What: Jeff Horn vs. Anthony Mundine, MiddleweightsWhen: Nov. 30
How to Watch: ESPN+ 6:30 a.m. ET
Why You Should Care: To see if Jeff Horn can ever become more than the guy who beat Pacquiao in a robbery.
Jeff Horn needs to start beating high level opponents, fast. After beating Manny Pacquiao by a highly controversial decision, the Australian fighter was easily stopped by Terence “Bud” Crawford. After the fight, Horn expressed interest in a rematch with Pacquiao which was met with an apathetic “nah let’s not” from boxing fans and media members. So, while Pacquiao has fans looking forward to fights against Adrien Broner and a possible rematch with Floyd Mayweather, nobody seems to care about Jeff Horn. And Horn need to do something about that, fast. If Jeff Horn (with only one career loss) can get back on a roll and beat some decent fighters, he could leverage his name recognition into fights with guys that could cement his legacy beyond being the guy who isn’t Tim Bradley that won a gift of a decision over Manny Pacquiao.
First, he faces Anthony Mundine. Mundine is a fellow Australian, though he represents a unique Australian minority due to his Aboriginal roots. Just 2-3 in his last five fights, Mundine has stoked Australian racial tensions about the fight by claiming Horn has benefitted from white privilege and declaring the Australian national anthem a “white supremacist song” that he will not stand during, which went over about as well as you’d expect.
Jeff Horn is now in a racially tense battle against a veteran Australian legend and former world titlist in what he hopes will be the first of many fights that make him more than the white guy who robbed Pac-man. That should be fun to watch.
What: Deontay Wilder vs. Tyson Fury, HeavyweightsWhen: Dec. 1
How to Watch: Showtime PPV 9:00 p.m. ET ($75)
Why You Should Care: Because it’s a great fight, and boxing fans need to stop being jaded and support great fights.
Deontay Wilder vs Tyson Fury is a great fight. A classic boxer vs puncher matchup between two men with incredibly compelling stories fighting in the primes of their lives, this is exactly the type of fight boxing fans need to get behind. So, while we’d all like to see the winner face Anthony Joshua next and know that is unlikely to happen, we can’t let our cynicism get in the way of enjoying this match.
Deontay Wilder is an undefeated American, former Olympic bronze medalist who has knocked out all but one of his 40 opponents. So great is his punching power, specifically his right hand, that although he only started boxing at age 19 to help his pregnant girlfriend financially, and even though his trainer (former Olympian) Mark Breland says as far as boxing ability he’s only where Breland was at age 11, he is widely considered the second best heavyweight in the world. Think of how much better he could become, and how scary he could be if he does.
Ireland’s Tyson Fury is “The Gypsy King”, born into a bareknuckle boxing family and named after Mike Tyson, Fury was essentially raised to be a boxer. Trained with his uncle Peter Fury until recently, despite his size Fury is a slick boxer who uses footwork and the occasional bit of grabbing to frustrate and ultimately embarrass opponents. Unlike the long and lean Wilder, Fury has battled both weight and mental health issues, reaching nearly 400 pounds due to a severe drinking problem which he used to fight off depression and suicidal thoughts, a radical difference from the goofy clown the media once knew him as, who dressed up as Batman and sang to his girlfriend. Now back to a fighting weight and a good state of mental clarity, Fury has said that this fight with Wilder helped ring him back from the brink as it gave him something to focus on intently.
While outside of the ring the two men’s personalities make the fight interesting, inside of it their styles make it fascinating. Deontay Wilder can knock anyone out with one of his wild, windmill shots, but his lack of boxing ability mean that Fury may well be able to box circles around him for twelve rounds. Tyson Fury may be able to outbox Deontay Wilder all night, but if he slows down for even one second or shows that ballooning up to almost 400 pounds has slowed him just a bit, one big shot from Wilder will separate him from the land of the conscious.
On Saturday night, don’t worry about who will fight who next or bemoan the business and politics of boxing, just buy the fight and enjoy it; it’s a great one.
