This week's fight week featured card is Saturday's HBO Boxing After Dark triple-header from the Family Arena in Saint Charles, Missouri, featuring a 140-pound main event and plenty of notable names on the undercard, on and off television.
We'll have much more on the card during the week, but here's a rundown of what's going on.
Main Event - Junior Welterweights, 12 Rounds
Devon Alexander (21-1, 13 KO) vs Lucas Matthysse (28-1, 26 KO)
St. Louis native Alexander, 24, returns to the ring following two straight iffy performances, one a debated win over Andriy Kotelnik in St. Louis last August, and the latter an ugly loss at the Pontiac Silverdump to Timothy Bradley in January, where Alexander was accused by some of giving up on the fight with a cut in the 10th round of the fight.
Matthysse, 28, is a hard-punching Argentinean who gave Zab Judah all he could handle and then some last year, and then knocked down DeMarcus "Chop Chop" Corley nine times in January en route to a TKO-8 victory. Matthysse is a top ten fighter in the division and is a very, very live underdog.
Light Heavyweights, 12 Rounds
Tavoris Cloud (22-0, 18 KO) vs Yusaf Mack (29-3-2, 17 KO)
The 29-year-old Cloud is a rising star in the division who is looking to make his mark quickly, and with this fight is taking on a mandatory challenge for his IBF belt in the hope that next time out he can take on one of the division's bigger names. Cloud beat Glen Johnson last year in a competitive, entertaining affair on the Alexander vs Kotelnik undercard, before Johnson went down to 168 and made waves by stopping Allan Green in the Super Six.
Mack, 31, is basically a perennial fringe contender who tends to get outclassed in steps up. His three losses have all come by stoppage -- Alejandro Berrio (TKO-6) in 2006, Librado Andrade (TKO-7) in 2007, and Glen Johnson (TKO-6) in February 2010. His best win came over Chris Henry by split decision in 2009, but for the most part he operates a level below Cloud, and is a genuine underdog in this fight. A Mack win would be a true upset.
Heavyweights, 12 Rounds
Bermane Stiverne (20-1-1, 19 KO) vs Ray Austin (28-5-4, 18 KO)
Don King's bizarre fascination with the 40-year-old Austin has culminated in yet another WBC eliminator, and another TV spot that most boxing fans familiar with Austin cannot understand. It's not that there's anything to really dislike about Austin, he just isn't very good, plus he's old. He got a shot at Wladimir Klitschko in 2007 and was obliterated inside of two rounds without Wlad ever unleashing a right hand.
The 32-year-old Stiverne has had his career based in Canada, but was born in Haiti and lives in Vegas. He's got a punch, and has more skills than your average unknown heavyweight in his 30s. HBO seems to be giving the heavyweight division consideration again -- otherwise, I can't quite figure this fight being a TV feature as a triple-header, not because it's so unworthy (it's fine, whatever), but because HBO doesn't DO triple-headers anymore.
Junior Middlweights, 12 Rounds
Cornelius Bundrage (30-4, 18 KO) vs Sechew Powell (26-2, 15 KO)
Bundrage, 38, won the IBF belt from Cory Spinks last August and hasn't fought in the 10 months since then. This fight has been a pain in the ass to put together, as the two sides volleyed insults and barbs for a while before getting it done. For whatever reason, Powell, 32, is ranked highly by The Ring despite having not fought since March 2010 and having nothing special on his record. I'd really love a breakdown as to how Powell is better than Dzinziruk, but whatever. This is a trinket fight, but between two guys I think are both borderline top ten in the division. Still, Bundrage can be very fun to watch when he's in attack mode, and this could be a highlight of the card if they let it go. Sadly only a few thousand will see it.
Junior Middlweights, 10 Rounds
Cory Spinks (37-6, 11 KO) vs Shakir Ashanti (16-10, 4 KO)
Spinks, 33, has looked slowed down in recent years and in his last fight, shot. That fight was a tremendously one-sided TKO-5 beatdown loss to Bundrage on the Alexander vs Kotelnik card. Overall, he's lost three of his last four, but that dates all the way back to 2007's terrible loss to Jermain Taylor (obligatory Emanuel Steward video link). He fought just once in 2008, losing a fight to Verno Phillips that I thought Spinks deserved to win; just once in 2009, beating Deandre Latimore; and once in 2010, getting smoked by Bundrage. Age has taken his legs away, and without much power, he has real issues standing and fighting opponents.
Luckily, his opponent here is nothing. Ashanti is 42 and from North Carolina, and didn't fight between 2004 and 2009. In 2009, he fought once, was out of the ring in 2010, and came back with a loss to someone named George Rivera in March. This is the start of what is probably Spinks' last gap, as he will likely try to work his way into another title shot.
Cruiserweights, 10 Rounds
Ryan Coyne (16-0, 6 KO) vs David McNemar (13-0, 10 KO)
Coyne, 28, was supposed to be an exceptionally soft title challenger to Guillermo Jones, but in the shocker to end all shockers, Jones has pulled out of the fight with an injury. I know, I can't believe it either. So to make sure Coyne maintains his perfect record and apparent title contender status, they've dug up some 38-year-old guy from West Virginia who hasn't fought since 2007. This doesn't look bad with just the records, but it's really bad.
And the Rest!
Lohan family friend Omar Henry (10-0, 8 KO) is back in a four-rounder, his first fight in a year. Henry, 24, went from prospect to "Where Are They Now?" before he even got his bubble burst. He's a tough guy to figure, made worse by the fact that he does have talent. ... Venezuelan middleweight Nelson Linares (19-0-1, 12 KO) fights for the first time since 2009 against veteran Jose Spearman (28-16-5, 11 KO). ... More inactives return! Yuri Romanov (21-2, 14 KO) hasn't fought since retaining the European lightweight title against Jon Thaxton in 2008. He faces Darien Ford (11-20, 6 KO), who has won one fight since 2004. ... Cincinnati heavyweight Chaen Chess makes his pro debut against Michael Lunsford (0-3-1, 0 KO).