By Keith Idec
Peter Nelson offered a reminder Thursday for those dismissing HBO’s doubleheader Saturday night as two complete mismatches.
The last two times HBO Sports’ executive vice president took criticism for buying fights that weren’t supposed to be competitive, the big underdogs won. Nelson sees some potential for that to happen again when Lucas Matthysse meets Tewa Kiram and Jorge Linares faces Mercito Gesta in Inglewood, California.
“You saw at the end of last year, a lot fights that people didn’t think were 50-50 turned out to be upsets,” Nelson said during a press conference. “Sadam Ali, Orlando Salido’s upset loss to Mickey Roman. So again, on Saturday night we’re gonna see all four of these fighters on HBO give it their all. And we’re excited to see what fireworks come out of it.”
Brooklyn’s Ali (26-1, 14 KOs) out-boxed Miguel Cotto (41-6, 33 KOs) in the final fight of the Puerto Rican icon’s career and upset him to win the WBO super welterweight title December 2 at Madison Square Garden. The following Saturday night, underdog Miguel Roman (58-12, 45 KOs) stopped fellow Mexican Orlando Salido (44-14-4, 31 KOs, 1 NC) in the ninth round of their super featherweight fight at Mandalay Bay Events Center in Las Vegas.
Argentina’s Matthysse (38-4, 35 KOs, 1 NC) is a big favorite over Kiram (38-0, 28 KOs), an unknown contender from Thailand, in their 12-round fight for the vacant WBA world welterweight title. Venezuela’s Linares (43-3, 27 KOs) also is heavily favored to beat Gesta (31-1-2, 17 KOs), of San Clemente, California, in their scheduled 12-rounder for Linares’ WBA lightweight championship.
“Matthysse has always made great fights for us,” Nelson said. “We’re excited to see what Kiram has to bring. And we’re excited to see Linares coming back, defending his title once again against Mercito Gesta, with in his corner, one of the greatest trainers of all-time, the great Freddie Roach.”
The Linares-Gesta fight will open HBO’s “Boxing After Dark” telecast from The Forum at 10:30 p.m. ET. This doubleheader is HBO’s first boxing broadcast of 2018.
“It’s great to start the year off with two 50-50 fights, two world title fights on ‘Boxing After Dark,’ ” Nelson said. “It’s great to be back at The Forum. They always produce phenomenal fights because venues like this put pressure on the fighters to deliver for fans. And I really wanna thank the team over at Golden Boy, everyone there – particularly Oscar [De La Hoya], Eric [Gomez], Roberto [Diaz]. Always putting together 50-50 matchups.”
Keith Idec is a senior writer/columnist for BoxingScene.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.