With the big fight coming up tomorrow, the excitement over the trilogy fight between Tyson Fury and Deontay Wilder grows ever larger.
After two fights, several COVID-19-related postponements, and even an arbitration case, the two heavyweight stars appear to put an end to their long rivalry. The winner walks out with the WBC heavyweight title, bragging rights and perhaps the best argument for being named the best heavyweight in the world today.
Over on Fight Game Media’s Patreon-exclusive podcast “Pound 4 Pound,” Robert Silva and I broke down the heavyweight title bout set to headline October 9’s Top Rank/PBC event from Las Vegas. Over on Fight Game Media’s YouTube channel, viewers can watch the preview segment from this week’s podcast below.
Needless to say, an argument can be made for both men to win on Saturday night. Fury’s size, athleticism and technical prowess gives him the advantage on paper, but Wilder’s incredible power and chemistry with new head trainer Malik Scott could prove to be the X factor the former champion needs to dethrone Fury.
The event has a number of intriguing undercard fights with plenty of storylines to watch out for and here is a breakdown of those fights.
Pay-per-view Undercard: (9 p.m. ET on Pay-per-view)
Robert Helenius vs. Adam Kownacki 2:
These two heavyweights clashed in PBC’s last fight before the pandemic shut down boxing in March 2020 and they closed out the sport with a better-than-expected slugfest.
Their first encounter, bereft of any mastery of the sweet science, was a rumble that saw Kownacki get the better of exchanges for the first three rounds. Once the fourth round began, Helenius flipped a switch and landed barrage after barrage of punches which overwhelmed Kownacki. A three-jab combination upstairs 30 seconds into the round and Kownacki got sent to the canvas.
Although Kownacki got back up, he was far from okay and Helenius took advantage of the situation. Helenius closed the fight with a tremendous flurry of punches and stopped Kownacki in his tracks.
That fight was supposed to be another step on the road to pushing Kownacki as a future world title challenger, but now the Polish heavyweight is almost back to square one after the loss to Helenius.
The rematch could see plenty of fireworks and perhaps a more urgent and aggressive version of Kownacki in the hopes to take out Helenius early and prevent a repeat of March 2020. A win for either man keeps them in the conversation to get fights against other top 10 heavyweights in the hopes of securing an eventual world title opportunity.
Efe Ajagba vs. Frank Sanchez:
When Ajagba first turned pro in 2017, many pundits set high expectations for him. After all, Ajagba is a heavyweight with Olympic experience back in 2016 and physically, he appeared to have all the tools needed to be a real player for years to come.
The first two years of Ajagba’s pro career saw him deliver a number of impressive performances, but once he started facing tougher opposition, the first and second-round knockouts ceased. Ajagba didn’t shine as bright as he used to and his stint as a PBC fighter came to an end.
Signing with Top Rank Boxing in 2020, Ajagba hoped to revitalize a fanbase that saw a lot of potential in him. His first Top Rank fight against Jonathan Rice did end in a 10-round decision victory for Ajagba, but it was far from an exciting fight (calling it a mediocre fight would be doing it a kindness). However, Ajagba scored a sensational Knockout Of The Year contender this past April against Brian Howard in the third round. Now, Ajagba appears to have found momentum in his career that had been sorely lacking for more than two years.
Standing opposite Ajagba on October 9 is Frank Sanchez, Cuba’s best heavyweight not named Luis Ortiz and trains alongside pound-for-pound superstar Canelo Alvarez. If you had seen any major boxing cards over the past year or so, chances are you’ve seen Sanchez compete after being on DAZN and on FOX in his last four bouts.
Sanchez is a tough fighter with plenty of power to match Ajagba at times and shares a somewhat similar pro career trajectory. Sanchez also began knocking out opponents in quick fashion to start his career and only started seeing rounds deep into his fight once the level of opposition increased in recent years.
In fact, Sanchez also recently fought Howard in a fight that also resulted in a relatively quick victory. In essence, both Ajagba and Sanchez are at a point in their careers where a win, especially on pay-per-view, would elevate them from prospect to contender status in the heavyweight division.
Jared Anderson vs. Vladimir Tereshkin:
In terms of potential, Anderson may be the best American heavyweight prospect today. Anderson is only 21 years old and has stellar knockout power (nine KO’s in his nine victories) mixed in with a solid foundation of athleticism.
Since Top Rank announced it signed Anderson to a promotional deal on September 24, 2019, Anderson has done nothing but impress every single time out. In his most recent fight, Anderson fought Jeremiah Karpency, a veteran with fights against the likes of Oscar Rivas and Sergey Kusmin. It took Anderson three minutes and 34 seconds to beat Karpency with multiple knockdowns.
It’s obvious that Top Rank is going all in on Anderson’s development as the next American heavyweight star. Putting him in a pay-per-view fight against an undefeated heavyweight with more than twice the pro experience than him is a potentially risky gamble, but one that can pay off very well.
Vladimir Tereshkin has only fought once in the United States in his 23-fight career, deep on the undercard of an event in Las Vegas all the way back in 2010. But Tereshkin sports a 22-0-1 record with twelve knockout wins.
