There's a double dipper of boxing action tonight on HBO and Showtime, and while I could have gone the easy route and done just one big five reasons to watch feature for all the fights combined, the cards are good enough and interesting enough separately to warrant TWO! five reasons to watch. So 10 reasons. Total, I mean.
Let's dig into the HBO show, which will be covered live tonight by Connor Ruebusch. The fights start at 10 pm EST.
1. Timothy Bradley is a top 10 pound-for-pound fighter
Despite the general distaste out there for Timothy Bradley (31-1, 12 KO), and the loss in his last fight, he is one of the best fighters in the world today. The 31-year-old Bradley lost clean and clear (again) to Manny Pacquiao in April, but it seems as though it's all but forgotten -- or ignored in the first place -- that Bradley also cleanly and clearly beat Juan Manuel Marquez in October 2013, and that he survived a Fight of the Year earlier that year with Ruslan Provodnikov.
Tim Bradley isn't going to suddenly become one of the most popular fighters in the world, but he's not boring, he's displayed vulnerability. But people are going to, like, not like him. That's just how it is. But he's definitely worth your eyeballs, even if you watch to see him lose.
2. Jose Benavidez is a blue chip prospect facing a true spoiler
22-year-old Benavidez (21-0, 15 KO) came onto the pro scene in 2010 with a lot of hype, and he's done his job so far, though against pretty low-level opposition. Stepping from the likes of Pavel Miranda, Prince Doku Jr, and Henry Auraad to Saturday night's fight with Mauricio Herrera is no joke.
Herrera (21-4, 7 KO) never "pops" when you watch him fight, but the guy is a crafty, intelligent fighter who gave Danny Garcia all he could handle in March, following that in July with a win over Johan Perez. Those fights alone are a lot more than Benavidez has seen in his career to date, and Herrera has beaten Ruslan Provodnikov, and been in the ring with Mike Alvarado, Karim Mayfield, Ji-Hoon Kim, and others.
Benavidez may have more pure talent than most of those fighters, but he hasn't been tested by anyone like Herrera yet. It's going to be a challenge, and this is a nice sleeper matchup.
3. Either Andy Lee or Matt Korobov will call themselves "world champion" later
Though it's arguable that neither of them are truly a top ten middleweight (and it's a weak division), Lee and Korobov will be fighting for the vacant WBO middleweight title, which Peter "Kid Chocolate" Quillin gave up earlier this year, ostensibly to fight Daniel Jacobs. (That has not happened.)
Lee (33-2, 23 KO) is getting his second world title shot, while Korobov (24-0, 14 KO) is going after a world title for the first time after a delay in his pro development. It's an interesting matchup between an established fringe contender and a guy who once was seen as a top prospect and sort of disappeared for a while. Lee's power and experience are interesting, and Korobov has a strong amateur background.
4. Bradley remains a factor in the welterweight division
The welterweight division is still the glory class of the sport, at least for the time being, and Bradley is one of its top fighters. A win against Chaves (23-2, 19 KO) keeps Bradley in the mix. A loss, of course, damages him pretty heavily.
What's most interesting for Bradley here is that a win could lead to a title shot. If Manny Pacquiao vacates his WBO belt, Bradley would probably be first in line for a shot at the vacant belt. He's ranked No. 2 by the WBO, with Juan Manuel Marquez ranked No. 1. Marquez wants another world title, and he also wants a rematch with Bradley. Long story short, this fight could lead to a Bradley-Marquez rematch for a vacant WBO title. If, again, Pacquiao vacates to move down to 140.
5. It's the final HBO boxing card of the year
It's been an awkward, up-and-down, in-and-out year for American boxing overall, with mega-fights that didn't sell particularly well (or sold terribly, in the case of Pacquiao-Algieri), and alliances and allegiances shifting all over the place. HBO got some of their mojo back this year, after Showtime pulled almost all the power moves in 2013. We're headed into what could be another confusing year in 2015, with twists! and turns! and people signing with Al Haymon! so let's all take stock of our lives with HBO's final show of 2014.