By Cliff Rold
Pick It: TBRB #2 Deontay Wilder vs. Luis Ortiz (Saturday, Showtime, 9 PM EST)
The first of two excellent heavyweight matches this month, this one is the more unpredictable on paper. Wilder (39-0, 38 KO) is defending the WBC title for the seventh time and this is his toughest challenger. Luis Ortiz (28-0, 24 KO) comes from the Cuban amateur program where he spent many years in the shadow of Odlanier Solis. He has a chance to cast his own shadow here but at 38 is he too late to the dance? Previous failed tests for banned substances cast another shadow over Ortiz as do fight week speculation about a hand injury. Wilder has the edge in youth, speed, and single shot power. Ortiz is much better in terms of technique. Neither man has truly had their chin checked against another top heavyweight. This is fun heavyweight boxing where part of the enjoyment is the sheer anticipation.
As a bonus, the rematch of the controversial super middleweight fight between Andre Dirrell and Jose Uzcategui will also be on the telecast. Let’s hope the fighters are the only one’s throwing punches this time.
Additional Shows to Watch For
Friday – TyC (9 PM EST): Jurado vs. Zarate
This is one to keep an eye on for those who like to know who might be coming into the title picture soon. Argentina’s Juan Jose Jurado (14-0-3, 1 KO) has three draws in his last five fights, and seemingly no serious pop…but he’s rated #10 by the WBO at 115 lbs. That puts him on the right track if he keeps winning (or at least doesn’t lose). He’ll be facing Junior Zarate (9-1, 4 KO) whose lone loss came in a fierce battle since avenged in the second of an early career trilogy against Matias Monserrat.
Friday – Telemundo (11:35 PM EST): Carmona vs. Iribe
One of only two men to last the distance with Naoya Inoue, and the only man to take him twelve rounds, David Carmona (20-5-5, 8 KO) saw his stock go up last year when he pushed Carlos Cuadras to the edge. Then he promptly got stopped in two rounds in his next fight. That puts Carmona, now having lost three straight, in desperation mode. Veteran Jesus Iribe (20-10-5, 10 KO) should help steady the ship but he has won three in a row.
Saturday – Sky Sports: Brook vs. Rabchenko
After two stoppage losses to two of the best fighters in the world, former welterweight titlist Kell Brook (36-2, 25 KO) returns to chase a Jr. middleweight title. He’ll start the path there with Belarusian Sergey Rabchenko (29-2, 22 KO). Rabchenko has won two straight since a stoppage loss to Tony Harrison.
Saturday – HBO (10:05 PM EST): #1 Kovalev vs. Mikhalkin
The rehabilitation of now two-time WBO light heavyweight titlist Sergey Kovalev (31-2-1, 27 KO) continues against Igor Mikhalkin (21-1, 9 KO). Mikhalkin has never been stopped. That is likely to change as Kovalev’s image is rebuilt for bigger fights later this year. One of those may come against the winner of the real reason to watch this show. Sullivan Barrera (21-1, 14 KO) has proven to be a real player since a lone loss to Andre Ward. He represents the biggest test to date for big punching Dmitry Bivol (12-0, 10 KO). This could end up being a gem.
Saturday – TyC (10:15 PM EST): Rueda vs. Acosta
Argentine lightweight Luis Rueda (17-0, 4 KO) gets some rounds in against Miguel Acosta 10-6-1, 1 KO). It’s there for the interested.
Saturday – BeIn Espanol (11 PM EST): Nery-Yamanaka II Replay
For completists who have enjoyed the career of Shinsuke Yamanaka, or fans of Luis Nery who are hanging on despite the issues around his two fights with Yamanaka, this HD replay is available. Nery won on Thursday by second round stoppage.
Cliff Rold is a member of the Ring Magazine Ratings Advisory Panel, the Yahoo Pound for Pound voting panel, and the Boxing Writers Association of America. He can be reached at [email protected]