The boxing ball is well and truly rolling in 2021 now, with stacked cards everywhere you turn following a fairly desolate start to the year.
With COVID-19 postponements, a stripped title and scorecard controversies all adding an exclamation mark on last weekend’s action, we turn to this Saturday in London, Connecticut, and Las Vegas, hoping for more talking points coming from inside the ring.
Can Eddy Reynoso work his magic in the Oscar Valdez corner?
As I mentioned in this weekend’s Staff Predictions, as much as I love the fight between Berchelt and Valdez there is just this lingering doubt that it might not be as competitive as one would assume and hope.
The caveat to this thought process is the boxing improvements that Valdez has made under the tutelage of Eddy Reynoso. There is a hell of a lot of mileage on the clock of Valdez and if he can fight against the temptation to become embroiled in a Mexican war, there’s got to be a solid argument that he can upset the champion.
How to Watch Berchelt vs Valdez
The left hook is surely something that Reynoso and his charge will have been working on – a punch that handed Berchelt the only loss in his career to date. It’s a real stretch to even contemplate suggesting that this is a punch that “El Alacran” is overly susceptible to, but it should form part of the game plan that Reynoso has implemented coming into this weekend’s fight.
If Valdez can resist temptation and there are some subtle marginal gains found in his arsenal, then we could have an upset on our hands.
Is Otto Wallin a genuine heavyweight contender?
Sweden’s Otto Wallin has been riding the wave of an impressive defeat for the last 18 months, following on from his surprise performance against the heavyweight’s numero uno Tyson Fury.
A knock-over win against Travis Kauffman followed, but this Saturday night is our first real chance to determine where Wallin stands in the heavyweight landscape. Breazeale is no walkover. “Trouble” has only been handed losses by Anthony Joshua and Deontay Wilder – the latter in emphatic fashion which may have naively tainted the widespread opinion of the 2012 Olympian.
There’s a lot at stake for Wallin in this fight. He’s quick and aggressive for a heavyweight of his stature and a convincing win over a ‘name’ such as Breazeale will put him in pole position for bigger opportunities in 2021. A lot of question marks hang over Breazeale at 35 and this might prove to be a fantastic piece of matchmaking for the Swede.
Is AB truly back?
Surprise, surprise. It looks like Broner’s attempts to shrink down from over 175 lbs has fallen short at the final hurdle. AB’s comeback bout against the unheralded Jovanie Santiago will now take place at welterweight, rather than 140 lbs.
I mean, does it really matter? Maybe, maybe not, but the seeds of doubt that we are familiar in addressing when it comes to the self-appointed “Problem” are already sown.
How to Watch Broner vs Santiago
Date: Saturday, Feb. 20 | Start Time: 9:00 pm ET
Location: Mohegan Sun Arena - Uncasville, CT
TV: Showtime | Streaming: Showtime
Online Coverage: BadLeftHook.com
The unbeaten Puerto Rican challenger has been plucked out of the BoxRec minefield to make Broner look good on Saturday night, but how good and how functioning the body of the 31-year-old can be after so much inactivity and partying will probably be a mystery even after the final bell.
We’d all love to see flashes of the old Adrien Broner, letting his hands go and making a statement in Connecticut. Or maybe we wouldn’t? I can imagine many have washed their hands of him and see this return as nothing but a cash-grab. Still, whatever side of the fence you sit, it’s hard to envisage any outcome that would lead me to believe that AB is truly back.
Will Josh Kelly and David Avanesyan finally make it to the ring?
I mean, it would take something pretty extraordinary for the long-awaited Avanesyan-Kelly bout to get scrapped at this point. Three years, four training camps and 26 weeks of training for the same opponent down the line, and it looks like we’ve got ourselves a fight.
Matchroom Boxing hyperbole aside, this is a real cracker. A blend of styles, experience and personality to see who can move on to the bigger platforms at 147. There’s genuine needle between both camps as well, with Carl Greaves and Neil Marsh backing their Russian charge against the mysterious Adam Booth.
Let’s just hope this one doesn’t disappoint. The wait has to have favoured Kelly, but Avanesyan is on a healthy streak as an away fighter and will ask new and important questions of Kelly as we attempt to find out where his ceiling is.
How to Watch Avanesyan vs Kelly
Will Florian Marku vs Rylan Charlton steal the weekend?
Two unbeaten welterweights have promised to head-hunt each other on the Kelly-Avanesyan undercard, with fireworks promised between two guys who like to stand and trade.
There’s no knowing how far either of these guys can go at 147 but this is the perfect undercard match between two guys that are fueled by emotion.
“I will knock Rylan Charlton out 100%,” the vocal Marku has vowed. “He has said many bad things about me, so I just hope he comes to fight. In his other fights his approach is to come forward and be aggressive but when he is face to face with me, he will change his game plan.
“He will be humiliated. I am going to make him look stupid in the ring and he will see my boxing ability. He says he doesn’t rate it, but he will see.”
Lewis Watson is a sports writer from London, UK, and a member of the BWAA. Follow or contact him on Twitter @lewroyscribbles