Oscar Valdez vs Miguel Marriaga
Of the three title fights, this is probably the best one on paper. Valdez (21-0, 19 KO) has been a wrecking ball since turning pro, though he’s yet to face his division’s true top fighters. He’s really broken out in his last five fights, starting with his September 2015 win over Chris Avalos (TKO-5), and most recently his November win over Hiroshige Osawa (TKO-7). In between those fights, he has solid wins over former titleholder Evgeny Gradovich (TKO-4) and previously unbeaten Matias Rueda (TKO-2).
Marriaga (25-1, 21 KO) has a pretty empty record overall, with his lone loss coming against Nicholas Walters on HBO in June 2015, a one-sided decision where Walters had missed weight but fought anyway. Still, he’s got a better record than a lot of Colombians who go abroad, with decent enough wins over Christopher Martin (KO-6) and Guy Robb (TKO-6) highlighting his run.
Matchup Grade: C+. Valdez should win, but Marriaga can punch and at the very least, Valdez is always a fun fighter to watch. Boxing is in a weird state in recent years where prospects win world titles before they’ve really graduated prospectdom, and Valdez is still as much prospect as he is anything else. But he’s a terrific prospect.
Gilberto Ramirez vs Max Bursak
Ramirez (34-0, 24 KO) silenced some critics with a shutout win over Arthur Abraham (UD-12) a year ago, winning the WBO super middleweight title. The 25-year-old Mexican southpaw is a tall, rangy fighter with some pop, and when he gets in a groove, can be really hard to combat, as proven against Abraham.
But how much of that was the style matchup? Abraham is a methodical fighter who doesn’t throw a lot of punches in the first place, and Ramirez’s style took his effective output down even further. Other than Abraham, Ramirez’s best wins have come over Maxim Vlasov (UD-10, and a win that saw him meet some criticism) and Derek Edwards (UD-10).
Bursak (33-4-1, 15 KO) is an also-ran, a fringe contender at best who is 4-3 in his last seven fights, with defeats to Jarrod Fletcher, Martin Murray, and Zac Dunn. He also lost to Hassan N’dam back in 2012. So against his better opponents, he’s lost. It’s really that simple. His best win was probably against Nick Blackwell (UD-12) back in 2013, a close fight where Bursak had home field in Ukraine. He also beat Bryan Vera back in 2010.
Matchup Grade: D+. Not exactly the first world title defense you’d want from “Zurdo” after a year off, but it’s kinda the right fight for him, to be fair. Top Rank will want to build a brand for this guy, since he has some star potential, and sending him in potentially rusty against a tougher opponent wouldn’t have been wise, whether we like it or not. But is it a good fight? Nah.
Jessie Magdaleno vs Adeilson dos Santos
Magdaleno (24-0, 17 KO) has done what older brother Diego has been unable to do, winning his first world title back in November by knocking off former pound-for-pound star Nonito Donaire (UD-12). Donaire is past his prime without question, but it was still a strong showing for Magdaleno, 25, and it was also a big jump up in competition from the likes of Raul Hirales and Rey Perez.
Dos Santos (18-2, 14 KO) is a Brazilian non-contender who really has no business in a world title fight. He was dominated by Kid Galahad in 2014, and was knocked out in two rounds by Fabian Orozco, an unheralded Argentine scrapper, in 2016. Orozco, for what it’s worth, then promptly lost his next two fights, also against middling opposition.
Matchup Grade: D-. Why D-? Because I don’t like giving out F’s too readily. As the A+ is saved for the truly special matchups, so is the F. But I thought about it. This is a lousy first defense for Magdaleno.