by Cliff Rold
Pick It: TBRB #2 Murat Gassiev vs. #7 Yunier Dorticos (worldboxingsuperseries.com, Saturday)
As far as fights off-US TV go, it doesn’t get much more frustrating than this. That’s because, on paper, fights don’t get much better than this. Gassiev (25-0, 18 KO) and Dorticos (22-0, 21 KO) will unify the other half of the division to earn a showdown with unified titlist Oleksandr Usyk. It might be available on the WBSS website but that has been inconsistent.
Both men make for exciting fights, carry big power, and Gassiev will have home advantage in Russia. Ironically, Gassiev is fighting to win the WBA for the second time to win it for the first.
When he faced then unified cruiserweight titlist Denis Lebedev, ultimately winning the IBF belt he now holds, Lebedev worked out a strange deal where he was allowed not to defend the WBA belt at the same time. Dorticos won the WBA’s B title and has now been elevated over the inactive Lebedev. The winner of this fight, and not the loser, will exit with the WBA belt this time around.
Additional Shows to Watch For
Friday – Showtime (10 PM EST): Ellis vs. Younan
The ShoBox main event pits a pair of undefeated super middleweight prospects at odds. Ellis (14-0-1, 10 KO) has gone the distance in three straight. Junior Younan (13-0, 9 KO) has floated between super middleweight and light heavyweight with a chance to turn eyes in this one.
Saturday – ESPN (10:15 PM EST): Ramirez-Ahmed/Ancajas-Gonzalez
TBRB #1 super middleweight Gilberto Ramirez (36-0, 24 KO) might be the best fight in a division wide open after the exit of Badou Jack and Caleb Truax’s upset of James DeGale. Someday we might see a showdown between the winner of the 168 lb. WBSS and Ramirez. For now he faces largely unknown Habib Ahmed (25-0-1, 17 KO). Also on the show, TBRB #4 Jr. bantamweight Jerwin Ancajas (28-1-1, 19 KO) attempts his fourth defense against a Gonzalez (21-1, 8 KO) with wins in eight straight. ESPN News will have earlier undercard action beginning at 9 PM EST.
Saturday - BeIn Espanol (11 PM EST): Guzman vs. Garcia
It’s a clash of world-class women in Mexico. Irma Garcia (18-2-1, 3 KO) is a former WBA bantamweight titlist challenging for a title in her second weight class. After a rough start, Guadalupe Guzman (16-9, 6 KO) won seven of eight to get a crack at the WBC super flyweight belt won it last May in an upset of Zulina Munoz. Can the streaking Guzman hold off a hungry Garcia?
Saturday – TyC (10 PM EST): Narvaez vs. Vargas
Former WBO flyweight and super flyweight titlist Omar Narvaez (47-2-2, 25 KO) is now competing at bantamweight. The TBRB #10 contender was supposed to be facing younger, dangerous Zolani Tete but that is delayed due to a Tete injury. Jesus Vargas (16-11-1, 12 KO) is meant to keep the 42-year old Narvaez busy but, hey, he’s a 42-year old bantamweight. Anything can happen.
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]