What: Ganigan Lopez vs. Ricardo Rodriguez, 10 rounds, FlyweightsWhen: Nov. 23
How to Watch: Telemundo 11:35 p.m. ET
Why You Should Care: To see Ganigan Lopez begin the slow road back from an embarrassing ordeal that tarnished his reputation.
After losing a decision to Ken Shiro, Ganigan Lopez made a huge scene by showing up at the traditional WBC weekly press conference and issuing a formal complaint that he was cheated by unfair judges, going so far as to call the decision one that “not only affects one’s safety, but the sport in general.” After all of this commotion, Lopez was given his rematch against Shiro, and proceeded to get knocked out by a bodyshot in just the second round.
Now, the onetime title contender will look to begin the slow climb from back to prospect status after what turned out to be an incredibly embarrassing ordeal. He will face Ricardo Rodriguez, a 16-6 fighter who lost his last three fights in a row (albeit against pretty good competition) and has put on enough exciting performances to be considered a Telemundo favorite. Ganigan Lopez was looking to become a champion and instead became a laughingstock. This weekend, we’ll see if he can regain his contender status, and his reputation.
What: Dmitry Bivol vs. Jean Pascal, Light HeavyweightsWhen: Nov. 24
How to Watch: HBO 10 p.m. ET
Why You Should Care: To see if Jean Pascal can turn back the clock and stop Dmitry Bivol’s quest to become the next big thing.
Jean Pascal once held a bunch of respected titles in boxing, including the WBC and IBO light-heavyweight titles, but that was a long time ago. Following losses to Bernard Hopkins, Sergey Kovalev, and Eleider “Storm” Alvarez, Pascal retired in 2017. Then, this July Pascal returned to boxing to face onetime hockey enforcer turned MMA fighter Steve Bosse in Bosse’s boxing debut. While he won that fight by TKO, he did get his jaw broken by a fighter who should never have been in the ring with him. Simply put, he is old news. Now, he fights Dmitry Bivol.
And that could be a nightmare for him. See, Bivol is the light heavyweight divisions next big thing; a slick boxer with decent power, Bivol is the WBA light heavyweight champion, 14-0 with 11 knockouts having defeated guys like Sullivan Barrera and Isaac Chilemba. When Sergey Kovalev fought Eleider Alvarez, Bivol was being talked about as the logical next opponent to unify the titles. Simply put, he is the next big thing, as long as he beats Jean Pascal.
Jean Pascal once had the heart and talent to be a world champion. Now 36 years old, he must find a way to become the “old Jean Pascal,” because if he’s the old Jean Pascal he will get brutally stopped.
What: Murodjon Akhmadaliev vs. Isaac Zarate, Junior FeatherweightsWhen: Nov. 24
How to Watch: HBO 10 p.m. ET
Why You Should Care: To see why HBO is willing to put a 4-0 fighter on its network, and why the heck Isaac Zarate thinks he deserves to be called “Dinamita.”
Although it has obviously slipped over the last few years and its decision to eliminate boxing altogether has led them to go out with a whimper rather than a bang, fighting on HBO still means something. So, when HBO is willing to put a fighter with only four professional prizefights on their network, he must be (or could possibly become) something special.
Such is the case with Murodjon Akhmadaliev, the Uzbekistani who won Olympic bronze 2016 in Rio and silver at the 2015 world championships in Doha. A clever promoter, Akhmadaliev said in a press release that one of his favorite fighters is GGG, and that in this fight (which will serve as his American TV debut) he will bring “the new drama show” to HBO before it quits the boxing business.
His opponent is Isaac Zarate. Zarate has stopped only two opponents over the course of a 22-fight career, yet inexplicably goes by the nickname “Dinamita.” At 16-3-3, he will be by far the most experienced opponent Akhmadaliev has ever faced but is believed to be past the point at which he would be competing for championships, if he could compete for championships.
HBO has backed fighters they thought were going to be great that sputtered into complete boxing irrelevance. On Saturday, we’ll see if in one of their final cards ever they picked a future champion to add to the roster of great fighters that appeared on HBO, or one last dud to cement why the network was right to quit on the sweet science forever.
What: Denis Lebedev vs. Mike Wilson, CruiserweightsWhen: Nov. 24
How to Watch: DAZN 2 p.m. ET
Why You Should Care: Because it’s a classic stoic Russian vs cocky American matchup, which might be better than the movies.
On “Creed 2’s” opening weekend, the boxing world will be serving up a real version of the famed Drago-Creed matchup when stoic Russian cruiserweight Denis Lebedev fights American Mike “White Delight” Wilson.
Denis Lebedev made a name for himself by beating two all time greats that were decades past their prime when he fought both Roy Jones Jr. and James “Lights Out” Toney in 2011. Since then, he has been a solid fringe contender losing a WBO title bid to Marco Huck and an IBF title bid to Murat Gassiev while holding the WBA title.
Featuring a nickname that’s hopefully still funny after somebody does an in-depth search of his social media history, Mike “White Delight” Wilson has been fighting midwestern tomato cans for the last couple of years, building his record to 19-0 with 8 knockouts.
Denis Lebedev is a no-nonsense Russian desperate for a victory. Mike Wilson is a cocky American with a fun nickname. That matchup didn’t work out well for the USA on the big screen. On the opening weekend for “Creed 2”, we’ll see if it does in real life.
What: Kal Yafai vs. Israel Gonzalez, Junior BantamweightsWhen: Nov. 24
How to Watch: DAZN 2 p.m. ET
Why You Should Care: To see if Kal Yafai gets caught looking past this Gonzalez in his pursuit of the more famous one.
No athlete will ever admit they are overlooking their opponent. No matter the sport, every athlete tells you that they know their opponent is dangerous, that they’re taking their career one matchup at a time, and that they’ve been training harder for this game than ever before. And yet, guys get caught looking ahead all the time.
So while Kal Yafai has been saying all the right things ahead of his fight against Israel Gonzalez, it’s hard not to notice how often he brings up another Gonzalez, the far more accomplished and far more well-known former champion Roman ”Chocalatito” Gonzalez. Supposedly, Yafai’s promoter Eddie Hearn has already made an offer to Chocalatito and is lining up that fight for after Yafai defeats Israel Gonzalez.
But Yafai should be cautious. Mexico’s Israel Gonzalez has contended for a world title before; the IBF super flyweight title this February and has only lost twice in a 25 fight career. Kal Yafai has said all the right things about not looking past Israel Gonzalez, on Saturday we’ll see if he can do all of them too.
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