Sherdog’s Weekend Boxing Preview

By James Kinneen Feb 8, 2019

What: Gervonta Davis vs. Hugo Ruiz, Junior Lightweights

When: Feb. 9
How to Watch: Showtime 10 p.m. ET
Why You Should Care: To see if Hugo Ruiz can take advantage of his opportunity to score a monster upset, or if Gervonta Davis can take advantage of his opportunity to score a highlight reel knockout against a lesser opponent.

Davis was supposed to be fighting Abner Mares this weekend. Unfortunately for Mares, Davis, and the California fans that were so excited for the fight the Stub Hub Center had to add bleachers to an already sold out event, Mares detached his retina in training and had to be replaced. Instead of Mares, Hugo Ruiz will now fight Davis.

While fans were obviously disappointed that Davis wouldn’t be fighting a former three division world titlist in Mares, Davis took to twitter to assure fans that this fight is a better one. He claimed that Ruiz is a stronger and more dangerous than Mares because, although he doesn’t have Mares’ pedigree, he has a higher knockout percentage. While this is true, few in boxing media believe Davis will have a tougher time with Ruiz than he would have with Mares, with many noting that after a long career at 126 pounds, Ruiz’s power doesn’t seem to have translated to 130.

That means the onus is on Davis to make this fight entertaining. Luckily for him, he has knocked out 19 of his 20 opponents as a professional, and Hugo Ruiz has been knocked out three times already. Ruiz has knocked out 33 of 39 opponents himself, so while it is expected he will lose to Davis, the right shot -- even at 130 -- could make the fight interesting.

Davis needs to make this fight entertaining to satisfy an already disappointed fanbase. But, as the sales of Bum Fights DVDs, the propensity of World Star Hip Hop videos, or even non-boxing fans posting Mike Tyson highlight reels on Facebook while being unable to name any of Tyson’s victims prove, people love knockouts regardless of whether they know the person getting put to sleep or not.

On Saturday, as a replacement fighter competing on a stage he really doesn’t belong, Hugo Ruiz has an opportunity to make a name for himself by scoring a huge upset. Davis has an opportunity to add a knockout to his highlight reel before he must face tougher competition. On Saturday, we’ll see who can take advantage of their opportunity.

What: Mario Barrios vs. Richard Zamora, Junior Welterweights

When: Feb. 9
How to Watch: Showtime 10 p.m. ET
Why You Should Care: Because Mario Barrios needs to justify Showtime’s hype of him, and a KO win is the only way that can happen.

Barrios started his career at 122 and now fights at 140. However, while early in his career he wasn’t stopping anyone, he is now on a six-fight knockout streak. Many people would look at numbers like that and become immediately skeptical, but Barrios’ sudden surge in power isn’t about PEDs, it’s about a new trainer.

Barrios’ knockout streak began when he started training under Virgil Hunter, the longtime trainer of Andre Ward. It is this sudden surge of power combined with an enhanced understanding of why boxers should cooperate with media members that has Showtime convinced “El Azteca” from San Antonio can become a huge star for their network.

Which sounds great, as long as he knocks out Richard Zamora. Zamora has been knocked out twice already by Antonio Moran and 12-4 fighter Martin Islas, so he doesn’t exactly possess an iron chin. If Showtime hypes Barrios as a power puncher and future star, only to watch him struggle to squeak out a decision against a fighter he should stop, then the network will have egg on their face and ESPN and DAZN will have a moral victory in the boxing media wars.

When Mario Barrios fights Richard Zamora, Showtime’s reputation is on the line, and only a Barrios knockout victory will protect it.

What: Alberto Machado vs. Andrew Cancio, Junior Lightweights

When: Feb. 9
How to Watch: DAZN 9 p.m. ET
Why You Should Care: Because Alberto Machado could have been HBO’s next star, and now we will see if he can become DAZN’s.

On one of HBO’s final boxing broadcasts, Freddie Roach trained Alberto Machado knocked out the then 20-1 Yuandale Evans in the first round. Listening to the HBO commentary team, it was clear they knew the 21-0 Puerto Rican super featherweight with seventeen knockouts was a future star the network could build upon and turn into a major box office draw. Unfortunately, because HBO was abandoning boxing, they tempered their enthusiasm and seemed almost sullen about abandoning what they knew could be a big draw.

