by Cliff Rold
Pick It: TBRB #2 at 135 Jorge Linares vs. #1 at 130 Vasyl Lomachenko (Saturday, ESPN, 8 PM EST)
Lomachenko (10-1, 8 KO), the reigning WBO titlist at Jr. lightweight, is making his lightweight debut as a decided favorite. The multiple time Olympic gold medalist and now two-division professional champion has made a hell of an impression.
To many eyes, he looks unbeatable right now. Linares (44-3, 27 KO), the WBA lightweight titlist, knows what that’s like. Before his first loss, he was being touted as a future pound-for-pound player. Three defeats raised questions about his durability, his chin, and his stamina. Thirteen wins in a row, dating to 2012, have brought him to a moment that could change the epitaph on his career when he’s done. For Lomachenko, superstardom is almost there. For Linares, permanent credibility is inches away. This is a fight with stakes, talent, and every reason to tune in.
Additional Shows to Watch For
Friday – TyC (11 PM EST): Reynoso vs. Papeschi
Action in the super middleweight division could have ramifications down stream. They are fighting for a WBC regional belt, typically a precursor to working into the world rankings. Tomas Reynoso (12-2-1, 3 KO) has won two in a row, including a disqualification win over Sebastian Papeschi (12-1, 6 KO). Papeschi is coming to erase the lone blemish on his record.
Friday – Bounce (8 PM EST): Smith vs. Harrison
This could be a crossroads fight in the Jr. middleweight division. 39-year old former titlist Ishe Smith (29-9, 12 KO) is coming off a loss and can’t afford another. Tony Harrison (26-2, 21 KO) is more than a decade younger but the evidence so far points to a tight ceiling. Harrison can win to a point but only so far. If he can’t get by Smith in 2018, journeyman status may set in quickly.
Friday – Showtime (10 PM EST): Haney vs. Menard
19-year old Jr. welterweight Devin Haney (18-0, 12 KO) is one of the sport’s brightest prospects and Friday night he takes a step forward. Mason Menard (33-2, 24 KO) is more experienced, older, and proven vulnerable. Two fight removed from a knockout loss to Ray Beltran, Menard desperately needs a win here. He probably won’t get it.
Saturday – TyC (10 PM EST): Bautista vs. Sanchez
This doesn’t look like the highest quality women’s match but it’s on for the avid. Andrea Sanchez (8-1-1, 2 KO) lost her last fight to someone listed on BoxRec as being 1-3. She’s facing Guadalupe Bautista (10-10-2, 1 KO) for the vacant IBF light flyweight belt. Bautisa has won four straight.
Saturday – HBO (10 PM EST): Ali vs. Munguia
2008 US Olympian Sadam Ali (26-1, 14 KO) upset the exit party of one Miguel Cotto last time out and won the WBO belt at Jr. middleweight. Now he has to defend it and he faces a genuine X-factor. 21-year old Jaime Munguia (28-0, 24 KO) hasn’t faced anyone as good as Ali yet but that doesn’t mean he can’t rise to the occasion. Munguia is a work in progress who can punch like hell.
Cliff Rold is the Managing Editor of BoxingScene, a founding member of the Transnational Boxing Rankings Board, and a member of the Boxing Writers Association of America. He can be reached at [email protected]