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Weekend Boxing Preview

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  • Weekend Boxing Preview

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    By Arne K. Lang

    The advent of legalized gambling in Atlantic City re-energized the famous seaside resort town which had fallen on hard times. During the boom years which crested in the late 1980s, major boxing cards on back-to-back nights were fairly common. That’s the situation again this weekend, an encouraging sign for a city that has been a boom-and bust town twice over.

    The action begins tomorrow night (Friday, Jan. 10) at the Ocean Resort Casino (formerly Revel). The ladies take center stage in the SHOWTIME main go where two-time Olympic gold medalist Claressa Shields (9-0, 2 KOs) seeks a world title in a third weight class, dropping down to 154 after previously winning titles at 168 and 160. Her opponent, Croatia’s Ivana Habazin (20-3, 7 KOs) has defeated only three fighters with winning records.

    The expectation is that this will be another tour-de-force for Shields who has dominated every opponent she has faced with the exception of Costa Rica’s Hanna Gabriels. However, Habazin will certainly bring her “A” game. The bad blood between these women is genuine.

    With each victory, Shields, 24, becomes more boastful and she promises to become even louder after Friday night. She now soft-pedals her original nickname, T-Rex, in favor of GWOAT (greatest woman boxer of all time). “I’m once in a century kind of athlete,” she said at Wednesday’s press conference.

    Shields’ arrogance makes her easy to dislike but, of course, Habazin’s antipathy goes deeper. They were scheduled to meet on Oct. 5 in Shields’ hometown of Flint, Michigan, but an ugly incident at the weigh-in on the day before the fight caused the bout to be cancelled. A heated verbal confrontation between Habazin’s trainer James Ali Bashir and a sister of Claressa Shields escalated into a frightening scene when a man identified as Artis Mack, Shields ex-con brother, sucker punched Bashir, leaving him with serious injuries.

    There aren’t many viable opponents for Shields which is why her team is hopeful that Long Island super middleweight Alicia Napoleon Espinosa makes a strong showing on the undercard. Espinosa (12-1, 7 KOs) is matched against Elin Cederroos (7-0, 4 KOs), a 34-year-old mother of two from Sweden who is making her U.S. debut. On paper, this will be an easy test for “Empress Napoleon”, 33, who owns two shares of a world title at 168.

    In a third bout of note, Philadelphia welterweight Jaron “Boots” Ennis (24-0, 22 KOs) opposes Bakhtiyar Eyubov (14-1-1, 12 KOs). The 22-year-old Ennis, who has won 14 straight inside the distance, looks like the real deal. He will have a four-inch height advantage and nearly nine-inch reach advantage over the 33-year-old Eyubov, a native of Kazakhstan who resides in Brooklyn when he isn’t training in Detroit.


    Saturday’s show is a Top Rank promotion at the Hard Rock (formerly the Trump Taj Majal). Topping the bill is an intriguing clash between 30-year-old light heavyweights Jesse Hart (26-2, 21 KOs) and Joe Smith Jr. (24-3, 20 KOs). ESPN will televise.

    Both of Hart’s losses came in world title bouts with 168-pound title-holder Gilberto Ramirez and both of those bouts were very competitive. Smith, a Long Island construction worker, will always be remembered for knocking Bernard Hopkins into retirement. And that incident has become the central storyline of this fight.

    Jesse Hart says that he was personally offended when Smith defeated his Philadelphia homie and has vowed to exact revenge by proxy. He has known Hopkins since he, Hart, was a little boy. B-Hop’s former trainer Bouie Fisher also trained Jesse’s dad Eugene “Cyclone” Hart, a middleweight of some renown.

    The semi-windup between super middleweights Steven Nelson and Cem Kilic is likewise a very intriguing fight. It’s a rare meeting between undefeated boxers who are a shade beyond the “ShoBox stage” of their careers.

    Omaha’s Nelson (15-0, 12 KOs) is a stablemate of Terence Crawford. Kilic (14-0, 9 KOs) was born in Germany but has fought exclusively in the United States. At age 25, he’s the younger man by six years.

    In recent years, all of the major promotional groups, but especially Top Rank, have become more aggressive in raiding the amateur ranks for hot prospects. Four members of Top Rank’s youth brigade – Philadelphia heavyweight Sonny Conto, the Adorno brothers from Allentown, PA, and 17-year-old welterweight wonderkid Xander Zayas -- will appear on the undercard.


    Saturday’s Top Rank card on ESPN goes head-to-head with a Golden Boy Promotions show on DAZN. Dueling shows have become a regular occurrence.

    The DAZN show will originate from the Alamodome in San Antonio. Tijuana’s Jaime Munguia (34-0, 27 KOs) opposes Gary “Spike” O’Sullivan (30-3, 21 KOs) in a middleweight contest slated for 12 rounds. It’s Munguia’s debut at 160 after five successful defenses of his WBO world 154-pound title.

    Munguia became an overnight sensation in May of 2018 when he blew away Sadam Ali in Verona, New York, snatching away Ali’s title on a fourth-round stoppage. Then only 21 years old, he was anointed Mexico’s next big thing. Although no one has yet defeated him, he lost some of his sheen in April of last year when he was hard-pressed to turn away an unsung Australian, Dennis Hogan.

    The colorful 35-year-old O’Sullivan, whose handlebar moustache harks to John L. Sullivan, hails from Cork, Ireland, but has fought extensively in Massachusetts. He’s only lost to world class fighters – specifically Chris Eubank Jr, Billy Joe Saunders, and David Lemieux – but Lemieux knocked him out cold in the opening round, spoiling a rumored match-up between the Irishman and Canelo Alvarez.

    The crowd will be pro-Munguia and O’Sullivan has said that he believes his only chance of winning is to score a knockout. He has scored several highlight-reel knockouts during his career so that’s certainly within the realm of possibility, but it will theoretically require a lucky punch to wipe out Munguia considering that Jaime is such a big favorite.

    Two local products – lightweight Hector Tanajara (18-0, 5 KOs) and bantamweight Joshua Franco (15-1-2, 7 KOs) -- appear on the undercard. Both are natives of the Alamo City but have spent the bulk of the last five years living in Southern California where they train at the Robert Garcia Boxing Academy in Riverside.

    Of the two, Tanajara appears to have been matched the toughest. His opponent is Mexican veteran Juan Carlos Burgos (33-3-2, 21 KOs).

    Photo credit: Stephanie Trapp

    Check out more boxing news on video at The Boxing Channel

  • #2
    Shields drips with toxic femininity.

    And rooting for one girl to hurt another is sadism.

    Women’s boxing is not on par with men’s at all.

    Hence they are presently paid appropriately.


    • Kid Blast
      Kid Blast commented
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  • #3
    Well done Arne


    • #4
      Am I wrong?

      “No Walter you’re not wrong you’re just an assshole!!!”

      I like Spike and Smith this weekend.


      • #5
        Nelson-Kilic will be the fight of the weekend. Really like this one.

        Hart-Smith is interesting in that Hart is clearly more skilled and more athletic but Smith can punch so hard that he is dangerous for however long the fight lasts. Smith easily represents the biggest puncher Hart has ever faced and I wonder what may happen if Smith lands something like he so often finds a way to do in his fights.