The sky isn’t falling. A week removed from the biggest fight in boxing history, there is still a whole lot going on in the sport.
Here are the three TV fights to catch this weekend:
1. Saul Alvarez (44-1-1) Vs James Kirkland (32-1)
– HBO World Championship Boxing
– Junior Middleweights
This is the big one this weekend and it should provide plenty of action for however long it lasts. Kirkland has made some bad business decisions and some bad life choices over the past few years which have either delayed or derailed his career at various points. He may have just made one more by again ditching long-time trainer Ann Wolfe leading into this the biggest fight of his pro career.
Last time he and Wolfe parted ways, Kirkland got that one at the end of his record – by way of first round KO to the non-punching Nobuhiro Ishida. Whatever your view is on Wolfe and her brutal training methods, there’s no doubt she has been able to get through to Kirkland in a way nobody else has. He could again badly use her guidance in this fight because he’s really up against it here.
Canelo managed his own setback against Floyd Mayweather impressively and he has bounced back as a better and more complete fighter. Opponents perennially underestimate just how strong and imposing the red-haired Mexican is until they’re in the ring trading shots with him. I expect it to be the same thing again with Kirkland. The 31-year-old southpaw will try making it a war, but I see him being caught off guard by Canelo’s physicality and then being taken apart by his superior punch picking. Álvarez keeps the ball rolling here and moves on to a mega fight with Miguel Cotto later in the year.
Prediction: Canelo by KO 4
2. Omar Figueroa Jr (24-0-1) Vs Ricky Burns (37-4-1)
– Premier Boxing Champions on CBS
– Light Welterweights
If this bout was made two years earlier in the career of Burns, I would pick the Scot to score a big upset here. Figueroa is a great TV fighter. He’s the powerful (at times reckless) all-action type that everyone loves, but his resume against quality opponents is still wafer thin and he’s even looked vulnerable against some fairly mid-level competition.
A prime version of Ricky Burns would call on his immense toughness to carry him through the early onslaught and then he would figure out a way to make himself a nuisance for the young Texan as the fight wore on. Omar Figueroa, with all his limitation, is the type of opponent that was made for Burns during his peak years.
The trouble is we no longer have a peak Ricky Burns. This is probably last call in the career of the former two-time champion. After a run of troublesome fights and a subsequent broken jaw, Ricky hasn’t looked anything like the same boxer over his past three outings. I see this as his last big play to get himself back in contention, but away from home and with low confidence, it will be way too big of a task.
Prediction: Figueroa by 9th round corner stoppage
3. Jamie McDonnell (25-2-1) Vs Tomoki Kameda (31-0)
– Premier Boxing Champions on CBS
Jamie McDonnell has had some pretty cruel luck when it comes to dealing with the sanctioning bodies. The Doncaster bantamweight was never really expected to reach world level, but when he did, it was only the start of his battle.
McDonnell proved most folk wrong when he upset Julio Ceja to win his first title back in 2013. No sooner than he had won it though, he was almost immediately stripped of the IBF belt for reasons no rational thinking human can make sense of. He rebounded quickly by capturing his second championship – the vacant WBA regular title – against Tabtimdaeng Na Rachawat on the undercard of last year’s Froch vs Groves Wembley bill. He then set his sights on unification bouts in the division, and in particular, the WBO champion Tomoki Kameda.
Only after the fight had already long since been signed and both fighters’ preparations were well underway, the WBO made a ruling not to sanction the unification bout because McDonnell’s belt is only the secondary title in the WBA behind their super championship. This means that despite the fact that Jamie would be the most qualified opponent Kameda had yet faced during his reign, the WBO belt would not be up for grabs in the match up. It’s only McDonnell’s belt which is on the line on Saturday. Kameda already has the advantage of being the house fighter and is a sizable betting favourite. The WBO’s decision just further stacks the deck against the underdog. It now means that McDonnell is taking all of the risk for none of the reward.
As for Kameda, he’s the youngest (and perhaps best) of three world title winning brothers from Japan. He’s signed with Al Haymon and has recently relocated his career to the American market. He looked sensational in his US debut, scorching Pungluang Sor Singyu in seven, but then failed to follow up on the momentum by struggling to a messy split decision win over Alejandro Hernandez in his next bout. My feeling is Kameda is neither as good as he looked against the Thai or as bad as he was against the Mexican, but rather somewhere in between the two.
McDonnell doesn’t have the most glamorous of records, and he’s never been a major draw, but he can for sure fight and he’s made very steady improvements over the last five years. I have a sense he might just know that bit too much for his young foe and I’m taking him to cause a minor shock here.
Prediction: McDonnell by split decision