Avila Perspective, Chap. 243: Welterweights in July


By David A. Avila

History repeats itself when it comes to the welterweights.

Every generation or so a crop of welterweights grabs the attention of not only boxing fans, but casual sports fans too.

Think late 1990s when Felix Trinidad, Oscar De La Hoya, Ike Quartey and Sugar Shane Mosley roamed the 147-pound landscape. Three of the four mentioned were voted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame.

And before that, in the early 1980s, Sugar Ray Leonard, Tommy “Hit Man” Hearns, Roberto “Hands of Stone” Duran and Wilfredo “Radar” Benitez captured interest of all sports fans. Every one of those fighters is in the Hall of Fame.

July has become the month of the welterweights with four young punishing welterweight contenders battling to see who fights the kings, Terence Crawford and Errol Spence Jr., who fight to claim undisputed status later this month.

It’s the month of all months.

Flaming hot Philadelphia welterweight Jaron Ennis (30-0, 27 KOs) meets Venezuela’s brick busting Roiman Villa (26-1, 24 KOs) on Saturday, July 8, at The Ballroom in Atlantic City, New Jersey. Showtime will televise the TGB Promotions event.

Saturday was also supposed to feature Vergil Ortiz Jr. but the Texas welterweight with all knockouts on his record was physically unable to fight Eimantas Stanionis. Medical issues forced Ortiz to withdraw.

But in Atlantic City, the highly-touted Ennis will exchange blows with once-beaten Villa to see who will get a crack at the future undisputed welterweight world champion.

Ennis has a complete set of tools to ascend to the very top.

“I’m ready for anybody. But right now, we have business to take care of. I’m focused on Roiman Villa and then we’ll worry about what’s next,” said Ennis.

Styles make fights and you never know what will happen. He does have a size advantage over Villa who is listed at 5’7”. Ennis is 5’10”.

“When you get an opportunity to fight a world class fighter like Ennis, you have to take that chance. It’s my duty to go after the toughest challenges and take advantage of opportunities like this. I’m not afraid of anybody,” said Villa.

These two know a victory catapults them to the forefront of the talented welterweight division where the two kingpins, Spence and Crawford, roam. And if Ortiz is able to overcome his medical issues, will he or Stanionis be part of the new quartet of welterweights to rival those of yesteryear?

Back in the late 1990s though Trinidad fought De La Hoya, he did not face Quartey or Mosley. I distinctly remember Mosley chasing down Trinidad in the lobby of Caesars Place in Las Vegas itching for a chance at the Puerto Rican bomber. It never happened.

In the late 70s and early 80s all the top welterweights fought each other. Leonard fought Duran three times, Hearns twice and Benitez once. Many regard that era as the best era for welterweights in the history of prizefighting.

Can that happen again with this generation of welterweights?

Vergil Ortiz Jr.

The sad news that Vergil Ortiz Jr. was forced to withdraw just days before the fight left fans torn.

It was the third time the likeable undefeated welterweight was scratched in the last days before a showdown.

I’m not a medical expert but Ortiz did have two bouts with Covid-19 and perhaps that had something to do with his health problems. Doctors have said after-effects of the coronavirus could remain forever in people afflicted.

Undefeated lightweight Floyd Schofield (14-0, 11 KOs) has been elevated to main event status as he faces Haskell Rhodes (28-4-1, 13 KOs) in defense of the WBA International title. The Golden Boy Promotions card will be streamed on DAZN.

Schofield hails from Austin, Texas and trains with Ronnie Shields. He made his pro debut during the pandemic and has already acquired 14 fights in a short time considering the circumstances.

“Thank you for not canceling this fight and my best wishes to Virgil Ortiz. Make sure you tune in on Saturday. It's gonna be a good show,” said Schofield, 20.

Rhodes, 35, was equally grateful the card will proceed.

“I know he's super talented, but I've seen a lot like him, and I'm used to styles like his, so I bring the experience and I'm ready,” said Rhodes who fights out of Las Vegas, Nevada. He’s faced world champions like Sergey Lipinets and contenders such as Edner Cherry.

The co-main event features WBA and WBC flyweight titlist Marlen Esparza (13-1, 1 KO) clashing with Argentina’s Gabriela Alaniz (14-0, 6 KOs) the WBO flyweight titlist in a unification match set for 10 two-minute rounds.

It should be interesting. Alaniz can punch.

“I am ready to show everyone the kind of fighter I am. I am very excited to be able to defend my world title and be able to fight for two more world titles,” said Alaniz (14-0, 6 Kos) who fights out of Buenos Aires.

Esparza remains confident.

“My goal is to become undisputed and this is what I need to do to get there. I understand I'm also facing a world champion,” said Esparza who fights out of Houston, Texas. “So, we're taking this very seriously.”

Friday Night Fights

Super middleweight hotshot Diego Pacheco (18-0, 15 KOs) gets a chance to unleash those hands against Mexico’s Manuel Gallegos (19-1-1, 16 KOs) on Friday July 7, at Monterrey, Mexico. DAZN will stream the Matchroom Boxing card.

Pacheco, 6’4” in height, was last seen destroying England’s Jack Cullen in four rounds. Mexico’s Gallegos is almost as tall as Pacheco. The Los Mochis fighter is 6’3”.

Nery is Back

Luis Nery returns after his blazing firefight earlier this year in Pomona with Azat Hovhannisyan.

Nery (34-1, 26 KOs) meets Filipino Froilan Saludar (33-6-1, 23 KOs) in the main event on Saturday July 8 at Metepec, Mexico. How much does he have left after that vicious encounter last February? ESPN Knockout will stream the fight card.

Fights to Watch

Fri. DAZN 5 p.m. Diego Pacheco (18-0) vs Manuel Gallegos (19-1-1).

Sat. DAZN 5 p.m. Floyd Schofield (14-0) vs Haskell Rhodes (28-4-1), Marlen Esparza (13-1) vs Gabriela Alaniz (14-0).

Sat. ESPN+ 6 p.m. Luis Nery (34-1) vs Froilan Saludar (33-6-1).

Sat. Showtime 6:30 p.m. Jarron Ennis (30-0) vs Roiman Villa (26-1).