Vitali Klitschko faces Odlanier Solis on Saturday, with a new player in the U.S. boxing TV game carrying the fight. (Photo by Christof Koepsel/Bongarts/Getty Images)
Lots of interesting options for televised and legal stream boxing this weekend for fight fans. We'll have more on a lot of these fights in the coming days.
Friday, March 18
ESPN2 / ESPN3.com, 9 pm EDT, Brad Solomon v. Demetrius Hopkins, Chris Avalos v. Yan Barthelemy. An interesting step-up fight for prospect Solomon, who has some massive holes in his "I've watched too many Roy Jones fights" style, but Hopkins may or may not be the guy to exploit them. Demetrius has never been better than a C+ fighter, but he's also got little wear and tear on his body despite being 30, and he's not a dumb fighter. Solomon's aggression should carry him, but better prospects have lost to worse veterans. Avalos is looking to continue his comeback against Barthelemy, and he has some thunder in the fists. Bad Left Hook will have live coverage of this event.
Telefutura, 11 pm EDT, James Kirkland v. Jhon Berrio, Luis Ramos Jr. v. Jose Hernandez. Another tune-up fight for Kirkland, his second in less than two weeks as he shakes the rust and gets back in shape from two years out of the ring. Berrio was wiped out by Peter Manfredo Jr. in his last fight, while Kirkland took out a comparable foe in about half a minute in Anaheim on March 5, so don't expect competitiveness. Ramos-Hernandez is a bit more interesting because Hernandez has been a spoiler in the past, but Ramos is the heavy favorite and the prospect in the fight.
Telemundo, 11:35 pm EDT, Dante Jardon v. Humberto Martinez. Jardon (15-1, 13 KO) is a streaking Mexican prospect at 130 pounds. His only loss came in his second pro fight, and he avenged the defeat by stopping the same man who stopped him a couple of fights later. He's got wins over David Rodela and Nicaragua's Rene Gonzalez, for names you may know. Martinez (20-5-1, 14 KO) has the typical Colombian record and has been stopped in the past by Jorge Linares and Rodolfo Lopez. He's also lost to Feider Viloria.
Saturday, March 19
Maori Television, 3 am EDT, David Tua v. Demetrice King. Tua, now 38, honors the final fight of his commitment to New Zealand's Maori Television channel as he faces American Demetrice King in Auckland. King is a gatekeeper supreme, with a record of 15-19 (13 KO). Of the 19 losses, he's only been stopped twice, by Fres Oquendo last year (RTD-9) and by Shannon Briggs back in 2005 (TKO-2). He's 6'2" and generally weighs in these days in the 270s, so Tua isn't facing much. Tua (51-3-2, 43 KO) is coming off of a really disappointing draw with the badly faded Monte Barrett last July, and has claimed he suffered a left shoulder injury that left him tentative for the second half of the fight. Either way, King is not the fighter to tell us if Tua has anything left, but money says he doesn't. For all his reputation, Tua's never really done much at all besides be entertaining for a modern heavyweight. At 38, he's probably not going to change that. I reckon he'll go down sort of a cult hero, and deservedly so, but not much more than that.
Sky Sports, 4:30 pm EDT, Liam Walsh v. Jon Kays. Walsh (10-0, 7 KO) defends the Commonwealth super featherweight title against Kays (13-1, 4 KO) from Wigan. The only guy Kays has beaten who came in with a winning record was 1-0 at the time and finished his professional career with a mark of 1-1, and the only guy he's fought otherwise who had a winning record was Craig Johnson (8-3 at the time, 9-4 and hasn't fought since 2009 now), so don't expect much. 24-year-old Walsh doesn't have much stiffer a sheet, but did beat the credible Maxwell Awuku in his last bout, so he's the heavy favorite.
