The boxing action this weekend kicks off on Friday night in Chicago, as Al Haymon’s Premier Boxing Series broadcasts another card from UIC Pavilion on Spike. Middleweight contender Daniel Jacobs will face Caleb Truax in what the WBA has the audacity to bill as a “world title fight.” For some reason the WBA seems to think they are allowed to designate more than one world champion in a weight class. Gennady Golovkin, of course, is the WBA world champion and has been for several years. But the WBA recently decided to call GGG a “super” champion, vacating the “regular” championship so that Jacobs could hold it.
This is the sort of alphabet soup shenanigans that true boxing fans and honest boxing writers should mock and deride at every turn. Nevertheless, Jacobs is an inspiring story, having survived a cancer scare to return to top form in a very competitive division.
Fellow cancer survivor Anthony Dirrell will defend his WBC super middleweight title on the same card, against Badou Jack. Dirrell is undefeated with just one loss, to the rugged Sakio Bika. He has since handled Bika with relative ease in a rematch. Jack is one of the sport’s more overhyped fighters, in my opinion. I was in press row when he got knocked out in the first round by Derek Edwards last year. Jack and his people can try to dismiss it as a “lucky punch” but I spoke with both Edwards and his trainer after the fight and they had thoroughly scouted and planned for Jack, who is a stiff, upright, European style fighter who is relatively easy to slip and counter. Expect Dirrell to toy with him and stop him early.
On Saturday in Temoaya, Mexico, Javier Mendoza and Milan Melindo meet for the IBF light flyweight title. Also in Mexico on Saturday, power-punching featherweight phenom Adrian Estrella returns to action against Eden Sonsona. Estrella is 22-0 with 20 KOs and a fighter to watch in one of the sport’s hottest divisions.
Of course the big fight this weekend will be happening in the Mecca of Boxing, Madison Square Garden, when long-time heavyweight champion Wladimir Klitschko faces undefeated contender Bryant Jennings. It’s been seven long years since the champ has defended his crown on U.S. soil and even though this fight is getting lost in the shuffle a bit in advance of the May 2 superfight between Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao, for hardcore boxing fans, this is reason to be excited.
Jennings is a smart, rugged fighter with an astonishing 84 inch reach. But as much as I’d love to see the heavyweight title back in the hands of an American, it’s tough to see him getting by a powerful, experienced champion like Wladimir Klitschko, who has looked nearly invulnerable for over a decade now.