Saul "Canelo" Alvarez is back in action this weekend with the toughest test of his young career against Ryan Rhodes. (Photo by Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images)
Friday, June 17
TVMax 9 (Panama), Approx 8 p.m. Eastern, Anselmo Moreno vs. Lorenzo Parra, Gennady Golovkin vs. Kassim Ouma. Moreno and Parra are both ranked around the back end of the top 10 at super bantamweight, but I can't think of a much uglier fight on paper. Both guys are dirty, defensive minded fighters who have been accused of running in the past. On the other hand, the main undercard fight could be a good one. Ouma isn't the workhorse he once was when he was a titlist at 154 pounds, but he's acquitted himself well lately and is still a much better fighter than his recent record indicates. Golovkin is one of the top middleweights in the world and a potential future star, but is toiling in obscurity in Panama while he waits for a legal situation with his promoter to work itself out. I'm not sure that Ouma at his best could have beaten the current version of Golovkin, but this should be a good measuring stick to see where Golovkin stands today, and it still is probably his best opponent to date. Alberto Mosquera and Irving Berry will also be fighting on the card. As usual, TVMax 9 has legal, live streaming available at http://www.tvmax-9.com/. The cards usually start early, but they usually play the entire undercard before the main fights, so expect the main events to start closer to 11 p.m. Eastern after FNF is over.
ESPN2, ESPN Deportes, ESPN3.com, 9:00 p.m. Eastern, Fernando Guerrero vs. Grady Brewer, Karim Mayfield vs. Stevie Forbes. Guerrero has been lauded here for an exciting style and an ability to draw well in his hometown, but his career seems to have been moving sideways lately. Brewer is a tricky fighter who can present some problems, but is probably still a step back from Ishe Smith, who Guerrero eked out a decision against about a year ago. The biggest news is that this one is at light middleweight rather than middleweight, and that Guerrero's frame (together with a lack of any real standout talents in the division) makes him more likely to do serious damage in that weight class in the future. Forbes lost to Brewer in the finals of the second season of The Contender, and since then went to the top (fighting Oscar de la Hoya) and the bottom (losing to Harrison Cuello in early 2010). The shell of the former lightweight titlist is 3-6 in his last nine and fighting well over his best weight. Mayfield is an undefeated, smallish welterweight prospect who I assume is there to look good against an old Forbes.
Telefutura, 11:30 p.m. Eastern, Gary Russell Jr. vs. Antonio Meza, Jermell Charlo vs. Larry Smith. Russell was thought to be the best pro prospect out of the most recent class of U.S. Olympians, but never got to fight when he failed to make weight. Now 15-0 as a pro, Meza is a decent step up who was once a fringe contender, but has now lost five in a row, all against decent competition (including a disputed loss against Daud Yordan). Charlo is an undefeated welterweight prospect who hasn't done too much to distinguish himself except that his actual level of opposition has been pretty high for a kid with his level of experience. Smith has a decent looking 9-3 record, but has been knocked out before and most of the wins came against woeful competition.
Saturday, June 18
Sky Sports 1 (UK), 5:15 p.m. Eastern, Martin Murray vs. Nick Blackwell, Anthony Crolla vs. Osumanu Akaba. Murray attempts the first defense of his Commonwealth middleweight title against Blackwell, who won the English version of the strap only seven fights into his career. Crolla's career started a bit rough, but he's seriously come on lately and is vacating his British lightweight title for a chance at a higher ranking. Akaba is a Ghanian southpaw who has generally lost when he's stepped up in class.
