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The five best fights on the March 2020 boxing schedule

This does not appear to be a month that will go down in history.

Scott Christ is the managing editor of Bad Left Hook and has been covering boxing for SB Nation since 2006.

We got through January and February. Usually those are slow months for boxing. Usually March starts to turn things up.

Not this year. Not on paper, at least.

When I did these posts for January and February, I had to make some choices, but there were at least five fights I felt were legitimately pretty good coming on the schedule.

March, on the other hand, is looking pretty damn rough.

There’s one great fight! And there are a couple half-sleepers that I think are really good matchups. But there are no true marquee events, nothing that’s gonna move the needle for the sport, really.

(Note: I’m only counting shows that we’re going to cover live and will be easy for everyone to tune in and watch, so we’re talking shows with US TV here.)

5) Shakur Stevenson vs Miguel Marriaga, Mar. 14 (ESPN)

This is not a very good matchup, in all honesty, and not something you’d want to see on a top five list for any month. Stevenson defends his WBO featherweight title for the first time against Marriaga, a 33-year-old Colombian fringe contender who has been flat outclassed in steps up against Nicholas Walters (2015), Oscar Valdez (2017), and Vasiliy Lomachenko (2017). His best wins are levels below Stevenson.

I went with this one because it’s a world title fight and Stevenson is a rising young star, at least. But you could just as easily have put any of these fights in this spot:

  • Adam Kownacki vs Robert Helenius, Mar. 7 (FOX)
  • Mikaela Mayer vs Melissa Hernandez, Mar. 17 (ESPN+)
  • Vergil Ortiz Jr vs Samuel Vargas, Mar. 28 (DAZN)

None of those are great either, so you know, pick your favorite one and please don’t start the world’s most boring argument about which is the best of these not-very-good matchups.

4) Artur Beterbiev vs Meng Fanlong, Mar. 28 (ESPN)

Light heavyweight world title unification boxing bout Beterbiev vs Gvozdyk in Philadelphia, US Photo by Valery Sharifulin\TASS via Getty Images

I fully expect Beterbiev, the unified WBC and IBF light heavyweight titleholder, to wipe out China’s Fanlong, who is unbeaten and competent but has never seen anything near Beterbiev’s level as a pro. Not only is Beterbiev good, he’s a bulldozer.

That’s why I’m putting it on the list. Beterbiev is must-watch. The matchup isn’t great — it’s a mandatory, at least, so Beterbiev had to do it instead of chose this fight — but this month’s schedule makes Beterbiev simply existing stand out. There aren’t many active fighters who truly guarantee action, but Beterbiev does.

3) Scott Quigg vs Jono Carroll, Mar. 7 (DAZN)

Quigg and Carroll meet in Manchester for what should be a spirited fight. Not a blockbuster main event or anything, but seems well-matched for right now on both sides.

The 31-year-old Quigg hasn’t fought since Oct. 2018, when he beat Mario Briones in a tune-up win after a loss seven months prior to Oscar Valdez, a real war where Quigg missed weight for what would have been a featherweight title scrap.

We’ll see if rust and weight are issues against the 27-year-old Carroll, who is younger, a southpaw, and has been a natural 130 over his career, while Quigg’s best days were down at 122. Carroll fought Guillaume Frenois to an eliminator draw in 2018, then got his shot at Tevin Farmer in Mar. 2019, anyway, and he gave Farmer an entertaining, game challenge in defeat.

This should be at least fun to watch. It’s not the biggest fight, but it’s meaningful for both if they want to contend at 130 this year.

2) David Avanesyan vs Josh Kelly, Mar. 28 (DAZN)

Kell Brook v Michael Zerafa Public Workout - Sheffield Winter Garden Photo by Simon Cooper/PA Images via Getty Images

Similar to Quigg-Carroll; if you wanted to flip them on this list, I wouldn’t argue much. I’m intrigued by this one more because of its backstory.

Kelly, now 25, and Avanesyan, now 31, were supposed to meet in Dec. 2018 on the Brook-Zerafa undercard. They weighed in and everything. The fight was good to go. Then day of the fight, Kelly pulled out claiming he’d fallen ill overnight. Avanesyan’s team, to say the very least, didn’t buy it.

Since then, the two have gone on opposite paths. Kelly, a hyped prospect in the UK, has won a pair of decisions over Przemyslaw Runowski and Wiston Campos, neither of which exactly lit up the room. He also fought to a controversial draw with professional spoiler Ray Robinson last June.

Avanesyan, meanwhile, decided to basically spend a year in Spain kicking ass. He was lined up to face Kerman Lejarraga for the European title last March, with Lejarraga expected to win handily, as there was talk of the popular Spanish fighter maybe stepping up to world level. Instead, Avanesyan stopped him in the ninth round. When they ran it back six months later, Avanesyan stopped Lejarraga in the first round. He defended in Barcelona on Dec. 12, knocking out Jose del Rio in two minutes.

Style-wise, this was intriguing when it was first meant to happen and is so now. Kelly has an arrogant style that relies on athleticism and quickness, but some question if he really has the elite athleticism and quickness to carry that against better opponents. Avanesyan does nothing special, he’s a pretty meat-and-potatoes, blue collar sort of fighter, but he’s a competitor and knows what he’s doing.

1) Mairis Briedis vs Yuniel Dorticos, Mar. 21 (DAZN)

FINALLY, the second season of the World Boxing Super Series wraps up with the cruiserweight final. And it’s a doozy of a matchup that could well be right there with the other terrific season two finals (Inoue vs Donaire and Prograis vs Taylor from late 2019).

Briedis will have home field in Latvia, and on paper may be the favorite. But he’s had an odd little run to get here, too. Back in 2018 in the first WBSS, he gave Oleksandr Usyk what is still easily the toughest fight of Usyk’s pro career in a semifinal bout.

But then he didn’t look particularly inspired in a tune-up later that summer, and his two WBSS season two wins were strange. He was arguably given a bit of a gift against Noel Mikaelian in the first round in Chicago, and his win over Krzysztof Glowacki last June was all sorts of nuts.

Like Briedis, Dorticos is a two-season WBSS veteran. In the first tournament he knocked out Dmitry Kudryashov before being stopped in the 12th of a battle with Murat Gassiev in the semis. In this season, he won a close decision over Mateusz Masternak, then goomed Andrew Tabiti out in the 10th round last June.

The Cuban Dorticos is the bigger puncher here, I think, but Briedis is maybe a bit more rugged. This really could be a truly great fight. It also might not be, but the ingredients are there.

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