Jessie Vargas vs Thomas Dulorme
Vargas (28-2-1, 10 KO) is a former welterweight titleholder who has been through the promotional ranks with Mayweather Promotions, Top Rank, and PBC, a journeyman of sorts at age 29. He’s coming off of a draw with Adrien Broner in April, a fight where Vargas started hot but Broner fought his way back into it by the end, and the draw wasn’t a bad call by the judges. He’s 2-2-1 in his last five, including clear losses to Tim Bradley and Manny Pacquiao, with wins over Sadam Ali and Aaron Herrera. The welterweight division has great talent, ad Vargas is still a top 10 guy at 147, even if he’s not exactly a highlight reel fighter.
Dulorme (24-3, 16 KO) is a busted prospect getting another shot he hasn’t really earned in any way because he still looks like a really good fighter when he’s in the ring, at least until he starts losing to someone better. He carries himself like a world class fighter, looks great on the stage at press conferences and weigh-ins. Maybe this sounds harsh, but his three biggest fights have been with Luis Abregu, Terence Crawford, and Yordenis Ugas. He lost all three, including the Ugas bout, which was his last in August 2017. His best wins have come against Hank Lundy and Karim Mayfield.
Matchup Grade: C-. Dulorme has talent and will probably be in this fight for a bit, but the consistent, steady Vargas will probably take over sooner than later and get out with a win and the WBC silver title. This fight is something of a bizarre headliner in Chicago and Dulorme really shouldn’t be main eventing a card this size in 2018, but here we are. And often when I go ahead and make statements like this, the fighter goes ahead and makes me look stupid, so we’ll see!
Artur Beterbiev vs Callum Johnson
Beterbiev (12-0, 12 KO) hasn’t shot up as a star the way most of us hoped, and may have expected back in 2014 when he wrecked former titleholder Tavoris Cloud in two rounds. He’s been tearing through folks when he’s fought since then, though — Jeff Page Jr, Gabriel Campillo, Alexander Johnson, Ezequiel Maderna, Isidro Prieto, Enrico Koelling, all dominated and knocked out. The 33-year-old Russian, now based in Montreal, hasn’t faced the opposition you’d hope he would have by now, but he’s undoubtedly one of the best and most intimidating light heavyweights in the sport today.
Johnson (17-0, 12 KO) is a former British and Commonwealth champion taking his shot at world glory. He’s talked a great game about having no fear of Beterbiev and the power to knock out anyone, but, as I said before on the site, going from Willbeforce Shihepo and Frank Buglioni to Beterbiev is a big step.
Matchup Grade: C. I won’t go lower than this because Johnson, while unproven on this level, has succeeded in his previous steps up and is promising a fan friendly fight, no matter how it goes. He could catch Beterbiev, who hasn’t fought in 11 months, cold coming in, if he’s as aggressive as he’s sounding like he wants to be. But if Beterbiev warms up, or Johnson just plain can’t handle him, this could be over quick. Beterbiev isn’t known to fight like he’s being paid by the hour.
Jarrell Miller vs Tomasz Adamek
Miller (21-0-1, 18 KO) is a big American hope in the heavyweight division. I don’t mean his potential, necessarily. I mean he’s a very large man. Boxing writers have a weird fixation on using his nickname more than they do for other fighters, because “Big Baby” is fun to say. Miller is 6’4” and let’s be really clear about something here. He turned pro weighing in at 252 pounds, fought as low as 242 in his fourth fight. He ballooned up to 286 a month later for his fight with Joey Dawejko in 2013, a four-round draw and Miller’s only blemish as a pro. Miller, now 30, got back down some after that, but now he’s weighed in at a career-heavy 317 for this fight. The weight hasn’t hurt him yet in the ring, but will it when he faces better opposition?
Adamek (53-5, 31 KO) is unlikely to force Miller into any deeper water than he’s been so far. The popular 41-year-old Polish veteran is fighting in the United States for the first time since 2014, when he lost to Vyacheslav Glazkov. He’s won three straight against mediocre opposition, but he’s way past his best days and he’s always been sort of cosplaying as a heavyweight. He’s good and tough enough to get away with it, but his best win at heavy is probably Chris Arreola, a guy who had weight issues like Miller, though not as bad.
Matchup Grade: D. Out of respect for Adamek, I’m not going F here, but this is a dreadful and shameful matchup. Adamek is old, small at heavyweight, and is on this card because there’s a big Polish population in Chicago and the event badly needs anyone who can bring in fans since it’s unlikely either of the top two fights are going to be responsible for selling a lot of tickets in the city. Miller is skilled along with being a much bigger man — he’s going to have almost a 100-pound weight advantage here — and should be able to deal with Adamek without much trouble.
Danny Roman vs Gavin McDonnell
Roman (25-2-1, 9 KO) has emerged as one of the world’s top super bantamweights, and has the WBA “world” title. The 28-year-old from Los Angeles has won 17 straight since his last defeat in 2013, and took the WBA belt on the road in Japan against Shun Kubo in September 2017. Since then, he’s defended at Korakuen Hall against Ryo Matsumoto, and in Texas against Moises Flores. He’s on a hell of a streak.
McDonnell (20-1-2, 5 KO) is coming over from England. The 32-year-old is hot right now, beating previously unbeaten prospect Gamal Yafai and veteran Stuart Hall in his last two. He’s won four straight since a decision loss to Rey Vargas in 2017.
Matchup Grade: B-. Roman has become one of the top fighters at 122, and McDonnell is a fringe or back end top 10 guy. Neither guy is a particularly big puncher, but that doesn’t mean there can’t be action. It’s unlikely to be a classic, but it’s a solid piece of the card.
Erica Farias vs Jessica McCaskill
Farias (26-2, 10 KO) is one of the best women’s fighters in the sport, a 34-year-old from Argentina whose only losses have been to two of the elites in the world, top lightweight Delfine Persoon and top welterweight and pound-for-pound queen Cecilia Braekhus. She’s 2-0 since her June 2017 loss to Braekhus, and has held the WBC’s 140-pound title since 2014.
McCaskill (5-2, 3 KO) is a 34-year-old Chicago native getting a second world title opportunity, this time in her hometown. Last December, in her last bout, she went to London and lost a wide decision to Katie Taylor. She’s moving up in weight.
Matchup Grade: C. Farias should win, but it’s easy to see why McCaskill is getting another title shot. She’s a hometown fighter and will hopefully bring some fans in for the show. Plus, frankly, women’s boxing divisions are not very deep. If she can pull the upset, it’d be a huge feel good moment.