HBO’s loss is DAZN’s gain. While Machado is far from the biggest name on the streaming site that has fighters like Canelo Alvarez and Anthony Joshua, DAZN understands that the Puerto Rican market has always been a reliable one in the boxing world, and that Machado could be the easiest way into it. So, Machado is being given this main event platform against Andrew Cancio, a 19-4 fighter who has beaten guys like Rocky Juarez, but has lost to guys like Joseph Diaz. That means that Alberto Machado isn’t being given an opponent that will lay down for him but isn’t fighting a guy that should be able to compete with him if Machado is as good as people think he is.

HBO was offered “Mad Men” first, but turned the show down and watched it become AMC’s cash cow for years. DAZN may have a star on their hands if they market and match Alberto Machado correctly, on Saturday, we’ll see if they can do what HBO wouldn’t.

What: Rey Vargas vs. Franklin Manzanilla, Junior Featherweights

When: Feb. 9
How to Watch: DAZN 9 p.m. ET
Why You Should Care: To see if Manzanilla can win with only a puncher’s chance, just like he has before.

Franklin Manzanilla has a puncher’s chance against Rey Vargas. That’s about all you can say for the 18-4 Colombian fighter who has knocked out 17 opponents, yet was somehow licensed to fight a 1-46 professional boxer in a shameful and dangerous competition just two fights ago. But a puncher’s chance was all Manzanilla had against Julio Ceja, and Manzanilla stopped the 32-3 Mexican in the fourth round last May.

Rey Vargas is coming off of a nine-month layoff after injuring his knuckle but should still be far too good for Manzanilla. Vargas is 32-0 with 22 knockouts and has already started talking about getting a shot at a big-name fighter like Leo Santa Cruz. This fight should be an easy win for Vargas, after all, Manzanilla only has a puncher’s chance. But Manzanilla has won with just a puncher’s chance before, why couldn’t he do it again?

What: Jose Ramirez vs. Jose Zepeda, Junior Welterweights

When: Feb. 10
How to Watch: ESPN 7 p.m. ET
Why You Should Care: To see if Jose Zepeda can teach another future star Ramirez a difficult lesson.

In June, Jose Zepeda faced 26-0 Mexican Carlos Diaz Ramirez, a 23-year-old that World Boxing News had identified as one of their “future stars” in the 140-pound division. Jose Zepeda knocked him out. Now, Zepeda is facing another undefeated, heavily hyped “Ramirez.” This time, it is Jose Ramirez, a 23-0 fighter and 2012 Olympian who is being pointed to as a future star for both his boxing abilities and pro-immigration social activism.

Jose Zepeda is 30-1 with 25 knockouts, and his sole loss came to Terry Flanagan in Manchester, England. Simply put, he is nobody’s stepping stone on their way to future superstardom. Carlos Diaz Ramirez found that out the hard way back in May. On Sunday, we’ll see if Jose Ramirez gets taught the same lesson.

What: Raymundo Beltran vs. Hiroki Okada, Junior Welterweights

When: Feb. 10
How to Watch: ESPN 7 p.m. ET
Why You Should Care: To see if moving to junior welterweight can spark another unlikely Ray Beltran career resurgence.

After losing his lightweight title and a shot at Vasyl Lomachenko to Jose Pedraza last August, Ray Beltran is moving up to junior welterweight to try and spark a new chapter in his career. His first fight in this new chapter will be against undefeated Japanese fighter Hiroki Okada.

While it is easy to point out how unlikely it is that Beltran will become a great fighter by moving up a weight class after he couldn’t beat Pedraza, Ray Beltran has done unbelievable things before. Beltran was once a sparring partner for Manny Pacquiao who slept on couches to try and make money for his family. Watching him rise to the level of holding legitimate lightweight title was rather amazing, and the culmination of an unlikely career arc.

So, while it is highly unlikely that he will be able to become an elite fighter in his new weight class, he’s done unlikely things before. Maybe he can do it again.


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