What: George Groves vs. Callum Smith, Super MiddleweightsWhen: Sept. 28
How to Watch: DAZN 4 p.m. ET
Why You Should Care: Because it’s a good all-British fight that may create a new, unexpected hotbed for boxing.
George Groves is 28-3 with 20 knockouts and has beaten his last seven opponents. Callum Smith is 24-0 with 17 knockouts. By all accounts, this all-British matchup at 168 pounds will be a good fight between two top notch fighters, however, it has the potential to be far more than that.
See, this fight is happening in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, a nation that has only recently begun opening its doors to such traditionally foreign events as the WWE, which recently performed to a 60,000-person deep crowd in the Middle Eastern nation. This will be the first major boxing event ever held in the Middle East, and while the people of Saudi Arabia are unfamiliar with boxing, they are not against it. The BBC caught up with a Saudi reporter who explained "There is some interest in boxing here. We all grew up loving the Rocky movies. The fight has gathered interest as a boxing event because people are intrigued to have one in Saudi. But are fans familiar with the contestants? I doubt it to tell the truth. Most of the attendees will be there because it's a first."
Every boxing fan has one fight they distinctly remember, which made them realize they loved the sport. If Callum Smith-George Groves ends being a great fight, this could be the battle that taught an entire nation to love the sport. And boxing promoters will have struck gold… or oil.
What: Devin Haney vs. Juan Carlos Burgos, LightweightsWhen: Sept. 28
How to Watch: Showtime 10 p.m. ET
Why You Should Care: Because it’s a classic young up-and-comer vs. longtime journeyman matchup.
Certain recurring storylines tend to crop up in boxing. One of those is the talented, confident up-and-comer facing off against the longtime journeyman who never quite accomplished what he set out to in the sport. Juan Carlos Burgos has fought for three world titles and come up short all three times. He lost to Mikey Garcia, lost to Hozumi Hasegawa, and fought to a draw with Rocky Martinez. In a recent interview, he was brutally honest about how his career has gone saying, “I didn’t accomplish my dream of becoming a world champion. That’s the truth to it. My motivation to be great still exists. I use my setbacks as motivation to get better. I need to get past Haney to realize my goals.”
Devin Haney has had no such heartbreaks. He’s undefeated at 19-0 with 13 knockouts, recently became his own promoter, having launched “Devin Haney Promotions,” and openly talks about topping Mikey Garcia’s performance against Burgos. He was also born in 1998. Yes, 1998. Devin Haney is younger than the movie “Titanic.”
Devin Haney is young, cocky and sure that he’s headed places. Burgos is old, rugged and never lived up to what he thought he could become. On Friday we’ll see if Burgos can teach the young man a few lessons and sink his dreams, or if Haney will sail past Burgos on his cruise to becoming king of the world.
What: Jorge Linares vs. Abner Cotto, Junior WelterweightsWhen: Sept. 29
How to Watch: Facebook Watch 9 p.m. ET
Why You Should Care: To see if losing to Vasyl Lomachenko ruined Jorge Linares.
Even if it was not especially physically damaging, sometimes one loss can ruin a fighter. Meldrick Taylor was never the same after his last second loss to Julio Cesar Chavez, Mike Tyson was never the same after his loss to Buster Douglas, George Foreman was never the same after his loss to Muhammed Ali, and after looking fantastic round after round against the pound for pound best fighter in the world in a fight that was even on the scorecards before it was stopped, he ultimately lost his WBA title after succumbing to a tenth round body shot, we will now see if Jorge Linares was somehow ruined by his loss to Vasyl Lomachenko.
Although a large portion of the Lomachenko fight showed Linares’ size being his main advantage, he is opting to move up a weight class for this fight. This weekend, he will look to right himself against Abner Cotto. Puerto Rico’s other Cotto -- he and Miguel are second cousins -- is 23-3 with 12 knockouts but has been stopped twice in fights against the undefeated Omar Figueroa Jr. and the then-undefeated Javier Fortuna.
Jorge Linares was a lightweight champion doing something special against the best fighter in the world. He will either return to the mountaintop or spend the rest of his life thinking about that 10th round. This weekend, we’ll find out which path he is heading towards.
What: Brandon Figueroa vs. Oscar Escandon, FeatherweightsWhen: Sept. 30
How to Watch: FS1 9 p.m. ET
Why You Should Care: To see if Brandon Figueroa can take advantage of the sudden spotlight the Victor Rios accusations have given him.
Brandon Figueroa was not supposed to be headlining cards on FS1 yet. At only 21 years old, the Texan who goes by “The Heartbreaker” and touts his ability to fight either southpaw or conventional is 16-0 with 11 knockouts, and comes from good bloodlines as he is the brother of the aforementioned Omar Figueroa Jr. But, while Figueroa may be a future star, he has never headlined a major card like this one, and only got that opportunity because Victor Ortiz’s fight was cancelled after his felony rape allegations.
So now, the young Figueroa is suddenly thrust into the spotlight. He will face Oscar Escandon, a former Colombian Olympian who was once the WBA super bantamweight champion but has lost three of his last four fights and been stopped in his last two, to Gary Russell Jr. and the undefeated Olympic silver medalist Tugstsogt Nyambayar. Although his career is clearly on a downslide, he has not been beaten by any fighter he shouldn’t have.
Lupe Fiasco once had a hit song with the chorus, “If you are what they say you are, a superstar, then have no fear, the camera’s here.” Well Mr. Figueroa, you’ve got your main event. Let’s see if you are who you say you are.
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