Epix /EpixHD.com (USA) / Sky Sports (UK) / RTL (Germany), 5 pm EDT, Vitali Klitschko v. Odlanier Solis. Part of me can't help but wonder if this is Arena Box trying to cash in big once before Solis' trips to the buffet line get the better of the excellent talent he does have. He's the best fighter Klitschko has faced since his 2008 return to the ring, with only inconsistent fellow Cuban Juan Carlos Gomez even having an argument for talent. If Solis is in shape, it could be a legitimate fight. That's as good as you can get anymore outside of David Haye, for my money. The fight can be seen on Epix in the U.S., which very few carriers have available. For instance, both Comcast and DirecTV don't carry the channel, which leaves most of you, and me, out in the cold as far as watching this on television. And even if your carrier does have the channel, it's a premium network like HBO or Showtime, so you'd have to be a subscriber. But here's the good news: Sky Sports (UK) and RTL (Germany) are also carrying the fight, so, y'know, you've got that route available, OR, you can go to EpixHD.com and get a free trial account. Since the network is available on so few carriers, they also function as an on-demand online subscriber service, and are going to be carrying the fight live online. That's a free and legal way to view the fight in the U.S., and I'm going to give it a try myself, and I swear on all that is holy that nobody has prodded me to shill for the Epix product, and I get nothing out of this if you do or don't try the service. I don't give a damn if you sign up or not. In fact, when I tried to contact them to find out if trial subscribers would have the fight available live, I got no reply, but for all I can tell, it will be available. If Epix becomes a player in the boxing game for fights like this that are too expensive for ESPN and don't float the boat of HBO and Showtime, maybe it'll be a viable option down the road. But for now you can get the trial and try it out, and watch Thelma & Louise while you're at it - any time! Bad Left Hook will have live coverage of this event.
RTE / RTE.ie, 6 pm EDT, Guillermo Rigondeaux v. Willie Casey. As always, RTE will be streaming worldwide, and those in the U.S. can see the fight for free from their web site. Generally speaking, I'll admit I've found their streams choppy and unreliable in the past, but the option is out there and others have had far better luck than I have. Rigondeaux (7-0, 5 KO) is talking big about how easy the fight will be against Casey (11-0, 7 KO), the 29-year-old from Limerick nicknamed "Big Bang." Casey surprised many by winning a Prizefighter tournament last May, then stopped Paul Hyland in four rounds to win the European title at 122 lbs. in November. So he's on quite a good run right now, and being marketed as Ireland's "Cinderella Man." I'm openly rooting for Casey to win the fight, and he'll have home field in Dublin. Bad Left Hook will try to have live coverage of this one -- if it doesn't overlap with the Klitschko-Solis fight, and if we can get it to work well enough.
Fox Deportes, 10 pm EDT, Roman Gonzalez v. Manuel Vargas. For those without Showtime who have Fox Deportes available, this is a nice little (ha!) alternative option on Saturday night. Gonzalez (27-0, 23 KO) is a former strawweight titlist who now campaigns at junior flyweight, and is one of the handful of truly elite "really little guys" (sub-112) in the sport today, and Nicaragua's best fighter. "Chango" Vargas (29-7-1, 14 KO) is never in a bad fight, and has kept quite a remarkable schedule since 2007, fighting pretty much nothing but good fighters since then. Last year he fought Nonito Donaire on short notice at 115 pounds, then fought junior flyweight champion Giovani Segura in a non-title flyweight bout in November. He got stopped in both fights, but that happens because he loves to rumble. Should be a good fight.
Showtime, 10 pm EDT, Lucian Bute v. Brian Magee. Bute is back on Showtime for the first time in two years, facing former European champ Magee, who vacated his belt, which he won via pretty big upset, to take a crack at the #1-B of the super middleweight division. That takes guts that a lot of fighters don't show. Magee is a pretty basic fighter, no better or worse than a lot of the guys Bute has been criticized for fighting already, but the reality is that Bute still really has nobody better to fight at 168. Ward, Abraham, Froch and Johnson are tied up with each other. Dirrell and Kessler are on the shelf. He's beaten Andrade. Stieglitz won't fight him. And Sartison is maybe 10% better than Magee if anything. The hope is that if Bute keeps active and beating these guys -- and it's good that he does stay quite active -- then the big fights will be there after the Super Six. Whoever loses the Froch-Johnson fight is almost surely going to complain they were robbed, so you've already got a fall opponent for him there if they want it. Bad Left Hook will have live coverage of this event.