Saturday night's Showtime tripleheader (with additional undercard bouts airing on Showtime Extreme) features the returns of Robert Guerrero and Devon Alexander, two welterweight name fighters who are trying to bounce-back from losses, as well as a very intriguing matchup between featherweight prospects Vasyl Lomachenko and Gary Russell Jr, who will meet for the vacant WBO title.
If you're on the fence about watching this card, here are five good (or something like good) reasons to tune in tonight.
1. Lomachenko vs Russell
This is a potentially fascinating fight, and one that maybe I've read too much into myself, but I think we might see something weird here. Russell (24-0, 14 KO) has been pretty adamant about not actually wanting to fight Lomachenko (1-1, 1 KO), a super prospect and former amateur destroyer who won a pair of Olympic gold medals and tried to win a world title in his second pro fight (like anyone with a heart and some sense, I do not count any World Series of Boxing fights as pro bouts). The Ukrainian started slow against Orlando Salido, a rugged, very talented veteran who also missed weight and appeared to have a real size advantage, but he picked up down the stretch, and had he started earlier, may have wound up winning. Instead, he suffered a competitive defeat.
That said, losing a competitive fight to Orlando Salido is a hell of a lot more impressive than any of the 24 wins that Russell has posted thus far in his pro career. Though he has always said he doesn't mind the criticism of his exceptionally weak matchmaking, one has to wonder if it has possibly gotten to him, or if maybe there's more to it than he or his team let on. Blessed with fast but seemingly fragile hands, Russell is a great talent, but he hasn't been tested at all as a pro, and his stated dislike of this matchup makes me think there might be more than meets the eye here. He's become no level of star to this point, and at 26, and with those 24 pro fights, it would help no one to keep handling him with kid gloves.
Maybe Russell comes out and blitzes Lomachenko with that speed and shows that the talent isn't just a matchmaking mirage, but I have this lingering feeling that Russell's pre-fight attitude may be revealing a lack of confidence in himself with this matchup. Lomachenko can fight, and Russell knows it.
2. Return of "The Ghost"
Guerrero (31-2-1, 18 KO) has been matched in a should (and thus must) win against tough Japanese fighter Yoshihiro Kamegai (24-1-1, 21 KO), a guy who generally speaking comes to fight and isn't afraid to mix it up. That said, Kamegai was outboxed by Johan Perez in his one career loss, and nothing about even his better performances screams "top contender."
Guerrero hasn't been in the ring since his May 2013 blowout loss to Floyd Mayweather, however. Now signed with Al Haymon, "The Ghost" is looking to get his career back on track. This is a sneaky little fight that might wind up being highly entertaining once the bell rings. A potentially rusty Guerrero and a gritty, nothing-to-lose Kamegai could be heading for a war.
3. Must-win for Devon Alexander
Alexander (25-2, 14 KO) was worked over pretty bad by Shawn Porter last December, losing his IBF welterweight title, which he had won a year beforehand against Randall Bailey in one of the safest displays in recent memory, as Alexander only had to take away Bailey's lone weapon (the right hand bomb), and did so. To an extreme degree. That 12-round bore was booed out of the Barclays Center, and his lone successful defense against Lee Purdy was a flat-out mismatch that came about only because he and Kell Brook took turns bailing on a mandatory title fight.
Facing Jesus Soto Karass (28-9-3, 18 KO), Alexander has a fight on his hands that he absolutely needs to win. Soto Karass is no superstar, but he rarely makes it an easy night for his opponents. In his last four fights, Soto Karass has seen something of a career rebirth (or birth), going 2-2 with wins over Selcuk Aydin and Andre Berto, and action-packed loss to Marcos Maidana, and a more one-sided defeat against Keith Thurman. None of those guys fight remotely like Alexander, though. This feels like a bad style matchup for somebody, but it's a toss-up as to which man could have the most trouble.
4. Chad Dawson
To quote Wikipedia:
"Bad" Chad Phillip Dawson (born July 13, 1982) is an American professional boxer from Hartsville, South Carolina.
All I can say is, "wow."
5. The Magic of the StubHub Center
There's just something about the StubHub Center, which has quickly developed into one of the best fight venues in the sport. Whether fights are supposed to be great (Rios-Alvarado I) or not so much (Bradley-Provodnikov, Matthysse-Molina), the StubHub keeps delivering Fight of the Year-type bouts. There's no easy pick for what that could be on this card, but dismiss nothing. For all we know, Russell and Lomachenko are about to brawl like crazy. As Michael Scott once said, I'm not superstitious, but I'm a little stitious. And the StubHub's magic is real. It's a fact.