I have not talked much boxing here the last couple weeks, and that is mostly because all the matchups have been pretty bad or uninteresting to the overall story of the sport. We are back though this weekend with a couple fun cards, and of course the Juice is here to preview all the excitement.
Saturday March 9
Who: Dimitry Bivol 15-0 (11 KO’s) vs. Joe Smith Jr. 24-2 (20 KO’s)
Where: Turning Stone Resort Casino
Implications: This is Dimitry Bivol’s fifth official defense of the WBA (joke) Light Heavy Weight Title. For awhile it felt like HBO was building toward an all Russian Unification fight with Sergey Kovalev. But Kovalev lost and HBO shut down so fighters got dispersed. Most of the great light heavyweights went to ESPN: Kovalev, Gvozdyk, Beterbiev, and Alvarez. So when Bivol signed with DAZN it was very odd and concerning that he was harming himself for future fights. He has always felt like a small LHW though and DAZN has some great Super Middleweights so he could drop down and fight Callum Smith or even possibly Canelo.
His opponent this weekend is Joe Smith Jr. Who most people remember for knocking Bernard Hopkins out of the ring in his final fight.
Smith is a slow moving, but very heavy handed fighter, who is always extremely dangerous. Bivol is more of a skilled boxer, pundits thought he had more power but his last few fights have proved he may not have top level power.
I think Bivol will just be too skilled throughout this and neutralize the right hand of Smith. I do not think he will get the finish but I thin he will win a wide Unanimous Decision.
Maurice Hooker 25-0 (17 KO’s) vs. Mikkel Lespierre 21-0-1 (10 KO’s) – This fight is for Hooker’s WBO Junior Welterweight title and it feels like a showcase for Hooker. He is coming off a massive KO of Alex Saucedo and looks like someone who can have some star power. Lespierre has some skills, but has never fought a top level opponent. Most of the 140 lb. division is tied up in the WBSS so Eddie Hearn wants his fighter to stay busy and wait for an opportunity to unify once the tournament ends.
I think Hooker stops him somewhere in the 7-9 rounds to defend his belt.
Saturday March 9
Who: Shawn Porter 29-2-1 (17 KO’s) vs. Yordenis Ugas 23-3 (11 KO’s)
Where: Dignity Health Sports Park
Implications: Shawn Porter feels like he has been around forever, and is always fighting the top competition he can find. He is a tough, hard nosed fighter who has earned everything that he has achieved. He may not have the most knockout power, but he will come inside and beat you up for 12 rounds with as much energy in the 12th as he had in the first. He has only lost to Keith Thurman, and Kell Brook who are two of the top Welterweights of this era, so he has nothing to be ashamed about.
Yordenis Ugas was a decorated amateur (Olympic Bronze Medalist) who had some trouble finding his footing in the pros. He lost a few early fights but has really been building some momentum and finally gets his title fight. He is a great boxer who likes to come forward as well. I just do not know if he has faced anyone quite as physical as Porter.
Porter is a grinder, and I think he will do what he does and grind this one out to a Unanimous Decision win. I think Ugas will have his moments though and will not get blown out.
There is not a great undercard here but this should be a very fun and back and forth main event. I hope everyone enjoys!
*My boxing pound for pound list can be found here.