by Cliff Rold
Bring on the punchers.
An unexpected Fight of the Year contender left the fight world buzzing last week. For those who missed it, HBO is running Timothy Bradley-Ruslan Provodnikov on its various platforms repeatedly. This week, fans are inundated with cards that scream early exit. A war breaking out in one would be no shock. Four televised cards in the U.S. will feature big bangers, topped off by a title rematch in Germany.
These are the picks of the week.
Pick It: #4 Arthur Abraham vs. #6 Robert Stieglitz (Saturday, EPIX, 4 PM EST/1 PM PST)
Epix has become a reliable source for top action from Europe. It doesn’t get it all, but it gets more of it than any network in a while. This is no exception, a rematch of a surprisingly solid 168 lb. title showdown last year. Abraham (36-3, 28 KO) saved his career with a win over Stieglitz (43-3, 24 KO) for the WBO belt at Super Middleweight. It was a close one last August and, with Mikkel Kessler and Carl Froch doing their rematch, Abraham’s best money option was here. Abraham has won four in a row since a rough trio of losses in the “Super Six” tournament. Can Stieglitz send him back a step and force a rubber match? Also intriguing on this show is the latest from heavyweight Robert Helenius (18-0, 11 KO). He looked like as strong a comer in recent memory for a moment, and then a bad decision over Derek Chisora was followed by an injury layoff. Helenius looked miserable in a return win late last year. Can he get back on track with shopworn veteran Michael Sprott (37-19, 17 KO)?
Pick Friday: Wealth and ESPN2
Adonis Stevenson and Don George are head to head again, sort of. Last October, it was in the ring, Stevenson scoring a stoppage in the final round. Whether they clash again all depends on show overlap. As it stands, it may be that viewers can marathon the whole thing. Stevenson (19-1, 16 KO) is up first (7 PM EST/4 PM PST on Wealth TV). He has a chance to reverse his lone career loss, by knockout, to veteran Darnell Boone (19-20-3, 8 KO) while waiting for a mandatory title shot. George (24-3-1, 21 KO) goes to scratch in what might be a better fight (10 PM EST/7 PM PST) on ESPN2 against David Lopez (41-13, 23 KO). Neither main event looks like it goes the route.
Pick Solo: Jonathan Gonzalez vs. Joseph Rios (Saturday, UniMas, 11 PM EST/PST)
Finally, there is a puncher on the rise. Gonzalez (11-0, 10 KO) is a serious comer at Flyweight, his team confident enough to match him with veteran Omar Salado last out even if a rabbit punch sent the bout to a No Contest. Rios (13-7-2, 4 KO) is more moderate fare, but well within where he should be on the learning curve.
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Cliff Rold is the Managing Editor of BoxingScene and a member of the Transnational Boxing Rankings Board, the Yahoo Pound for Pound voting panel, and the Boxing Writers Association of America. He can be reached at [email protected]