-ranked cruiserweight contender Steve Cunningham (17-0, 9 KOs) taking on former IBF cruiserweight champion Kelvin “Konkrete” Davis (21-3-1, 16 KOs) in an elimination bout to determine the IBF No. 1 position.
Another attraction will feature the return of former IBF bantamweight champion “Cincinnati Kid” Tim Austin (25-1-1, 22 KOs).
Braithwaite (21-1, 15 KOs), from Brooklyn by way of Guyana, had been invincible in all of his contests prior to his last bout. He won the vacant WBC cruiserweight title by defeating Vicenzo Cantatore in Italy in 2002 and easily defended his title three times before entering a world title unification match against Jean-Marc Mormeck in Worcester, Mass., on April 2.
Braithwaite put his WBC crown and undefeated record on the line against the WBA champion Mormeck, the first and only man to enter the ring looking bigger and stronger than the strapping Braithwaite. The two pounded it out for 12 rounds, but it was Mormeck who walked off with the unanimous decision and titles.
Braithwaite has chosen a difficult opponent to get back on the winning track in the slick veteran Jones, (32-3-2, 25 KOs), from Colon, Panama. Jones’ last opponent was former IBF cruiserweight champion Kelvin “Koncrete” Davis, who had just been stripped for inexplicably refusing to fight his mandatory challenger, O’Neill Bell.
Jones disposed of Davis in impressive fashion with a shocking series of combinations in the fourth round that prompted referee John O’Brien to step in and halt the action.
One of the finest heavyweight contenders in the world, the highly ranked Beck lost his scheduled opponent, Belarussian Sergei Liakhovich, to a training injury on Aug. 19. This paved the way for local heavyweight Ray “The Rainman” Austin to step into a co-featured main event match.
“I was very excited to get the shot and it’s even better that it will take place in my hometown of Cleveland,” Austin (22-3-3, 15 KOs) said. “I am going to make the most of my opportunity. I’m coming to knock Owen Beck out. I’m not playing.”
Austinis coming off an impressive performance for the USNBC heavyweight championship at Madison Square Garden against Larry “The Legend” Donald that resulted in a hard-fought draw on April 30.
His only losses came in his first match as a professional in 1998, a controversial decision after knocking down Harold Sconiers three times in a six-round fight in 2000, and against Attila “The Hun” Levin in 2001. He has not lost since.
“I beat Larry Donald at the Garden in April and I beat Lance Whitaker as clear as day – with a broken left hand,” Austin said about two of his fights that ended in draws. “I’m ready to send a wake-up call to the heavyweight division.”
Another notable fight for Austin ended in a draw against Lance Whitaker in 2002.
In a wide-open heavyweight division, the winner of this important contest could be in line for a world title fight.
Beck (24-1, 18 KOs), originally from Jamaica but now living in Nashville, Tenn., was undefeated with 24 wins, but untested against proven competition, before stepping into the ring against the more seasoned Monte “Two Gunz” Barrett in St. Louis on Feb. 5 in an elimination bout with a world title shot going to the winner.
Barrett scored a second-round flash knockdown, but Beck regained his composure and rocked Barrett in the middle rounds, coming very close at one point to a knockdown. Beck’s performance was strong enough to be ahead on one of the judges’ scorecards before succumbing to Barrett by technical knockout in round nine.
Tickets priced at $100, $50 and $25 are on sale now at the Gund Arena ticket office (where there is no service fee), all Ticketmaster locations, online at www.ticketmaster.com, or charge by phone in Cleveland at (216) 241-2121 and in Akron at (330) 945-9400. For more information, log on to www.GundArena.comor call the Gund Arena event information line at (216) 420-2200.
Who will win #HOPKINSKOVALEV