It’s one more busy weekend for boxing on Friday and Saturday before 2021 wraps up for the sweet science, and we’ve got a bunch of fights coming over two days.
On Friday, ESPN+ will have Artur Beterbiev’s WBC and IBF light heavyweight title defense against Marcus Browne, while DAZN will have Israil Madrimov and Michel Soro taking to the ring for a WBA 154 lb eliminator.
Let’s get the weekend picks rolling with those two. Who wins Madrimov-Soro and Beterbiev-Browne? Patrick and Wil are coming down to the wire, whereas yours truly (Scott) is in a gentleman’s third place, and pretty much out of the running for the season.
Israil Madrimov vs Michel Soro
Scott Christ (64-22)
Think this one’s pretty close to a 50/50 matchup. Madrimov has the youth and home field on his side, but Soro is a good fighter, or at least he has been in the past; Soro is now a 34-year-old fighter who hasn’t fought in over two years. Will the experience he has pay off? Will the rust doom him?
Madrimov will have to be better than he was in Tulsa against Eric Walker, but I expect that he will be, and I think he’ll grit this one out, though Soro will win some rounds and maybe make an argument of it in the end. There’s a title shot on the line here, and Madrimov has been trying to get to that as quickly as possible in his career. This is his shot, and I think he’ll make it count. Madrimov UD-12
Wil Esco (70-16)
Michel Soro has played spoiler more than a couple times in his career, so he’s certainly not a fighter you can just completely write off. The problem here, though, is that he’ll be going up against a fighter in Israil Madrimov who is entering his physical prime, whose style resembles that of Gennadiy Golovkin.
Now I don’t think Madrimov is quite the monster puncher that Golovkin was, but he’s still pretty solid and he applies a steady pressure that wears on opponents. Soro is a game fighter himself so I think this fight will be a fun one in that neither man is really going to have to look for the other, and one that should make for some fun exchanges between the fighters. Madrimov is fairly sharp but his defense can be leaky so I expect Soro to get his share of punches in, but I sort of think Mardimov will just appear to be the livelier fighter who gets off more to make an impression on the judges. I think Madrimov has his toughest fight of his professional career thus far, but I think he’ll do enough to ultimately take a points win over Soro. Madrimov UD-12
Patrick L. Stumberg (71-15)
Madrimov reminds me a lot of countryman Murodjon Akhmadaliev, mixing fanciful, occasionally gorgeous movement with looping punches seemingly designed to launch opponents’ organs into the upper decks. Unlike “MJ,” however, he also has a tendency to linger too long in the pocket and seemingly struggles to maintain a consistent output in the later rounds. Those aren’t particularly good habits to have against Soro, who’s just a mean mother[expletive] on the inside. If Madrimov tries to go blow-for-blow with him, it’ll end poorly, especially since Soro’s knockout percentage undersells his finishing ability.
The intangibles are admittedly in Madrimov’s favor, as he’s younger by eight years and Soro hasn’t seen action in over two years. Still, between his piston jab and aforementioned infighting skill, I’m confident the Soro who brutalized Cedric Vitu beats the Madrimov who failed to shine against Emmany Kalombo. Soro UD-12
And the staff winner is...
Israil Madrimov (2-1)!
Artur Beterbiev vs Marcus Browne
Scott Christ (64-22)
Beterbiev is one of my personal favorite fighters of recent years, a mauling, brawling bruiser, but not unskilled; this was an Olympian, and a pretty good one. There’s a craft to his brutality.
Browne was also an Olympian, not quite so good at that level as Beterbiev, and he’s been inconsistent as a pro. His 2016 win over Radivoje Kalajdzic was a robbery, but on some nights against similar level fighters, he’s gotten good stoppages. He beat Badou Jack clearly, but lost to Jean Pascal thanks to repeated mistakes winding up with Browne on the canvas, even though Pascal was ineffective in most other ways. He’s fought just once since Aug. 2019, and it was a bad enough mismatch even PBC didn’t put it on TV.
If Browne has the fight of his life at age 31 and some things — age, wear and tear — catch up to Beterbiev at the same time, he’s got a shot. He’s a legitimate contender, albeit in a relatively weak division at the moment. But I can’t pick against Beterbiev here. It would take the right combination of things going right for Browne and wrong for Beterbiev, and that’s a lot to get “gut feeling” about. And from a simple X’s and O’s type of perspective, Browne just doesn’t have the consistency or style that I think will really trouble the defending titlist. Beterbiev TKO-9
Wil Esco (70-16)
This fight might be the hardest pick for me out of this week’s bunch because I can honestly say I really don’t know what to expect out of Marcus Browne in this fight. I know that Artur Beterbiev is a really good fighter but I don’t think he’s invulnerable and at age 36 I think one off night can really change how things play out.
Browne is pretty good on his feet and I fully expect him to attempt to dance circles around Beterbiev while trying to catch him coming in, but I do have serious questions as to whether or not Beterbiev won’t simply be able to walk through Browne’s offense to land his much heavier punches. I actually believe that Browne has a lot of natural ability, but I’m not convinced in his ability to always dial it in and in this fight he’s not going to be able to afford many mistakes. Beterbiev can hit like a truck, and the last time I thought someone might out-box him, Oleksandr Gvozdyk took a real beating.
I think Beterbiev is going to struggle a little bit early as Browne tries to force a fight from the outside while tying up on the inside, but I think he’ll eventually get caught with some powerful shots that are going to change the tenor of the fight. I’m taking Beterbiev to hand Browne his first stoppage loss. Beterbiev TKO-8
Patrick L. Stumberg (71-15)
You know and I know that I’m pulling hard for a brutal Beterbiev finish, so it shouldn’t surprise you that I watched tape to support my pre-existing conclusion. Luckily, I actually did find something to make an argument out of.
The thing with Browne is that he just doesn’t manage distance well. He backed straight up pretty much every time Jean Pascal twitched in his direction, often hitting the ropes in the process, and his inability to consistently utilize his height and reach advantages allowed Pascal to deck him on multiple occasions despite Pascal offering basically nothing in the way of consistent pressure. I have no faith in Browne’s ability to steer clear of Beterbiev’s relentless pursuit, especially not when far lesser punchers than Beterbiev have jacked his jaw before.
Beterbiev’s age isn’t nearly sufficient to overturn a style matchup this favorable. He hunts Browne down and mauls him quick. Beterbiev TKO-3