Sherdog’s Weekend Boxing Preview

By James Kinneen Feb 1, 2019


What: Eleider Alvarez vs. Sergey Kovalev, Light Heavyweights
When: Feb. 2
How to Watch: ESPN+, 12:00 a.m. ET
Why You Should Care: Because this fight will define the legacy of Sergey Kovalev.

Sergey Kovalev’s legacy is on the line on Saturday night. That may somehow sound both obvious and overdramatic, but when you take a step back and look at the Krusher’s entire career the effect this fight will have on how he is viewed historically cannot be understated.

Sergey Kovalev’s knockout victories made him an instant star on HBO. Suddenly, the network was featuring him every few months, very carefully avoiding the questionable racial statements he had made in the past and used his success to sell the fascinating story of Kathy Duva and her female led boxing promotion. Then, Kovalev faced off against Andre Ward, knocked him down, and lost a decision that huge chunks of the boxing public thought he should have won. That fight was in 2016, but it feels like decades ago.

In the rematch, Kovalev tired, got destroyed to the body and was ultimately stopped by Ward. In subsequent fights, many people felt Kovalev was not the same guy, that those fights against Ward had taken something out of him, and that he would never return to the same form he had before facing Andre Ward. After two easy victories, Kovalev faced Eleider “Storm” Alvarez, and though he looked good for most of the fight, walked into a huge right hand that put him on the canvas before being dropped twice more, forcing the referee to stop the fight. Suddenly, Alvarez was a rising star and Kovalev was all done.

If Kovalev wins this fight, Alvarez’s shot in the seventh round of their first fight will suddenly become “lucky” and Kovalev will be seen as the fighter he was before; a thudding puncher that should have gotten the win against “Son of God” in 2016. His racial comments will be forgotten, his recent domestic violence issues will likely be hushed, and he will go down as one of the great light heavyweights of his era. If he loses, few will remember how well he did against Ward, his personal issues will be brought up as journalists push “the good guy won” narrative, and Kovalev will likely be labeled as an HBO hype job that was overrated because there was nobody else that could get people to care about watching Andre Ward.

That is a ton of pressure on Sergey Kovalev, and a very good reason to watch the fight.

What: Teofimo Lopez vs. Diego Magdaleno, Lightweights
When: Feb. 2
How to Watch: ESPN+, 12:00 a.m. ET
Why You Should Care: To see why Teofimo Lopez is being so heavily hyped, against a guy that could make you wonder.

Teofimo Lopez has a ton of hype behind him. How much hype? Well, the 2018 ESPN prospect of the year calls his own career “the takeover”, has openly talked about what post-fight celebration he is going to do after he beats Magdaleno, and has a dad that’s already talking about fighting Jose Pedraza next, not because he would be a great opponent, but because he wants to show Lopez could beat Vasyl Lomachenko. For a guy with only eleven fights in his career, that’s extremely cocky, but so far he’s backed it up and then some. Lopez is 11-0 with nine knockouts, and was last seen on ESPN knocking out Mason Menard in one round.

Diego Magdaleno has had 33 professional fights and has only lost to Terry Flanagan and Roman Martinez. While he will never be a world beater, his resume is enough that he shouldn’t be getting stopped in the first round by anyone that isn’t one of the best fighters in the world.

Teofimo Lopez is going to win this fight, but it’s far from a guarantee that he’s going to look good doing it. If he knocks Magdaleno out in the first round, fans will clamor for him to fight Lomachenko next, never mind him facing Jose Pedraza. But when an eleven-fight pro faces a 33-fight gatekeeper, the takeover may face an ugly, but hostile resistance.

What: Oscar Valdez vs. Carmine Tommasone, Featherweights
When: Feb. 2
How to Watch: ESPN, 10:00 p.m. ET
Why You Should Care: Because Oscar Valdez’s broken jaw may have permanently damaged him, and “Mr. Wolf”is eager to find out.

Oscar Valdez is the WBO featherweight champion. Hailing from Sonora Mexico, he is undefeated at 24-0 with 19 knockouts, but broke his jaw in his last fight against Scott Quigg so badly, that he had to have it wired shut for two months and persisted on a liquid diet for that time. Eleven months later, he is now returning to the ring to face 2016 Olympian and possessor of a great mafia hitman name, Carmine “Mr. Wolf” Tommasone.

Tommasone doesn’t hit very hard, with only five knockouts in nineteen fights, and will be fighting outside of Italy for the first time ever. Still, while Valdez wants you to believe there will be no lingering effects on his ability to take a punch or his stamina after eating through a straw for two months, there’s no way to know that’s true.

Oscar Valdez should be too good for Tommasone, but the broken jaw is enough of a factor that the fight could be interesting.

What: Richard Commey vs. Isa Chaniev, Lightweights
When: Feb. 2
How to Watch: ESPN, 10:00 p.m. ET
Why You Should Care: To see if moving to the USA to train under Andre Rozier was enough to make Richard Commey another Ghanan World Champion, not another Ghanan boxing fraud.

Richard Commey is 27-2 with 24 knockouts, but he hails from Ghana. That’s not a knock on him or the African nation, just an acknowledgement that we have seen so many fighters from Ghana with near-perfect records come to the United States and realize that they have only looked great because they’ve been facing subpar African competition when they lose to a good, but not great American fighter. What makes Richard Commey different is that he has already gone through that process, and has evolved as a fighter since that moment.

Commey came to the USA and lost to Robert Easter Jr, but while so many fighters would have gone back to Ghana and regrouped, he opted to travel to the United States and train with Andre Rozier instead. Because of this, he has gone 3-1 with two knockouts since training under Rozier, and openly talks about how much he has learned saying “I learned a lot, It started with what we have from Ghana and with what I’ve learned from (current trainer) Andre (Rozier), it’s totally different, I’ve learned a lot and it’s been a long couple of years. I know I’ve learned a lot. I can’t say much, but you’ll see what I put up on 2nd February and they can judge it for themselves.”

On Saturday, in a fight Larry Merchant would almost assuredly describe as “The biggest Commey-Russian battle since the Bolshevik revolution”, he will get to show us how much he has learned. He will be fighting Isa Chaniev, the 13-1 Russian for the vacant IBF lightweight title. Chaniev is known for his slick boxing ability, and his only loss was a razor thin decision to Fedor Papazov in May of 2017.

Richard Commey wants to bring a world title back to Ghana, and unlike so many others is willing to move to the USA to try and make that happen. On Saturday, we’ll see if he can.

What: Sergio Garcia vs. Ted Cheeseman, Junior Middleweights
When: Feb. 2
How to Watch: DAZN 3:00 p.m. ET
Why You Should Care: To see if Sergio Garcia can become something more than “not that Sergio Garcia.”

Sergio Garcia is a boxer from Spain who just happens to share the exact same name as Spain’s most famous golfer and one of its five most famous athletes. Worse for him, Sergio Garcia is a boxer in basically the only Spanish-speaking country that doesn’t care about boxing. That means that despite being 28-0 as a professional already, Garcia is going to have to win a world title and likely hold it for at least a half dozen fights if he doesn’t want to spend the rest of his life living like former “Antiques Roadshow” host Mark Walberg, constantly disappointing people in every restaurant he makes a reservation at or hotel he checks into.

A great first step would be for him to beat Ted Cheeseman, the 15-0 Brit that goes by the moniker “The Big Cheese.” A win over a well-known Brit would help Garcia’s fame immensely, help him to work towards becoming his own man.

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