Badou Jack vs James DeGale
Record: 20-1-2 (12 KO) ... Streak: D1 ... Last 5: 4-0-1 ... Last 10: 8-1-1 ... Stance: Orthodox ... Height/Reach: 6’1" / 73" ... Age: 33
Thoughts: Jack "The Ripper" has one of those nicknames that comes at the end, and also makes me think of Kyle Kinane’s Jack the Ripper bit now.
It wasn’t all that long ago that Jack was seemingly flaming out as an overhyped prospect. He wasn’t always all that impressive in victory, and a 2013 draw against Marco Antonio Periban led to a 2014 TKO-1 loss to Derek Edwards. Now, that TKO-1 was a little fluky, but it was entirely legit. He got caught. You do that fight 100 times and that might be the only time Jack gets stopped in 61 seconds, but it happened in real life, so, you know.
Since then, he’s rallied. Wins over Jason Escalera and Francisco Sierra set up a shot at Anthony Dirrell and the WBC super middleweight title in April 2015, and Jack answered the call to the big time, winning a majority decision without much controversy. He successfully defended against George Groves a little less than five months later, and last year fought Lucian Bute to a debated draw — the only debate being that almost everyone felt Jack deserved the win, and Bute then failed a doping test, to boot. But the draw remains on the official record.
Jack does nothing exceptionally, but is a solid fighter who has, to be honest, probably peaked. At 33, he’s not young, really, but he doesn’t have a ton of miles, either. He should be exactly as effective as he is now for a bit longer. Is that good enough against DeGale? That’s the question here.
Record: 23-1 (14 KO) ... Streak: W13 ... Last 5: 5-0 ... Last 10: 10-0 ... Stance: Southpaw ... Height/Reach: 6'0" / 74" ... Age: 30
Thoughts: I don’t think many would argue with the notion that DeGale is the more talented boxer in this fight. When he’s really on his game, he is not only highly skilled, but fun to watch.
That said, he’s been inconsistent since his loss to George Groves back in 2011. He followed that up with a fairly flat performance in victory over Piotr Wilczewski, and his career stalled for a while after that. He has bounced around with different promoters, and in 2014 started getting his career seriously back on track with a fourth round stoppage of Brandon Gonzales. He followed that with a win over the aforementioned Periban (TKO-3), then his IBF title-winning performance against Andre Dirrell, where he started fast but Dirrell rallied to make it a close fight over 12 rounds.
In 2015, DeGale beat a strong-looking Lucian Bute, too, and last year fought just once, escaping a lackluster performance against Rogelio "Porky" Medina with a win on the same night that Jack drew with Bute. (If anything, I thought those two decisions could have been reversed. Medina was better than the judges gave him credit for, and Bute wasn’t as good as his judges thought. Such is boxing.)
If DeGale is dialed in, he could look great here. He doesn’t always show it, but he does have the special talent that Badou Jack lacks.
Matchup Grade: B+. The only reason I stop short of going into the A range is the fact that I reserve the A+, A, A- stuff for really elite fights. This is a very good fight between two top-ranked fighters, but to me, calling it more than a B+ is giving the promoters and handlers too much credit for making a good fight that they SHOULD make. If more fights like this one got made more often, boxing would be much better off.
Jose Pedraza vs Gervonta Davis
Record: 22-0 (12 KO) ... Streak: W22 ... Last 5: 5-0 ... Last 10: 10-0 ... Stance: Orthodox ... Height/Reach: 5'8½" / 70½" ... Age: 27
Thoughts: "Sniper" Pedraza is a guy sort of like Badou Jack in the main event, good but has shown real vulnerability, doesn’t always look great in his fights, because he’s not quite great. He’s good. He’s going to have off-nights, and he’s going to lose when he faces really talented fighters, more likely than not.
We saw him have a significant off-night against Edner Cherry in 2015, when Pedraza was making the first defense of his IBF super featherweight title. Cherry deserved the win that night in Cincinnati, but two of three judges came back with incomprehensible scorecards of 117-111 for Pedraza; the third had it 116-112 for Cherry, more in line with what a lot of observers believed was the real score.
Last year, he fought once, beating fringe contender Stephen Smith of England, in a Showtime-televised bout at the Foxwoods in Connecticut. Pedraza looked sharp in that one, and there’s a good chance he took that fight with Cherry, wiped his brow, and learned from it. It’s not always a bad thing for a fighter to get tested and to show weaknesses. Sometimes they adjust and change what they did wrong, and they become better fighters for the experience. Maybe Pedraza is one of those.
Record: 16-0 (15 KO) ... Streak: W16 ... Last 5: 5-0 ... Last 10: 10-0 ... Stance: Southpaw ... Height/Reach: 5'6" / 69" ... Age: 22
Thoughts: I have two separate thoughts on Gervonta Davis going into this fight.
- This could be a case of "too much, too soon." Davis is young, has stormed through weak opposition thus far, and is taking a big step up. Pedraza may not be a world beater, but he’s a hell of a lot better than Guillermo Avila and Mario Antonio Macias, Davis’ two victims in 2016.
- If Davis is everything that Mayweather Promotions think he is, he will win.
So it’s really up to Davis to either prove it or not in this fight. He’s giving up some height and reach, but he always will. They call him "Tank" for a reason — he’s short, powerfully built, and explosive as a puncher. What we’ve seen of him thus far is what it is, prospect showcase fights to build some buzz. Now he’s gunning right for a world title. His matchmakers and promoters would not throw him into this fight if they weren’t 100% sure he would win. I’m not, but then I don’t know him as well as they do, either.
Matchup Grade: B-. Nothing to dislike about this, really. It’s a nice co-feature for a world title, whatever you think of that, between a solid young veteran and a potential star in this division and beyond. If Davis wins impressively here, it’ll make real waves. If Pedraza wins, he further establishes himself as a top super featherweight.
These fights will air on Showtime Extreme, before the main doubleheader on Showtime.
Amanda Serrano vs Yazmin Rivas: I don’t follow women’s pro boxing closely enough to tell you how good this fight is, but I know the names, and have seen both fight, and will say they both can fight. It’s great to see women featured by Showtime, and hopefully it’s the start of an expansion for the coverage that the women’s side of the sport can receive in the United States. Making it easier to follow = more eyes = more interest. It’s not rocket surgery, y’all.
Ievgen Khytrov vs Immanuwel Aleem: Khytrov is a celebrated prospect, 14-0 (12 KO), big power, good skills, nicknamed "The Ukrainian Lion." Aleem is 16-0-1 (9 KO) with less hype, and is coming off of an eight round draw with Demond Nicholson last July in Quebec City. On paper, this looks like Aleem and his "0" being fed to Khytrov, but you never know until it’s happened.