TyC Sports (Argentina), 10:00 p.m. Eastern, Celestino Caballero vs. Jonathan Victor Barros. After being avoided for years as one of the top fighters at 122, Caballero kept moving up to follow the money and eventually found a guy his size (Jason Litzau) who beat him in a gutsy performance. In his comeback, he's moving back down to 126, where he didn't do too much, and taking on a fighter who is no pushover. Barros is currently a "regular" champion in the WBA's featherweight clusterfu...uhhh...situation, but that's not what makes him tough. He held his own against Yuriorkis Gamboa (who the WBA recently stripped for no apparent reason other than that they suddenly remembered their own rules), and since then has a couple of decent, dominant wins over Irving Berry and Mickey Roman. As always, size will play a factor here, and many are still of the opinion that Caballero is 'just tall'. Winner of this one is right back in the mix at middlweight, however. If Caballero wins in ugly fashion, which he's prone to do, I wouldn't be completely shocked if we finally see Juan Manuel Lopez fight him sooner rather than later. Brick's Pick: I've always been a Caballero booster, and I do think he's better than what we saw against Jason Litzau. He may have slowed a hair, but Caballero has dealt with fighters like Barros relatively easily in the past. He'll be on Barros' home turf, so it will be tough to win on points, but I don't think he'll leave things to chance. Caballero TKO-8.
Fox Sports Net, Fox Sports Espanol, 10:00 p.m. Eastern, Miguel Vazquez vs. Marlon Aguilar. Vazquez gets a cupcake defense of his lightweight title with this one. Aguilar is 25-10-1 and lost a wide decision his last time out. Not even sure how this got sanctioned as a title bout, but I've stopped questioning these things. Giovanni Segura was also originally slated to fight on the card, but that doesn't appear to be the case anymore.
HBO, Sky Sports 1 (UK - delayed next morning coverage), Space (Argentina), Televisa (Mexico), 10:30 p.m. Eastern, Saul Alvarez vs. Ryan Rhodes, Adrian Broner vs. Jason Litzau. Alvarez is the latest hotshot prospect that HBO is setting its chips on, and Canelo's handlers have to at least be a little nervous that this might be a step too high too soon. While Alvarez is brimming with charisma and bravado and a fan-friendly style, Rhodes will likely be the best technical fighter he's faced, and he's probably the strongest puncher as well. Rhodes has flown under the radar in the US, but he's a fairly slick fighter who can punch a little, is a natural 154 pounder, and has been known to brawl when he needs to. On paper, it looks like a very good fight. And can Jason Litzau get no respect? In his last two fights, he's only knocked off a top 10 featherweight in Rocky Juarez and a guy who was in a lot of top 10 pound for pound lists in Celestino Caballero, yet he's listed as the B-side to Broner, who uglied up the place in a controversial win over Daniel Ponce de Leon? Brick's picks: Despite my misgivings, I do think Canelo will be just a bit too young, too big and too hungry for Rhodes. Rhodes looked like he's slowed down a hair against Luca Messi, and while Alvarez isn't the quickest fighter in the world, his handspeed puts Messi's to shame. That said, Canelo has shown a suspect chin in the past and Rhodes is a very good counterpuncher, so it wouldn't at all surprise me if Alvarez has to pick himself off the mat before Rhodes wears down and gets stopped late. Litzau has always had good speed, and has gotten rid of a lot of the bad habits that used to get him into trouble, plus his chin legitimately looks better at the higher weight. That said, Broner can punch, and if he's willing to sit on his punches, I can see Litzau schooling him for about five rounds before Broner knocks him out with a counter. Alvarez TKO-11, Broner KO-6. Bad Left Hook will have live round by round coverage of this fight.
Cadena Tres (Mexico), approx midnight Eastern, Armando Torres vs. Ivan Meneses. All you need to know about how weak the minimumweight division is: Torres is 15-8, while Meneses is 16-8-1, yet both of these guys have challenged for world titles.
Also in smaller fights this weekend: Carlos Baldomir (tentatively), Stephane Jamoye, Yory Boy Campas, Eric Fields, Omar Figueroa, Zahir Raheem, Jesus Jimenez, Vinvin Rufino, Choi Tseveenpurev vs. Jackson Asiku and Deontay Wilder.