After a Lusterless Weekend, the Boxing Scene Heats Up in a Hurry

They say it never rains, but it pours. That’s certainly true of boxing, a sport without a season. The first weekend of June was arid. There was no shortage of shows – there were three in Atlantic City alone – but none that created a buzz. By contrast, this coming weekend brings us a spate of noteworthy events.

The action kicks off on Friday with a Golden Boy promotion at Turning Stone that accompanies Induction Weekend at the International Boxing Hall of Fame. In all honesty, the show, topped by an all-Mexico showdown between Mexicali’s Diego De La Hoya and Cozumel’s Jose Salgado, isn’t all that interesting but it will give us an opportunity to get a good read on undefeated De La Hoya (20-0) who is being groomed for a title shot. In Salgado, Oscar’s 23-year-old cousin finds himself matched against a former world title challenger.

These two were scheduled to meet on Dec. 14 of last year in Indio, California. The match was scuttled at the weigh-in when De La Hoya came in 4 pounds over the agreed-upon catch-weight of 124. He’ll be the bigger man tonight. Salgado has spent most of his career as a super flyweight and didn’t handle the extra poundage well in his last start on U.S. soil, losing a split decision to journeyman Javier Gallo.

ESPN2 will air the Turning Stone show at the delayed start time of 12:30 a.m. ET/9:30 p.m. PT.

He’s Back !

Nine hundred and twenty-five days have elapsed since Tyson Fury’s last fight. In the interim, he had various mental health issues, including an apparent eating disorder, surrendered his various titles (although in some quarters he’s still considered the lineal heavyweight champion), but kept himself in the public eye with a steady stream of amusing bluster.

Fury has been training under the watchful eye of 25-year-old Ben Davison who has supplanted Fury’s former trainer, his uncle Peter Fury. Davison is very much in tune with the latest developments in nutrition and Fury, in his recent photos, looks pretty much as he did when he ended the long title reign of Wladimir Klitschko.

It’s obvious that Fury will be matched very soft until a big money fight can be arranged. This Saturday, he takes the first step on his comeback in Manchester, the city of his birth, when he takes on Sefer Seferi, an obscure 39-year-old Albanian based in Switzerland.

I’m not sure what we can learn from the fight. Seferi will likely play the role for which he has been fitted, meaning that he won’t let his hands go very often. Fury will likely maul him until his handlers pull the plug. But Fury, for all his warts, is a charismatic character and having him back will enliven the heavyweight conversation.

In the co-feature, Manchester southpaw Terry Flanagan (33-0, 13 KOs) faces Maurice Hooker (23-0-3, 16 KOs) for the vacant WBO 140-pound title. Flanagan, who boasts the longest undefeated run of any active British boxer, is moving up in weight after five successful defenses of his world lightweight title. Hooker hails from Dallas where he is overshadowed by Errol Spence Jr. There’s been late money on Flanagan at offshore bookie shops where the punters have pumped him up to a consensus 7/1 favorite.

Saturday

On Saturday in the U.S., two big shows go head-to-head out west. At the MGM Grand in Las Vegas, Terence Crawford, who cleaned out the division at 140, makes his maiden run as a welterweight with the WBO world title at stake. In the opposite corner is the Australian “Rocky,” Jeff Horn, making the second defense of the title he won from Manny Pacquiao in one of the biggest upsets of 2017. The fight was initially slated for April 14 at the MGM sister property Mandalay Bay, but Crawford suffered a sprained hand (no broken bones) in training and the fight had to be pushed back.

Horn (18-0-1) is no slouch. For the record, that “draw” on his ledger came in his fourth pro fight and he was winning it handily after three rounds when the bout was halted because of an accidental head butt. But Crawford (32-0, 23 KOs) is special. In the eyes of many, he’s the top pound-for-pound fighter in the sport.

I wouldn’t be surprised to see this fight end early because of cuts. Regardless, it will be Crawford who has his hand raised. He’s more multi-dimensional and his reflexes are faster; it’s that simple. The fight will air on ESPN+, the network’s new $4.99-per-month subscription service.

In neighboring California, LA area rivals Leo Santa Cruz (34-1-1) and Abner Mares (31-2-1) will renew acquaintances at the Staples Center. In their first meeting, in August of 2015, also at the Staples Center, Santa Cruz won a majority decision in a spirited and bloody 12-round fight before an announced crowd of 13,109. A superior jab and a longer reach enabled Santa Cruz, a short favorite, to overcome Mares’ constant pressure.

In the co-feature, Jermell Charlo (30-0) makes the third defense of his WBC 154-pound title against former title-holder Austin Trout (31-4). Charlo has won five straight inside the distance, including a sensational one-punch, first round KO of Erickson Lubin in his last start. Trout, a southpaw, has seldom been in a bad fight. The card is a presentation of Showtime Championship Boxing.

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