Tereshkin has close to zero presence in the United States, much less so in the global heavyweight division. However, as noted earlier on this piece, being the favorite in a heavyweight fight means very little once that opening bell rings. Tereshkin is slightly bigger and far more experienced than Anderson and will no doubt give Anderson perhaps his toughest test to date.
A win for Anderson would signify the end of his early run as a prospect and Top Rank can perhaps map out a serious road to getting him from prospect to contender and eventual world title contender.
TV Undercard: (7 p.m. ET on ESPN2, FS1, & ESPN+)
Edgar Berlanga vs. Marcelo Coceres:
Berlanga is the latest in an increasingly-long line of Puerto Rican prospects the whole country seems to pin its hopes on becoming the country’s next major superstar. Seventeen fights into his pro career and Berlanga has given fans plenty of hope. His first 16 bouts ended with Berlanga scoring a first-round knockout victory. His Goldberg-like first-round knockout streak came to an end in his 17th fight when Demond Nicholson pushed Berlanga all the way to the end of that eight-round fight.
Although seeing Berlanga not knock out Nicholson was disheartening, it did give people a much bigger sample size to analyze what his strengths and weaknesses are. Berlanga has sensational power and stamina to carry that power into at least the eighth round. While his defense needs to improve and his ability to mix up his punches is still not at an elite, world-class level yet, there is hope that more fights against fighters like Nicholson will improve Berlanga.
That’s where Coceres comes in. Coceres doesn’t have much in the way of notable wins and notoriety, but he was still able to secure a super middleweight world title fight against then-WBO champion Billy Joe Saunders in 2019. Many thought this was going to be a blowout win for Saunders, but Coceres fought Saunders to a near 50-50 fight for most of the first ten rounds of the fight, outclassing Saunders at times as well. Saunders did eventually score an eleventh-round KO win, but Coceres did prove some skeptics wrong with his performance.
Coceres likely will not fall to Berlanga in the first round, and that’s a good thing for Berlanga and his fans. Berlanga has already developed a relatively big following thanks to that 16-fight first-round knockout streak. Now, the goal is to develop him as a boxer to the point where he can fight contenders and fighters in the top 10 in the hopes of someday, getting him ready to challenge and win a world title as Top Rank thinks he is capable of doing.
Julian Williams vs. Vladimir Hernandez:
It’s been quite a long time since we last saw Julian Williams in the ring. Unfortunately for Williams, his last time out in the ring was a fifth-round stoppage loss to Jeison Rosario in January 2020, a fight that saw Williams’ reign as a unified junior middleweight champion come to a screeching halt with zero successful title defenses.
It’s hard to gauge what version of Williams we’ll see given how long it’s been since he last fought. That rings especially true for former junior middleweight world champions in their first fight since the pandemic. Jarrett Hurd suffered a shocking upset loss to Luis Arias this past summer after being out of the ring for more than a year. Tony Harrison did not perform well in a draw against Bryant Perrella back in April after Harrison was out of the ring for 16 months. Erislandy Lara seemed to be the exception to the rule, going 2-0 since the pandemic, but could be focusing his efforts at middleweight rather than junior middleweight.
Hernandez may only have 16 pro bouts, but he has faced the likes of Israil Madrimov and Souleymane Cissokho, so he’s no stranger to facing talented fighters from the 154-pound division. In fact, Hernandez’s last fight saw him score a good win over former world title contender Alfredo Angulo. Given the context of everything heading into this fight, this may end up being far from the tune-up fight for Williams that most are expecting.
Early Undercard: (4:30 p.m. ET on the ESPN App and FOX Sports App)
One fight to watch out for: Robeisy Ramirez vs. Orlando Gonzalez:
Given everything that had been discussed with some of these undercard fights and the main event, Robeisy Ramirez vs. Orlando Gonzalez might just be the most intriguing fight of the night when it is all said and done.
Ramirez signed with Top Rank in 2019 with much fanfare given his two Olympic gold medal wins in 2012 and 2016. As far as some people were concerned, Ramirez would play into the featherweight world title picture sooner rather than later. Things could not have started any worse for Ramirez as he got dropped by Adan Gonzalez in Ramirez’s first-ever round as a professional boxer. Ramirez would end up losing that fight to Gonzalez by split decision, effectively ending whatever short-term plans Top Rank had for him.
Now, Top Rank is taking a more methodical approach to Ramirez’s development as a professional boxer. Ramirez has been facing prospects and journeymen in his seven fights since that loss, looking far better than he did in his pro debut.
However, Ramirez has never faced a solid, unbeaten prospect in Gonzalez in any of his eight pro bouts. Gonzalez sports a 17-0 record with ten knockout wins and will be a far tougher opponent for Ramirez. Gonzalez’s boxing acumen has been on display for a number of his fights that aired on ESPN platforms and on Telemundo.
Not only is Gonzalez one of the most experienced fighters Ramirez has faced thus far, but is arguably the best boxer Ramirez has ever faced as a pro. Ramirez is the betting favorite thanks in part to his amateur pedigree leaving him far more developed than the average boxer with eight pro bouts. Still, Gonzalez has the potential to score a win, making this a fight to watch on the early portion of the Fury vs. Wilder 3 undercard.