Tomorrow on BoxNation in the UK (12 pm EST start with undercard) and beIN Sports in the United States (4 pm EST for the two main fights), Frank Warren presents a world title doubleheader from Manchester, England, with two WBO belts on the line.
While this is hardly the biggest card of the year or a true blockbuster event, it should be a lively card, as Terry Flanagan makes his first world title defense in his hometown, and the two fights are both evenly-matched on paper, even if none of the fighters would yet be considered true elites in their division.
Let's take a look at the two matchups, and remember that we'll be here with live round by round coverage on Saturday afternoon for the two main fights on the show.
Terry Flanagan vs Diego Magdaleno
26-year-old "Turbo" Terry Flanagan of Manchester picked up the WBO lightweight title on July 11 at the Velodrome, beating Jose Zepeda of California after just two rounds of action, with Zepeda suffering a dislocated left shoulder.
It may not have been how Flanagan (28-0, 11 KO) was hoping to win his first title, but here he is now, lined up for his first defense at Manchester Arena just three months later. Challenging him will be Diego Magdaleno, a familiar name to U.S. fight fans, as the 28-year-old Las Vegas native has been regularly featured on Top Rank cards for the last five years and change after turning pro in 2007.
Magdaleno (28-1, 12 KO) has had one world title shot in his career, losing to Rocky Martinez in 2013 when the two met in Macau. That split decision defeat was for a super featherweight belt, and Magdaleno made the decision to move up to 135 shortly after. His last time out, he stopped Jose "Chepo" Gonzalez in seven rounds, when Gonzalez refused to continue after getting hit low.
So both fighters are coming off of wins that look better on paper than they might have been in reality, a couple of odd results that probably don't tell us a whole lot about what to expect in this fight.
Neither Flanagan nor Magdaleno have truly staked a claim as elite in the division, though they both seem capable of doing so, perhaps, particularly because this is a pretty weak time for the lightweights, with the always-vulnerable Jorge Linares (also in action on Saturday) probably standing as the best in the world at the moment, followed by guys like Denis Shafikov, Dejan Zlaticanin, Argenis Mendez, and Miguel Vazquez. The winner of this fight should join that discussion for real, and both are right on the fringes of it at the moment.
Flanagan's better wins have come against Derry Mathews, Gary Sykes, and Stephen Ormond. He also has posted victories against reeling veterans Martin Gethin and Nate Campbell. Magdaleno has a similar résumé, beating a lot of professional opponents and gatekeeper types.
Both fighters are southpaws and decent boxers, neither have shown any great standout ability to date. Picking this fight is not easy, as they're right about on the same level. In that case, I have to favor the home fighter by decision. Flanagan isn't likely to get obviously beaten by Magdaleno, and that should give him the edge in front of a rowdy crowd. Pick: Flanagan by decision
Liam Smith vs John Thompson
"Beefy" looks to become the first of the fighting Smith brothers -- Paul, Stephen, Liam, and Callum -- to win a world title, as he faces John Thompson for the vacant WBO junior middleweight belt. Liam, 27, is the second-youngest of the clan, and also the second to fight for a world belt, as big brother Paul came up short twice against Arthur Abraham in 2014 and 2015.
If Liam can pick up this win, it could be the start of something special. Stephen and Callum are also closing in on opportunities of their own, and trainer Joe Gallagher has said he believes all three will pick up gold at the world level.
Smith (20-0-1, 10 KO) should be considered a marginal favorite here. The Liverpudlian has effective home field advantage against Thompson, a 26-year-old American who burst onto the scene this year with a surprise win in ESPN's Boxcino tournament, beating Ricardo Pinell, Stanyslav Skorokhod, and Brandon Adams after entering the tournament as a last-minute replacement on a single day's notice, taking the spot of Cleotis Pendarvis.
While Thompson (17-1, 6 KO) was certainly fun to watch as an underdog story and picked up some solid wins, this is obviously another level. Not only is he heading into hostile territory, but Smith, 27, is a solid boxer and former British champion who has done quite well against domestic-level opposition, and on paper at least, Thompson does not appear to be a real upgrade over some of his past foes.
Thompson, 26, does have some good things going for him, though. He was never really supposed to be here, first of all, and he's riding a big wave of momentum. He's coming in hot. You can easily point to his 2014 KO-2 loss to Frank Galarza as a negative, but at the same time he's not going to be out there protecting an "0," either. Thompson is in a great position with everything to gain and nothing to lose. It's unlikely he entered 2015 thinking he'd be getting a world title shot by the end of the year, but here he is.
Smith, on the other hand, will have the pressure on. Not only is he looking to win his first world title, but he's fighting with home country fans behind him, with his family behind him, and frankly he's expected to win. He's been groomed for this sort of spot. Smith has been guided to this fight; Thompson fought his way here without that sort of designed path.
Of course, it'll come down to talent, and Smith has a good bit of it. Whether he's really a true top-level junior middleweight won't exactly be proven with this fight. It would be pretty generous to call either Smith or Thompson a top 20 fighter in the division right now. Like the main event, I have to lean toward the home fighter. If the skill level between the two doesn't prove to be significant, which it doesn't appear to be going in, then the home fighter has the advantage. Pick: Smith by decision
Who do you like in these fights? Will either of the traveling challengers come home as a "world champion," or will both belts stay in England with Flanagan and Smith?