What: Jarrett Hurd vs. Jason Welborn, Junior MiddleweightsWhen: Dec. 1
How to Watch: Showtime PPV 9:00 p.m. ET
Why You Should Care: to watch Jarrett Hurd face an opponent handpicked for excitement.
When they couldn’t get a fight against one of the Charlo brothers, Jarrett Hurd’s team wanted to find an opponent that would come forward and bring the fight to Hurd in hopes that the fight would be an exciting one for fans. That means, Jarrett Hurd will be facing an opponent handpicked to provide excitement, but not good enough to have a shot at beating him.
That opponent is the UK’s Jason Wellborn. Wellborn has been beaten six times, knocked out three times, and has not faced anybody as good as Hurd at any point in his career. Worse, Hurd is far larger than Wellborn, as evidenced by their faceoff this week, which is all a long way of saying he has no shot.
And there’s nothing wrong with that. While evenly matched fights are great, every once in a while, a fighter should face an opponent with the sole intention of showing off how good he can look. That’s all this fight is. That’s all this fight has to be.
What: Luis "King Kong" Ortiz vs. Travis Kauffman, HeavyweightsWhen: Dec. 1
How to Watch: Showtime PPV 9:00 p.m. ET
Why You Should Care: To see if Luis Ortiz gets caught looking past a fighter he should destroy or gets caught looking old.
Luis Ortiz cannot stop talking about the biggest names in the heavyweight division. Even though he is fighting American Travis Kauffman, every time he talks to the media, he rants about how Anthony Joshua is scared of him or about how boxing fans need to see a rematch between him and Deontay Wilder because, although he got knocked out, he feels fan aren’t quite sure who is the better fighter of the two. The one heavyweight he doesn’t seem to be talking about is his opponent, former Travis "The Ironman" Fulton beater Travis Kauffman.
Which would be fine if Ortiz was 25. But, while Luis Ortiz is a far better fighter than Kauffman and should destroy him with relative ease, Luis Ortiz is almost 40 years old (though his Cuban background has led fans to question if he’s not much older than that, with matchmaker Rick Glaser going so far as to claim he’s actually 48 years old.)
While that is highly unlikely and reeks of a boxing conspiracy theory, the bottom line is that Luis Ortiz is getting old in a world where a guy as good as Wladimir Kliltschko started losing almost immediately as soon as he approached 40. On Saturday Luis Ortiz should easily beat Travis Kauffman. But if he starts to show his age or that he has been overlooking Kauffman while talking about everyone but, he may find himself in far deeper trouble than he should ever have been.
What: Adonis Stevenson vs. Oleksandr Gvozdyk, Light HeavyweightsWhen: Dec. 1
How to Watch: Showtime 7:45 PM ET
Why You Should Care: Because Adonis Stevenson is in a fight he has a legitimate chance at losing, so it doesn’t matter what comes next.
So much of Adonis Stevenson’s career has been spent talking about what fight will come next. For years, boxing fans spoke of a hypothetical matchup between him and Sergey Kovalev that never happened with both sides blaming the other. So, instead of talking about Adonis Stevenson’s in-ring prowess, every fight of his was split between waiting for him to knockout his often-outmatched opponent and discussing hypothetical matchups against the guys he was not fighting. And with the demise of HBO boxing and talented guys like Dmitry Bivol, Eleider “Storm” Alvarez and Sergey Kovalev now looking for a new network, once again fans are tempted to overlook this fight in favor of bigger ones that could potentially happen down the road.
Don’t do that. Oleksandr Gvozdyk is a Ukranian 2012 Olympic bronze medalist -- the same team that produced Vasyl Lomachenko and Oleksandr Usyk -- who is undefeated as a professional, 15-0 with 12 knockouts. Now trained by Teddy Atlas, Gvozdyk will be fighting in Stevenson’s hometown of Quebec City, but will have a 10 year age advantage over the 41 year-old Stevenson and is actually a slight betting favorite over the WBC light heavyweight champion.
For years we have watched Adonis Stevenson put guys to sleep and let our minds wander about when he will fight the other big stars in the division. If Gvozdyk is as good as advertised on Saturday, you won’t be able to.
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